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I had my first NAGA competition last weekend in France. On all of the previous dates they offered I was somehow occupied with different events, mostly climbing. So I was curious how it will go and luckily it turned out to be a hell of a trip. I fought eight times and secured 6 submissions 4 of which by heel hook, one by kneebar, and one by guillotine to take silver in the adult and bronze in the master expert divisions! In the following I'll make kind of a picture story:


The trip started at Friday noon with the usual company of Alexander Neufang and picked Kristian Popov and Angel Karaivanov from the Airport of Paris


We checked the Airbnb accommodation and went for the weigh-in

 
I was once again professional and managed to go to 70 kg weight limit, dropping from 76 kg. Then I got my deserved steak with burger and beer ;)

 
After eating more than enough we watched some movies, had some chats on the phones and it was time to go to bed before the big day

 
For first time I had so many fights in a single day. My record before that was having a 5 fights in one competition, but this one having 8 literally destroyed me since all of the fights were consecutive. I fought adult and master divisions and they ran both divisions at same time, so I fought pretty much non stop. I got also headbutted terribly by a guy jumping into me like a torpedo head forward. He connected with my eyebrow and even got cut on the top of his head by this hit. Anyway, shit happens. This kinda handicapped me a little for my next fight, which was a great final I lost unfortunately by points in a overtime after a draw. Then on the fight for the third place I nailed a perfect guillotine you can see in the video below:

 
My guillotine, which might be the fastest one in NAGA :)


One of the four heel hooks I landed ;)

 
Alexander Neufang, who besides surprising again his opponents with his funky shit style, got the fastest NAGA submission of all time (5.5 s so pretty sure he did). A match, which I happened to film since I am doing no gi


Kristian Popov on his side won the belt in two systematically controlled matches, where you could tell by watching that the submission is just a question of time, while Ангел lost by a point in the final (like me) after recovering from bad injury (similar like mine)


My teammates Rene Becker (Matrix headcoach), Thabet Agba (Matrix MMA coach) and the third usual suspect Tomek (the Saar gangsta) had a great run. Rene came out with couple years of ring rust behind, which wasn't that evident, since he had very good fights and got double bronze. For Thabet I think it was the first grappling tournament of this magnitude (not counting his professional MMA career of course), and he did also very well until got injured, so get better soon!


Rene again with his signature kimura trap to footlock :)


Tomek took the belt in the gi brown division by a total dominance. There wasn't a single moment of him being pushed! Never saw him fighting with a gi, so man I am totally surprised by his performance, which makes my put my karate gi on and test his shit!


Bruno Amadeo, our young prodigy, who secured title and silver, once again showed great potential at age of only 14 fighting in the -18 expert division.


On the mats we met many more usual suspects like Eldar "Yakuza" Rafigaev, who besides winning double gold after winning a MMA fight just the day before (crazy!!!), played us some Bulgarian hip-hop in my car, which got pretty much overwhelmed by 4 guys 90+ kg above and me. And Wim Deputter, whom I had first time the pleasure to see on tournament and admire for his determination to fight 2 no-gi divisions plus 2 gi division, a feat I'll try myself for sure!!!


Overall, we had a great trip and I am sure my burning abs are from laughing and not from fighting!


That's all folks! Cheers and see you on the mats again!

This post will be about couple 10 kg weight cuts, injuries and finally fighting at the ADCC European Championship. So lets start with the qualification, namely the ADCC German Championships in July. My preparation for it started greatly with the BJJ Globetrotters Summer Camp in Leuven (click to see photos). It finished a month shy off the tournament and I thought I'll be able to perform great. I had couple of minor injuries during the camp so I had a week of easy training. The next week the world start to fell down as I had very bad clavicle bone injury, most likely broken, still I didn't went to doctor to hear the sentence. I happened accidentally, as I slipped on the wet floor during sparring. Anyway, I still wanted to participate and qualify for the Europeans. The next terrible thing happened as I got sick 2 weeks before the competition, which totally screwed my weigh-cut plan. I still had around 10 kilos to cut and with the illness I had the hardest cut of my life ever. I could cut only two kilos as I was sick and had to loose somewhere 8 more in just a week. And the fights started just after the scales, which made all worse...

   
Week before 74 kg and then 66 kg hit the scales

Finally I made the cut, traveled to the competition totally dehydrated for 5 straight hours waking up at 4 in the morning. So guess in what condition I went on fighting... Ah yeah the fight went terrible and I somehow survived just to run to the toilet afterwards to vomit :P


Let us now draw a line and be happy I qualified to the Europeans. The event held on 1st of October and part of my preparation was to combine holiday in Bulgaria with a summer training camp in Sozopol organized by the Bulgarian Grappling Association. Ah and just before the camp I worsened my somewhat cured injury during gymnastic rings training. The camp went well, besides my shoulder not recovering at all and dislocating a rib. So there was me sitting in the bed after training with hands on my head hardly moving at all just wondering how I'll compete at the most important event of my grappling life in just a month. Unable to train grappling I decided to have a lot of trekking around the beautiful, which I either way planned, but not that much as I actually did (click to see video with some 4K shots by me).

I recovered to some extent and two weeks later traveled to Germany to have a short camp before the event. Strangely doing grappling was still pretty risky, since I could re-injure myself, but climbing or riding a bike didn't effect me at all. So I did the techniques of training had very little sparring, only couple of which harder in the last week. Still, I trained 5 hours daily riding around 600 km bike in those two weeks and doing hours of bouldering in the gym. I also managed to climb one of my old rock projects outside, which was a great experience as well. All of this I did eating between 1000 and 1500 kcal, while burning around 4000-4500. All of this to hit the scale under 66 again starting off 76. This time my health and plan worked perfectly and I not only miraculously recovered from the injuries, but made the weight limit perfectly and didn't loose power at all!

In my first fight I fought David Kohout out of Czech Republic, whom I had the fortune to tap with a heel hook after landing a good scissor leg takedown. Against second one, Nicolas Ott, I employed brute force to secure a narrow victory in the last seconds of the fight after failing to tap him in the time limit. With the third one, and the eventual european champion Janusz Andrejczuk, we had great submission scrambles, which I just edged a bit making him to switch strategy and surprise me with a guard pass to side mount and then to full mount. I managed to escape with not much time before the end so yep I lost again by points. Here is a video with all of my three fights:

As you can see on the video portrait we were a big team there, and much of the guys of my team traveled there to watch me and Meraz fight. Speaking of which, the Yazidis bear fought very strong, and only experience cost him a medal during this competition. The other two friends Veso Dukov and Kristian Popov, fought excellent too. Veso won 3 fight by submission and was caught in a surprise by his 4th opponent in a kimura with foot, which left him no option but to tap, while Kristian seriously injured one of his opponents, who didn't tap and sneaked with a point victory. Alex Neufang lost by a point too, but I just told him already that the 99 kg division is just too big for him and on that level if someone is afraid of his sharp submissions, he'll just go for the points game, and so it happened.

Matrix BJJ team :)

Besides fighting I was very happy to have a non grappling friends to cheer me in a competition in the face of my climbing mates Amos, Ricarda, Ruwen, Matze and Maggie. I can only hope I performed well enough as they said :)

flexing with Rici and Amos


Luckily, after the Europeans Kris and Veso stayed at mine for the night, so that before their plane the next day we managed to do an epic roll session at the Matrix gym in Kaiserslautern. We rolled for hours and then ate huge burgers! Time to fly, see you again!

In this story I'll go through three months of my sports life and a severe injury, which could've ended it.

The Injury

On August 22nd I was training harder than usual, because I was going on a journey to the French Alps the next day. Since I wasn't going to train couple of days and I couldn't train recently because if getting cold, I wanted to make up for the lost days. This is what turned out to be a very bad idea combined with the fact, that I've noticed pain during the training, but didn't held. I got home in pain to wake up in the next day almost paralysed, because anywhere I move, I felt huge pain. Travelling to Alps wasn't going to work that day, so I went to the hospital to be checked. There I got the typical offer "do you want injection?", which I declined and was sent home with prescription for 3 drugs and was told everything should be OK in couple of days. So despite feeling bad I decided to go to the Alps and to be honest had a great journey despite having constant pain and very reduced degree of mobility, especially applied to my right arm.

Seeking for Answers

After coming back a week later, the first think I wanted to do, was to find a doctor. Since I am no regular attendant to such places I searched in google for someone nearby. This turned out to be a bad idea, since I found couple of really shitty doctors, which prescribed me without even looking at me the typical Ibuprofen drug and send me back home, because it was nothing unusual. Then again I went for a three week vacation, where I still had numb arm and was suffering huge power withdraw.

Again on my way back I've already booked an appointment on September 27th with a very good rated orthopaedic doctor by the name of Holger Gross, who took me an X-ray to seek for an answer. Note that the other doctors even didn't bother making me a X-ray. So Dr. Gross saw that couple of cervical vertebral bodies were very tight nearby, so this could meant an eventual disk defects in the future if those happen to clash over the time. For the other symptoms he couldn't deduce something very bad, besides the usual drawn picture, but told me to for a MRI scan to make things sure. Well I went a week later on October 3rd to make my MRI Scan.

Meanwhile

In the beginning there was simply no way to come in shape with whatever upper-body training, so I started to ride my hard-tail mountain bike very frequently. Then before having a holidays in my home country Bulgaria, I've decided to complete a intriguing feat - 200 km in one day! Well it was a big challenge, which I completed with my neighbour, who got me into buying a decent bike three years ago.

While still trying to find the injury cause, I was training as much as I could, trying to get in some shape to compete in November 29th. I also wanted to be ready for the winter bouldering season and to be able to get on the rings again.

The Answer

So I went with the CD of my MRI to the orthopaedic and as he saw the image he was pretty frightened and wondered how the hell I am still moving my right side of the body pretty well. The news were bad - I had a severe spinal disc herniation as you can see on the image and it was most likely I would need a surgery and still might not recover well. The other dumb thing is that all of this knowledge came two whole months after my injury. So after weighting the positives versus the negatives I decided to go on without surgery.


My spinal disc herniation surrounded with red circle

One Year Later

During the first year after the injury I experienced my arm partially numb, yet it started regaining its power. I took part in competitions and trained to get it back in shape. Unfortunately my shoulder was weak, so I injured it pretty bad, which slowed my recovery rate a lot. Overall, it was pretty bad year in terms of performance, but the good thing is I learned a lot of new techniques to me, which I wasn't aware of, just because I was not able to do my typical style with my arm fit.

Two Years Later

Writing this on two years later I can now be happy, that my arm has fully recovered. I could do all of my strength feats, I've been doing before, my arm is strong as my left one, and even I can do some new stuff. I am having a great year of grappling competitions too! Bottom line is that this injury was important experience for me and I would like to wish everyone to never give up on injury, whatever it might be!

After finally recovered from spinal disc herniation and shoulder problems I focused on bringing on the best of me for three series of qualification rounds for the so called ADCC German Championships held in 23.07.2016. I'll go through my experience in each round separately:

Round 1

The first ADCC in Germany since 2010 kicked off with only 100 participants mostly in the professional division, which considering the ADCC label pretty much surprised me. Anyway I fought there in 76 kg division against Benedikt Schotthöfer and managed to pull off a disappointing performance by losing by takedown. Bennie had a great gameplan to shrug me off during the three minute no points time and then to take me down during the three minute time. So the time passed with pretty much nothing happening and I lost with that point. Then I went for the absolute division, where I fought an youngster named Tupac and after dozens of submission attempts by my side he apparently swept me during my guillotine attempt during the points time and I lost there too by that point. So overall it was very disappointing performance and I was ought to make changes for the upcoming two qualifiers.

Round 2

For the second round I tried to concentrate more on stand up game and realistic competition sparring. That is always as the sparring partner to start on feet and if he wants his stupid knee start then let it go and start from guard. Second change, was the intention not to give easy sweeps despite possible submission afterwards on my side. With that in mind I went off to give me best once more.

In the first round in my 76 kg division I stood against Mert Özyildirim, who as far as I knew started an MMA career. I was sure that because of his MMA focus and despite him winning there by submission, his grappling preparation couldn't match that of mine, so I went confident on the mat. I pulled off various takedowns and submission attempts to end him with heel hook.

My next encounter was Mourad Benabdallah, whom I saw in the previous round to be great wrestler. So in the beginning I immediately noticed that he is only tasting me during the three minute non point time, just to take me down in the next three minutes and win by that solely. With that in my mind I decided to pull him somehow in my guard and managed to lock him in my half guard after few attempts. Being there he maybe wanted to pass, but couldn't do so being swarmed by my submission attempts, which were finalized again with heel hook catching him surprised after switching the half guard to the other side.

In my third and final fight I stood against Amin Aichele of whom I saw to have decent leg lock game. So once again I was confident, that my leg lock game was a level better and won by toe hold submission.

Overall, I am happy with my performance and the adjustments I made during my fights. You can see the mentioned submissions in the first part of the Matrix BJJ video in youtube:

Btw, I fought again in the absolute too. My first match there was against a very strong Pole, which tired me a lot, but managed to win via heel hook somewhere near the end. Then in my second one I faced Poland's ADCC 100 kg winner Marian "Santos" Klosowski without any break between fights at all. So totally pumped I just went to give my best, but was practically crushed physically. Afterwards Marian was kind to show us two of his main heel hook setups, which were insane. I immediately understood those and integrated them into my game.

With the big boys Meraz and Marian

Round 3

After being already qualified for the German Championships I decided to enroll in the third qualifier too, just because I like the rules and I want to fight. So what was mean to be experience gaining fun tournament turned into a serious challenge once I saw the brackets and the name "Nogueira". I took me a time even to realize that this "Nogueira" was most likely 2nd Dan Luta Livre living legend Leozada (see link). I immediately got psyched of the possibility to face him in the semi-finals. I was always wondering what will be like to face the top opposition in submission wrestling and now that I got the opportunity I just couldn't wait that moment. I just prayed I won't do any shit in my first matches and really reach my potential match-up.

So the time came, I went once again to Mainz with my fellow warrior Alexander Neufang, who had a super match against Daniel Brauchle, which he eventually won by some submission. Back to the point, one of my opponents from the brackets didn't showed up and I should have won only against grappler named Menendez to meet Leozada. Luckily I got the heel hook against Menendez and watched meanwhile Leozada taking out his two opponents by submission like playing with kids.

It was time. We both shook hands and immediately engaged into a grip fight. Then both tested our necks and found each one to be stiff enough to try any jumping guillotine whatsoever. Then Leozada first changed tactics and I felt he tried to setup some judo-like foot-based take-down technique because he took a little bit of side position. I immediately jumped for a scissor-leg takedown got the foot for the hook with wrapped legs, while Leozada screamed from some pain. Ref got the fight stopped and my hand got raised. I don't know exactly what happened, even after watching the video multiple times, so I'll leave it as it is without any further speculations. Bottom-line is that I won my biggest fight and even managed to do so within 30 seconds from the beginning by technical knockout!

Despite the feeling of fulfillment of my grappling dreams after the semis I stil had to fight in the finals, where I was about to face Sascha Sharma, who is an young and trending MMA fighter in Germany and against whom I lost couple of times by a takedown point. So the fight started and as I expected Sharma went to defend the first minutes of no points time, thinking of taking me down in the second part. So as an aggressor I took the action initiative and even got somehow front headlock. This is one of my strongest positions so I immediately thought "gotcha". But while celebrating my position Sharma, for my total surprise, somehow sneaked out. I end up chasing his foot, which he saved too and we ended up in my half-guard. Pretty long time passed by and the points were already on, when I switched to butterfly guard and elevated Sharma for a foot grab, while he was defending a sweep. So I grabbed that foot and I knew I would finish him, since I isolated his leg perfectly and only a perfectly drilled escape and strong legs could have saved him. Despite having the second quality, he lacked the first one and I finally got him with a kneebar revenge.

My third experience in Road to ADCC :)


So below the final line of this memoir, I want to thank anyone of my new Matrix BJJ team in Kaiserslautern, who besides smashing my ass of during hard sparring sessions, showed up in all of my three fights to support me! If you are somewhere near Kaiserslautern, consider visiting http://www.matrix-bjj.de/.

with Rene and Andy

Also obliged to mention the great travel athmosphere with the other two lone warrior near me Alex and Tomek :)


with Tomek and Alex

This year I had the opportunity to participate at the Submissao Grappling Challenge, which was held in Karlsruhe, a city I consider my second home. It was around February and I wasn't particularly fit into grappling because I was training much more at the gymnastic rings and climbing a lot, but since the location was simply perfect and there isn't much happening around here I was certain, that I'll be there on the mats. Besides myself, only three guys from our team signed for the event.

Thereafter the good news started to flow. Firstly my family told me they'll come by, as well as my girlfriend and couple of other friends, which traveled with me to Karlsruhe. The small journey was all time fun and we had a great gathering till late in the night before the competition.

At the fight day I woke up surprisingly easy and felt fit to go. First of all I should tell that there was a schedule online before the competition with time of the fights and so on. I was pretty skeptical about that schedule, but was then proved wrong by the greatest fight event organization I've ever seen in my live. The whole event held on schedule and everything was perfectly smooth. Perfect timing, perfect conditions including warmup room, a lots of toilets, showers etc. Also the start-up price was fine, together with the coffee and cake prices. So uhm yeah, I watched two of my teammates, which had pretty good fights before getting warm for my first fight. It was a big group and winning seemed pretty impossible considering I had to win 5 consecutive fights. So this was pretty much out of my mind going out for my first bout. Other thought I had in mind, was there was no way I could tap in front of my "fans" :P

At my first bout, my opponent seemed much smaller than me, so it was clear I was going to submit him in the five minutes time, which happened around the middle via arm triangle. Overall it was a good confidence boost.

At my second bout I got a fresh guy, which got directly at the second stage, due to the participation quota. However I was fit and didn't took that as much of an advantage, besides that he should have seen me already and knows my style. The latter could be an disadvantage as well, cos he might got scared. Anyway, on the mat awaited me a big tall guy, which mean nothing else than taking him down easy to earn couple of points. He had good tight guard, which I was trying to pass. At a point of time I got his feet across and he had mine, but since I knew this was an forbidden technique I let his foot go and went to get up, while he was going to squeeze. At that time the ref came along and disqualified him. Well, his own fault, nothing more to say here. In the small rest between rounds I watched my third teammate having a great win in the last seconds via submission. Was very happy for him, since he was loosing with a wide margin on point up to the very end, where he turned things upside down.

My third fight grouped me again with fresh guy, who due to grouping luck and opponent not showing up got his first bout with me. He was pretty nervous despite looking pretty solid on the standup game. So I was pretty concerned no to lose by points and avoided taking risks in the first half of the round. Then I took the initiative mainly due to my physical ability and started an offensive game. At a moment I got his wrist very good and a moment before taking him down, he yawned at the ref, whether this was allowed. Well it was allowed, but it destroyed my good chance. Anyway a moment later I got his neck and tried to squeeze the choke, but was not that fortunate with putting the feet in good position, so it wasn't that tight and decided to let it go and get up immediately. This however gave me an advantage in a fight, where nothing was happening, which meant me being on the lead. At the end he tried a desperate double leg takedown, which allowed me to grab his head again, this time tight. Several seconds later he got very sloppy and the ref stopped the bout and he got up slowly on shaky legs. I thought it was a technical decision or a tap, but it was the time limit, which was hit and I won by couple of advantages. "A couple more seconds" I thought, while getting my hand held up again...

Shortly before my fourth fight I watched my teammate competing again and doing the same crazy win via tapping his opponent out seconds before the bell after loosing again on wide margin. How great! So happily i gathered concentration for my bout, this time with pretty muscular guy. I thought he would be very strong, but this wasn't the case. I mean in grappling, dunno maybe he is super strong at the bench press. So after he tried double leg I sprawled and got the dominating position to the end where I got him into an arm triangle from half guard. Was self-surprised he tapped, but as mentioned he had a big shoulders and back, so the choke should have felt definitely tight. Wow so happy, I was at the final and for first time I got the chance to watch my opponent on the other semi, which was a great and very tight match between two very even and similar grapplers.

The fact I've watched my opponent, didn't mean I had a plan at all. Just the usual stuff, get a grip to see, where is his weakness and go all in. Well he was very good in the grappling, but for his unfortunate, he was either not physically strong enough, or was just tired from the previous matches. So after couple of minutes stand up I got him on the ground and was able to get the side control, where he tried a typical kimura sweep. That opened the door to my favorite arm triangle, which I immediately held tight and after half minute he was forced to tap, after me changing the sides.

What a pleasant suprise - I became the champion! And we had a looong loong day and night in front of us :)

Here is a small video I gathered from some phone records:

 


 

First of all I want to thank to the organizers for this great event, where as mentioned, everything ran smooth and on schedule, which is actually the first time I anticipate something like this.

Then I want to thank to the other three teammates Dominik, who coached me, Nic and Dominik, for the good teamwork at the event.

Then I want to thank to Team Ballterrier and coach Dustin for the great preparation.

I am also very grateful to my family, friends and my girlfriend for showing up to support me - a clear sign that underperforming was not an option!

Please visit Team Ballterrier website ballterrier.de/