Inside WRAL

Producer by day, mixed martial arts fighter by night

Posted December 6, 2011

Do you ever wonder what your co-workers do after they leave the office? Here at WRAL, I have a really impressive co-worker who is a senior promotions producer by day and a mixed martial arts fighter by night.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Photos: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Jay Yovanovich studies Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which he describes as "a violent form of wrestling," at Pendergrass Academy in Wake Forest.

"It's a grappling art that doesn’t involve striking. You submit (‘tap out’) your opponent with arm-bars, chokes, foot locks, shoulder locks, etc.," he said.

I asked Jay to share his story and any advice he has for people thinking of trying mixed martial arts. You can read his interview below. He also took some great pictures of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in action and sent me this video below. Jay is wearing the light gray shirt.

How did you get into mixed martial arts?

After I graduated from college, I moved to Charleston, S.C. My roommate would drag me to Judo practice. Eventually, I started actually liking getting tossed around and kept going. The only two martial arts I’ve studied are Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Have you ever had to use your training in a real life situation?

Physically, no. However, my training has provided me with an immense amount of confidence in all aspects of life. It’s silly to get nervous about a meeting or a speech when you fight other people full speed as a hobby. That’s the stuff that should really summon nerves.

What’s your proudest martial arts accomplishment?

Probably achieving a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.

Do you have any martial arts goals that you hope to accomplish?

I would like to compete in the Pan Ams or World Championships in Brazilian jiu-jitsu at some point.

What kind of toll has it taken on your body?

It’s a rough sport. Unlike other martial arts, you can practice Brazilian jiu-jitsu at full speed, every night. I broke my foot about a year ago. About 6 months ago, I cracked a rib. Rib injuries are the absolute worse. Since those two injuries, I’m trying to train smart and protect myself a bit better.

What advice do you have for people who are thinking about doing martial arts?

My advice is to do Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Caution, you can become addicted. The workout is fantastic. We always have guys (and girls) who come in and immediately lose a lot of weight from this sport. It’s aerobic and anaerobic, so there’s really not a better routine out there for getting/staying fit. Plus, it’s a ton of fun. Brazilian jiu-jitsu is sort of like a chess match, so there’s a lot of thinking involved. I may try for an armbar, my opponent starts to stack me, so I switch to a triangle choke, and so forth.

Anything else you’d like to add?

While the sport seems a bit intimidating, I’ve found most people who participate in BJJ are very chill and laid back. I guess it’s just the Brazilian way. Don’t be intimidated by the physical nature of the martial art. 


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  • Buddrow Dec 7, 2011

    Just because it has never happened to you, does mean it has not happened. (2nd example)

    These may be extreme examples but my point is there is risk of injury any sport/activity. Shoot, my mother damaged her ankle tendon on one of her daily walks because she stepped funny. But I like Sean’s comment pertaining to the article.

    I would definitely agree with Baba Booey in that there may be more risk in BJJ when your opponent is trying to rip your arm from your socket in a competitive match. But all it takes is a tweak of a leg or arm to sideline someone for 8 weeks. But I am willing to take that risk for the thrill of the training.

    Personal exercise should be based on what the individual feels comfortable with. And you summed it quite well “ANY exercise is GOOD exercise!!!”

  • Baba Booey Dec 7, 2011

    ANY exercise is GOOD exercise!!!

    However, I have been a runner for 30 years, and I have never heard of any one tearing an ACL. I also lift weights regularly, and I have never torn a bicep, nor have I ever known anyone to do so.

    Seems to me the risk of getting hurt doing BJJ might be higher than other forms of exercise... but it's nobody's business but Jay's!!

    If Jay wants to break a foot, or crack ribs cyndistevenson should just deal with it.

  • Buddrow Dec 7, 2011

    It is easy to make an asinine judgmental opinion on an individual’s character especially when there is no relative information pertaining to this man’s family in the blog. Thank you cyndistevenson for the insightful perspective.

    As far as his training, the instructors (Guy and Rob Pendergrass) are excellent and safety is their top concern. I have only been training under the instructors less than a month and I feel the training atmosphere is safe for all level of students. There is just an inherent risk of injury in any sport or exercise class/program. Runners can tear an ACL in their daily jog. Weightlifters can tear a bicep in their workout routine. Etc. Etc.

    The reason I joined their class is because I wanted to lose weight because I am more afraid of the physical ills of being overweight than the unintentional injury from class. My wife would rather have a husband (& father) who is physically fit, rather than one who has diabetes or even worse a heart attack.

  • seanzorio Dec 7, 2011

    I almost hope the first comment by cyndi is a joke.

    Adults are allowed to have hobbies, even if you have a wife and kids. I'm one of the guys who has trained with Jay for years now, and can't imagine a life where your entire existence is based in fear of getting hurt. Most of the guys who train there are in their 30s and 40s, have kids, and are married.

    Take the leap of faith, step out of your comfort zone, and pick up a hobby. It's the most rewarding thing I've ever done.

  • cyndistevenson Dec 6, 2011

    I sure hope Jay doesn't have a wife or children.

    What kind of selfish egomaniac would subject himself to broken bones, cracked ribs, or even worse... in the name of exercise?

    Although goofy looking, Jay looks old enough to know better.

    Grow up already and start thinking about your family.

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