Kingz Athlete Spotlight: Jeysen Santiago dos Santos
The Kingz team is full of some of the best Brazilian jiu-jitsu talent in the world, and some of our toughest competitors are Masters level athletes… including one of the best pound-for-pound Master 2 athletes in the world: Jeysen Santiago do Santos.
What does it take to earn that prestigious title? An indomitable will and tireless work ethic. Even at the age of 18, Jeysen was training four to five hours a day in his hometown of Manaus. When his academy moved locations during his purple belt years, he would walk nearly an hour to train, spending six hours on the mat, nearly every day of the week. And he’s never stopped.
Today, Jeysen is a fourth degree black belt and head coach at JJ Brazilian Academy in Colton, California. In addition to teaching jiu-jitsu full-time, he still competes in the Master 2 light-feather weight division… and has his sights on that World Championship title this year.
We caught up with Jeysen to learn a little more about who he is and what makes him tick… read on:
How long have you been training and how did you start?
I've been training jiu-jitsu since 1999, over 23 years ago. I’ve been a black belt for 14 years (I’m a 4th degree black belt). I started training jiu-jitsu when I was encouraged by a friend who had an academy down the street from my house. Every day when I passed by the gym, he called me to take a trial class. Finally, in August 1999, I started jiu-jitsu, and from that day on, I have never stopped training.
What are your goals for the year?
My goal for 2023 is to win the IBJJF Los Angeles Open, and the IBJJF Pan-American Championship in March. Then I’ll focus on the World Masters, which is one of the only titles I don't already have on my resume. I’ve been a 2x World Master bronze medalist in the Master 2 division (2016 and 2019), and 2x World Master silver medalist in the Master 2 division (2017 and 2020).
Each year I try to stay in the top five in the world, pound for pound.
What has been your greatest accomplishment and why?
It's hard for me to name an important title because I've already won several IBJJF titles. I’ve won the Pan American twice (2017 and 2018), the American Nationals three times (2017, 2018 and 2021). I have been top 5 in the world, pound for pound, in the IBJJF Master 2 division in 2018 and 2019.
If I had to choose one, it would be the 2019 No-Gi World Master 2, because I beat a very tough athlete in the finals - a 5x No-Gi World Champion - although I hadn't competed in No-Gi events for 10 years. That title for me was one of the most memorable and emotional ones.
What do you want your legacy to be?
For me, life is continuous learning. We always have something to teach and to learn. The legacy I would like to leave is to have made a difference in people's lives, whether through jiu-jitsu, sharing ideas, contributing my best to impact the people around me. That's what I try to convey. We should always be open-minded about learning something in any aspect, whether in jiu-jitsu or in life in general.
Who is your role model and why?
I have two role models: my Masters Cosmo Dias and Marcio Pontes. I have always been very inspired by them both, as athletes and as people. They live and breathe jiu-jitsu, and practice daily what I want for the rest of my life. I thank them for all the teachings that I will take with me for the rest of my life.
What is your favorite quote and why?
The phrase that I identify with is: “never stop fighting”. To me, it means to never give up on your dreams, work hard, and one day you will get what you have wanted so much in any area of life.
What advice do you give to those who look up to you?
If I could give one piece of advice, it would be: try to overcome yourself a little more every day. We may know ourselves well, but we'll never know that we are truly capable of if we don't challenge ourselves. Trust in your game.
What does being a Kingz sponsored athlete mean to you?
It is extremely important for me to be part of the Kingz team. For me, it means that my work is being recognized and I am very grateful for all the support I have received from Kingz Kimonos for the many years that we have worked together.