By: Hillary Williams
Chances are, if you’ve competed in a major tournament in the United States or Brazil, you’ve already run across Jake Mackenzie. The 24-year-old black belt under Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu is a peculiar character. His near-sighted squint replaces the aggressive game face of most of his opponents, his disheveled hair an indicator that personal grooming might not be first priority, and his exuberant post-match victory dances and songs are in such fluent Portuguese that you’ve never know he was a native Canadian (now residing in Miami and Rio de Janeiro).
So why should I care, you ask? Jake Mackenzie is Canada’s top competitive black belt, with more wins internationally than any other and an impressive black belt record of 30 wins to just four losses, he’s proven himself as a young black belt to keep an eye on. Did I mention that’s over a three-month period, and entirely in Brazil?
Jake got his start in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu when he was fourteen-years-old in Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada. If you’re wondering where that is, go ahead and type that baby in Google Maps and find out he was about as isolated as he could be. Considerably smaller than most of his adult training partners, Jake spent several frustrating years trying to live up to the Gentle Art’s promise of being meant for the little guy.
Jake’s passion for Jiu Jitsu ended up being bigger than a small town could hold. At seventeen, now a blue belt, Jake packed his bags and headed to Brazil. This was the first of what would become a habit, as Jake would spend four to six months per year of the next eight years in the South American paradise training as if his life depended on it. Jake now spends his time in Brazil working with GFTeam, home to Jiu Jitsu standouts such as Rodolfo Vieira, Theodoro Canal, and Denilson Pimenta.
A turning point in Jake’s career came with his move to Miami to train with Roberto Cyborg. Now working full time with a competitive black belt, Jake was able to expose and fix holes in his game rapidly, subsequently earning gold medals at the Rio State Championships, the US Open, and the Pan American Championships as a purple belt. He continued his rise through brown belt, taking second place at the Pan Ams after five tough matches, as well as winning the American Nationals, World Pro BJJ trials in both the USA and Canada (2009 and 2010, respectively), European Championships, Rio State Championships, and the Central Brazilian Championships. There’s more, but you get the idea.
Jake received his black belt on June 12, 2010, from the hands of Roberto Cyborg, ten years after his humble start in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Most people would take a break, realize that they had accomplished a ton, and rest. But, Jake isn’t like most people. He shipped off to Brazil two days later, where in five weeks he won four tournaments as if that black belt had been in place for years.
GFTeam is not particularly known outside of Brazil, for reasons I’ve yet to understand. The now three-time lightweight champion of the Brazilian Team Championships, GFTeam owes a piece of their latest victory to their resident gringo. After a four matches in the finals between GFTeam and renown Atos the score was two matches to GFTeam, two Atos. The Canadian was set as the fifth and final match and he didn’t disappoint, winning an intense match by an advantage.
So that, in short, is why you should care about Jake Mackenzie. Half guard extraordinaire, black belt exploding on the scene with an intense rhythm, and Canada’s Jiu Jitsu pride.