The Self-Taught Champion – Fact or Fiction?

Another good article on the psychology of BJJ and MMA


This UBGB (Underground Blog Guest Blogger) is by David Avellan. Along with his brother Marcos, David founded South Florida’s Freestyle Fighting Academy (FFA) in 2001, and has trained fighters for the UFC, WEC, Bodogfight, EliteXC, Strikeforce, and dozens of other promotions.

Everyone loves a rag-to-riches story.

Fighters such as former UFC Champion Evan Tanner had learned much of what he knew training on his own. Evan was famous for studying instructional books, videos, and even getting into bar fights to practice his techniques!

But that was over a decade ago before the evolution of MMA. Is that still possible today?


In fact, I would dare say that it would be easier now than ever before.

How come?

There are so many more resources available to the public now that in the past were guarded secrets. With the growth of the internet and MMA community, it is even possible to be trained online for free by world class instructors such as UFC sensation Alan Belcher, America’s Jiu-Jitsu Coach Lloyd Irvin, and my brother Marcos and I.

If that is true, wouldn’t there be thousands of UFC keyboard warrior champions?

LOL! The beginner’s folly is to think that knowing enough technique is all it takes to become the best.

When I started competing in grappling, I didn’t have a BJJ instructor. I didn’t know how to do an Omo Plata, or how to sweep from the half guard. In fact, I didn’t even train with the GI.

Yet, I was able to defeat BJJ Black Belt World Champions such as Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu, Alexandre “Xande” Ribeiro, Rafael Lovato Jr., and Rener Gracie.

I didn’t have access to all the talent and resources that these individuals had, yet I still was able to defeat them.


One thing, and one thing alone will decide your fate – your mind.

You can have all the talent, resources, and techniques in the world, but without the proper mindset you are doomed to fail.

Somehow, this all important fact is lost on 97% of people.

The most important thing I learned from my high school wrestling days was not a double leg shot, it was the principles of champions.

The first and most important of these principles is very simple. Most people know about this principle, but have never bothered to use it. They think they understand it, but they really don’t.

If you want to be a self-made champ, you HAVE to follow this principle to the letter:

Written Goals
We all have heard about goal setting many times throughout our lives, yet I know very few people who actually do it.

To understand the importance of goals, let me give you an example.

Say we have the Guinness book of world records archery champion. The guy is so good that he can hit a grain of salt in mid-air. Now I blind fold him, spin him in circles and tell him to hit a target I never showed him in the first place.

You think he has a chance of hitting a target he doesn’t know exists? Very, very slim.

You see, it doesn’t matter how good you are. If you don’t know what you want, you are not going to get it. This is why it is crucial to set goals and write them on paper.

If you say you understand the concept of goal setting, but that you don’t need to write down goals – you don’t understand the concept! Writing down the goals is important and makes the goal real.

Goals need to be written in specific detail. Just saying that you want to be the best is not enough. Think about:
•Exactly what you want to achieve
•When you want to have completed your goal
•How you will feel obtaining it
•The price you will have to pay to succeed

Once you have thought through this and KNOW exactly what you want, then you must write it out. It is good practice to write your goals as if you already have achieved them. Think of it as if you are in the future, writing down a journal entry just after completing your goal. Insert as much emotion into the writing as possible, as emotions are the strongest motivators to action that we have.

Next, you need to read your goals out loud to yourself every day. Each time you do this you are programming yourself – reaffirming your belief that you can achieve your goal. When you read your goal, it is important that you do so with a positive state of mind. If you just read the goal without emotion, it will do very little to help.

Finally, I go an extra step and tell everyone what I plan on doing. That way, I’m now accountable for my actions. Most people feel uncomfortable doing that, but as you will learn later, being uncomfortable is crucial for growth.

I will post more principles over the next few days and give you time to digest the material. Remember, just reading this is not going to help you. Many people say that knowledge equals power, but that is false. Applied knowledge equals power. So go and apply this principle!

Believe and Achieve,

David Avellan

P.S. > Do you write goals? If not, what is stopping you? Let me know, as I want to know all the reasons (good or bad) why people don’t do it.

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