I am very excited to introduce you to Allen A. Causevic. He is one of the best competitors based in the Chicago area. Many of you know him, some of you don’t, but you will hear more and more about him as time goes on.

Allen is exceptionally eloquent and thoughtful in his responses. We discuss “fighters”, gi vs. nogi, austrian economics, being a big guy, his favorite wrestlers, 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 have been with Mr. Jay Valko since May 2005. I started at Carlson’s Academy Downtown and mainly attended the afternoon class that Jay taught. After Jay left on his own, I followed him to his new school in 2007. Since then, the school has grown dramatically. I attribute the growth to the same reasons I love academia. We are very open to sharing knowledge and exchanging ideas. I have visited many schools across the country and many instructors stick to that pure game of jiu-jitsu. Unfortunately, this is a detriment to the sport. Mixed martial arts are evolving. This 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 superior foot game to a superior ground game is the future. This requires the exchange of ideas and knowledge that I mentioned earlier and, for many, a journey outside of their comfort zone. Jay has done a great job of creating this advantageous environment. This “idea-friendly” environment is best seen during the open sessions on Saturdays, which are free to all. As a result, we see a wide range of people visiting with different skill levels. Being exposed to different styles of local, national and international visitors has made us all better fighters. As the sport evolves, I am excited to see the future and our successes.

BJJiC: What are some of your biggest tournament achievements to date?

AC: I don’t see Jiu-Jitsu as a fight. The mentality that I follow is that it is a competitive game. Having said that, I always look to play well during any match. Being able to perform under pressure is what sets champions apart and I work very hard to keep my composure and work on the techniques that put the odds of winning in my favor. As a result, my best performances have been during:

2011 NYC International Open Super Heavyweight Purple Belt: Gold

2010 Chicago International Open Super Heavyweight Purple Belt: Gold

2009 NYC International Open Blue Belt Super Heavy: Gold

2009 Abu Dhabi Pro-Gi Qualifiers- Blue Belt-Heavy-Gold

BJJiC: What are some tips for bigger guys just starting out with 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 weighed 240 pounds, lifted weights, and consistently ate a post-workout meal that consisted of a Burger King Whopper and the original Muscle Milk. Yes, that’s about 1700 calories. We are led to believe that there is a correlation between the amount of weight you throw in the weight room and your wrestling ability. How many times have you heard, “Wow, that’s huge! Don’t mess with it!”? Well, in 2007, I was given the red pill and my world turned upside down. I was destroyed by guys half my size. Touching a rear naked choke on someone weighing 135lbs. definitely destroys the ego. You soon realize that you have been following the wrong path in life. It is devastating for some. My advice would be to work on technique as much as possible and not get discouraged by losing to a smaller opponent. Finally, work your guard as much as possible. Working on your weaknesses and getting out of your comfort zone will pay off later 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. Do not start No-Gi competition until after you have been promoted to blue belt. There is a long debate about the advantages of Gi versus No-Gi. I am from the school that believes that a good game of Gi will become a good game of No-Gi. I would try to talk some sense into the old me to start working hard on my base Gi, and then move on to working No-Gi afterwards.

BJJiC: Royal Rumble – Your hair, Jay’s beard, RJ’s hair, and Mike’s beard. Who wins?

AC: My hair for sure. I could be hanging around in a jiu-jitsu class at night, then having a Gray Goose on the rocks at a world-class country club right after with my perfect streak. It doesn’t move no matter how hard I try. It is 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’ve ever shot with?

AC: This award goes to Mr. Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu. I visited his school in Miami, FL in December 2010 and was honored. I was surprised to feel the level of skill in his action. The Jiu-Jitsu journey is a long one, and that experience helped me realize that I was not at the level that I would like to be. Seeing where I was has helped me train differently and work harder in many different ways. It’s always good to 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 competed against?

AC: This title would go to Mr. Luke Costello from the UK. He is my last loss which took place in the 2011 World Jiu-Jitsu Championship. After watching the video we have a very similar game but that day was better. He knocked me down with a big Uchi Mata, which hadn’t happened to me in a tournament in a long time. I lost my composition and was sent for bow and arrow strangulation. It is ironic; I was thrown with one of my favorite pitches and smothered by my favorite submission. Eating a taste of my own medicine was not tasty. I look forward to a rematch in the future.

BJJiC: How many times a week do you train?

AC: During down times, I’m usually there 4-5 days a week. If I’m training for a tournament, I’m in the gym 6 days a week. I have also added strength and conditioning 3-4 days a week to my regiment. Hopefully this new combination will lead to new success in the future.

BJJiC: What kind of activities do you do outside of jiu-jitsu?

AC: I like to do the following in no particular order:

1. People watch at Wholefoods.

2. Filmmaking and graphic design.

3. Improve my knowledge of the Austrian School of Economics.

4. Eat foods that have not been processed or altered in any way.

5. Volunteering in animal shelters.

6. Improve my culinary skills.

BJJiC: Who are some of your favorite fighters to watch (and why)?

AC: I love watching Cyborg Abreu and Braga Neto. I’m a bigger guy, so of course I like to look at big dogs. Watching your games has helped me become a better fighter.

BJJiC: What are your plans to compete in the future?

AC: I am planning to compete in the 2011 Chicago International Summer Open, of course. But the big tournament at the end of the year that I’m looking at is the Melbourne Open in Australia. I’ve never been so I’d like to take the opportunity to compete in such a big international event and see the sights afterwards.

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 see myself traveling and competing in high level tournaments in the US judo scene in the future. Training with the best Judoka will take my Jiu-Jitsu game to a new level and I am excited to learn new techniques.

BJJiC: Any last comment?

CA: Yes. With the explosion in popularity that MMA & Grappling has seen in recent years, the conduct and behavior of the subculture that has emerged in parallel is appalling. Crazy graphic tees to full sleeve/body tattoos have significantly lowered the esteem of the sport. Too often I see these people in social settings bragging to people that they are “fighters.” This disillusioned mentality must end. Athletes must conduct themselves at a higher level and strive to be gentlemen. Bad sentence structure and incorrect grammar are not great. This, of course, has nothing to do with SubCulture clothing. They have done a great job supporting local athletes and are very active in the BJJ community. SubCulture is the only Gi I use for competitions and training sessions. I highly recommend them.

quick hits

Favorite takedown: Uchi Mata

Favorite Submission: Bow and Arrow Choke

Favorite position: Knee on belly