American Nationals: Sean Roberts dominates and scoops up another gold medal
One hundred and fifty.
That’s the number of jiu-jitsu tournaments Ralph Gracie brown belt Sean Roberts has competed in – 100 of which he earned a top spot on the podium and the coveted gold medal.
The gi and no gi competitor is a sport jiu-jitsu tyrant who has been on a mission to compete in every possible jiu-jitsu tournament in California.
Two weekends ago, Roberts headed down from his training grounds of Ralph Gracie San Francisco to his home turf of LA to compete in the IBJJF’s American Nationals.
Roberts won gold in his weight division with the gi and took second in Absolute, after he and his Ralph Gracie Berkeley teammate reached a “gentlemen’s agreement” on how to close out the division.
OntheMat.com spoke to the 21 year old OTM sponsored competitor on his training, matches at Nationals and what he has on his radar for 2012 and beyond.
Congrats on gold Sean. How did your matches play out at American Nationals?
I felt really good walking in there. I was very confident I was going to win.
The first match, the guy didn’t show up and so I had a buy.
In my first match I fought Noah Tillis. He got second in Nationals last year. He took me down and ended up in my closed guard, where I triangled him.
My final fight was against Paul Schon, I beat him by points. I believe it was 14-2 . I was able to pass, sweep and play my game in that match.
In the open, I fought a very tough guy. He was 220 lbs. I couldn’t do much with him at first, but he started getting kinda eager to do something because he couldn’t pass my guard. So he started to make a lot of mistakes. I was able to catch him in omaplata and then I triangled him.
In the second match, I was able to win on one advantage. I put him in an arm bar, but he was able to get out and the rest of match tried to pass my guard.
In third match, I was against a lightweight, so that was nice. We had a sweep each early on and then I was able to triangle him at about 2 minutes. So that was pretty fast.
Then I met my teammate Newton Casemiro from Ralph Gracie Berkeley in the finals. I gave him the gold medal spot and I took second because he got third in my division. We closed out the open weight division. We decided he would take the win on paper and I got the medal.
How many medals do you have?
I have over 100 gold medals. I lost track of the total though! As white and blue belt I was getting 2 or 3 medals at every competition. So they added up between individual, team and absolute divisions.
You seem to be upping the level of competition as you progress in belts—what is on your calendar for end of 2011 and 2012?
I definitely plan to do Pan Ams and Worlds. I’ve felt my game go through the roof over the last couple months at the academy and I feel very confident in myself and my game. With the American Nationals win and title, I feel like a big threat again in the brown belt division-- especially after my knee surgery.
Why have you not done U.S. Open before?
Last year I had knee problems and didn’t want to mess up my knee. Now that it is healed and I'm healthy, I’ll be going for the bigger tournaments.
Will you be going to no-gi worlds?
I might do that as well.
Who do you watch in competitions, which guys games do you like?
Celso Vinicius; Rodolfo Vieira, I like to watch because he is the best right now. Also, Michael Langhi and JT Torres.
Where do you like to work in your matches?
I have been playing my guard since I was a white belt so it is definitely my strongest part of my game. I have been working a lot on my passing. Before I was able to get swept easy, now it’s not easy to sweep me. I work on my passing in the gym and I feel like I have fixed that hole in my game.
What is best part about being part of Ralph Gracie team?
The guys there. I like how everyone trains. Everyone at the academy is cool. It’s a tough school, but it’s known for the hard training and that’s why we win tournaments. Plus, I get to train with guys like Braga Neto, Jake Shields, and Luke Stewart. Nate and Nick Diaz also come through and train. All those black belts and everyone else is really good there.
What are your long-term goals? Seems like a lot of good competitors move on to MMA when they start winning BJJ titles. Would you go into MMA or do you want to open your own jiu-jitsu school?
I definitely want to open my own school one day.
I’m not really looking to do MMA or be the next UFC champion. Maybe a match or two one day in MMA, but its not on my radar right now.
Becoming a jiu-jitsu world champion is on my priority list right now.
There are many schools and competitions in LA—why live and train in the San Francisco Area?
There are a lot of good guys in LA, but I like to train with my own and keep it Ralph Gracie. He has been very good to me. I don’t like to train with other teams—I see them as competition.
What is your typical day like?
I teach jiu-jitsu at Hybrid Training, 8 times a week. But I have all the time to train full time days and nights at Ralph’s. I also started Crossfit recently. When I’m off I hang out with my girlfriend.
Do you have any hobbies outside jiu-jitsu?
Anyone you want to thank?
My parents Jeff and Laura Roberts. Ralph Gracie, Brad Jackson, my instructor from Orange County, and "Selvagem" (Eduardo Fraga), the instructor at Ralph Gracie in Berkeley. All my training partners.