Pattaya Unplugged had the honour of spending some time with (8x) World Champion Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Martial Artist, DJ Jackson today for an impromptu interview and just a little relaxing away from the training mats at Fairtex gym where he is currently the lead MMA instructor.
Unplugged: So I have to say, DJ, when I first met you, I had no idea who you were so I had to do a little research. You have one of those resumes that say “hire this guy as a bodyguard, even if you don’t need one.” Can you start by giving us a list of your accomplishments so far in your career for folks out there that may not know you?
Jackson: “Honestly, I don’t even keep a list of the full resume but my most notable accomplishments thus far are:
8 X International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation Champion, 2 X black belt nogi world champion, Fight 2 Win champion, Copa Podio Middleweight Grand Prix champion, BOA Super 8 champion, 2x veteran of the Abu Dhabi Combat Club and ranked #1 in the United Arab Emirates Jiu-Jitsu Federation 2019.”
Unplugged: So do most people know you by your full name? De’Alonzio or?
Jackson: “Most of the people who know me, know me as DJ.”
Unplugged: I can see De’Alonzio being pretty difficult, DJ is much easier.
Jackson: “When I started college wrestling they went with DJ and it stuck.”
Unplugged: So is that where you got your start? In Wrestling?
Jackson: “I wanted to play football, my dream was to grow up and play for the NFL. I used to play with Navorro Bowman who went on to be one of the best linebackers the 49ers ever had. We grew up together and the guy is MASSIVE! I am a short stocky guy and he and the others told me that the best way to get stronger for football was to get into wrestling so I started wrestling and playing football at the same time and I didn’t really take wrestling that seriously in my freshman year.”
Unplugged: So were you one of those little scrawny kids before or have you always been built like you are currently?
Jackson: “No definitely never scrawny. I’ve always been short and stocky and at times it has proven to be a problem. Football was one of those times. During my sophomore year I wrestled when I weighed about 160 lbs and I don’t think I won a single match all year.”
“When I began wrestling I literally sucked so bad that I told my father I didn’t want him to come to watch me wrestle anymore because I didn’t want him to see me lose. This hurt my father greatly because he wanted nothing more than to see me compete, especially being a former football player himself.”
“At one match I had in Annapolis I won my first match and my father, who unbeknownst to me was in the stands at the time came down and said: “see, it doesn’t matter if I am here watching or not.” From that moment on he started watching me again.”
“It was during the sophomore year that I realized that football wasn’t really going to take me anywhere and I started focusing a lot more attention and energy towards wrestling, mainly because I knew I would need to be good at something if I wanted money for college. I went to a Catholic school and the vast majority of students who left there went on to college afterwards.”
Unplugged: So how were you academically?
Jackson: “I was good in school, but I wasn’t academic scholarship material and I knew that I was going to need a different route if I wanted to have the money to continue my education. People up to that point had always told me that wrestling was a sport that you get out what you put in. I started wrestling full time and focusing on the scholarship goal.”
“During my Junior year, I was on the varsity wrestling team and had learned enough to be a decent competitor compared to previous years. I won my conference and got invited to the state competition (even though I didn’t place).”
Unplugged: So sometime in your junior year is when you turned the corner from wrestling being a hobby to being something more in your life?
Jackson: “Absolutely, my junior year I did really decently well and I knew that senior year would be even better if I kept my focus and I wasn’t wrong. I took the conference again my senior year which was kind of a big deal because there was only one other student who won the conference twice.”
Unplugged: So did you get your scholarship and reach the goal?
Jackson: “I ended up with a full scholarship to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletes (NAIA) college and started wrestling for them. During my freshman year, however, I dropped entirely too much weight (from 169 to 141) and ended up really sick and unable to finish the year.”
“Sophomore year my coach wanted me to fight in the 49 kg weight category but I was determined to go 57 kg. When I wrestled at 57 I felt much better about my abilities because I didn’t have to worry about cutting weight before the next match, I could focus more on training and learning and it increased my skills and abilities tremendously being able to focus on the techniques as opposed to focusing on dropping weight every practice.”
“It ended up happening that the wrestling coach left to pursue a coaching position out in California. My college roommate and all my good friends on the team packed up their stuff and followed the coach. We were all attending school in Iowa at the time so I decided to take a semester off of school to return home to PG County in Maryland and after I would follow the coach as well. That was the plan until I got on google and looked up wrestling near me and Master Lloyd Irvin’s school of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I joined them thinking I was going to get better training in wrestling.”
Unplugged: So you had no thoughts about BJJ at the time? Did you even know what it was?
Jackson: “No, it wasn’t until one of my teammates put me in an armbar one day that I started paying attention. I was there to wrestle, or so I thought. I got noticed for my wrestling and was asked to help some of the Jiu-Jitsu guys who had a nogi competition coming up. After helping the one, it led to us helping out other scrawny white kids like Ryan Hall, Seth Smith and Mike Easton and his sister Nyjah.”
“The first time I took Ryan Hall down he locked me up and it HURT. I wasn’t sure exactly what happened but he told me if anything hurts just tap. So after that it was I’d take him down and then tap, and take him down and then tap.”
Unplugged: It was a damn tap session eh?
Jackson: “Yeah, I’d take him down and he’d tap me out, I’d take him down and he’d tap me out. After that, sparring with Nyjah Easton I thought I would need to take it easy on her. At first, I actually thought she was Master Lloyd’s daughter and that backed the thought that I couldn’t hurt this girl. Every time that I took her down though she tapped me out and I finally came to a point where I decided I wasn’t being nice anymore and I went as hard as I could on her and she STILL tapped me out.”
“It was at that point I realized, what they are doing is amazing! I knew that if I could learn it, I could be good at it. I was athletic from wrestling and if these scrawny kids could totally destroy me, I had to know what they knew because they were murdering me every single time we fought.”
Unplugged: So Jiu-Jitsu was essentially a step up from wrestling for you? Wrestling provided a good base for you to learn the rest?
Jackson: “Absolutely, after I tried BJJ for the first time I fell in love with it. I actually started skipping all of my community college courses except 2 per week that I shared with my girlfriend at the time.”
Unplugged: Had to get in that girlfriend time.
Jackson: “Yeah, but I eventually broke it off with her and put all of my focus on Jiu-Jitsu. I actually did a nogi tournament about a month into training and ended up winning it using what extremely basic Jiu-Jitsu I had been taught so far. I was really good with my knee cuts and kimura locks because that was what they had been drilling into me. The plan was to just keep taking people down when they got up and surprisingly, it worked.”
Unplugged: So just for the folks that don’t know, when you say a “nogi” tournament does that literally just mean a tournament without a gi?
Jackson: “That’s exactly what it means. It is just fighting without a gi. So I won the nogi tournament and decided that I would go out and get a gi and fight in the gi tournament as well. My father was there and bought me a beautiful brand new bring red gi, which unbeknownst to me at the time is extremely disrespectful.”
“So I’m standing there in my disrespectful outfit and the match starts. I shoot too early and my opponent tapped me out IMMEDIATELY with a guillotine. It was over quickly and I am actually really good at getting out of guillotines but I wasn’t used to fighting with a gi on and it is two different worlds gi and nogi.”
Unplugged: So which one is harder?
Jackson: “Gi is definitely harder by far. When you and your opponent are both wearing a gi there are far more things that you can do to each other and it makes it way more difficult to get out of chokes and holds because of the thick cloth.”
“The following Monday I skipped one of the only classes I was still going to and I took an introduction from Master Lloyd and I asked him directly, how do you stop a guillotine? I knew in my head that could never happen again. He beat me in 12 seconds but since that day I have literally never been tapped out with a guillotine again.”
Unplugged: Learned your lesson on that one?
Jackson: “One of the greatest thing that Master Lloyd taught us was that it is okay to make mistakes in Jiu-Jitsu but you have to use them and learn from them so that they don’t keep happening or you will never better yourself.”
Unplugged: Well that was a hell of an introduction. After you started Jiu-Jitsu then you never had any desires for other sports?
Jackson: “No, not really. Jiu-Jitsu was like love at first toe hold.”
Unplugged: So what is the goal now? You’ve accomplished quite a bit, where do you go from here?
Jackson: “The goal is to be the best fighter in the world. Simple as that. I want to be the best in the world and I want to fight the best opponents in the world.”
Unplugged: Okay, now that everyone knows who you are, how you came to be where you are today and where you plan on going, I have some questions from a few friends that found out I’d be interviewing you.
What is your favourite strike or submission move and why?
Jackson: “My two favourites have got to be the kimura and wrist lock. People started calling me the “Kimura Kid” when I started out because I got extremely good at executing it and used it often. The wrist lock just because it is quick and easy, if I can bend your wrist and get something behind your elbow, I can wrist lock you.”
Unplugged: Forgive my ignorance on the subject, but are there tournaments where different belt classes face off with one another?
Jackson: “Yes, with nogi it’s actually just broken down into categories beginner, intermediate and advanced. Belt colour doesn’t matter when you aren’t wearing a gi for the most part. You and your coach generally decide what level you are ready to fight at.”
Unplugged: So along the way have there been opponents who you were nervous or skittish about fighting?
Jackson: “When I fought my first black belt I was a little worried. I was calling around to all of my instructors asking them for advice and each time they would hang up on me. I got told to “just be DJ” which wasn’t comforting in the slightest. I wanted to know the magic moves that they knew to be able to beat a black belt.”
“I asked Master Donnie if he would come help teach me some things while he was coaching a group of kids and he sent Carlo to work with me. Carlo was a 9-year-old boy. I know this sounds crazy but he was REALLY good and had already been fighting for years. Carlo helped me always focus on what I was doing and the correct things to do in situations instead of focusing on my opponent. He was the best coach EVER and I ended up winning thanks to him.”
Unplugged: With all of the places in the world that you could be, why Pattaya?
Jackson: “I actually came because of my old teammate Aung La Nsang (ONE FC Middleweight and Light Heavyweight champion). He called me up one day and asked me if I had ever thought about leaving Maryland, to which my reply was “no, never”. He told me that I came out and trained at Fairtex, it would look good and I may be able to advance myself as well.”
“Up to that point, I had never thought really about leaving home. I love the people that I train with back home and home will always be home. I had a friend fighting in China that I wanted to see, and the thought of coaching for a while didn’t seem like a bad idea.”
Unplugged: How is the Fairtex training going then? Is it better or worse than expected?
Jackson: “I came out, and I’m here, and I absolutely love the place. It’s a real family. Everyone comes together to train and it is nice to be able to go to the local fights and see the people that you’ve been training with execute the skills that you have been showing them, and execute them well.”
Unplugged: Now I know there have been some fights recently, Stamp Fairtex, the Two-Sport World Champion just went to the Philippines and fought with Bi Nguyen, the fight ending with a brutal win for Stamp, so big congratulations go out to her! From what you told me DJ, a few of you went up to Bangkok this last weekend and participated in a tournament as well, how did that go? (Check out the video of Stamp’s full fight with Bi Nguyen from ONE Championship below)
Jackson: “Yeah, we had a jiu-jitsu tournament. It actually went REALLY well. Everyone has been putting in a ton of work on the mats in practice and it was cool to be able to see how much they actually picked up from what I had been teaching them. Some of the techniques were executed phenomenally. It was nice to have some of the team come up after their matches and to see the excitement and gratitude on their faces. Everyone fought amazing and we took away quite a few medals.”
Unplugged: So at Fairtex are you only training other pros, or can a walk in off the street get some knowledge dropped on them too?
Jackson: “Honestly, I feel that EVERYONE should be training, especially walk-ins. That’s essentially how I got my start in BJJ as well. It doesn’t matter if you are athletic or a gym rat at all. I know several people who weren’t in the best of shape when they started training and it doesn’t take long before you have a confidence boost and actually start seeing results in your stamina and overall fitness.”
Unplugged: Do you do any private lessons?
Jackson: “I do, but right now my main training is at Fairtex. I’m not against doing private lessons in my off-hours from the gym but my main priority is those people that are training at Fairtex as that is what I am here for.”
Unplugged: We are coming up on our time limit for today but I have just a couple more questions to get out of the way, that are in need of answering.
Everyone is anxious to know I’m sure, what is DJ Jackson’s favourite club in Pattaya?
Jackson: “Right now it has to be 808. They play my type of music and you aren’t constantly getting harassed by people that want you to buy them a drink. I also thoroughly enjoy myself at Lucifer.”
Unplugged: Well there you have it, folks, Lucifer and 808 have the DJ Jackson seal of approval! How long will you be training in Pattaya?
Jackson: “The plan is for me to be here for a year training at Fairtex, after that, we will see what happens!”
Unplugged: What do you do in your off time? Do you throw on a costume and fight crime or?
Jackson: “Haha, no, I actually play video games like Call of Duty and Super Smash Brothers. I will be looking into some other extracurricular hobbies to pick up. Maybe jet skiing or scuba diving.”
Unplugged: So you are really just a normal person under that callused rugged exterior?
Jackson: “hahaha, yep, just a normal guy doing normal guy things.”
Unplugged: Favorite bar girl in town?
Jackson: “I choose not to incriminate myself on this one.”
Unplugged: Well that just about covers the amount of time we got, I don’t want to keep you from your classes for sure, perhaps we could do a follow on interview later on in the year to see how things with team Fairtex have progressed.
Jackson: “I’m game, hope to see everyone out on the mats at Fairtex! Let’s roll!”
For anyone interested in training with DJ Jackson while he is here, contact Fairtex gym today and see what the schedule is like! Get in where you fit in!
STAY TUNED TO PATTAYA UNPLUGGED FOR MORE INTERVIEWS!