On Friday, May 12, the Fight to Win Pro crew is going to be doing what they do best: putting on a spectacular jiu-jitsu event for athletes and spectators alike. But if you’re familiar with “Team No Sleep”, you’re going to recognize a few names on the Denver card, which features Gordon Ryan vs. Eliot Kelly as the headliner. You see, these hard-working professionals don’t just run the show — they compete on it, too.
It’s probably not a surprise that most of the F2W Pro staff do jiu-jitsu; their levels of expertise range from brand new white belts to experienced black belts. But the promotion’s rule about only allowing purple belts and above on the cards extends even to members of Team No Sleep, so only a select few of them are able to showcase their skills on the very stage they help to painstakingly build and dismantle for every show. But if they can compete, F2W Pro CEO Seth Daniels does everything he can to get them on the cards”
I never want us to be too consumed with the business and lose sight of how fun this s*** is. It’s also great quality control for us — it’s hard to see areas of improvement from looking on from the outside in order to run a successful company. You need to expose yourself to the entire process.
Although Daniels has competed on his own cards before, this is the first time he’ll be doing so in Denver, where he calls home. Plagued with injuries and dealing with an insane schedule, he’s been unable to drop the weight and train as much as he needed to give his best performance in front of his loved ones… until now.
Like the other fighters on the show, I want the chance to perform in front of my friends and family, especially my kids. Kids don’t care if you win or lose, but they won’t forget walking out with you, feeling like a rock star, and seeing me give it everything I have. Those are the moments you kill for as a parent: for your children to see you as more than just a guy that pays for s***, cooks dinner, takes them to football, and leaves every weekend to work.
For this event, Daniels will be sharing the card with purple belt Troy Everett, whose role at Fight to Win Pro is, well, everything. Everett plays a huge part in deciding how the venue will be set up, ensuring the entire show runs smoothly, and doing all the heavy lifting involved in putting everything together and taking it apart. And somehow, he’s also going to find time in the midst of all that to compete on Friday.
I honestly have never really enjoyed competing, but getting the opportunity to test my skills against other people is cool to expand my game. And I am the luckiest dude on the planet and get to compete across the country for free and get paid regardless, so it’s hard to turn down.
His sentiments are shared by Brittany Elkin: another purple belt who spends hours working her butt off to set up the stage, competes, and then works her butt off again until four in the morning to tear it all down. Although Elkin won’t be competing on this particular card, she’s competed on the F2W stage numerous times before.
“I just feel weird if I don’t have something to look forward to,” she says. “Even before I started working for F2W, I always was registered for one event or the other. Working for F2W definitely helps fulfill my want to compete with touring me around the country with them and having so many available opportunities.”
Black belt and military veteran Vellore Caballero, who will be joining Daniels and Everett on the F2W 34 card, has fulfilled nearly every role for the promotion. He’s already served as a referee on numerous F2W shows and is a regular competitor as well. He recently worked his first shift helping to tear down the event, and while the experience left him so exhausted that he fell asleep at the airport the next day and missed his flight, he still loves doing whatever he can to help the sport that has given him so much.
“I know it’s cliche, but after combat, jiu-jitsu kept me sane and out of trouble. It literally saved my life, so my mission now is to help in any way to spread the message of what good therapy and meditation jiu-jitsu surprisingly is,” he says.
Caballero truly puts his money where his mouth is — and not just in terms of how much work he does for Fight to Win. Once his match in Denver is over, he plans on donating his winnings to one of his students at ETC Centennial whose father recently passed away. Though he’s far from the first Fight to Win competitor to donate his earnings, his gesture is proof that Team No Sleep doesn’t mess around when it comes to recruiting members that are both hard workers and good people.
There are very few people who are cut out for the amount of work that the Fight to Win crew puts forth nearly every week, and even fewer who’d be willing to compete in such a high-pressure atmosphere on three hours of sleep and a body that’s sore and tired. But for the competitors of Team No Sleep, it’s not an obligation — it’s a blessing.
“All the building of the stage before a show, even if I’m on the show, really isn’t work because I feel so proud to be a part of the crew,” says Elkin. “I feel like I get to build my dreams every weekend. I just try to be as much help as i can be and take it all in. I never dreamed I could be so happy.”