Eleven-year-old Calgary resident Christian Vukaj just might be the best Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner in the world for his age-group.
Vukaj is going to the Kids World International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championship in San Bernadino, Calif. this weekend to compete, with the ultimate goal of becoming No. 1, numero uno, the best…
At least that’s the plan.
“I?m very excited,” Vukaj said. “I?m going there to dominate the fights and win the fights and be No. 1 in the world.”
His coach, Tim Blanchard, isn’t betting against it, either.
“I?m very confident he will win the gold,” Blanchard said. “He?s going to do really (well).”
Last year, Vukaj came close to the elusive worlds-best title when he lost to the No. 1 ranked fighter by an advantage point at the Abu Dhabi World Pro in February.
The 11-year-old came back disappointed, but he had a good time and knew he would get another chance.
Blanchard says he went right to work to flip the result in his favour next time.
“He always wants to be better, and the things he didn’t do well in the tournament, he worked on,? Blanchard said. ?He bounced back pretty easy and quick.?
Getting to the top in any discipline, regardless of age, is no small feat, and Blanchard says the 11-year-old is uber-determined for a kid so young.
“He?s in the gym, and he?s always training,” Blanchard said. “He?s super focused, and I?ve never seen that. It?s like one in a million that you get someone that young who is that determined.”
Even though Vukaj lost by just a single point, it takes a lot of work to over come small deficits because the competition is training to get better, too.
Vukaj recognizes the work involved.
“It?s really hard,” Vukaj said in reference to becoming the best. “From the first day you start, you have to be focused. Every time a teacher tells you technique, you always have to keep it in mind.”
Blanchard believes Vukaj comes by his talent honestly, but there is a huge support system behind him
“He loves jiu jitsu and martial arts, and his parents support him 100% in that,” Blanchard said. “I think (a lot) of it comes from the people he?s surrounded with. A lot of our older athletes also give him a push.”
Vukaj won’t stay a kid forever, but he’s got the grown up part of his life figured out early.
“My goal it to (get) to the UFC and be No. 1 in my weight division,” Vukaj said.
Blanchard says he sees nothing but continuous improvement and that the sky is truly the limit.
“When he turns old enough to compete in MMA, I could see him being a beast,” Blanchard said. “Just from starting so young and having that drive for so long that, by the time he (becomes) an adult, he could be in the UFC by the time he?s 20 years old.”
Currently, Vukaj is ranked No. 1 in Canada for his age-group, and Blanchard says the kid has the requisite attitude and the want to be the best.
“It?s the competitiveness and the work ethic that makes him the best,” Blanchard said. “That rolls over into the training and that technique. And that makes him as good as he is.”
Vukaj doesn’t honestly seem to be arrogant or haughty about his ability because he’s maybe too young to understand what that means, but he certainly knows what he wants–and that could be the biggest advantage of all.
“I feel very good,” Vukaj said. “I train a lot, and it paid off (when) I became No. 1 in Canada. And now my next goal is to be No. 1 in the world.”