Jiu-Jitsu was not what De’Alonzio Jackson was looking for when he first entered Lloyd Irvin’s academy,in Camp Springs, Maryland, a few years ago. DJ, as he is called by his friends, went there to train wrestling, which he already did at school. Upon his request, Professor Lloyd Irvin allowed him to attend an advanced Jiu-Jitsu class and he fell in love with the gentle art. The relationship has been fruitful for the competitor, now 23 years old, recently promoted to black belt. Since the lower belts, DJ has established himself as one of the athletes with the most impressive performances. Medals piled up and now DJ has a brand new challenge, to repeat his results as a black belt, where difficulties grow considerably.
He started out great. At the recent Atlanta International Open, DJ conquered two gold medals. The medium-heavy win demanded only one fight, against Ian McPherson. In the open class, the final match put Jackson face to face with world champion Lucas Lepri. In a very studied duel, DJ got his first open class gold as a black belt. In this exclusive chat with GRACIEMAG.com, he talks about the feeling of accomplishment, addresses the difference between fighting in the lower belts and at black belt and plans his future, which includes bold goals in the octagon.
GRACIEMAG.com: How did you first come in contact with BJJ?
DJ Jackson: I first started training Jiu-Jitsu when I was in the offseason for wrestling. I came to Lloyd Irvin Mixed Martial arts academy because they had a very good wrestling program ran by Jim Kelly and Mike Denny. Master Lloyd Irvin allowed me to do an advanced class one night and I loved it. Didn’t know what I was doing but everyone at the gym helped me a lot and I never stopped coming.
GRACIEMAG.com: How important is Jiu-Jitsu for you?
DJ: Jiu-Jitsu is the most important thing to me right now. I want to be the champion of the UFC but without Jiu-Jitsu I would have no job and no direction. Master Lloyd Irvin helped give me direction in life through Jiu-Jitsu and other martial arts.
GRACIEMAG.com: You were promoted to the black belt less than three months ago. What was the feeling of achieving that rank like? Was it something you dreamed about?
DJ: It is a surreal feeling. When you put your all into achieving a goal and then you finally achieve it it’s an extraordinary feeling.
GRACIEMAG.com: You had a lot of success in competitions in the lower belts. What do you have to improve to keep that level of achievement as a black belt?
DJ: Everything. At team Lloyd Irvin we are constantly trying to improve all aspects of our Jiu-jitsu. Whether we win the tournament or lose first round there are always things to work on and improve on.
GRACIEMAG.com: What is the main difficulty for a newcomer to the black belt division?
DJ: The main difficulty for me so far has been the experience. I am fighting very good black belts and there is nothing they haven’t seen. But it excites me for things to come. I want to and can’t wait to go to war with the best fighters in the world.
GRACIEMAG.com: In Atlanta, you won the medium heavy and the open Class, when you defeated Lucas Lepri (a black belt world champion) in the final. Did it matter to you who he was? Did it affect your game plan and performance at all?
DJ: It did matter because he is one of the grapplers I have watched a lot to try and learn from. But once you step on the mat past accomplishments don’t matter. It is just you versus your opponent and who is better in that 10 minutes.