Roberto Jimenez on Competition, His Early Days and The Future

Roberto Jimenez is one of the most impressive competitors on the scene today. This weekend, he competed in Third Coast Grappling: Kumite, making his way to the finals and submitting both Manuel Ribamar and Pedro Marinho by Armbar. He was defeated in sudden death overtime by Gustavo Batista and ended up coming second, but nonetheless, his performance was nothing short of outstanding. Roberto Jimenez has also made big waves in the community after his recent upset victory against Keenan Cornelius at Who’s Number One? and if that match is anything to go by, it shouldn’t be long before he’s a household name in BJJ.

Before TCG: Kumite, Roberto Jimenez taught a completely free seminar at a recently opened affiliate gym in Houston, Texas known as Next Level Training Center and MMA, where he answered a few questions for us here at Grappling Insider:

GI: You’re easily one of the most recognized people in the sport right now. What’s your motivation behind doing this seminar for free?

Roberto Jimenez: I’m kind of becoming a little more selfless with money. I’m noticing that apart from the fact that it’s our teammates, it’s kind of like our new team, our new family, and with everybody being in quarantine recently, I’m sure it’s had an effect on how you’ve been training. It’s a good way of giving away knowledge for free and it’s a quick thing before my fight. And yeah, I don’t really see the reason behind charging for crazy seminars anymore. I see it more like, if someone wants to pay me to do a seminar, cool. But if I’m there, I might as well take advantage and help someone who’s in need, like in Guatemala or wherever I might go.

GI: That’s awesome. You’ve competed in Third Coast Grappling before. What’s special about this event and what do you plan on doing with the prize money?

Jimenez: If I can get this win tonight, I plan on keeping a small percentage of the money to myself and the rest I’ll give back to some of my aunts and uncles who lost their jobs. Another percentage is going to go to kids in Uganda that I’ve been working with and some kids in Ecuador too, orphanages that have been trying to do jiu-jitsu. And yeah, hopefully I can help them out a little bit.

GI: You earned your black belt last year after competing at No-Gi Worlds. How does competing at black belt compare to competing at lower belt levels?

Jimenez: It’s different. You feel the aspect of having to be more professional. I feel like I really learned a lot from my debut against Keenan Cornelius, I really didn’t have a camp for that one. All I did was train with whoever wanted to train out in Europe. What helped me out for that fight was mental training and weight lifting. I think that’s the main difference at black belt: really being as professional as you can in all aspects, with your diet, with the way you think. Your diet goes into what you think both inside and outside of the mats. I feel like a thirteen year old again, trying to take in as much information and get as motivated as possible.

GI: It’s no secret that as a child, you weren’t interested in jiu jitsu at first. When did you realize you were truly passionate about the sport?

Jimenez: At thirteen years old. My dad forced me to do the sport since I was four, five years old. Well, not forced me. I was born into it. But I didn’t like it. I wanted to do more like tennis, or other sports, skateboarding and surfing. At thirteen my dad gave me a break for a month or two and stopped pushing me. I missed his affection. Even if he was strict, I still missed the connection of interacting with him on the mats. When I came back, it was more for myself. I wanted to prove to him that I was doing it because I wanted to, not because he wanted me to.

GI: As a teenager, you were tapping out black belts. What set you apart from other kids your age?

Jimenez: I don’t think anything set me apart. I mean, I was a kid that would hide in the bathroom before class and they’d have to call my dad to come get me on the mat. I was just a kid that never stopped. I never stopped believing in my dream and I feel like that’s the only difference, honestly.

GI: Did that ever cause problems with any adults?

Jimenez: I don’t think they would ever really get mad. If they did, they wouldn’t show it to me. It’s a respect thing, when I’m older, if I go against a 19 year old, I’m going to try my best to beat him, but if he beats me, respect goes to him. I was that kid coming up, and I still am. It was all respectful on my side and I hope it’s the same way on the other side.

GI: Has there ever been a time when you considered quitting? When everything gets difficult, where does your motivation come from?

Jimenez: I’ve had a lot of times when I wanted to quit, but when I thought about having a regular life, I personally don’t like school and I don’t like 9-to-5 jobs. Not living my dreams would’ve made me regret my decisions 20 years from now. So whenever I thought about that, I’d think: keep working, you already started, why stop now? I didn’t get this far to only come this far, but to go further.

GI: Were there any concepts or things that took your game to the next level?

Jimenez: Wrestling and weightlifting evolved my game and also being able to train with people like Lucas Lepri and Gordon Ryan, the guys in Unity. Pretty much anyone who I looked up to and got the opportunity to train with helped me in their own way. Whether it was motivational or technique, or a life lesson, I try to take everything in. If you only learn from one source, I believe it becomes rigid and stale. All these people that I look up to motivated me to want to start this life, this journey. So when I got to meet them, I would take everything into consideration but also with a grain of salt. At the end of the day I’m not them and I need to find my own recipe to succeed.

GI: I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that matches are won or lost before you step on the mat. How do you prepare yourself mentally for facing high level opponents?

Jimenez: I look at everyone like a human being. Whoever trained the most prior to the fight is going to win. I leave it up to God and the universe and it’s my job to get ready for the fight. Everybody’s the same. If you’re willing to die for what you believe in on the mat, that’s the person who’s going to win. And I’m ready to die.

GI: Something that really stands out is how respectful you are to the community. What inspires you to be humble but great?

Jimenez: I think education comes from the house, and if you can’t find it at home you find it somewhere else. I’ve always looked up to people who show respect to others. It just comes from the person I am, I just try to be respectful to everyone. I look up to Bob Marley and Martin Luther King, Buchecha. I think it’s more like, the people I look up to form the person I am. It’s just me, man, what can I say? I want to keep my head down and do my thing.

GI: That’s good to hear. Finally, can you tell me about the future of Studio 76 and also where you’d like to see jiu jitsu in 10 years?

Roberto Jimenez: Studio 76, I hope we can grow our family and our team. I know we’re not going to be the same as anybody else. We’re not focused on making champions on the mat – that’s up to you. We’re focused on helping people through jiu jitsu and in their lives. I feel like this showed me a different way of viewing life and I hope I can do the same for others, to evolve the mentality to become more open minded and make it more professional, but keep the essence of the art. You don’t have to keep the essence of how it started though, the roots of jiu jitsu are very brutal. It was a family that wanted to beat up on people; if you thought you could beat them, they’d beat you. Jiu jitsu doesn’t have to be like that.

Jiu jitsu in ten years, I hope we can see people have the opportunity to live out of tournaments if you’re an athlete. To have jiu jitsu in all sights of life and all communities so everybody has an opportunity to see the sport. And to bring it out everybody that’s less fortunate in countries that are struggling, you could call them third world countries. And yeah, I think that’s what I want to do in jiu jitsu the next ten years. Make my dreams come true and then help others with jiu jitsu.

For the latest news about Roberto Jimenez and his rise through the ranks of elite Jiu-Jitsu, click here.

Special Thank you goes to Carlos Diaz of Finesse Photography for filming and helping set up the interview. His sports photography and edits can be found on Facebook and Instagram.