Johnny Tama knows a thing or two about turning dreams into reality. At the end of last year, he predicted his own victory at No-Gi Worlds, and despite the struggles COVID-19 has presented this year, he’s still found multiple opportunities to compete at events like Fight 2 Win, the BJJ Fanatics Grand Prix, Jitz King, and 3rd Coast Grappling.
Tonight, Tama will be returning to the 3CG mats to showcase his jiu-jitsu to the world, this time going up against celebrated 2019 ADCC competitor Renato Canuto in the first round of 3CG: Kumite V. The road here hasn’t been an easy one — after competing at 3CG: Kumite III, Tama was scheduled to compete at the promotion’s fourth Kumite installment as well, but had to pull out due to a sprain in his AC joint. In typical fashion, though, he jumped back into the fray as soon as he could and tells the Jiu-Jitsu Times that he feels “100%” and ready to compete again.
“I took the right time to rest and continue training,” he says. “I want to improve my last performance in the tactical aspect and impress the audience and my family back home, get the money, and continue for what’s next.”
Tama’s big win at No-Gi Worlds certainly gave him valuable momentum and helped solidify his reputation as an elite-level grappler, but no matter what the results are or where he stands on the podium, he just wants to keep doing what he loves.
“After No-Gi Worlds, I feel more hungry,” he says. “I feel like I want to continue doing this for the long run. I’m really in love with jiu-jitsu, and winning or losing, I still want to come back as hard as I can and keep competing among the best in the world.”
Still, the satisfaction of such a significant victory hasn’t left Tama, and his confidence to continue achieving great things is bolstered by the love he’s received from the community as a whole. “Now I know more than ever I can do it multiple times. I feel a lot more support and respect from the community for sure. I had a lot of people believing [in me] before that achievement, but now I feel some extra, and it gives me more motivation to continue.”
The 3CG: Kumite V card is stacked with high-caliber competitors, including Roberto Jimenez and both Kade and Tye Ruotolo. But although Tama hopes to make it to (and then win) the finals for the $10,000 grand prize, he’s taking this event one match at a time. “This bracket is nothing but full of amazing athletes, the best of the best. Every match is a final — I’m ready for anyone. I don’t have a particular match I’m hoping for. Anyone can win this. Everyone bleeds.”
As Tama reflects on his legacy (which includes being the first BJJ black belt from Ecuador to win a world championship in jiu-jitsu), he shares some words of wisdom for others who need an extra push to believe in themselves and make their visions a reality.
“I really hope to be remembered as a person that tried his very best at what he was passionate for,” he says. “I want people to remember me and say, that guy believed in himself when no one did and now he’s a reality. It doesn’t matter where you come from or your reality, FIND A WAY. It might take some time, but you’d be there, and it’s gonna be worth it.”
3rd Coast Grappling: Kumite V will stream live tonight on FloGrappling.