How often have you said yourself I wish all I had to worry about was training Jiu-Jitsu?
- Training all day
- Never missing a workout
- Preparing your meals down to a science
- Traveling for tournaments
- Going to all the seminars
You want to commit to the ultimate BJJ lifestyle but are thinking “How the hell am I going to afford it?”
Well It’s going to take sacrifice but it is something that is attainable to you regardless of skill level.
The first question I have for you is how committed do you want to?
First decision you have to make is how committed you want to be and to what extent do you want to pursue the competitor’s lifestyle. Not everyone has the ability to quit their full or part-time jobs.
Even if you wanted to drop everything you’re doing to pursue a world championship this is a level that you’re going to not only have to grow to technically through training but you’re also going to have to grow into financially.
For a comprehensive look at how to make your dollars go farther as a Jiu-Jitsu athlete check out my other comprehensive guide for athletes: Jiu-Jitsu Bums Guide to Paying for the BJJ Lifestyle.
As I mentioned in that guide, I was able to pursue my dream and train full-time as a purple but this was after years of volunteering at my academy, building a ton of relationships, and teaching for free.
One of the most important things that you need to do as an up-and-coming athlete is to build relationships and continue to grow those relationships over time.
Martial arts for me has been the single greatest contributor to my success both on and off the mat.
In Top 3 Books on Investing Every Pro Fighter Should Read I mentioned that the fighter that makes the most money is not always the most talented. They have a great story, they are funny, they contribute outside the octagon, and yes some just have a big mouth.
The point is, to succeed financially you need to get out of obscurity, plain and simple.
This is the same outlook you need to have for gaining sponsorship. You don’t have to be a loud mouth like Conor McGregor, you just need to get out in front of the right people and become known.
Just look at the Sheikhs in UAE… imagine you were to become friends with one of the Sheikh’s. Would it be anything for them to sponsor you for five tournaments a year? Of course not! What is $1000 to someone who has millions? Nothing!
But you’re never going to gain million-dollar contacts by throwing together a sponsorship package and handing them out, or by going on go fund me and begging your way across the country.
On your Facebook friends list right now are likely hundreds of people who can afford to help you. The question is how are you going to ask them to help you?
The answer is… YOU ARE NOT. The only way that you are going to be able to collect sponsorship from people who can afford to sponsor you is through pity (not going to get you far) or by explaining how you can provide value to them…
But what on Earth can you, a Jiu-Jitsu bum, possibly offer someone with a load of money? THAT my friends is what we are going to learn today…
Building a Massive Network and Getting Jiu-Jitsu Sponsors
Once upon a time I wanted nothing than more to be an investment banker. I heard the “horror stories” of 20 hour days, the excel marathons, the traveling to do presentations, and well… read “Monkey Business” and you’ll know the rest.
Probably the top resource for aspiring monkeys, whether it be for investment banking, private equity, venture capital, etc., is a site called WallStreetOasis.
It was through this forum that I learned about the power of the informational interview. The problem with using the WSO method to land an extremely high paying job was that I did not have a degree from a top 20 university (I didn’t have a degree AT ALL).
I had spent my life after high school traveling the country; sleeping in cars and on couches chasing medals. I had only recently started college, so what was I to do?
Adapt and Conquer
If you want to take the island, burn the friggin’ boats” — Tony Robbins
Anyone can do what I am going to share with you. There is not shortage of sponsorship money out there. There is no shortage of money period, you just have to go out and get it.
You do not have to be a World Champion. You do not have to have 1 tournament win on your resume. You don’t have to be good at all! You are an aspiring professional martial artist and to someone with a ton of money and no idea what Jiu-Jitsu is, this is all you need to convey.
This is going to take some hustle… I repeat, we are not looking for pity dollars here. Pity dollars don’t go far. We are looking to provide value and hustle for real opportunities.
We are about to go over how to get in front of some high level individuals. If you feel for whatever reason you aren’t ready for that, here are some resources I use for mentorship to get my mind right:
Step 1: Get Rid of the Haters/Doubters/Losers
The first thing you have to do is evaluate who is in your inner circle and whether those closest to you are:
a). Supportive of your success
b). Not supportive
Just so you know, because it will not be apparent when starting out, the most dangerous of these three is actually “c” and here is why:
a). Supportive – Obviously having a support system is a good thing. They will be your mentors; they’ll be the ones hustling right beside you, and will be happy to share your success with others so that you can continue to expand your reach.
b). Not Supportive – This is not a bad thing. When you make a decision to expand your reach and become a force to recognize, you are going to have some haters. Just be aware of the cycle of change:
The thing is that with haters comes even more attention to what you are doing. And as long as what you are doing involves paying it forward, and contributing to others positively, you need to be loving all the haters you have.
c). Complacent – Oh yeah, the modern war-fare junkies, the complacent, the potheads, the “just slow down man; you are doing to much; chill out; just relax for once; you deserve a day off.”
These are not bad people. These are great people. I was all of the above at one point in my life and I’m telling you “shouldn’t have hung out with me.” There is nothing I would have been able to do to take you to the next level at that stage.
It wasn’t until 23 that I decided that I REALLY wanted more for my future family than what what was currently possible, and some people in my network were going to have to be benched as a result so that I could expand my mind and my network.
Warning: Don’t leave people hanging
This is not to be construed as eliminating those in your life who are not on your level. On the contrary the entire idea of having a network is creating mutually beneficial win-win relationships within that network.
Get rid of the complacent, but always keep an eye out for like minded people in need of guidance, jobs, and opportunities that your network can be a solution for.
Step 2: Your Most Powerful Asset in Gaining BJJ Sponsors
Our network medium is very unique. People go to college for years and go back again for their masters to have a small fraction of the “alumni network” that we possess. This is your most valuable possession when it comes to cementing jiu-jitsu sponsors.
What can you provide people who have a boat load of money? People within your network who need their jobs, services, or products. You can make them even more money while connecting your friends with a resource at the same time.
The beautiful part about the martial arts community is how diverse the practitioners are from an age, career, and cultural standpoint. You can come from the smallest gym known to man… it does not matter.
Expanding this network
One of the absolute best ways to build a strong network right off the bat is LinkedIn.
They literally have a search tool that allows you to Search “Jiu-Jitsu” and categorize by location! You can put yourself into contact with just about any working professional on the planet that you share something in common with.
I was recently weighting the option of whether or not to signup for a networking group called Athletes Touch.
This is a huge network of athletes who are also professional business men and women.Their networking model is very proactive and I was so surprised at how many things in common I had with the members I met.
Now, Athletes Touch and LinkedIn’s Premium version with unlimited search was the exact same price per month. This was just a no-brainer for me.
While I saw a ton of value in the group, with LinkedIn’s search functionality I already have a great chance of getting in front of the professionals in that group as well as other athletes and Jiu-Jitsu practitioners across Orange County, the US, and beyond.
You can always use the unpaid version of LinkedIn in conjunction with your other social media accounts and get the same results. You can even use LinkedIn Premium one month free, get all the contacts you need, and then just continue using the free version.
|Brick: Getting sponsorship can be tough, especially at the lower belts. Most of the time it’s going to come from someone you know.
Sponsorship might not necessarily come in the form of gi’s and board shorts but in food, workouts, or haircuts.
I was fortunate enough to have a training partner who owned Hickory River Smokehouse hooked me up with huge discounts and gift cards.
Another training partner, Adam Saathoff, who is a top personal trainer in the area, ran me though brutal workouts so I didn’t need a gym membership.
Being broke and doing Jiu Jitsu these savings can be the difference makers in paying your way out to tournaments.
STEP 3: Building your MASTER LIST
Once you have setup a few good resources to build on that network medium you already have, now it is time to start cultivating that network by building your Master List.
Everyone’s network is going to be different. Your master list is composed of every single person you can think of that has made the cut from step 1.
Your Master List will be used to:
- Organize your contacts
- Find who and how you can help these contacts
- Find who and how these contacts can help you
- Find people you can team-up with (centers of influence)
While I can’t exactly share my Master List, I will hook you up with a Free Master List Template that I made just for this guide. Check it out!
Make sure to look through all the tabs as I’ve pulled several examples from my actual list and swapped out the names to give you idea of you how to get started.
To further optimize the use of your master list, I recommend a book by Keith Ferrazzi called “Never Eat Alone.” This book not only introduces some great concepts for building up that master list, but will help you increase your efficiency in landing executive level information interviews.
Step 4: Meeting with potential Jiu-Jitsu Sponsors
Once your Master List is on point it is time to put it to good use. How I was able to get a high level job in finance was through conducting around 35-40 informational interviews with the top CEOs, CFOs, and business owners in Orange County.
The beauty is that I knew none of them when I started on my journey. What I did was burn the ships. I made a commitment to working in finance and told everyone I came across what I was doing and who I was looking to speak to.
“How are you going to do that without any experience?” “You can’t do that, you need to get a Masters degree.” “You need a start in the front office and work your way up.”
I may not have known very many people in finance, but I knew that somewhere on that Master List were people that did.
And now, for a lesson on what not to do…
How I bombed the biggest informational interview on the planet
Through the process of letting everyone know my passion I came across a student of mine who was next door neighbors to the CFO of a major bank. Not the CFO of the region… like the CFO of the friggin’ bank.
I heard my friend go on and on about how great of a guy he was, and through talking to the CFO on the phone I was pumped up about how nice he was. I really felt like we had hit it off already.
By this time I had already been through about 15 informational interviews, so I was feeling like a pro at this point… Little did I know I was about to have coffee with a SITH LORD.
I went into this interview like any other: “How did you get to where you are” “What was it like” “Here is what I’m trying to do”
Walking down to the coffee shop was all sunshine and rainbows, but it was at about this point that I was all but verbally murdered. Although I didn’t come for an interview, I had no pitch. He knew that I had a great background and story to pull from but had absolutely no idea how to pitch it. I got lit up like a cherry tree.
The truth is I had conducted this interview no different than the one’s before it.
From this moment on I put in a tremendous amount of work in building up my skill set and really came to grasp what my story was, why it was leading me into the path I’m on, and how others around me can benefit from working with me.
Before long I was on an entirely different level. I sent the CFO a thank you letter for everything I had taken away from our meeting. When I met him again I could tell he was floored at the progress I had made. To this day he is one of the main supporters of my success and has graciously opened up his network to me.
He didn’t sugar coat anything, he didn’t blow smoke, he didn’t hand me a job he could’ve easily made happen. Instead he taught me an important lesson and that is above all, know your sh*t.
Tips for walking away from every meeting a winner
First and fore-most as you develop a network, each and every cup of coffee you buy for someone should be to find a way to connect that person with someone within your network who can help them become more successful.
And I mean that.
If you are building a network with the hopes of gaining enough sponsorship to train and travel freely, you will never do so by asking favors. YOU are going to be giving the favors, and it has to come from a good place. You have to truly care about the success of others, before networking starts to become something fruitful for you.
Not everyone reading this has built a massive network to pull from yet, so below are tips that you can use to dominate an informational interview without even having built out a lengthy Master List.
- Do your homework beforehand and get feel for their background
- Ask open ended questions. People love to talk about themselves, but don’t ask questions for the purpose of filling in time.
- Listen. Instead of thinking about what your next question is going to be, truly listen to what they are saying and let the conversation build organically.
- Go into the interview with a clear understanding of what you want to get out of it and form questions based on their background and experiences that will allow for that to happen
- Ex. Let’s say I wanted to land a sponsorship…
- “I think I have a pretty good understanding of your background from stalking you on LinkedIn. How were you able to build up such a powerful personal brand?”
- Then: “Right now I am looking for sponsors for xyz, what are some steps that I can take to build my brand and make this a reality”
- Ex. Let’s say I wanted to land a sponsorship…
- You have to have a subgoal. In the above example, you are conveying exactly what you are looking for: a) sponsorship and b) mentorship. It is a win-win, you aren’t going to get sponsored every time, but you are going to get powerful advice from this power player on how to get there.
- You have two goals in walking away from that interview: get the sponsorship or ask if they can put you in contact with one or two other people who can help you build your brand.
- Always send a hand-written thank you letter.
Whether you are gaining sponsorship, landing a job, or building a book of business, the Informational Interview is the cornerstone of building that network of influencers.
* Remember to keep on track of who you have met with and continue to use the informational interview process to further build out your Master List.
* Remember to keep in contact with your network. Within your Master List it may be a good idea to create a hierarchy that assures that the Sith Lords of your list do not fall through the cracks, and that your old friend from Jiu-Jitsu gets his a$$ back on the mat.
I’ll leave you with a few resources you can pull from today to start a list of potential Jiu-Jitsu sponsors:
- Mentors within your academy – The great thing about Jiu-Jitsu is when we step on that mat everyone is equal. Doctors, lawyers, executives, you name it. You will be surprised how willing they are to help.
- Athletes – When I started my blog I was absolutely perplexed at how easy it was to get in touch with the very best of our sport. Reaching out to local athletes to pull from their experience is a great opportunity. Again, how can you provide them value?
- Local business owners – At the start of my career I had a list of every business in Orange County. I would call any business over 10 employees and ask to do a non-profit financial seminar at their place. Again, surprising how easy it is to get in touch with high level people by picking up a phone.
- BJJ Apparel Brands and News Publications – These can be a very valuable resource to pull from. If they cannot help you directly they usually know someone who can and they are probably the easiest groups to please as far as digging through your network to find someone who can help them.