Elisabeth Clay has come a long way.
The Ares BJJ athlete first made headlines in 2017 when she won the ADCC West Coast Trials as a 16-year-old blue belt. Now a few years older and a few belts higher, Clay is a well-established name in the grappling world and is pushing herself harder than ever. Following a win against Kendall Reusing at Fight 2 Win 143, Clay is back in action tonight at F2W 147 against another accomplished black belt, three-time world champion Luiza Monteiro.
A lot can happen in three years, and Clay acknowledges the changes that she’s experienced both in her personal and competitive life since the fateful day she qualified for ADCC as an underdog. “I have changed a lot as a person and as an athlete for sure,” she told the Jiu-Jitsu Times. “I feel like I’ve grown a lot. I mean, I should — I was just 16 and a blue belt when y’all saw me then. I feel like mentally, I know what I’m doing a lot more and am much more confident just in myself and in my game. My game has obviously gotten a lot better, too. I wouldn’t say it’s a ton different, but definitely a lot more refined then it was then. I definitely feel like winning ADCC Trials, especially at such a young age, set my career off, and to this day it is probably my most prized achievement.”
Though Clay is “just” a brown belt, she has an incredible number of accomplishments to her name so far, including multiple wins at Worlds and Pans (both gi and No-Gi). She’s at a point in her career in which the athletes she’s looked up to for years are now her competitive rivals, and she’s looking forward to testing herself against Monteiro on the F2W stage.
“I love the sub-only rule set, especially for no-gi, and how much more movement you get. It’s a lot more active and more fun for me,” she says. “The part about this match I’m most looking forward to just has to finally be getting where I feel like 12-year-old me set goals. Like, Luiza is someone who I’ve been hearing about since I was a kid, so to get the opportunity to fight her is great!”
The road here hasn’t been easy, though. Clay’s 2017 ADCC dreams were put on hold when she suffered a knee injury before the event, requiring physical therapy and other treatment to heal the damage to her PCL and posterior capsule. Clay is used to pain — it’s part of the game, especially at the level she competes at — but the emotional strife was what really got to her.
“Injuries are probably one of the worst things in this sport. It’s not the pain that comes with them, it’s when it takes you out of the sport for a time,” she says. “It was extremely hard mentally and emotionally whenever I get injured bad, but especially with my knee, I went into a pretty bad spot after that having to pull out of ADCC and then not being able to train and being in a metal brace for so long.”
Not one to sit still for very long, Clay found other ways to be active through her recovery. “I was still in the gym every day, I was still teaching kids, and I was lifting upper body the whole time, so just trying my best to work around it,” she says.
The pandemic has thrown a wrench in Clay’s plans, as it has for most of us, but she remains focused on her goals despite the pandemic. She keeps her aim high, saying that she wants at least one of the F2W black belt titles and is looking forward to jumping right back into the major IBJJF tournaments as soon as possible. Beyond competition, she also wants to teach more seminars as well.
As for ADCC? Well, make sure you’re paying attention to her. “I definitely think y’all will see me at ADCC 2021. If there is an ADCC 2021, I think you’ll see me there.”
You can watch Elisabeth Clay vs. Luiza Monteiro, plus many more exciting matches tonight when F2W 147 streams live from Austin, TX only on FloGrappling.