Dear 20-Year-Old Nelson

20-year-old me,

Happy birthday! In a few days you will head to Hooters with your friends to watch UFC 79. Besides the epic war that Silva vs Liddell will be, GSP’s win by armbar will plant the MMA and submission grappling bug in your head (spoiler alert, I guess). In a few months your friend Dave will talk you into signing up for a tournament and your life will forever be changed.

You will train and compete as often as you can. Everything in your life will begin to go through the “how does this affect my jiu-jitsu filter.” It will seem strange to a lot of your family and friends, but it will make you immensely happy, so stay the course.

You will struggle with competition. You will get nervous and tense before matches. It will take a long time for this to subside, and it will never go away completely. You will need to work on it. It will not magically disappear by just competing more. Stop putting so much pressure on yourself, and learn to enjoy the moment. You will eventually learn that you are there because you enjoy competing, the outcome of the match should have little relevance on how you feel afterwards, you trained and did everything possible beforehand, don’t stress over the times you will fall short. It will only make the times you make it onto the podium that much sweeter.

Enjoy the journey. Don’t rush to get to next belt. Each belt is special and presents different challenges. Travel to as many tournaments as you can. Some of your times as white belt and blue belt will be some of your fondest memories. Don’t be afraid to go to World’s or Pans because you are not good enough. You will surprise yourself. While you will record most of your competition matches, you are terrible at keeping them organized, upload them to YouTube or they will never be seen again.

For real dude, get it together.

You will have an MMA fight. You will win using your jiu-jitsu, but you should take time and be better prepared for it, so you don’t take unnecessary punishment. Five weeks of striking is not enough time to prepare for an MMA fight. I’m serious. This is an MMA bout. I know you’re thinking that you got this and that it can’t be that hard to hit someone, but please for the sake of future Nelson, put more training into your striking.

Enjoy your high metabolism while it lasts. You will not be able to survive on a diet of cheeseburgers for long (especially when you combine them with large stacks of post-tournament pancakes), though you will probably insist on trying. Start reading up on healthy eating and make better choices sooner than later. Future Nelson will appreciate that too.

You will be busy. Between school, work, and jiu-jitsu you will have very little time for anything else. That is not an excuse to stop reading or trying to learn a different language. You will spend years putting off learning Portuguese, and you will be surprised how quickly you pick it up when you actually put some effort into it. Just like you put daily amount of work into jiu-jitsu and don’t see results for a long time, you will start implementing into everything else in your life.

You will start your own business eventually, and just like BJJ, many people will tell you it is a waste of time. It will certainly feel that way at times. All your savings and whatever money you made on your other two jobs will be flown to Pakistan only to return as gis months later. That little project you started in your mom’s basement will become bigger that you can imagine.

You will be chronically single, and your relationships will fail over and over again. You will not be in a relationship that last more than two months until you meet the women that you will marry. And all that failure and heartache will be worth it. She is everything you ever wanted and more. So while you’re working on your diet and your striking, don’t change this part. We end up in a good place. Trust me, bro.

Best advice I can give you is learn to embrace failure. Fail, dust yourself off and try again. You will eventually succeed, and be able to live the life you always dreamed off.

Keep working.


Future Nelson