There are only few paths to follow for those that love Jiu Jitsu so much that they want to make a career of it. Among the most common are you either to teach or you transition to Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). Although there are more opportunities as a Jiu Jitsu competitor now then there was in the past. The real opportunities to make a living lie in the cage. However, MMA is an entirely different beast. Often times you are faced with the question of is the risk worth the reward? What is the price you must pay to make your dreams come true? Those were the questions that Alessandra Moss was faced with.
In her late teens Moss and her family faced a series of challenges which led her parents to move to New Zealand while her and her brother relocated to Fortaleza in northern Brazil, where she lived for the 1st time on her own. She says this was the best decision of her life, as this experience allowed her to grow as a person and in the process, she discover Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in May of 2011.
It wasn’t long before her passion for the art thrived and she knew that this is what she wanted to do with the rest of life. She eventually reunited with her family in Tauranga, North Island New Zealand. Changing countries didn’t extinguish her passion for Jiu Jitsu in fact it took it to new level. Having an athletic background and a fighting spirit the next logically step for Moss was to enter the octagon. Little did she know how much this next step would change her.
What motivated that transition from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to fighting?
“I started around the time Ronda Rouse had her first fight in the UFC. I had been following her since her last two fights on Strike Force. She was my inspiration. Her agility, sharp movements and fighters mind set is what attracted me. When I saw her fighting, I decided I was going to challenge myself and do the same. I learned so much and it was an amazing experience.”
What is the biggest difference between the culture of MMA and Jiu Jitsu?
“Now days I think the biggest difference is that MMA became a massive entertainment business. Which I don’t think is a bad thing, BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) athletes get more recognition as a fighter and this allows them to follow career opportunities as BJJ competitors. It has also benefited the BJJ Academies by increasing the popularity of BJJ for sport and self-defense.
Culture wise is another story. The entertainment business brings along a lot ego issues into the fighter’s head, which is unfortunately fact. This is where the separation of what is a sport and what is a business comes along. Most of the time the MMA matches are set up in perspective of fighter’s egos. They are trapped into an intense ego battle than go on to perform as high level Martial Artists in the fight.
The bottom line is when we became a BJJ or Martial Artist practitioner willing to learn a self-defense art, we sign up perhaps unknowingly to a new world and its code of conduct. BJJ provides so much more than fitness, it’s about self-growth and mental health.
We learn how to develop self-defense skills but also confidence, develop a better character for life and towards the community where we are part of. That is the beauty of the BJJ culture and that is when the culture of MMA entertainment business takes a completely different turn.”
Do you think that being a MMA fighter vs. Jiu Jitsu practitioner changed you? If so how?
“Yes, as an MMA Fighter there is a completely different kind aggressive attitude and training style that comes along with it, compared to being a BJJ practitioner. Being an MMA fighter is a lot more self-centered energy, hindering people from being able to work in a community.
This is one of the differences in why I love BJJ. A fighter can also be a professor, who leads by example. They can compete in a high-level competition and are still a friendly person. They can help their students on their journey toward self-growth.
I found that in MMA, there is a certain “dark energy” behind of the scenes that people don’t see. The loneliness and the constant mind battles, as a fighter. Some people love that, which I don’t judge, it’s their life. But for me, it messed with my heart and my head.
The reason it messed with me is that I am a people person. The energy I was surrounding myself wasn’t friendly or caring for the others. I found myself in a very selfish space. When I saw this happening, I knew something was wrong and that a change had to happen.”
You say you had a realization that you wanted to change parts of yourself. What brought this on?
“When I was fighting MMA, at first it was fun. It was challenging, and I had great potential to become a professional athlete. But it became an ego fight and brought out confusing emotions regarding who I am and what I was willing to compromise to become a Professional MMA Champion.
I realized that my motivation to do MMA was, so I could be financial stable. So, I could afford to train more, travel to follow my dream and become a BJJ World Champion.
However, I realized how unhappy I was. I also realized the price of become a MMA fighter would cost my Jiu-Jitsu dream and who I am. I realized that I would have regrets for the rest of my life if I allowed this to happen.
The change that happened to me was that I accepted that I belonged to the BJJ world and that I didn’t have to prove anything to anyone. I accepted that I could accomplish financial stability and reward through BJJ for the rest of my life, instead doing it through having an MMA career.
Another strong factor that made me think about changing my pathways between BJJ vs MMA, is that the chances of serious injuries are much higher to the body in MMA. Because some injuries are not discovered until later in life, for example brain damage and internal organs disorders, contributed to my decision to leave MMA.”
What is your biggest regret as a MMA fighter?
“I have no regrets as an MMA fighter. I had two fights and two wins. It was a great experience and I learned so much through them.”
How has leaving MMA changed your life?
“Almost everything has changed for me as far as my career path. Once I decided to walk away from a possible professional MMA career, I ended up having to make a very hard decision to walk away from the team I was part of.
To be honest, it wasn’t easy. It was one of the hardest decisions I ever made in my life. Once I directed myself towards my BJJ journey I realize that a lot of things wasn’t matching up between my beliefs, BJJ wise and the team that I was part of at the time. Not in regards of my training partners, but differences between my beliefs and the coach perspectives & mind set.
Once again, I don’t regret my choices. Only a year and half later, I found that through all these experiences so many other opportunities opened in my life. Most importantly it allowed me to be honest and empower myself. At same time I can empower other women around the world to do the same thing for themselves.
What also has changed is that I am already competing more, this year. I’ve gone to the World-pro trials, IBJJF Pan-American and to IBJJF world, which was mind blowing!!!
One of the struggles is that it’s not easy to find financial stability to allow this dream to happen. I think this is one of the trickiest parts of being able to follow the BJJ path, finding the balance between following a dream, paying the bills, having emotional stability and having the right mind set.”
Going forward what are your goals now?
“My dream of being a world class champion hasn’t been forgotten, I would like to be a Brown Belt world champion, to become a great female Black belt and a world champion as Black Belt also.”
How do you want to contribute and give back to the Jiu Jitsu community?
“I love empower people, unfortunately now days we have too many people who suffer with mental health, emotional abuse, sedentary habits, illness and so on. In my opinion BJJ is an amazing tool to help others.
Independent of fitness level, everyone has different ways to engage with this sport either for hobby, self-defense reasons or as a challenge. What amazes me the most in BJJ is the power it gives people to believe in yourself. When people give themselves a chance to do better; showing up for session after session until one day they feel like they belong there.
BJJ it’s a lifestyle change, spiritual energy changes, changes your mind set and mental health.
People start to think for themselves, not because someone obligates them to, it just happens. They begin to make their own choices instead of following old habits and become creators of their journey.
I’ve never seen anything like that in any other sports before.
At first the reason I kept coming back to BJJ was to help myself, but now I want to be able to help others. I still have my dreams as an athlete to become a black belt world champion, but I feel that this dream won’t be worth without a team and friends to share the journey, achievements, loses, experiences and the lessons with.
For me, now more than ever it’s very important to support my community and NZ BJJ community. I want to help in any way that I can be helpful, whether through speaking, being a part of events, sharing technique or by making mistakes and learning from them with others. Most importantly I believe the way to give back is to share life and give opportunities to others to make better choices.”