Josh Mancuso – Becoming BJJ

This isn’t a hobby where you can buy way to the top

By Brett Hart

”I’ve been doing this so long and frequently that I am BJJ,” Louisiana BJJ black belt Josh Mancuso says. ”I can’t imagine not training.”

Josh Mancuso Grappling BJJ Greatmats

In addition to being a first degree black belt in BJJ, Mancuso also holds a brown belt in judo, owns the academy JM Modern Jiu Jitsu, works in outside sales for a large corporation and coaches his athletes in competition. At the recent Greatmats-sponsored American Grappling Federation New Orleans BJJ Championships, Mancuso led 35 competitors from Soul Fighters Louisiana to a overall team title. Two-hundred nine points separated his squad from the runner up team in a field in which nearly 60 teams recorded points.
Josh Mancuso podium AGF New Orleans BJJ Championships Greatmats

Motivated by the satisfaction of seeing his students and himself improve, Mancuso said, ”I’ve got a bunch of medals – all special in their own way. However, the life lessons, growth and friendships I’ve gained through the sport are by far my largest accomplishments.”

As a coach, Mancuso enjoys taking his athletes to AGF events.

”Their customer service is what sets them apart from all other organizations,” Manucso said.

With some background in wrestling, boxing and MMA, Mancuso now trains under Bruno Tanque Mendes and Rafael Formiga Barbosa, and his 14-year-old daughter has also joined in the training process.

”The fact that you can’t fake it,” is Mancuso’s favorite part of BJJ. ”The mats always speak the truth. In many hobbies, you can buy yourself to the top – not this.”

Josh Mancuso with BJJ instructors Greatmats

Josh Mancuso JM Modern Jiu Jitsu Greatmats

To learn more about Greatmats-sponsored American Grappling Federation Tournaments and athletes and coaches visit Greatmats’ AGF Tournament Resource Page.

Josh Mancuso
JM Modern Jiu Jitsu
Baton Rouge LA 70809
For more on this topic please review our Grappling and MMA Mats product page.
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Groundbreaking Wing Chun Instructor Expands Expertise over Greatmats

Chris Damiano Builds Academy into One of the Best in Gulf Coast

By Brett Hart

After 32 years in martial arts, Sifu Chris Damiano has been round the world honing his skills in everything from wrestling to Hapkido to Judo, Boxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Jeet Kune Do and has developed a strong understanding of what works for him and his students.

A Chicago native, Sifu Damiano originally moved to Florida because he needed training partners. Soon he was teaching others how to be his training partners.

Chris Damiano owner Centerline Martial Arts Greatmats Grappling Mats

Wing Chun
In 1994, he narrowed his focus exclusively to Wing Chung and six years later traveled to Hong Kong to study with Grandmaster Ip Ching, the second eldest son of Bruce Lee’s mentor Ip Man. Damiano later became an instructor under Ip Ching, opening Centerline Martial Arts out of his garage in Destin, Florida in 2000. A contractor during the day, Sifu Damiano finally opened Centerline as a full-time martial arts academy in 2007. He quickly became one of the most sought after instructors in the Gulf Coast and was named the USA International Black Belt Hall of Fame’s 2013 Wing Chun Instructor of the Year.

Damiano now also has academies underneath his banner in St. Louis, Boston and Las Vegas.

Chris Damiano Centerline Martial Arts Greatmats Grappling Mats

Jiu Jitsu
Over the last four years, Damiano has added Gracie Jiu Jitsu to his repertoire, studying under fellow 30-plus year martial artist Sensei Brandon Hetzler, who has achieved black belts of varying degrees in Fudoshin Taijutsu, Goju-Ryu, Shito-Ryu and Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.

Sifo Damiano still splits his time between his contracting work and martial arts, teaching three days per week, but with other instructors, the academy is used 5-6 days per week.

centerline-martial-arts-chris-damiano8

The Need for Mats
With his current academy being located in the second story of an office building and his teaching expanding beyond Wing Chun to striking/kickboxing and jiu jitsu, he quickly discovered that concrete flooring was no longer suitable for his practices.

That’s when he discovered Greatmats martial arts floors. One of his friends with a big Karate school told him about Greatmats, and Hetzler, who has used Greatmats flooring in his home dojo for six years, both highly recommended Greatmats to Sifu Damiano.

In 2012, Damiano equipped his academy with Greatmats 20 mm inch thick martial arts mats and a pro pole pad. While he was happy with the quality of the mats, they proved to be too thin for his judo and jiu jitsu work – especially in the kids classes. So he ordered three of Greatmats’ 2 inch thick 4×10 foot folding mats to add more cushion for those exercises.

Centerline Martial Arts Chris Damiano Greatmats MMA Grappling Mats

Greatmats Grappling MMA Mats
In 2015, he upgraded to Greatmats’ 1 5/8 inch thick Grappling MMA Mats, with a no burn tatami surface and 4-foot critical fall height rating, and sold off his 7/8 inch mats to students for garage workout areas.

”These mats are not as taxing on the body for what I’m doing now,” Sifu Damiano said. ”I love those mats! My school’s completely covered in it except for my back room.”

With approximately 20 students per class and 45 of his 60 students being adults, the mats are regularly put to the test.

”Those mats get an awful lot of use every night,” He added. ”The overall quality of those mats are great. They’re durable. We usually do 45 minutes of technique and eight 5-minute rounds of sparring/grappling. We always start standing. Using wrestling takedowns or judo takedowns, three rounds of kickboxing and three rounds of kickboxing with takedowns. I love that tatami top.”

Pole Padding
The Grappling MMA mats have eliminated his need for the folding mats, but added that the pole pad is still a ”very needed piece” in his school, noting that it is often used as a circuit training tool.

”People use it to train on; kids kick it,” Sifu Damiano said. ”Sometimes I use that to line them up, and they can do some of their striking on that as part of the stations.”

A believer in ”time put in equals skill,” Sifu Damiano has definitely put in his time, and for the last five years, that time has been put in over Greatmats martial arts floors.

Centerline Martial Arts class on Greatmats Grappling MMA Mats and Greatmats Pole Paddding
Chris Damiano
Centerline Martial Arts
Destin FL 32550
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Jim Fiore – Centering life through Jiu Jitsu

Taekwondo Black Belt rounding out game with BJJ

By Brett Hart

A lifelong athlete, Jim Fiore, age 40, of Biloxi Mississippi, has done everything from backpacking to marathons to rock climbing and martial arts. A former university researcher and personal trainer, he is a World Taekwondo Federation blackbelt, but found his calling in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Jim Fiore AGF grappling tournament Greatmats

”I remember, I was a red belt or a brown belt in taekwondo and there was a jiu jitsu school down the street,” Fiore said. ”I remember my taekwondo instructor being like ‘This is really good stuff. We’re going to start integrating grappling into your second-degree program.”’

Intrigued by that notion, Fiore visited the school to see what it was all about.

”My understanding 10 years ago of the martial arts was – if you’re a black belt, you should be able to handle yourself, regardless. You’re a black belt. … I remember going in there, and I got my butt handed to me by a young man anywhere from 16 to 18. I was like ‘What the heck just happened to me. Here I am almost a black belt in taekwondo and I don’t know anything about the martial arts.’ My pride got the best of me.”

With failure not being an option, Fiore finished his journey to black belt in Taekwondo under Master Antulio Garza, and started pursuing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu without question.

”More and more I just realized the false sense of security I had,” he said. ”It just got to a point where I was training more and more and more in jiu jitsu and just kind of fell in love with it. Eight years later, here I am running a school and a brown belt (in Judo and Jiu Jitsu). … I just love the grappling arts. I love judo. I’ve been fortunate to practice taekwondo and learn how to strike fairly well. … Plus, it’s just really cool to fight somebody and not get in trouble for it.”

As the manager for American Martial Art Academy for three years, Fiore focuses his school on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu while incorporating concepts of judo, sambo and wrestling, under the Soul Fighters BJJ Association umbrella.

He draws upon his training from Soul Fighter BJJ Black Belts Erick Raposo, Marcus Antelante, Bruno Mendes, and Rafael Formiga Barbosa.

Jim Fiore and Erick Raposo at American Martial Art Academy Mississippi Greatmats

Adaptation

”My wife’s in the military, so I’ve kind of had to adapt to where we live,” Fiore said. ”I actually have a masters in microbiology and biotechnology and so I was a researcher several years at University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine… Once we moved to San Antonio, down to Lackland Air Force Base, then I switched over to personal training. I’ve always kind of had this battle between brain and brawn. My brawn finally kind of won.”

Tapping into his entrepreneurial spark and new-found passion for jiu jitsu, Fiore had earned a high enough rank and enough capital that he felt comfortable opening his own school by the time he and his wife had moved to Mississippi three years ago.

His instincts were on point, and his school quickly outgrew its original space, so he moved it to a new 2,500 square foot location where he now has 1,100 square feet of mats. Fiore was recently even able to bring in a black belt of his own to teach the classes.

”I met our head professor here, Erick Raposo, out at IBJJF World Masters,” Fiore said. ”He and I hit it off. I brought him up here from Brazil, got him his green card. Now he’s our head professor here. That was one of the best business decisions that I’ve made. … There’s something just genuine when you have a black belt teaching all of your classes.”

That decision also gave Fiore more opportunities to focus on competition and coaching.

”When I go to compete… it gives me that drive to keep going. It inspires me to bring back that resilience to my students,” he said. ”I definitely want to try to win IBJJF world master at some point.”

Jim Fiore grappling at AGF tournament Greatmats

Competing in the American Grappling Federation

Fiore and his team recently competed in a pair of Greatmats-sponsored American Grappling Federation tournaments in Jackson, Mississippi and New Orleans, Louisiana. In fact, he won his absolute division and his school brought home the trophy from Jackson.

”Being here for 2 solid plus years and winning a major regional tournament is huge for my school,” he said, noting that the tournament also improved his competitive skills.

After winning his division in New Orleans, Fiore received a compliment from AGF co-founder Brandon Quick he’ll never forget.

”Today, you demonstrated why you are a brown belt,” Quick said.

”To hear another black belt that I respect say that to me, that was one of my proudest moments,” Fiore recalled.

”I will send my guys to an AGF tournament all the time,” Fiore added. ”I don’t have any reservations about the safety, my guys having fun at that tournament, the efficiency of the tournament or finishing on time…. They’re always bettering the competition not only for the competitors but also the coaches and the spectators. They’re truly listening to everybody. .. They understand sometimes the financial restrictions of families. … A white belt has more opportunity to become a better fighter in AGF.”

”When I was fighting AGF, it was actually setting me up very nicely to fight IBJJF as a brown belt,” he added. ”I’m a lot more comfortable now going to IBJJF or other tournaments.”

Jim Fiore on podium AGF 2017 Jackson BJJ Championships Greatmats

Centering

”Without jujitsu, my life would really probably be pretty crummy,” he added. ”It tells you the type of person you are. … The overall camaraderie, the support, the brotherhood is infectious. No matter how good you are, that mat will just humble you every single day. … The amount of heart and perseverance that you need to have to come in here and have your butt handed to you every single day, man that makes life outside so much easier. It just centers my life.”

That’s something much needed as he and his wife are expecting a daughter in September.

”I’m looking forward to having her on the mat with us in a couple years,” Fiore said.

When that happens, three generations of Fiore’s will don the jiu jitsu gi, as Jim’s father is currently a two-stripe white belt at the age of 67.

”He and I have done a lot of things together throughout our lives,” Jim said. ”It’s increased our bond together. It’s really fun to have your dad or your son or your daughter on the mat with you.”

Jim Fiore BJJ Greatmats

To learn more about Greatmats-sponsored American Grappling Federation Tournaments and athletes visit Greatmats’ AGF Tournament Resource Page.

Jim Fiore
American Martial Art Academy
D’lberville MS
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Former Pro Fighter Making Friends, Passing on Knowledge through MMA

Roli Delgado – Motivated by Students

By Brett Hart

A former wrestler, Roli Delgado has always had an interest in martial arts, but it was a 1998 move to Little Rock, Arkansas, that finally allowed him the opportunity to pursue his claim to fame.

Roli Delgado grappling Greatmats

”The rise of the UFC helped plant an itch that I had to scratch,” said Delgado, who competed in the 8th edition of The Ultimate Fighter Series (2008).

Now, at age 35, Delgado is a third-degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and green belt in Judo. He trains under Denilson Pimenta and Matt Hamilton with GF Team and currently owns and trains in MMA at Westside MMA in Little Rock.

”I’ve trained in most of the major elements of MMA,” Delgado said, noting some great influences and teaching from Hayastan, GF Team and Aaron Fisher (Muay Thai), as well as wrestling and boxing coaches. ”I absolutely love all combat sports.”

Life as a Coach
Now he is able to share that love and knowledge of martial arts with his community as a full-time gym owner and BJJ coach.

After nearly 20 years of training, Delgado said his biggest accomplishment was creating a Black Belt World Champion (2010) out of his sister, friend and student Hillary (aka ”Killary”) Williams – as well as influencing other black belts, including fellow 2010 world champion Rodrigo Cavaca. Delgado was credited for the advancement of Cavaca’s popular straight ankle lock.

”My students motivate me,” Delgado said. ”They are so talented and consistent. I feel obligated to be a great coach for them, not just someone who goes through the motions.”

Roli Delgado BJJ coach Greatmats

American Grappling Federation
american grappling federation logo greatmatsRecently, Delgado led his team to an Adult Gi Division championship at the 2017 American Grappling Federation Arkansas Open, which he said was ”fantastic, considering I had seven killers in Austin that day for the IBJJF.”

”I like that the AGF tournaments run on time and that they are pre-registration only with ‘day-of’ weigh ins,” Delgado said. ”It’s really a good service that they offer.”

Points of Pride
”Personally, I am also proud to have competed in many different platforms such as the UFC, Bellator, Combat World Championships, IBJJFs and Professional Muay Thai,” Delgado added. ”I love grappling, regardless of rule sets, and I love being around my team and helping them. It’s a great way to spend my time.”

Roli Delgado USA Team Trials martial arts Greatmats

Through martial arts, Delgado has been able to build relationships all over the world.

”I’ve met so many great people, many of whom are now good friends of mine,” he said.

Delgado’s son has also taken up the sport, but Roli is trying to avoid pushing him too hard.

”He’s actually pretty good,” Delgado said. ”I’m just wanting him to enjoy it.”

”BJJ has come a long way,” he added. ”I’m so happy to have so many gyms in Arkansas now and to also have tournaments in state. It’s been a long time coming.”

Roli Delgado BJJ coach Greatmats

To learn more about Greatmats-sponsored American Grappling Federation Tournaments and athletes and coaches visit Greatmats’ AGF Tournament Resource Page.

 

Roli Delgado
Westside MMA
Little Rock AR 72202
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Gracie Barra takes 2017 Kansas City AGF Title

Kansas City BJJ wins Adult No Gi Division

american grappling federation logo greatmatsGracie Barra St. Louis had a solid Overall Team victory at the 2017 American Grappling Federation’s Kansas City BJJ Championships. The tournament, sponsored by Greatmats, was held at the KCI Expo Center on August 12. Gracie Barra St. Louis had 67 more points than the second place finisher. They claimed three out of four divisional titles.

Gracie Barra took the Adult Gi division narrowly edging out Kansas City BJJ by just one point. Glory MMA claimed third place – 40 points behind Gracie Barra.

Brazil Academy put up the biggest fight against the divisional champions, Gracie Barra, in the kids divisions. Ultimately, Gracie Barra won the Kids Gi by 11 points and the Kids No Gi by 15 points. Glory MMA claimed third place in both divisions.

Kansas City BJJ was the only other team to claim a divisional championship. They had 20 points over Gracie Barra in the Adults No Gi Division. Valor Martial Arts claimed third place.

Top 10 Overall Team Scores

  • Gracie Barra (St. Louis) 270
  • Kansas City BJJ 203
  • Glory MMA 172
  • Brazil Academy 136
  • Blue Springs Jiu Jitsu 131
  • Rubalcava Jiu-Jitsu 104
  • Valor Martial Arts 64
  • Wichita Jiu Jitsu Club 53
  • Team Vava 45
  • Northland Grappling 45

Kids grappling AGF Kansas City BJJ Greatmatsadults grappling AGF Kansas City BJJ Greatmatsadults GI AGF Kansas City BJJ GreatmatsKids No Gi AGF Kansas City BJJ Greatmatsgrappling at AGF Kansas City BJJ Greatmats

To learn more about Greatmats-sponsored American Grappling Federation Tournaments and athletes visit Greatmats’ AGF Tournament Resource Page.

2017 Kansas City BJJ Championships
American Grappling Federation
Kansas City MO 64153
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Cerebral Palsy Won’t Stop BJJ Fighter Nick Turnbo

Missouri teen inspired to overcome challenges through Jiu Jitsu

By Brett Hart

”Fight” is something Nick Turnbo has had from the very beginning. Born 12 weeks early, Turnbo weighed in at just 1 pound 6 ounces and spent his first three weeks of life on a ventilator and feeding tube. In his first 2 1/2 months, he more than tripled in weight and was strong enough to go home.
Nick Turnbo at St Louis BJJ Championships AGF Greatmats
By 8 months old, he was back on the ventilator and feeding tube for two weeks due to a case of RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus). Living with Cerebral Palsy, his next 14 years included surgeries on his eyes, spine, heel cords and hamstring.

Despite needing a walker, in the last year, Nick, now age 19, has become a fighter in more traditional sense, as he began training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and under the tutelage of Mike Rogers and Matt Ricehouse of St. Charles MMA (SCMMA) in St. Charles, Missouri, and weight training under the direction of Sam Richardson.

”It’s no surprise to me that Nick takes on the physical challenges that he does,” said his mom, Patty.

Nick Turnbo and Mike Rogers Greatmats

Inspiration
Nick first became interested in MMA after watching his friend, Johnny Cox, fight locally.

”I sat cage side and almost felt I was a part of the fight,” Nick said after watching Cox fight for the first time. ”They were so close, I swear I felt sweat from the fighters hit my face. I was hooked.”

At that point, he sought out more fights to watch on television and in person.

”I recall watching my first Bellator fight – Michael Chandler vs. Patricky Pitbull (Freire) 2011,” Nick said.

Chandler, an alumnus of Nick’s high school, Northwest High School, defeated Freire by unanimous decision to improve his pro record to 8-0 and earn a title shot against Eddie Alvarez – which he won six months later by a rear-naked choke.

”It was so exciting to see a hometown boy make it big!,” Nick said.

Chandler even reached out to Nick later, giving him floor seats to his June 24, 2016, rematch with Freirie at Bellator 157, at which he knocked out Freire with a punch to claim the title once again.

”(Chandler) even came to my seat after winning the Lightweight Belt,” Turnbo said.

Nick Turnbo BJJ fighter with cerebral palsy Greatmats

Training begins
In December 2014, Nick sought out Richardson’s help for MMA training.

”I began training two times a week, grappling and hitting the mitts,” Nick said. ”I was learning all the submissions and moves I had seen my favorite fighters do. Sam showed me that I could do it; he gave me the motivation I need to get off the couch and get rollin’!”

Then at one of the local fights, he met Rogers, a second-degree black belt in BJJ under Rodrigo Vaghi with a background in boxing and wrestling as well.

Nick Turnbo cerbral palsy BJJ fighter Rodrigo Vaghi

Nick told Rogers, ”My dream is to one day fight in the cage.”

So Rogers invited Nick to train with him at SCMMA and Nick jumped on the opportunity. In his first session at SCMMA, Nick worked with UFC flyweight Josh Sampo.

”BJJ is the best form of self defense because of all the ground techniques,” Nick said. It also has helped Nick with developing good eating and exercise habits.

Now a three-stripe white belt, Nick, working on his weight training and mitt work with Richardson, his technical BJJ with Rogers, and some additional training at Team Vaghi Headquarters in Ellisville, Mo., claimed first place in his division at the Greatmats-sponsored American Grappling Federation (AGF) St. Louis BJJ Championships in St. Charles on July 15 – his first AGF tournament.

”It was not until my opponents tapped, did I realize the amount of cheering,” Nick said. ”It was a wonderful experience, and (I) cannot wait for the next AGF Tournament.

Even after Nick earned his first gold medal, Rogers said, ”Nick’s biggest accomplishment is BJJ so far is making the move to start and not stop. He’s done technique tests and passed everything. I like his enthusiasm and that he proves once again that BJJ is for everyone.”

Both Turnbo and Rogers are especially pleased with the AGF for providing organized competitions with strong competitors, team scoring and a pleasant staff.

”I never imagined MMA could be such an influence on my life,” Nick said. ”It is only through the overwhelming support and encouragement that I have been able to accomplish so much.”

american grappling federation logo greatmats

To learn more about Greatmats-sponsored American Grappling Federation Tournaments and athletes visit Greatmats’ AGF Tournament Resource Page.

Nick Turnbo
St. Charles MMA
St. Charles MO 63303
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Magness BJJ wins 2017 AGF Dallas Summer Classic

Alvarez BJJ in Top 2 of Every Division

Almost 90 martial arts academies earned team points at the 2017 American Grappling Federation’s Dallas Summer Classic. The grappling tournament was held on August 5 at the NYTEX Sports Centre in North Richland Hills, Texas. The tournament was sponsored by Greatmats.

Magness BJJ climbed their way to the top of the overall team standings with 400 points. Alvarez BJJ followed closely behind with 371 points. BQuick JJ followed in third place with a total of 207 points.

Magness BJJ placed in the top 2 teams in three out of four divisions. They claimed the titles in the Adults No Gi and Kids No Gi divisions. They placed second in the Kids Gi division.

Alvarez BJJ claimed first in the Adults Gi and Kids Gi divisions and second in Adults No Gi and Kids No Gi divisions. Fortunately, for Magness BJJ was the fact that it held a 86 point lead in the Kids No Gi division.

All American MMA claimed thired in the Kids No Gi. BQuick JJ placed third in both adult divisions and Kids Gi division.

Top 10 Overall Team Scores

  • Magness BJJ 400
  • Alvarez BJJ 371
  • BQuick JJ 207
  • All American MMA 125
  • Genesis Jiu Jitsu 119
  • Guetho Texas 119
  • Lovato BJJ 117
  • Sandro Sampaio BJJ Academy 109
  • Frequency BJJ 89
  • Zombie BJJ 85

Kids BJJ tournament AGF Dallas 2017 GreatmatsKids No Gi BJJ tournament AGF Dallas 2017 GreatmatsKids BJJ tournament AGF Dallas 2017 GreatmatsBJJ tournament AGF Dallas 2017 Greatmatsadult BJJ tournament AGF Dallas 2017 Greatmats

To learn more about Greatmats-sponsored American Grappling Federation Tournaments and athletes visit Greatmats’ AGF Tournament Resource Page.

2017 Dallas Summer Classic
American Grappling Federation
North Richland Hills TX 76180
For more on this topic please review our Grappling and MMA Mats product page.