Brett Collins: MMA sponsor, IBJJF Pan Jiu-Jitsu Champion 2011

Brett Collins was just happy to be there.

Instead, he came away with an improbable gold medal after submitting his opponent with a neck choke in the finals of the IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Championships in Irvine, Calif., on March 24, 2011.

On top of placing first, he was also awarded his brown belt while standing atop the podium.

Brett is a big supporter of mixed martial arts through Heart Rate Inc., the makers of the VersaClimber. Over the years, he’s sponsored UFC fighters like Stephan Bonnar, Kenny Florian, Joe Lauzon and Demian Maia.

Behind the scenes, Collins and his team work to keep many of the sport's most well-known fighters in top cardiovascular shape. So when it was his turn to step out from the shadows and sip from the cup of competition late last month, the Brazilian Top Team product had no idea that he was on the verge of something special.

The entrepreneur discussed his recent achievements with MMAMania.

"It was a tremendous sense of accomplishment for me — on so many levels physically, emotionally and mentally," he said. "To win in front of my instructors Juliano Prado and Adriano Nasal of Brazilian Top Team was validation of all the years of blood, sweat and pain I’ve invested into BJJ. Even if I would have lost, I would have won from the experience alone that day. Jiu Jitsu is my life. It is who I am."

In his biggest achievement of the tournament, Collins scored his first submission of the day against his opponent in the gold medal match. It was the culmination of six years of hard work training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

"To win gold with a submission puts an exclamation point on my previous wins (by points) that day. My instructors kept telling me, ‘Brett relax out there and be smart,’ so, by my third match I was trying to be more relaxed -- it worked. I was able to finally play my game, on my terms, and take the submission. Everything came together in one defining moment, submitting my opponent in the finals."  

Winning the Pan Ams is one thing, but Brett would love nothing more than to see jiu-jitsu in the Olympics.

"BJJ in the Olympics fits perfectly. Why BJJ wasn’t included a long time ago is a mystery to me, but they have Olympic Power Walking! Come on! There’s so much momentum behind MMA / BJJ now, that it’s just a matter of time. There’s so much room for MMA to grow and expand, the Olympics is another stepping stone."

Brett was initially drawn to BJJ through a marketing deal with VersaClimber. He’s also an immense fan of mixed martial arts.

"I’m a big supporter of MMA and a huge fan. I like how this sport is so dynamic and intense — it’s unpredictable. MMA is multi-dimensional. Its fast-paced. It’s raw and real. It’s gritty and bloody. It’s a war between two athletes who rely on their, heart, skills, grit and pure determination to win. It gets me fired up just talking about it."

His journey from fan to sponsor to jiu-jitsu champion is unique. And just like any fighter today, he credits his training and his team for his remarkable accomplishments on the mat.

"My Brazilian jiu-jitsu instructors Juliano Prado and Adriano Nasal, as well as the crew at Brazilian Top Team -- Murilo Bustamante, all deserve shout outs," he said. "I couldn't have dont it without them. Oh, and when you want insane cardio, get on a VersaClimber!"

Who knows, you, too, might become a champion one day. Anything is possible.

Fernando Quiles and Brian Hemminger contributed to this report.

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