Justin Rader on MMA debut: “My goals for MMA are the same as they were for Jiu-Jitsu”

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Rader at the 2013 ADCC in Beijing, China. Photo: Erin Herle

Rader at the 2013 ADCC in Beijing, China. Photo: Erin Herle

A black belt under Rafael Lovato Jr., Justin Rader has been at the top of the podium of many tournaments. In the past six months alone he placed third at the 2013 ADCC in Beijing, China and won the gold at the 2013 No-Gi World Championship. Even before, taking home those medals he had decided to move away from Jiu-Jitsu tournaments to focus on an MMA career. Some setbacks in his first match-ups caused him to spend a little more time on the mats, which paid off.

Tomorrow, Saturday Jan. 18 will be his official MMA debut in the BattleGrounds MMA 3 event in Norman, OK at the Riverwind Casino.

We touched base with Justin to learn about his approach to MMA and how it differs from Jiu-Jitsu:

 GRACIEMAG: How have you been training differently for your MMA debut compared to Jiu-Jitsu tournaments?

JUSTIN RADER: The training has been much different getting ready for my MMA debut compared to my normal training routine for Jiu-Jitsu tournaments. I wrestled from elementary school through high school, and I have been practicing and actively competing in Jiu-Jitsu tournaments for the past fifteen years, always pushing and competing at the highest level possible in those sports. I spent much of the better part of 2013 practicing my stand-up, which I felt was the part of the game I really lacked. I also started sparring much more as opposed to just striking mitts, and I found early on that it’s different and that it was also a different sort of conditioning. When I started, I used to get so tired, but now I feel well conditioned. Professor Rafael Lovato Jr.’s father, Professor Rafael Lovato Sr., has been my main trainer in my stand-up game. And recently, Kru Mark Beecher became our new muay thai instructor here at Lovato’s School of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts, and he’s been the muay thai coach for many UFC fighters and has been a huge help as well with the pointers he has been able to give me to get me ready. With coaches like Professor Rafael Sr., Kru Mark Beecher, and Professor Rafael Lovato Jr. influencing my jiu-jitsu game for MMA, I feel I have an excellent set of well-rounded coaches that will be able to get me ready for anything and everything, and that really provides me with a lot of confidence. I’ve also been working closely with my strength and conditioning coach Luke Tirey, and he’s got me feeling in amazing shape once again. I believe in myself, I believe in my coaches, I believe in my training, and I’m feeling ready! And I can’t wait to see what the future holds!

You have great results in both gi and no-gi but your strengths have definitely been in no-gi. What are some of your “A-game” techniques that you’re able to apply to the MMA cage?

The more that I began training and sparring MMA, putting it all together, I found even on the ground things were a lot more different than I thought at first. Not just the fact that punches are being thrown and being used to set up progression of position and submissions, but the gloves and their thickness also made things different. Some of my favorite submissions, like the guillotine, I found I had to modify slightly and were easier for opponents to defend against because of the thickness of the gloves. I have been working very close with Professor Rafael Lovato Jr. though, and we have made many tweaks to both my Jiu-Jitsu game and submissions to make as smooth a transition to MMA as possible. He’s been a huge help in that way. It’s hard to say what my “A-game” submissions are yet because I have not yet fought, but I really like the head-and-arm choke, RNC, and guillotine choke.

 What are goals for your future in MMA?

My goals for MMA are the same as they were for Jiu-Jitsu. I want to take it as far as I can. I have no idea as of quite yet how I will respond, or if I’ll be any good. I’ll give it a good run, and if I really feel I improve and get better with each experience, I’ll keep taking it to the next level. I want to be smart about it too, and not think I can bite off more than I can chew at the beginning. I’ve had successes in both wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu, but MMA is different, especially now with so many being so well-rounded. So we’ll see how far I can take it, and if I feel I’ve given it a good run and it’s not going anywhere, then at least I’ll never have to look back and wonder “what-if.” That I gave it my best shot. I’m looking forward to it though, and I’m excited for something a little different!

At this point in time, I won’t say I’ve quite left Jiu-Jitsu competitions yet either! Perhaps you’ll see me on the scene again at some point this year too!

So be sure to follow me at: www.facebook.com/DarthRader86, on twitter and Instagram @darthrader86! Big thank you to my sponsors as well: OnTheMat, Lucky Gi, Lucius Tirey, and Pr2 Systems

Follow Rader’s progression as well as the other champions at GMA Lovato’s School of BJJ and MMA by going to www.okbjj.com

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