I’m very excited to introduce Allen A. Causevic. He is one of the top competitors based out of the Chicago area. Many of you know him, some of you don’t, but you’ll hear more and more about him as time goes on.
Allen is exceptionally eloquent and thoughtful in his answers. We discuss “fighters,” gi vs. nogi, Austrian Economics, being a big guy, his favorite grapplers, and his hair.
BJJinChicago: Allen, thanks for taking the time to do this interview. You currently train with Jay Valko. How long have you been training there and what do you like most about the academy?
Allen Causevic: I’ve been with Mr. Jay Valko since May of 2005. I had started at Carlson’s Academy Downtown and would mainly attend the afternoon class that Jay would teach. After Jay went on his own, I had followed him over to his new school in 2007. Since then, the school has grown dramatically. I attribute the growth to the same reasons why I love the academy. We are very open about sharing knowledge and the exchange of ideas. I’ve visited many schools across the country and many instructors stick to that pure jiu-jitsu game. Unfortunately, this is a detriment to the sport. MMA is evolving. So is Jiu-Jitsu. With the addition of RJ Cohen and his world-class Judo skills, along with Timothy Foley’s Division 1/All-American wrestling skills, we are evolving.
The transition from a top stand-up game to a top ground game is the future. This takes the exchange of ideas and knowledge I mentioned before, and for many, a journey out of their comfort zone. Jay has done a great job of creating this advantageous environment. This “ideas friendly” environment is best seen during the Saturday open mat sessions, which are free for all to attend. As a result, we do see a wide array of people visit with different skill levels. Being exposed to different styles from local, national, and international visitors has made all of us better grapplers. As the sport evolves, I’m excited to see the future and our successes.
BJJiC: What are some of your greatest tournament accomplishments to date?
AC: I don’t look at Jiu-Jitsu as a fight. The mentality I follow is that it’s a competitive match. Having said that, I always look to perform well during any match. Being able to perform under pressure is what sets champions apart and I work very hard to maintain composure and work the techniques that put the odds to win in my favor. As a result, my best performances have been during the:
2011 NYC International Open Purple belt Super Heavy: Gold
2010 Chicago International Open Purple belt Super Heavy: Gold
2009 NYC International Open Blue Belt Super Heavy: Gold
2009 Abu Dhabi Pro-Gi Qualifiers- Blue Belt-Heavy-Gold
BJJiC: What are a few tips for bigger guys who are just beginning jiu-jitsu?
AC: Don’t be discouraged when the conventional wisdom you’ve been following turns out to be false. When I started training, I was 240 lbs., power lifting, and consistently eating a post workout meal consisting of a Whopper from Burger King and the original Muscle Milk. Yes, that is approximately 1700 calories. We’re led to believe that there is a correlation between how much weight you throw around in the weight room to your fighting ability. How many times have you heard, “Wow, he’s huge! Don’t mess with him!”? Well in 2007, I was fed the red pill and my world was turned upside down. I was destroyed by guys half my size. Tapping to a rear-naked choke to someone who weighs 135 lbs. definitely destroys ones ego. You soon realize you’ve been following the wrong path in life. It’s devastating for some. My advice would be to work technique as much as possible and to not get discouraged when losing to smaller opponent. Finally, work your guard as much as possible. Working your weaknesses and removing yourself from your comfort zone will pay off later on in your career.
BJJiC: If you could go back in time…what would you say to yourself as a white belt?
AC: Stop eating Whoppers. Don’t start competing No-Gi until after you’re promoted to blue belt. There is a long debate on the Gi vs No-Gi advantages. I’m of the school that believes a good Gi game will trickle down to a good No-Gi game. I would try to knock some sense into my old self to start working hard on my Gi base, and then move to working No-Gi afterward.
BJJiC: Royal Rumble – Your hair, Jay’s beard, RJ’s hair, and Mike’s beard. Who wins?
AC: My hair hands down. I could be rolling in a jiu-jitsu class at night, then having a Grey Goose on the rocks in a world-class country club right afterward with my perfect hair part. It doesn’t move no matter how much I exert myself. It’s the source of my power. Second place goes to Mike Cornille. His beard provides one of the most protective shields known to man.
BJJiC: Who is the best person you have ever rolled with?
AC: This award goes to Mr. Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu. I had visited his school in Miami, FL in December of 2010 and was humbled. I was amazed to feel his skill level in action. The journey of Jiu-Jitsu is a long one, and that experience helped me realize that I was not at the level I would like to be. Seeing where I was has helped me train differently and work harder in many different aspects. It’s always good to take a step back and see where you are and decide where you want to go in the future.
BJJiC: Who is the best person you have ever competed against?
AC: This title would go to Mr. Luke Costello of the UK. He is my latest loss that took place at the 2011 World Jiu-Jitsu Championships. After watching video, we have a very similar game but he was better that day. He took me down with a great Uchi Mata, which has not happened in a tournament setting to me in a long time. I lost my composure and was submitted via bow and arrow choke. It’s ironic; I was thrown with one of my favorite throws and choked out by my favorite submission. Eating a taste of my own medicine was not tasty. I look forward to a re-match in the future.
BJJiC: How many times a week do you train?
AC: During down times I’m usually there 4 to 5 days a week. If I’m training for a tournament then I’m in the gym 6 days a week. I’ve added strength and conditioning 3 to 4 days a week to my regiment as well. Hopefully this new combination will lead to new found success in the future.
BJJiC: What kinds of activities do you do outside of jiu-jitsu?
AC: The like to do the following in no particular order:
1. People watching at Wholefoods.
2. Filmmaking and graphic design.
3. Improving my knowledge of the Austrian School of Economics.
4. Eating foods that have not been processed or altered in any way.
5. Volunteering at animal shelters.
6. Sharpening my culinary skills.
BJJiC: Who are some of your favorite grapplers to watch (and why)?
AC: I love to watch Cyborg Abreu and Braga Neto. I’m a bigger guy so of course I like to watch the big dogs. Watching their games has helped me become a better grappler.
BJJiC: What are your plans for competing in the future?
AC: I’m planning on competing in the 2011 Chicago International Summer Open of course. But the big tournament at the end of the year I’m looking at is the Melbourne Open in Australia. I’ve never been, so I would like to take the opportunity to compete at such a large international event and see the sights afterward.
BJJiC: What else can we expect from you in the future?
AC: I want to improve my Judo game to the highest level possible. I do see myself traveling and competing at the high level tournaments in the USA Judo scene in the future. Training with the best Judoka will take my Jiu-Jitsu game to a new level and I’m excited to learn the new techniques.
BJJiC: Any last comments?
AC: Yes. With the explosion in popularity MMA & Grappling has seen in recent years, the conduct and behavior of the sub-culture that has risen in parallel is appalling. The insane graphic t-shirts to the full sleeve/body tattoos have significantly lowered the esteem of the sport. All too often I see these individuals in social settings bragging to people on how they’re ”fighters.” This disillusioned mentality needs to stop. Athletes should carry themselves to a higher degree and strive to be gentlemen. Poor sentence structure and improper grammar is not cool. This of course is no relation to SubCulture apparel. They have done a great job supporting local athletes and are very active in the BJJ community. SubCulture is the only Gi I wear for competitions and training sessions. I highly recommend them.
Favorite Takedown: Uchi Mata
Favorite Submission: Bow and Arrow Choke
Favorite Position: Knee on Belly