As you may or may not know, MMA4Real covers the local/regional scene as well as the major events. We had a chance to catch up with one of North Carolina's best young pro's this past week and he gave us his thoughts on how he got into MMA, winning the Carolina Fight Promotions Welterweight Title, career goals and more. Jake's story is a prime example of what fighters that make it to the top have to go through to make it there. So make sure you support your local/regional scene where ever that is.
Jake Whitfield is a very accomplished jiu-jitsu competitor that has recently translated his skills into the pro ranks of mixed martial arts. Jake began training in jiu-jitsu when he was 16 years old. Before entering the cage, Jake had quickly made a name for himself on the grappling circuit. In 2003, at only the age of 18, he became the North American Grappling Association (NAGA) world champion in the 170 pound Advanced Division. Since then he has also added many other grappling tournament championships to his resume and has even earned his brown belt under former UFC champion Royce Gracie. Jake has made a name for himself as a talented instructor at Triangle Jiu-Jitsu in Goldsboro, North Carolina. The 24 year old also owns a 2-1 professional record that followed a 6-0 amateur run. He recently added some hardware to his collection for the first time as a professional fighter when he claimed the CFP Welterweight Title in June with a victory over Roger Carroll. I recently caught up with Jake to find out more about this exciting fighter that is also considered to be one of the top young jiu-jitsu instructors in the state of North Carolina.
Rich Wyatt: How did you first get into training jiu-jitsu and, eventually, MMA?
Jake Whitfield: I started martial arts when I was 6 years old taking American karate from Jessie Bowen at Karate International in Durham. When I was 8, he invited the students over to his house to watch this pay-per-view thing that he had seen advertised in Black Belt magazine. That pay-per-view thing turned out to be the very first UFC. That night I watched Royce just run through everybody and I knew that I wanted to learn that Gracie jiu-jitsu stuff. After the UFC, one of the instructors at the karate school ordered the Gracie basics and started a little ground fighting class. It wasn't much but it got my feet wet and got me interested. When I got to middle school I ordered Carlson Jr's tape set. Looking back on it, those tapes were horrible but it was another step. Me and a couple of the other younger black belts started our own little fight club. We'd get together and learn from the tapes and spar. Then in eighth grade I started wrestling. I wrestled all the way through middle school and high school. I was a good wrestler but definitely not great. I'm honestly not a natural athlete and that hurt me a lot but it also hurt me that I was only wrestling because I didn't know where to train jiu-jitsu. After my junior year I got a flyer for a local BJJ tournament and I decided to do it. I'd been competing in karate for ten years and been wrestling for four so I was already comfortable competing. I really thought I'd do well, I had no idea how little I knew. I won my first match basically off of takedowns and scrambling then got triangled in my next match. After the tournament Spencer from Team-ROC approached me and told me that I should train with them. So I started training at the old Hillsboro Team ROC school. Spencer was my first real teacher then later Greg too (when I started Greg was out west working with the air marshalls). I trained with them four or five hours a day every day and they helped me progress really quickly. Sometimes I would even skip school to train. I think I made the right choice. (Laughs) Thanks to that training I got my blue belt in six months. I started fighting MMA a year after I got my blue belt and then got my purple belt a little less than two years after I got my blue. That's where my training with Greg and Spencer really stopped. I only rolled with those two maybe three times each since I got my purple in 2004. Since then I've trained more with Jason Culbreth and Billy Dowey and Royce and Rodrigo.
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