EDINA, Minn. - The really cool thing about the UFC is watching all the different disciplines compete: from wrestlers to boxers, to even Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu experts. While most people may not associate BJJ with Minnesota, after seeing it on TV: 15-year-old Phillip Atkinson has found his sport.
That’s why Atkinson and his family travel an average of 900 miles per week from Pequot Lakes to the Twin Cities. All so Phillip can step foot inside Alliance Jiu-Jitsu in Edina.
“It has brought me a long way,” Atkinson said. “It has changed my life.”
Life before BJJ was filled with injuries from football. That’s why at just 10 years old, Phillip’s path took a turn from the field to the mat.
“When Phillip started jiu-jitsu he was just a normal teenaged kid coming in to learn a martial art,” Alliance owner Damian Hirtz said. “Through hard work, dedication and all the sacrifices he’s made: he’s become exceptional.”
Over the past year, Phillip has put his name on the map world-wide. So far, he’s earned a silver medal at the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation Pan Ams, a blue belt from Alliance and a spot at this week’s world IBJJ championships: where he hopes to take home gold.
“What happens in jiu-jitsu is once you win that juvenile world championship, the sponsorships start to come in,” Hirtz said. “They look at you as the evolution or the wave of the future.”
A future so dedicated to the sport, Phillip even does his school work online through the Minnesota Connections Academy.
“They’ve made it so I can come down here two times a week in the middle of the day,” Atkinson said.
And Phillip hopes one day to open a BJJ school of his own.