2019 ADCC World Championship
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A Walk Through NYC With Craig Jones

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A Walk Through NYC With ADCC Breakout Star, Craig Jones

Aug 1, 2019

Maybe nobody knows the rollercoaster ride that is ADCC better than the Australian breakout star, Craig Jones. Now training out of Renzo Gracie Academy with the likes of John Danaher and Gordon Ryan, Craig has never been refining his skills diligently ahead of the 2019 Mega-tournament and has his eyes set on gold.

Take a walk through the streets of midtown Manhattan and learn how Craig first heard about ADCC as a young lad in Adeliade, what he took away from his first round loss at ADCC 2015, his mindset going into his match with Leandro Lo, and how he's sees it all shaking out this year.


Reid Connell:       Leaving Renzo Gracie Academy with Craig Jones. What's up Craig?

Craig Jones:        What's going on?

Reid Connell:       How're you doing, Craig? Always appreciate when you get to do an interview. Do a little talk. Always enjoy it. Did you get stuck in the storms yesterday at all?

Craig Jones:        I made it home before they hit. I made it back to Brooklyn, but it was pretty bad

Reid Connell:       Yeah, dude, it was crazy. I saw a bunch of flooding videos and everything. When you are in a rainy day in New York City, does it make you miss Australia?

Craig Jones:        You know what, the weather here, it's usually too hot or too cold, or it's raining. It's pretty miserable all around, but Melbourne's weather is pretty bad as well, so it's like... Melbourne probably has some of the worst weather in Australia. Just inconsistent. So it either sucks here or it sucks there.

Reid Connell:       But you moved to Melbourne, right?

Craig Jones:        Yes.

Reid Connell:       For Jiu Jitsu, right?

Craig Jones:        Yeah. I moved to Melbourne in 2015. I did a Worlds Camp there for... A No-Gi Worlds Camp and then just never left.

Reid Connell:       Just stayed. With Lachlan and Absolute?

Craig Jones:        Yeah.

Reid Connell:       Right. Awesome. So I'm here in New York. You guys are getting ready for ADCC, I like the shirt.

Craig Jones:        Yeah, representing.

Reid Connell:       Representing. But we're here. We're just about two months away from ADCC. Pretty crazy, huh? Can you believe that we're back around this time again?

Craig Jones:        Yeah. It comes up very quick.

Reid Connell:       It seems to.

Craig Jones:        I've had so many events this year so time's flying by, but yeah. Two months will be here in no time, really.

Reid Connell:       Absolutely. You have been insanely busy. I feel like since ADCC in Finland 2017, ever since then you have just been taking matches every weekend it feels like, for the last two years, man.

Craig Jones:        Yeah. I can't say no. If it's a good press on the match or it's a good opponent, I'll say yes to basically everything.

Reid Connell:       Yeah. Yeah. Let's talk about ADCC though, a little bit, because obviously this is such a legendary tournament that comes up only every two years, right? Everybody says the Superbowl of grappling. I'm wondering, when did a young Craig Jones learn about ADCC, because I imagine it's not everywhere in the United States, I imagine it's not everywhere in Australia. So how did you first learn about ADCC?

Craig Jones:        Shit, I think probably Stuart Cooper's Jai Alai reel.

Reid Connell:       Really?

Craig Jones:        I think so. Which one was the epic first one? Was it 2009 or 2011?

Reid Connell:       I think it was 2011.

Craig Jones:        Yeah, so I probably knew about ADCC but that sort of thing got me really motivated to see how stacked that event is, and really trying to one day, hopefully, be a part of it. But those seemed like cloud dreams as an Australian. I think we had some Aussies do ADCC. We used to have some Trials, but all those guys, we'd be the lowest seed. So I would just watch those guys get massacred by the number one seed every couple of years.

Reid Connell:       Was that inspiring?

Craig Jones:        Kind of, yeah. I was like, “That could be me.”

Reid Connell:       “That could be me out there.”

Craig Jones:        Yeah.

Reid Connell:       Perfect. So that was around 2011, 2012?

Craig Jones:        I think so, yeah.

Reid Connell:       Right before that?

Craig Jones:        I really can't remember, hey. It was so long ago now. I know I used to watch the best of ADCC DVDs they used to-

Reid Connell:       Let's walk across the street here.

Craig Jones:        They used to release. You know what I'm talking about? Those old Best of ADCCs?

Reid Connell:       DVDs?

Craig Jones:        Yeah, because you never really used to be able to buy the whole event, but you used to be able to buy the best matches of 2001 or 2003 or whatever. So that's sort of-

Reid Connell:       That's king of a part of the allure of ADCC almost, it was like how difficult it was to watch the matches, and stuff like that. You had to scour places.

Craig Jones:        Especially that one in China. [inaudible 00:03:41] in China. It was tough to watch.

Reid Connell:       Stop right here. Yeah, the one in China? Yeah, yeah. That one was almost impossible I feel to get your hands on.

Craig Jones:        And the livestream. I remember trying to watch it at home, and I was like, “Are they going to charge me $60 per match?” I was like, “What is going on?” [inaudible 00:04:03] You can only watch some of it and then the DVD would come out. Like you said, that's what made ADCC so special. You couldn't really watch it.

Reid Connell:       It was like this legendary tournament that you heard of, but finding matches or finding out a lot of information about it was like, “Good luck.”

Craig Jones:        Yeah.

Reid Connell:       But, okay, so you were already training Jiu Jitsu, right, when you learned about ADCC?

Craig Jones:        Yeah, that's another thing. I don't even really remember when I started Jiu Jitsu.

Reid Connell:       No?

Craig Jones:        No. I think loosely when I was 15. But my coach at the time was a blue belt, I think there were two or three people in a class, you know what I mean? It was just something fun to do.

Reid Connell:       Real early stuff.

Craig Jones:        So I didn't really take note of all that's going on back then.

Reid Connell:       But were you doing gi or no-gi?

Craig Jones:        I think both. A little bit of MMA training, but that never panned out.

Reid Connell:       Well, you got whatever this is right here.

Craig Jones:        Yeah, I know. Yeah, Gordon gave me a black eye last week, and then Isaac, he kneed me in the head yesterday.

Reid Connell:       Oh, that was Isaac, got you.

Craig Jones:        Back to back.

Reid Connell:       So you were preparing for it incidentally then?

Craig Jones:        Yeah.

Reid Connell:       So you started training around 15. When did the idea of actually going to ADCC, do you think, become a reality? Or trying to earn your invite?

Craig Jones:        I don't know. Actually, I heard about... I was already in the U.S. at the time, just doing a training trip. I think I was training in Atos.

Reid Connell:       Oh, cool.

Craig Jones:        And I heard that there was an ADCC Trials in Korea, and the Asian ones were never well-advertised. I couldn't google it, it would be super hard to find out when the event was going to be on. So I told my parents back home to put my car for sale, and to try to sell it, so that I'd have enough money when I go back to immediately go to Korea to compete, and they sold the car, and I used the cash to go over.

Reid Connell:       What kind of car was it?

Craig Jones:        I can't remember. A Subaru or so. It was a all right car. I did owe my parents most of the money on the car, so it just left me a little bit of cash to travel with. But I wouldn't recommend that either. But, I can't remember who told me about it, I think it was Lachlan Giles or maybe Ben Hodgkinson. I heard through those guys the Trials was on. So when I had the money, I went over to Korea, I decided to register in 88 even though I was 80 kilos, because Lachlan Giles was in 77 and I was like, “There's definitely no way I'm beating him, but maybe one of these bigger guys. Maybe it's a weaker division.” Luckily, it all worked out. But that was 2014, those Trials were.

Reid Connell:       Okay. That was in Asia?

Craig Jones:        That was in Korea, yeah.

Reid Connell:       That was in Korea.

Craig Jones:        That was the first Asian Trials. They typically always did one in a random location, and always one in Japan.

Reid Connell:       One in Japan, yeah, got you. Maybe just take a seat right here for a minute?

Craig Jones:        Yeah, yeah.

Reid Connell:       Hang out with me for a minute. Right off this is a solid spot. Just chill right here for a minute. Right in front of, this is Madison Square Garden right here.

Craig Jones:        Madison Square Garden.

Reid Connell:       Right. So you went over to Korea. What was that tournament like?

Craig Jones:        It was pretty strange. I know there was a lot of strange things going on. They told us the weigh-ins were going to be in an official hotel 30 to 45 minutes away from the venue on the day they called, and then Lachlan Giles rang up and said, “I'm just confirming where the weigh-ins are,” and they were like, “Oh, we changed our mind. It's going to be actually at the venue.” So if you'd gone to the hotel, you wouldn't have made it back in time to weigh-in at Trials.

Reid Connell:       Got you. You missed it.

Craig Jones:        Super strange things. I remember we showed up, it was a basketball stadium with 20 mil mats, and they were telling us about all the slamming rules. So it was like someone's going to get fucked, really injured.

Reid Connell:       Was it on cement floors?

Craig Jones:        Basically. There's very few Australians went over. It was mostly Japanese, Koreans. I still had four matches in my division, so there was still some people showing up. But definitely not the same quality as probably Europe or American Trials.

Reid Connell:       So you won?

Craig Jones:        I won that one, yeah.

Reid Connell:       You won that one. You remember the final?

Craig Jones:        I do. I remember... I didn't even know how to do heel hook at the time. There was this guy from Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyzstan, not Kazakhstan, I'll get in trouble with those guys. He'd been heel hooking everyone to get to the finals, and I was pretty nervous because I think Palhares was still fresh in everyone's mind at the time, so I was still worried about getting hurt with a heel hook, but luckily, I think I straight ankle locked him or something pretty quick. I think he actually did have a sore leg on that side, so that helped me get the victory, yeah.

Reid Connell:       Perfect.

Craig Jones:        But he was definitely the leg lock guy in that tournament.

Reid Connell:       So you punched your ticket to the ADCC World Championships. That must have been a dream come true for you. How old were you at the time?

Craig Jones:        Shit. What am I? I'm 28 now, and that was in 2014, so five years ago. Yeah, so 22, 23 around that time.

Reid Connell:       That must have been a dream come true for you at the time, right?

Craig Jones:        Yeah, for sure, for sure. That was pretty exciting, because I don't think I'd won anything at all in grappling at the time. I guess I still haven't. But hopefully that day comes.

Reid Connell:       Well, you won the Trials. Okay, and then 2015 in Brazil. Was that your first time in Brazil, ADCC 2015?

Craig Jones:        First and only time ever in Brazil.

Reid Connell:       Wow. So first time in Brazil, going to Sao Paulo, your first time in the ADCC World Championships. Man, that must have been an overwhelming experience.

Craig Jones:        It was pretty exciting, and I think the Australian Trials were the first of any of the Trials, and they came before any one of their invitations, so it was basically the list began and it was me in 88, and then it was just cool seeing all the famous guys slowly get invited or win Trials to see that list grow. Obviously, it was getting very, very stacked. I always say this, I was terrified of being in 88 because I was like, “That's Palhares.”

Reid Connell:       You've known this guy for a while, then, huh? That's funny.

Craig Jones:        I know. I've been scared of this guy for a while.

Reid Connell:       So you went down to Brazil. Tell me about that whole trip.

Craig Jones:        Well, it was funny because I thought the Korean Trials were unprofessional, because it was thin mats on basketball court, and then I got to Brazil and it was the same thing.

Reid Connell:       Just wait. Just wait.

Craig Jones:        I think by the time the next ADCC, the ones in Finland, came, it looked like a real professional show.

Reid Connell:       Yeah, yeah. I remember they had those yellow puzzle mats, right?

Craig Jones:        Yeah, it didn't look the part for the most prestigious tournament in the world. But obviously being in the official hotel and stuff, going down to the buffet, and you just see celebrities everywhere, and I remember it being in Brazil, even Rickson Gracie and stuff were there. It was very surreal, seeing all those guys.

Reid Connell:       I bet. I bet. Does anything stick out to you as a big memory?

Craig Jones:        Yeah. When I weighed in, right, because I'd done the Trials in the 88 division, and I was 80 kilos so, what's that, 18 pounds underweight for the American guys? When I weighed in, the guy laughed at me and told me I was the lightest guy in the division.

Reid Connell:       So you weighed in at 80?

Craig Jones:        Yeah, I was still 80 kilos.

Reid Connell:       Got you, dang.

Craig Jones:        I was like, “That's going to be fine.” I think it was that night they announced that I would have Romulo Barral, which I sort of thought I would, because he was the reigning champion. He had beaten Keenan in-

Reid Connell:       2013.

Craig Jones:        In 2013 in China, so I was like, “Oh, shit, I'm the lightest guy in the division, and I got the number one seed.” It was fun. But I still wasn't taking it too seriously because I was like, “I got no chance of winning. This is just going to be fun.”

Reid Connell:       So you really kind of treated as an experience gaining opportunity, rather than really intensely going out.

Craig Jones:        Even more like a free holiday at the time.

Reid Connell:       Nice, nice. Yeah, Brazil, Sao Paulo. Did you get to do some sightseeing?

Craig Jones:        You know what, I didn't. I was out of there straight after. I planned to do some sightseeing the week I got there, but because ADCC, they always fly you on an Arab airline, like United Arab Emirates airline, and I could've flown from Melbourne or Sydney. I think it's direct flight Sydney to South America, but what they decided to fly me was via Dubai. So I had 16 hours to Dubai, 30 minute layover, 16 hours to Sao Paulo, and that wiped me out for a couple days.

Reid Connell:       I bet, dude. Yeah, that is brutal. Those are some brutal back to back flights. Then you have to fight Romulo Barral a couple days later.

Craig Jones:        First round, yeah.

Reid Connell:       Tell me about that match. Obviously Romulo, like you said, was the reining ADCC champion at 88, a legend of the sport, multiple time world champion. What was that like to step on the mats with a guy like that?

Craig Jones:        Yeah, I was pretty nervous for that one. Romulo looked absolutely huge too. He looks even bigger than the average 88 guy, because he's very top heavy in his upper body muscles.

Reid Connell:       Super muscular.

Craig Jones:        Looks like a bodybuilder or something. But I went out there, I think the only good thing I did was I retained guard. I think he passed my guard, I got my guard back, he passed, and then he... I still haven't forgiven him to this day. [foreign language 00:13:01] He left my shoulder sore for months after that.

Reid Connell:       Oh, dang. Got you. So what's the takeaway from the match? What'd you learn, you think?

Craig Jones:        I don't know. I still got submitted in 90 seconds, but I remember thinking at the time and having really watched all the athletes and been a part of it, I just remember thinking these guys aren't that special, you know what I mean? It's not out of reach to beat any of these guys. These guys are just well-trained, do you know what I mean? They're well mentally prepared for it. I remember thinking if I could make it back to ADCC and give it a serious go, I should be able to hang with most of these guys.

Reid Connell:       So that seems like a pretty valuable lesson to learn, or something to glean from that experience, right?

Craig Jones:        For sure, for sure, yeah.

Reid Connell:       You think you wouldn't have gotten that wisdom unless you went to ADCC?

Craig Jones:        Yeah, I think so, because you sort of worship those guys. Bit of hero worship, you think they're almost not human. You think they're not just a regular guy, but really they're just the same as anyone else. They're just very well-trained.

Reid Connell:       Do you remember anything else from that tournament? Did you get to stick around and watch it?

Craig Jones:        Yes. Yeah. I guess the best part was, because we had the athletes pass, we got to get real close. So me and Lachlan Giles were just being fangirls watching real close, yeah.

Reid Connell:       That was of course, I think, the biggest moment from that tournament that I remember is the Lucas Lepri, Davi Ramos final. That's maybe the image that sticks out most in my mind from 2015.

Craig Jones:        I still don't know how Davi made 77 kilos.

Reid Connell:       Yeah, he looks huge

Craig Jones:        Three days in a row. He looked like a monster. I reckon that was one of the best performances anyone's ever had, him at the tournament, killing everyone.

Reid Connell:       Then submitting Lucas. I think that's the only time Lucas's ever been submitted in black belt competition.

Craig Jones:        That's great.

Reid Connell:       That's pretty wild.

Craig Jones:        Now Davi's in the UFC so I don't think he's getting revenge any time.

Reid Connell:       True. That one might just have to linger. Okay, so it sounds like 2015 was a pretty wild year for you. It seemed like that was kind of the year that you really committed to Jiu Jitsu. Is that fair?

Craig Jones:        For sure, yeah, because after, was it ADCC, was... when was it? It was September. It was still September, right?

Reid Connell:       September, yes.

Craig Jones:        Then I had trained in Melbourne for the ADCC. I went back to Adelaide. I went home for a bit, then I came back to Melbourne for No-Gi Worlds. I trained with Lachlan for that, for, I think it only ended up being a couple weeks, because I'd left my original team before I went to Brazil. I went to trail with Lachlan for ADCC. So when I came home, I had no one to train with, so I prepared for No-Gi Worlds, one of my friends had not very many mats, but in his living room, so we were just training in his living room, and I still managed to win No-Gi Worlds but I feel like it was mainly a confidence thing. I remember thinking, “If I qualify for ADCC, I should be able to win purple belt Worlds, otherwise something's horribly wrong.” I think the confidence, especially having competed against such scary... Romulo Barral, the purple belt guys didn't seem so terrifying.

Reid Connell:       True, I bet that gave you a lot of confidence. Still at that point, you hadn't really found heel hooks though?

Craig Jones:        No. No, a little bit. Who were we watching? Me and Lachlan Giles were watching a lot of Rafael Mendes doing the bear trap at the 2009 ADCC. So that was sort of fresh in our mind while thinking about that. We're watching at lot of Rafael at the 2009 ADCC, training for the 2015 one.

Reid Connell:       Got you. So you're just starting to dip your toes into the heel hooks and stuff. Okay, what's those two years in between? I know you go back to the Asian Trials.

Craig Jones:        Asian Trials, yeah.

Reid Connell:       What's those two years in between 2015 and 2017 like for you?

Craig Jones:        I guess it was around the time Eddie Cummings, Gary Tonon, really started to blow up, and that's sort of when EBI began. I think that's sort of where the leg lock craze really took off. So we were really studying at lot of those guys trying to figure that out. Planning ahead for the next Trials and for the next, obviously, ADCC if we made it. I remember I was still competing a fair bit in the gi at the time, and what was it? 2016 I believe was the next Asian Trials for us, which was in Kazakhstan, of all places. So we have to travel pretty far, even for the Trials. I think for that, that was a ten hour flight. Actually, I had to fly via India, so it was fair long way.

Reid Connell:       Still another trek.

Craig Jones:        But it turned out to be a great Trials.

Reid Connell:       I hear you love Kazakhstan, right?

Craig Jones:        Those are good guys.

Reid Connell:       You've been back a couple times.

Craig Jones:        They throw some wild parties in Kazakhstan.

Reid Connell:       That's for another interview, maybe.

Craig Jones:        But the Trials in Kazakhstan were pretty cool there. A lot of the Kazakh and Kyrgyzstan guys have a wrestling background, so obviously it favors them in that rule set, and these guys, it's not Eastern Europe, but they have an Eastern European feel to them. These guys really fight hard. They really [crosstalk 00:17:59]. They really wanted to take injury, so although, obviously technically they're not going to be as tough as some of the Americans and stuff, generally speaking every one of them you're going to have to pop something on them to get the tap. So still pretty tough Trials.

Reid Connell:       It sounds like really though, this whole time the goal has been ADCC. THat's really the holy grail for you?

Craig Jones:        For sure, and I don't know if that's because I prefer no-gi or I failed so many times in the gi.

Reid Connell:       So you were like, “Screw it.”

Craig Jones:        Yeah, actually around that time I think I did maybe one of my last gi tournaments. I did World Pro. World Pro was a brown belt. What did I get? I think I got bronze in weight division, and fourth place in the Absolute, and after that I was like, “I'm just focusing on no-gi. This shit's too hard."

Reid Connell:       Did you fight Tommy Langaker in that tournament?

Craig Jones:        Yes. Tommy's beat me two times in the gi. I believe I faced Dante Leon too. I faced Nicholas Meragali in the Absolute. Yeah, it was Tommy Langaker. I think it was the last year in the World Pro did an absolute division.

Reid Connell:       2016? Yeah, that sounds right.

Craig Jones:        So I faced Tommy Langaker for bronze. He beat me and he took the prize money.

Reid Connell:       Ah, dang. Okay, so you win the Trials this time in 2017. ADCC comes around this time. What's the vibe going into this one, because last time you said it was more of a vacation. This time around, did you feel like you came in a little more focused?

Craig Jones:        Yeah, much more serious. Then I decided to start lifting weights, because I remember thinking I have to make sure I'm actually 88 kilos for this event. I think that definitely makes a huge difference mentally when you're a similar size to the guys you're facing. But a funny story for the Trials is me and Giles, because I could have still made 77, so we were trying to work out who would do 77 and we ended up having a match in the gym, and we were... ADCC always matches, but we kept doing overtimes until someone would score, and I think we had a 45, 50 minute match before he scored on me, and got to do 77.

Reid Connell:       That's just in the gym?

Craig Jones:        In the gym. So I had that going different in 2017 ADCC. Obviously if I had won the Trials, I would've been doing 77 kilos.

Reid Connell:       Wow. Different trajectory probably for you.

Craig Jones:        Yeah. I could've lost first round.

Reid Connell:       Crazy. Got to love New York traffic, right behind us over here. Got quite a few taxis.

Craig Jones:        This is constant.

Reid Connell:       NYPD, but hopefully this ambulance gets wherever they need to go very quickly. Let that go by. So you lose in the gym to Lachlan. You lose a second trial or maybe the first Trials, the Australian Trials. But like I said, going into this one, you're definitely a little bit more focused on winning.

Craig Jones:        For sure, for sure, yeah. We'd be training, because the Asian Trials were the first, well basically a year previous to the ADCC Worlds, so me and him basically trained an entire 12 months for the ADCC Worlds. Whereas I guess if you won a later Trial, some of the Trials are only like 3, 4 months before the ADCC Worlds, so for those guys, they probably only did the Trials Camp and then started preparing for Worlds. Whereas that was our main focus for the entire year. I did EBI and stuff, but obviously still no-gi, submission only, but those skills will still, I think, translate to ADCC.

Reid Connell:       Definitely.

Craig Jones:        But yeah, we just prepared an entire year, always thinking about the ADCC rules and obviously trying to add in wrestling. I still suck at wrestling, but...

Reid Connell:       You've been working on it. I've been seeing some good Australian wrestling lately I feel like.

Craig Jones:        We don't have any. I wish the Australians did it in high school and stuff. We don't have any of it.

Reid Connell:       Yeah, yeah, that would definitely be an advantage. So then you get there to Finland, which is a wild place I'm sure to go, right? Kind of halfway across the world. You get Leandro Lo first round, and of course I think most people know Leandro Lo as a multiple time gi world champion, not necessarily known for no-gi. You don't see him too often in no-gi, but you had to think that he's one of the toughest guys in the world in the gi, it'll probably translate to no-gi as well. What did you expect when you saw that you had Leandro first round?

Craig Jones:        I saw the list, the final list for 88, and I think that's probably the toughest list in grappling history, maybe. I've never seen that stacked a division, so I was like-

Reid Connell:       Xande in there, Romulo in there, Leandro in there, you, of course Keenan and Gordon. I mean, that was an insane...

Craig Jones:        Yeah, it was going to suck, and it always sucks as the Asian Trials, because you were considered low seed so you usually have to face someone very, very difficult, but, yeah, I just knew it was going to be a bad first round either way. What also stumped me with the Leandro one was I was like, “Surely a gi dominate guy, I should have an advantage in some aspects of the no-gi game.” But then I kept thinking back to his match with Gordon, and it'd only just been a couple months previous, and he was basically, even though he was stalling heavily, he was able to negate all of Gordon's attacks. But I think that was mainly because he was obviously, he had a lot of respect for Gordon's game. Whereas luckily coming into ADCC, he had no respect for my game, and I gave a lot of forward pressure and that is obviously what allowed me to get some of the attacks and entries and stuff. Whereas I think had he just played a stolen game, could've caused me much more problems.

Reid Connell:       True. Got you. So this is one of the best moments from the entire ADCC 2017, you versus Leandro. You guys would go out there and, if I'm not mistaken, pretty quick you get to the legs. You get to one of your entries in the legs, right?

Craig Jones:        Yes. Straight away. The way he was trying to sit weight on me, he was kind of a little bit stalling. He was just basically, I think, saving his energy for the points barrier. He just wanted to save and pass in a points barrier, but either way, he was still leaning a lot of weight on me. It gave me an entry to the legs, and I slammed the heel lock on and he just didn't care about it. As many Brazilians do, just let his leg completely tear.

Reid Connell:       Wow. So you felt like it was on?

Craig Jones:        Yes, slapped it on. Made a horrible noise, but everyone always talks. Leandro says he would never tap to a leg lock, and I guess he never has, right?

Reid Connell:       True.

Craig Jones:        So, yeah.

Reid Connell:       He stayed true. But you did feel like you hurt him?

Craig Jones:        For sure, I felt like I did some damage. But you can watch in the video, he's very sneaky about how he shows that he's injured, because just after that, we both go out of bounds, and when I turn around to walk back, he starts kicking his leg out, and then I started to notice he wasn't able to put a lot of weight on it, which gave me another entry to the legs. This time he slipped the knee, and I used the sweep and take the back. But, yeah, the heel hook definitely changed the course of the match. I think he would have been much harder to sweep, obviously, had he been able to put weight on that leg.

Reid Connell:       So you find the back there from the second entry through the legs, you find the back, get the choke. I know for me it was a crazy moment, a huge moment. I know that the entire place went crazy. What was that feeling like?

Craig Jones:        It was pretty surprising. I was as surprised as I think everyone else. But, yeah, it was pretty exciting. Obviously, I think he was the number one seed. I think that's the way they structured it, so I was pretty excited to take out a big name like that. But immediately afterwards, I was already thinking about the match with Murilo coming up. I enjoyed it briefly, and then was focusing on Murilo.

Reid Connell:       Didn't get too high? Then another one. Another great, great match of course. Murilo Santana, another Brazilian legend that you're going to have to go through. How did you feel going into that one?

Craig Jones:        I was always a big Murilo fan. I remember watching him back at the ADCCs. I don't know how many people have gone back and watched his old ADCC performances, but he does amazing against everyone, Galvao, Kron Gracie, Xande, basically neck and neck. He might not have had as big a competition accomplishments as all those guys, but I definitely think equally as skilled and talented as all of them. I know he's pressure passing. I was going to pull [inaudible 00:26:15] and I knew his pressure passing was going to be very difficult. Probably takes less chances than Leandro, so in my thoughts, I thought, “That's probably going to be a tougher match.”

Reid Connell:       Then the flying triangle. Is that something that you throw quite often?

Craig Jones:        No, it just seemed right. It seemed like a good idea at the moment, because he was basically coming up to sweep me, but I was thinking, “I'm not going to lose any points by getting swept, and that's the position I would prefer to play against Murilo.” I figured had I stayed on top, Murilo was probably going to wait, defend the guard pass, try and sweep me in the points period, so I was like, “I'll just try something risky. If I miss it I'm on bottom anyway.” Luckily it all worked out.

Reid Connell:       Wow. Another crazy moment back to back. You had to have felt like things were going your way, right?

Craig Jones:        Yeah. I wish the whole tournament had been on that first day.

Reid Connell:       Yeah, right? Because that was the last match of-

Craig Jones:        Of day one.

Reid Connell:       Of day one. Of course. So you must have been feeling pretty good though after day one. One of the definitely two best submissions of the tournament came from you, from the first day. That was pretty sweet, right?

Craig Jones:        Yeah, I was pretty excited about that. Phone was blowing up after that.

Reid Connell:       Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know the second day didn't quite go how you wanted. You had Keenan first, right?

Craig Jones:        Keenan first round, yeah.

Reid Connell:       Keenan first.

Craig Jones:        Actually the confidence was probably a problem in that one, because I had trained with Keenan previous, and Duarte was just training, sort of getting a feel, we weren't rolling too crazy or anything, but I did have a good level of confidence, thinking about how a match with Keenan would go. Obviously, like a lot of people, how it goes in the gym doesn't necessarily relate to how a match will go, and Keenan also used, I think, our previous training together to develop a very good strategy to take me out. He ended up scoring a lot of points in that match, which is pretty tough, and then at the same time on the other side, Gordon and Xande was going on, so I got to see the tail end of that match to see who I'd have, I guess, a bronze medal match against.

Reid Connell:       Very close match, Gordon versus Xande. That one honestly could've gone either way. Went to overtime, referee's decision, they gave it to Gordon. Then you have Xande in the bronze medal match. So I know, maybe, the tournament didn't end exactly how you wanted it to. You're close to a medal, but like we said, probably your stock rose, and I think everybody probably knew who you were after that event, right? So what do you think is the biggest takeaway for you for that event?

Craig Jones:        Well in terms of just for the ADCC event as a whole, I think the coolest thing about it is, you have the opportunity as a nobody to potentially face legends of the sport, and basically, in an event where the spotlight is completely on the event, everyone's watching, you know what I mean? I think, sometimes it happens in Gi Worlds and stuff, but because there's so many matches going on, sometimes the match gets hidden, whereas for ADCC, what is it? You can only potentially have four matches in a division. So basically, everyone's watching.

Craig Jones:        So for ADCC as an event, I guess it can help make your career, because you could win a Trials event, you could beat a legend, and suddenly you could be a professional athlete. So I guess that's the best story is, for me, up until that point, I had to teach a lot of classes, do a lot of privates, couldn't afford to travel really, couldn't afford to do anything. Couldn't afford to eat out, and then obviously from ADCC it all changed. But for me personally, it's just that, again, further evidence of what I found when I did it in 2015 is that none of these guys are really any special. It's basically just whoever's more prepared and has the most confidence on the date, and intelligent strategy for each person. So I think it's hard to be a one-trick pony and win ADCC. You have to be pretty well-rounded. You have to wrestle the grapplers, and out-grapple the wrestlers.

Reid Connell:       I'm not wrong in saying that your celebrity in Jiu Jitsu seemed to explode after that, right?

Craig Jones:        Yeah, I think it's because I was Australian too, and everyone seems to like Australians.

Reid Connell:       Can't hate an Australian, yeah.

Craig Jones:        There's a lot of competition between America and Brazil, but I feel like both those countries can get behind an Australian.

Reid Connell:       That's true. Do you think your Instagram-

Craig Jones:        Oh, yeah, it just kept growing and growing. My biggest fear after ADCC was that there would be just a one hit wonder, because I was still very early into black belt. So I hadn't had many matches, if any, at black belt before that ADCC, so my biggest fear was that... You see it happen a lot in grappling, is someone will have a big win, and I don't know if it's that they feel like they've made it and they don't train as hard anymore, or something, and then they fade away straight away.

Reid Connell:       Kind of rest on the laurels a little bit maybe?

Craig Jones:        Yeah, so for me straight afterwards I was just... I went straight back to EBI, I accepted every superfight that came and I'm going to try to prove that this just wasn't a great weekend for me, that is the level of grappling I can do regularly.

Reid Connell:       Wow, so that was a very conscious decision for you. You wanted to prove that it wasn't a fluke.

Craig Jones:        For sure, for sure, because a lot of people were sort of saying it, you know what I mean? It's like, “Oh, you beat Leandro, and flying triangle.” The flying triangle, it's easy to discount, you know what I mean? Say if it had been a flying armbar, guys would be like, “Ah, do that again.”

Reid Connell:       Man, crazy, crazy weekend in Finland, right? Beyond your great accomplishments, it was a wild tournament that one, right?

Craig Jones:        Very good, yeah. I don't want to talk smack about the Brazil event, but comparing those two, being in attendance, the Finnish one obviously had much more exciting matches. I felt like ADCC had gone up another level again. I don't know what it is, if it's based on who's in it. Obviously there were a lot of storylines coming out of Brazil, out of, sorry, Finland, obviously, I had the upset victories, Mackenzie Dern got beaten by Elvira, Gordon Ryan backed up everything he'd been saying online, you know what I mean? Felipe Pena beat Buchecha, and then beat Gordon. There was just a lot of stories.

Reid Connell:       It was a great tournament.

Craig Jones:        That made that particular one very, very special.

Reid Connell:       Yeah, I totally agree. Great, great tournament for sure. I was going to say actually, and then you did the Absolute Division too. I don't know if we're allowed to talk about this part of the day, but, yeah, you had to do the Absolute Division as well. I was looking at it, I was like, “Is this right? Is this Craig Jones versus Chael Sonnen? Is that what's actually happening right now?” That was a crazy one too. I heard some good stories about that match.

Craig Jones:        I didn't actually want to do it, because I felt like I already had a pretty good performance, and even on the second day I'd weighed in pretty light. I think I was only 85 kilos, so I was like, “I don't want to do Absolute, and go get injured by Orlando Sanchez or Buchecha or something, and Mo kept asking me if I wanted to do it, and I was already drinking beers at the time. I already had a beer in my hand and Mo was like, “What if I put you against Chael Sonnen?” I'm like, “How is Chael Sonnen in the Absolute?” He is in a superfight, and I was like, “All right, I'll do it. Done.” Chael Sonnen luckily was a good match, you know what I mean? He had just had a pretty grueling match with Leo Vieira.

Reid Connell:       Crazy.

Craig Jones:        So I was able to heel hook him, and then obviously Gordon second round, that bastard beats me again.

Reid Connell:       We'll sweep that one under the rug. So you took away a lot of confidence and like we said earlier, you have just been competing nonstop if feels like, since then you've really been one of the most active competitors. You have to be, I feel like. You've been doing the EBIs, you've been doing the superfights, you've been doing the kasais. Is that an important thing for you, you think? Does that make you a better competitor to be able to have these matches so frequent?

Craig Jones:        For me, I mainly only do superfight, so for me to get the same level of grappling experience as guys that do tournaments, I have to take matches all the time, and I'm also a firm believer in momentum. I feel like you build up momentum, and obviously a loss will bring you back down to a bit of a lower level but I try and use each match, each recent match, to sort of give me a bit more confidence for the next one, you know what I mean? That's why I really like being active all the time. I don't know how guys do it when they only compete once every three or four months. I don't know how mentally they're able to come in and just go for it.

Reid Connell:       Yeah, some guys like Lucas Lepri will only do Worlds, or will only do one tournament.

Craig Jones:        Meregali's similar.

Reid Connell:       I know, that is-

Craig Jones:        Meregali's a crazy guy.

Reid Connell:       True, true. His head space-

Craig Jones:        Two different personalities, Lepri.

Reid Connell:       Seems a little different, yeah, yeah. So we mentioned two months away now, once again, the third time for you at ADCC, this time in the United States, in Los Angeles. We're two months away, you're in the full swing of training camp. How are things going this time around, and what's the plan for now until L.A.?

Craig Jones:        Basically just to kill myself in the gym every day really. I used to think you could overtrain, but I feel like that's a bit of myth, you know what I mean?

Reid Connell:       Really?

Craig Jones:        Obviously, you get injured against staff and stuff, it's going to be a problem, but I'm training two-a-days in there Monday, Wednesday, Friday, one-a-days Tuesday, Thursday. We're started doing weekend sessions. Obviously I'm doing a focus of a lot of wrestling, which obviously can cause problems. But yeah, it's just a grueling training camp. I'm basically a big fan of training hard, but if I'm training hard, I do nothing else. Literally Netflix and Uber Eats, and air conditioning, but today's not too bad in New York.

Reid Connell:       Yeah, yeah, the last couple days have been 105 degrees here.

Craig Jones:        It's been death.

Reid Connell:       It's been brutal. So just kind of more of the same, here at Renzo Gracie Academy. Is it surprising to you that you landed here at all of all places?

Craig Jones:        It's probably the style I try to most copy when I was coming up, and even in the gi, I think it was probably detrimental to me in the gi. I was always trying to finish people. I would always either get a triangle, usually at all when doing the gi, or I would lose on points.

Craig Jones:        I would always watch these guys, and basically Gordon Ryan's submission rate and stuff, that's what I want to be. I don't want to ever beat a guy by two points, hold on for my life, and cheer. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that, if that's the strategy you play, because it's within the rules and you've still won, according to the rules. But I want to be out there finishing everyone. Trying to finish everyone, and I guess that's the style these guys do the most, and I guess that's the reason why probably a lot of guys don't want to accept matches against these guys. It's one thing you want to accept a match against a guy that he might be on two points, that sucks, but you lost. It's another thing if a guy comes out, trying to kill you, submit you, dominate you.

Craig Jones:        So I guess, I'm trying to copy these guys style, so it's probably the best place for me to prepare for a tournament like ADCC. Plus, not very many Westerners I guess have won ADCC, and I guess these are one of the few teams where they got Gordon Ryan that has won it.

Reid Connell:       Was it inspiring to see Gordon do what he did in 2017? You trained with him quite a bit, and you've competed against him also quite a bit. You were there every day in the gym, you there every day in the gym with him, is it inspiring to see Gordon do what he did?

Craig Jones:        Yeah, for sure, because I think a lot of people see how jacked he is, and they want to say that he's dominating for that reason. But the reality is, he's probably every bit as technical as he is jacked. I guess this is where the sport's heading, where there's real athletes coming into the sport and not just athletes coming into the sport, but guys that are really technical too. So it is a ways inspiring. I don't want to give the gringos versus Brazilians rivalry a boost, but having come up in the sport, it can sometimes be hard to be included into the fold with some of the Brazilian community sometimes. I always love seeing a gringo do well, gives us confidence as a fellow gringo's doing well on the spot.

Reid Connell:       Yeah, definitely. I think the Brazilians still competitively, they still dominate, it feels like, at Worlds and most other competitions. How about Australia? When you go back to Australia, do they know who you are back there? Are you a star in Australia when you go back there?

Craig Jones:        I guess so, but only obviously with the grappling community. Obviously we've got Lachlan Giles, Kit Dale probably paved the way. I think Kit Dale was one of the first guys that sort of transcended Jiu Jitsu fame. He was somewhat well-known outside of Jiu Jitsu. Mainly for his funny videos and shit, he was pretty inspiring. Obviously we've got Levi now. I remember at the time I was thinking in the gi it was going to be very, very difficult for Australian to really dominate on the world stage, but Levi's proven everyone wrong. He's out here, I think he lives in New York now, basically all the time. But that kid's amazing.

Reid Connell:       Absolutely. This year especially.

Craig Jones:        Hopefully never decides to do ADCC.

Reid Connell:       I don't know, that'd be sweet. He looks like he might be 77 though.

Craig Jones:        Yeah, yeah, probably.

Reid Connell:       Might be a little smaller. Man, it's been awesome watching Levi in the gi as well. From the start of the year, he's just been on fire.

Craig Jones:        And he's so young. Ridiculous.

Reid Connell:       That's been awesome. So Australians, more than just yourself, putting themselves on the map.

Craig Jones:        Yeah, I think all they need is someone like them to have done well, and it gives them the confidence to believe. I think that's the biggest issue. I don't think it's the lack of technique, or a lack of hard training, because those are the things you can create, or obviously there's DVDs everywhere. Everyone's giving out their secrets and stuff. But I think what really people need is just someone doing well on a world stage to give them the confidence. It's one thing when it's a Brazilian or an American, it's another thing if you're an Aussie, and an Aussie's doing well. It's probably the same thing with Tommy Langaker and Espen and stuff over there. They're dominance has probably really helped to grow the sport.

Reid Connell:       For Norway, for the Norwegians. Yeah, I totally agree. What's the expectation, what's the plan for 2019? Obviously I think this time around you know you're not going to be the lowest seed for the first time. Hopefully you'll have a higher seed, a better seed. I'm sure that will be a welcome change for you, right?

Craig Jones:        Yeah, hopefully. Hopefully it doesn't mean I become Leandro Lo, and get the reverse. That'd be poetic. Yeah, that's the plan. ADCC's the plan. I'm taking superfights all over the place, and obviously that's a great way to get more famous and to make money to support the dream, but it's all about ADCC for me right now. Then after that, I'll probably take a vacation after ADCC.

Reid Connell:       I mean this time around, 88 is looking very stacked and well.

Craig Jones:        It's looking stacked, but I will say definitely this year, 77 and Under 99 look very, very tough.

Reid Connell:       Yeah, even Over 99 too. A lot of crazy divisions.

Craig Jones:        It's just a crazy tournament.

Reid Connell:       Yeah, it's a great tournament. It really is one of my favorite times of the year, or of every other year. ADCC doesn't get much bigger than that. Craig, man, I really appreciate you walking around a little bit, sitting down and talking with me about ADCC. Anything else you wanted to talk about? ADCC-wise, any other good stories for us?

Craig Jones:        Any other good stories? No, but hopefully, I think, Mo's going to have a big after-party, so if the fans are welcome to come to that, you'll probably see some crazy shit go down, see some more shirtless... Leandro Lo will probably be there, so I hope he's shirtless dancing again.

Reid Connell:       Yeah, he's the life of the party. He has to be there, right? Man, yeah, the after-party in Finland was pretty sweet, and I have a feeling that the after-party in Los Angeles is going to be pretty wild. If not the tournament, you'll be looking forward to the after-party, that sounds like a lot of fun. But once again, Craig, thanks for the time, man. Appreciate it, and good luck at ADCC this year, man.

Craig Jones:        Oh, thank you very much.

Reid Connell:       Sweet. All right, guys, see you later.