East Coast Jiu Jitsu Academy (ECJJA) is one of the premier Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academies of not just Ireland, winning the 2018 Irish Open team title, but Europe, headed by the current Black belt adult European Nogi Champion, Darragh O’conaill, it is constantly producing high level competitors. One such athlete is Progress Jiu Jitsu Sponsored athlete Marcus Phelan, currently a brown belt and European No Gi champion himself at purple belt, we caught up with him as he was preparing for the IBJJF Worlds.
FME - Thanks for your time Marcus, let’s start with how you won your entry and flights to California. You did this by winning the Finnish open in a mixed brown and black belt category. Tell us about the competition!
MP - It's a great competition always so smooth and professional. With great prizes too! I don't know of any other national tournament where competitors can win as much as €800 for their weight division. I fought a black belt in my first match and pulled off a quick kneebar, then in my semi-final I won on points in an enjoyable match too. My good friend and team- mate Sam McNally reached the final on the other side after two quick submissions, so we just closed out and split the cash.
FME - How is preparations going for the Worlds, take us through a week training at ECJJA?
MP - Preparation is going perfect so far. It's been a busy competition season for me and I've learned many lessons which I've worked to improve in training and it looks like I'm peaking nicely. Trying to visualise more and focus on improving my mindset a lot now. I think the skills are there, it’s going to be 100% the mental side on the day. Competition training runs every day at 12pm, Darragh takes us through technical drills and lots of specific sparring drills. I coach for two hours in the afternoon then in the evening classes I usually train a bit lighter and I try to move a lot more and try new ideas. Then I do my own strength & conditioning training with my team-mate & coach Austin Rhatigan 3 times a week, early morning. The weekend I might train a bit at open mat but we're always hanging at the gym messing around with techniques and trying different things we're working on.
FME - You recently competed at the Irish Open, taking Double Gold also securing another travel package, this time to next year’s Europeans and your team took the team title, despite your multiple accomplishments at international level, how important is it for you to ‘defend home court’ and take Irish Open gold and as a team win the team title!
MP - I still love competing in Ireland and I always will if I have the opportunities. I genuinely care about increasing the level of Jiu Jitsu at national tournaments. Not enough Irish people try to travel and compete. Maybe they're not aware of how high the level can get at World's etc. So, I try my best to show good Jiu Jitsu and help increase the standard. It's about encouraging and inspiring a new generation of even better fighters. I remember watching Darragh fight Chris Bowe etc. in Ireland as a white belt and It inspired me for sure.
FME - What for you is your favourite accomplishment in Jiu Jitsu and why?
MP – Hmm, I hope it hasn't come yet! European No Gi 2017 was a good one, in terms of competition. Won 5 fights and beat some very tough guys but it was mainly because I felt terrible earlier that day with some injuries too from the day before, but I pulled myself together and fought with the perfect mindset. It's all mental and that was a big personal one I like to look back on.
FME - Who would you say influences your jiu jitsu the most ?
MP - Darragh of course! I think people influence you a lot subconsciously, especially my coach and training partners. Lucas Lepri stands out from outside my circle, he's a complete fighter and I love his relentless style no matter where the fight is. I’m looking to be as well rounded as possible. It's black belt I'd love to be successful at. Gi and No Gi. And you need to be good everywhere at black belt. So, we're playing the long game and I must be patient for the results as my game develops.
FME - thanks again for your time Marcus and see you at the worlds!
MP - Oss KJC, see you over there!