The connecting bridge merging Mixed Martial Art and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu unto a grand fight stage, Eddie Bravo’s innovative Combat Jiu-jitsu Worlds event has broken barriers in combat sports. Closing 2021 with a BANG, “CJJ Worlds: The Featherweight” looks to follow past events’ success formula, bringing viewers that excitement that has made the franchise a worldwide televised fight attraction. December, 19 will see sixteen world-class bantamweights from the Jiu-jitsu and MMA world, all fighting for the opportunity to become the Combat Jiu-jitsu World Champion.
The combat jiu-jitsu arena is all too familiar of a place for Zack Schneider. A challenge-seeking competitor, there have been multiple sightings of Schneider at many tournament and super-fight events, where spectators can find him crushing the competition, capturing multiple championship titles along his grappling campaign. In March of this year, the thrill of the challenge and successful grappling resume led Schneider to become an honorary participant of The Combat Jiu-jitsu Worlds Bantamweight event. Schneider would make an impressive showing advancing to the quarter-finals in his CJJ debut. Ten months have passed, as Zack Schneider makes his return to action, this time competing for Featherweight Championship at CJJ Worlds: The Featherweights.
What makes his entry back unto the Combat Jiu-jitsu stage different from his first appearance? Why is the capturing of the Featherweight title inevitable? Schneider reveals all in this exclusive interview with MYMMANEWS.
The Combat Jiu-Jitsu Worlds has become a prestigious tournament featuring rising and prominent figures of the grappling world. You made your debut at the Combat Jiu-jitsu Worlds bantamweight tournament early this year. Reflecting on your journey, what do you feel made you deserving of being granted the opportunity to compete at the event?
Zack Schneider : The only thing that made me deserving of competing at CJJ the first time was my jiu-jitsu skill and how I jumped at the opportunity. I’ve been training hard for years but had little competition experience for the entirety of my Jiu-jitsu journey up to that point. I was training with my coach Pablo Alfonso who has competed at CJJ several times and was getting ready for the bantamweight tournament. When he got injured, he recommended me as his replacement to represent Warrior Camp. I viewed this as my chance to show I deserve to compete professionally and that I can hang with anyone in the weight class.
Your debut at the Combat Worlds saw you making it to the quarter-finals. How would you describe your first experience?
ZS : I feel that my performance at the CJJ bantamweight tournament proved I belong on that stage. From an outsider’s perspective, I was the no-name rookie being fed to Austin Daffron, who has made several deep runs in this format. Not only was I able to beat Daffron, but we had a memorable high paced match that makes a tournament like this fun to watch. Although I fell short against the eventual champion Elias Anderson in the next round, I still feel that I could win that match if given another opportunity. I would rate my performance a 6/10 because I fell short of what I know I can achieve and made tactical mistakes that cost me time and energy.
The goal was to become World Champion, which wasn’t accomplished that day. How has the shortcoming of not achieving your goal motivated you?
ZS: I’ve been motivated by the knowledge that I now have the opportunity. I was really good at jiu-jitsu for a long time for no reason, doing well in the training room against people who I knew competed at a high level, and I always wanted to be able to test myself in these tournaments but never thought I would get a shot. I got my first shot last CJJ worlds and have been able to continue finding challenging matches in Submission Underground. Knowing that I have competed against the bantamweight world champion and knowing that I have the ability to beat him makes me believe in myself in a way that wasn’t possible the last time around. I’m motivated by the idea that all it takes is executing my technique at a high level on the right day to win this belt.
Flash forward, you find yourself invited back to the next Combat Jiu-jitsu Worlds event. How does it feel getting a second opportunity at a shot at the world title?
ZS: It feels like I deserve it this time. I’ve been competing a lot in the last year, I’m more experienced with submission-only rules and EBI OT, and I feel more comfortable coming into the tournament.
Do you feel you have more to prove going into your second Combat Worlds run, and if so, how are you dealing with that pressure?
ZS: I have to prove that I can make a deep run in this tournament, and I have to prove that I can beat the elite competitors in the bracket. I feel less pressure than last time because I had literally everything to prove last time, but I deal with the pressure by training, watching films, and making sure I am fully prepared to compete.
Training for a combat jiu-jitsu event, how does your training strategy differ from training for a jiu-jitsu tournament?
ZS: The biggest change preparing for CJJ is the open guard/purgatory position. Once the distance is closed, CJJ feels mostly like regular jiu-jitsu. With strikes involved, the distance of guard passing changes, and the effectiveness of a seated open guard is lowered. The top position is more important, dominant positions are more dangerous, and passing the guard is more dynamic. In addition to EBI OT, CJJ also features the “get down” rule, which places athletes in a double butterfly position if they cannot get the match to the mat. This changes the initial takedown battle and forces athletes to choose whether to take their chances in this position or pull guard on their own terms before the end of the minute.
How does winning this event assist in your future goals?
ZS: By making me a fuckin world champ, baby.
Finally, what makes Zack Schneider a must-watch competitor at the tournament for those curious watching the event?
ZS: I can leg lock, wrestle, throw out flying attacks and slap the snot out of anyone. I’m looking to grab the upset from more well-established guys and have some fun while I’m at it!