“Discover What Happened The Day Rhadi Ferguson

Became The 2004 United States Olympian And 

How He Used His Grappling Game Plan To

Overcome Some Of The Biggest Mental Roadblocks

In His Athletic Career To Fulfill One Of His Lifetime Goals”


This is going to be long but you will actually feel like you were there as you read it.  ENJOY


Dear Fellow Grappler.  As you’re reading this I’m not sure if you are someone that has been following us during this very long journey, if you listened to the interview that we did and got interested in seeing if we would actually make it, if you’re on one of my e-mail list or if you’ve just stumbled onto this page somehow.


Either way this page is dedicated to the single day that we’ve been working towards for the last 6 years.  That’s right for the last six years Rhadi has been www.trainingtowin.com and when I say training to win I mean win and become an Olympian.


So although I can do no real justice trying to explain on paper all of the dedication, sacrifices, politics, struggles, ups and downs, turmoil, etc he’s been through over the past 6 years I’ll just sum it up like this.


Imagine yourself for the next 6 years of your life completely removing yourself from your life, as you know it.  Whatever you’re doing now, it stops.  Wherever you’re working now, you stop.  Basically life as you know it stops and the reason everything stops is because you want to achieve one single goal.  You may say WOW or it may not even sink in how special this is.


Imagine if you were over weight and your goal was to lose weight.  Or better yet you had to lose the weight or you would die.  And for example purposes let me use the following example.  Imagine that the only way that you could lose the weight was to go on a completely different diet that you’ve never done and don’t really like.  To make things worse imagine if the only way this would work would be if you did the diet for 6 years straight and on the last day of the 6 years if you made it you would have the perfect body forever.  How many people do you think would make it?


Even better.  Let me use this example.  I would say that it would be impressive to get a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt in 6 years.  Imagine if your instructor had a program that would guarantee that you would have your BJJ Black Belt in 6 years, all you would have to do is train 5 days a week, do cardio 4 times a week, lift weights 3 times a week but at the same time if you were in college you would still have to attend, if you had kids you would still have to take care of them, if you were married you would still have to tend to your spouse.  Basically you would still have to do what you had to do in your life while doing this.


Now with this guarantee how many people do you think would have their Black Belts in the 6 years?


Now let me make it even harder.  After the 6 years was over and you did everything that was required you had to take one final test on your knowledge of BJJ.  This test would be given one time and one time only.  If you failed the last 6 years of dedication would be all for nothing or you can look at it as you gave it your best shot.  Every time you do a move wrong a loud buzzer goes off and you know that you are one step closer to seeing your last 6 years of hard work fly out of the window.




Ok I’ve tried to paint a mental picture for you of what it would be like to spend 6 years working towards something but having been there every step of the way I can honestly say unless you’ve done it that you would never be able to truly understand what this feels like.




Rhadi and I are going to do another interview to go into detail about all of the planning that led up to this day so let me get right into it.




In 2000 Rhadi was an Olympic Alternate and although defeating the number one judoka that year he didn’t have the opportunity to prove that he was the best guy the US had at 100 kilos because there was no Olympic Trials for Judo at the time.


2004 US Judo would have Trials to decide who represented the US in Greece.


Rhadi went into the Trials as the #1 ranked 100 Kilo Judoka in the Nation.  This number one ranking was obtained by calculated planning, preparation, International tournament placing and lots of money from mommy, daddy, wifey and sponsors and I mean a lot of money.


It was crucial for us to go in with the #1 ranking for several reasons.  We’ll discuss them on the upcoming interview in detail so you can see how important proper planning is.


One bonus that the #1 ranking gave is that if the #1 ranked player lost during the trials there could be a situation where there would be a best out of 3 fight off.  At this level anything can happen and if someone that has proven to be the #1 ranked player in the country lost they would have a chance not to have all of their dreams wiped away with one single match when they’ve been winning everything possible all year.





Well let me tell you about the day before the trials so you can get a feel of what goes on behind the scene.  Everyone that was someone imagined that in the finals it would be Rhadi vs. Mike Barnes.    Mike Barnes is coached by one of America’s Golden Boys Mike Swain who is a former Olympian and Judo World Champion.  Rhadi and Barnes have been fighting each other for a while now and the battles were always fierce.


Once I got to the hotel I met up with Rhadi and within the first hour some one from Barnes camp came over to us and said “Rhadi we’re coming for you” if you’ve been around high level competitions you already know some of the antics that happen.  Just in case you don’t.  In hotels people are very secretive about letting people know what room you’re in and often-put rooms in other peoples names.  Why you ask?  Because people will call your room at 4 am to try to disturb your sleep, they’ll knock on your door to wake you up and much more.  At these type of event if you have a drink and you leave it unattended you don’t drink from it again as someone may drop a banned substance in it so you will test positive for a doping test, or put a diuretic product in it so you get dehydrated.   I know it sounds crazy but remember that some people have put their entire life on the line for 6 years and some even more.  You won’t believe the levels people will stoop to.


So the mind games have begun.  The next time we some Barnes camp the comment was said again “Rhadi we’re coming after you” this time Rhadi replied, “The problem is that you can’t be coming after me because I’m not running” they just laughed and walked off.




Rhadi was about 1 ½ pounds overweight the night before and that went as planned.  We wanted to come in as heavy as possible.  After the last night run we knew we would hit the proper weight on Saturday.


Saturday 10 am Rhadi stepped on the scale and made weight on his first attempt.  It was set.  LET THE GAMES BEGIN.




On side A Rhadi has the bye as the #1 player.  On the same side Mark Fletcher has to fight Mike P. to decide who will face Rhadi.


On side B. Theo would face Mike Barnes to see who would be in the Finals.




We thought that Mark Fletcher vs. Mike P. would be a hard fought battle leaving whoever fought Rhadi a little low on gas.  Although Rhadi would prefer to fight Mark Fletcher for two reasons.  (If you receive the e-mail about Nationals when Rhadi secured the #1 position you know about the Fletcher story.  If you didn’t make sure you join my e-mail list at www.thegrapplingblueprint.com to stay up to date.) Here’s a quick summary.  Rhadi fought Fletcher once and injured his leg during the fight requiring Rhadi to have complete reconstructive knee surgery. After the fight Fletcher made a comment about “I could see the FEAR in Rhadi’s eyes” now anyone that knows us knows that we don’t have any FEAR, if we lose we just lose but FEAR isn’t an option.  This comment didn’t sit to well with Rhadi and during nationals after securing the #1 spot he was supposed to pull out of the event so not to take a chance of injuring himself.


Well right before he was going to the table to withdraw his name he saw the Mark Fletcher had advance to the next round where he would have to face Rhadi.  Wanting to make a statement to Fletcher Rhadi didn’t withdraw his name and went on to let Fletcher see how much Rhadi FEARED him. To make a long story short Rhadi MolyWhopped him and left Fletcher wondering what had just happened.


Well to our surprise Mark Fletcher dispatched of Mike P. in a VERY IMPRESSIVE fashion that had the entire stadium screaming.  WOW it’s on Rhadi vs. Fletcher in the Olympic Trials and after Fletcher won he was so PUMPED UP you could tell he was going to go after Rhadi with everything he had.




Theo had beaten Barnes at the Nationals with an arm bar and Theo the ranked #2.  Barnes didn’t care about any of that.  He ipponed Theo in less than a minute.



Before I tell you about Rhadi’s first match I have to tell you about the type of support we had.  We had 3 rows of people that had paid their hard earned money to come all the way to San Jose to support Rhadi on his day.  We had about 13 members of our Fraternity Omega Psi Phi aka (The QUES) in the house and talk about a loud cheering section.

Rhadi vs. Fletcher


After seeing what Fletcher did to Mike P. and looking at the eyes of Fletcher as he walked on the mat to faced Rhadi I knew this was going to be a battle.  But once I looked over at Rhadi  he was looking at Fletcher like he was going to eat him.  The match started with Fletcher going for the BIG over the back grip.  It was a gripping war that Rhadi was much in control of. 

Punishing Fletcher on theGrips

Rhadi’s gripping ability was getting the best of Mark, once they went out of bounds when he charged at Rhadi, which was the beginning of




Rhadi picked Fletcher up and heaved him into the air so high I was scared for Fletcher’s life. I really mean that. (If you don’t know I landed on my neck in a judo event that almost left me paralyzed, so I’m very sensitive to this type of thing) when I say he was high I mean really high.  It wasn’t even like Rhadi was trying to throw him, well at least not like you what you think of when thinking about judo.  In judo you try to throw your opponent to the ground.  It looked like Rhadi was trying to throw Fletcher through the roof. The QUES were going crazy doing their QUE dog bark.   I’m pretty sure this broke Fletcher as his steam all but left.  They continued gripping some more, then the time was running out with about one minute left Rhadi amazed me once again picking up Fletcher and hurling him into the air once again almost as high as the first time.  While standing over Fletcher after his body crumbled onto the mat Rhadi looked down at him with a looked that said “Don’t you ever say I FEAR you again son” with about 30 seconds left Rhadi puts Fletcher on the ground going for a pin as The QUES do a count down (10, 9, 8, 7, 3, 2,1)  Rhadi wins as the match was over Rhadi yells at his frat brothers while on the mat “Hey QUES” and they respond “YEAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!” he was in the FINALS


It’s now





This was it.  6 years had all come down to this one single match.  Rhadi had never been in a match that had so much riding on it.  In the presence of his family, friends and everyone that had been with him on this long journey.  It was now time to bring everything together.


Time to begin


The entire stadium was focused on their match.  They both looked focused.  The match begins with vicious gripping sequences.


Trying to get the grips


 The match continues like this when all of a sudden Rhadi puts Barnes into the air with a standing seo. 


Rhadi Going for a throw


Everyone is on there feet and Barnes lands on his back.  The Ref calls IPPON (GAMEOVER).  Rhadi covers his face in non-belief, our THE QUES are going crazy, I’m going crazy, people are crying, he did it




Before you knew it the referees were coming together to discuss something.  Then they went to the side table to discuss something with the side judges.   When they came back the head ref reversed the call.


Rhadi can't believe the call


 It appears the ref had said matte (STOP) at the same time Rhadi was going in for the throw so they felt that it should be over turned.  You have to remember that the ref that said Matte also called it an IPPON (GAMEOVER) Talk about mad.  Everyone from our camp was upset to say the least.   You would’ve thought there was going to be a riot. Either way I knew that the match would continue and so did Rhadi.  Any energy wasted on this situation wouldn’t do anything productive.  In the next minute or so Rhadi went in for a throw that Barnes countered with a throw, Rhadi turned out and landed on his side, Rhadi looks back at the ref and he calls IPPON.  I was like WHAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can’t believe this.  Have you ever seen a situation where as a football game the defense is making BIG plays and the crowds is going crazy then all of a sudden the other team throws a 99 yard touchdown and now no one is saying anything?  Well that’s what was going on, for a moment even THE QUES were silent then the next thing you know the silence turns to frustration, then anger, the yelling, things almost got out of control for a minute.  Rhadi stayed focused taking his time to get back to the line. 


Rhadi looks like he's going to get Barnes


I got everyone together and let them know that this is how it goes sometimes and the fact of the matter is that we now have to fight the best out of 3 and there is nothing that is going to change that.


I went to the back to help Rhadi keep his head in the game.  As soon as I got behind stage he looked at me and said “Did you see that #$*$(*(#&?”  “I sure did” then I proceeded to say that “It’s going to make our story that much better”


At this moment I knew that all of the Mental Preparation that we’ve been preaching would have to come into play now.  We are in a real fight. 6 years of hard work coming down to a bad call.  When we got back to the pre area Rhadi asked Barnes “Do we have to do the best out of 3 now?” Barnes replied,” Nope I only have one more match” Boy was he confident.  I looked at the guy that was saying, “We’re coming after you Rhadi” all day and he had an irritating smirk on his face.


I told Rhadi that “ before that call you were killing him on the grips, he can’t do anything with you on the grips.  You need to stick to our game plan and take him up out of here.” Rhadi looked at me with a stone cold look and said “I got this, I’m the 2004 Olympian he’s not going to beat me”




The first match was getting ready to start.  Rhadi went to the mat walking back and forth looking at Barnes across the mat like the way a Tiger walks back and forth in his cage wanting to get out to devour it’s prey.  Barnes looked so confident, and for good reason, he just became the only third person to every throw Rhadi in the last 3 years.


Rhadi comes out putting the heat on Barnes. 


Off Balancing Barnes


Almost immediately getting Barnes a penalty.  Then Barnes gets another penalty.  Rhadi was completely dominating this match.  The QUES were singing songs in the stands; it looked as if Barnes just gave up.  Rhadi had his number, and then Rhadi went in for a Tao Toshi(sp) throw but didn’t get him over.   They battled back and forth until the time ran out.  Rhadi was up one.  I went back to get Rhadi ready for the second match but…….




I went to the back and Rhadi said “Shorty!!! I pulled my groin muscle on the Tao Toshi and it’s hurting like crazy.”  The reason is that with this new groin injury all of Rhadi’s attacking system is thrown out the window.  Luckily during our mental skills training throughout the years Rhadi was mentally disciplined enough not to show that he was injured when it happened.  If you see the tape you can see him limping slightly but nothing worth noting.


Rhadi told me to go find him some tape and meet him in the bathroom.  Once in the bathroom Rhadi said, “I’m just going to wrap it up as tight as possible and if my groin has to pull off the bone then so be it.  I’m going to the Olympics


We had to come up with a new Game Plan Quickly.  So here it is.  First we couldn’t let anyone know about the injury, not even our family and friends.  We couldn’t take a chance of them talking about it in the stands, someone over hearing them and reporting it back to Barnes.


If Barnes had this information about this injury all he would’ve needed to do was to come out and start foot sweeping at Rhadi’s bad leg.


Our plan was to slowly walk out to the mat; since lateral movement was basically gone our plan was to come out like gangbusters trying to get Barnes a penalty. If we could get up a penalty we could take one with him if need be. 


Right before Rhadi walked out I told him “There is no way that he can beat you if you just stick with the gripping system step by step, if you do that you’re on your way to Greece” he said “Then that’s the Plan”




I looked at Rhadi as he walked on the mat.  I knew he was in pain but he didn’t show it to his opponent.

I know this photo is bad but it’s the only one that can half way give you an idea of the determination Rhadi had on his face right before this match. He was standing there ready to go to war and only we knew that he had a severely injured groin.


 When the head ref said begin, Rhadi followed the Plan perfectly.  In the first minute Barnes had a penalty.  I had told everyone that was in the crowd for us that we really need everyone to be as loud as possible and if they ever needed to loose their voice now is the time. 


I had already lost my voice when I thought Rhadi beat Barnes in the first match.


Although Barnes was from San Jose, Trained at San Jose and was a HUGE hometown hero, THE QUES with their synchronization, motivational songs and pure ENERGY took over the stadium.


It reminded me of the very first time I went to Brazil and I watched over 300 people playing instruments, yelling and singing for Shaolin as he competed in Brazil.  It was truly inspirational.


The QUES and our crowd transferred their energy into Rhadi.  He could feel it, he fought his heart out.  I was so proud of him.  I’ve seen his mental discipline grow over the last 6 years like you wouldn’t believe.  This was definitely a test


The match played out just like we planned and Rhadi Gripped his way to victory in the final match of the Olympic Trials without the ability of even trying a single throw.


And now…




The ref awards Rhadi the win and he's now an Olympian




This one was real.  There was no overturning this victory.  Rhadi was ecstatic, his mother burst out into tears, his wife burst out into tears, THE QUES put on a step show that most people there had never seen before, kids were coming up for autographs, reports were coming up to get there story it was GREAT!!!!!

The president of USA JUDO Ron Tripp presents Rhadi with the US Trials Olympian Plaque


This was a great feeling to have come this far and everything worked out in our favor.  I saw so many people whose dreams to become an Olympian shattered right in front of my eyes on this day.  I saw parents, husbands, wives, children break down and cry, scream I saw athletes run off the mat when they realized it was over and everything that they had worked for is gone now.  It takes a special type of person to even work that hard to get that far and PUT IT ON THE LINE like that.


Well I hope you enjoyed the story of our day and would you believe if I told you that was just a small part of the story?  Well it is, there was much more going on behind the scenes, strategies, game plans and more. 




The 2004 Olympic Judo Team




For the past couple of years I've heard people say that you don't have any technique and I heard people say that I'm just strong I don't have any technique, but the stone cold fact is that: Both you and I dominated the weight class for the past 3 years. Whatever it is that we don't have, everyone else sure as hell wanted!! :-) I want to thank you for raising the bar so high, for constantly pushing me to get better, to add more trix to my game, and for being my mental muse while training. It has been a pleasure to line up against you and you are a class act. People still can't believe to this day how we are able to sit down, laugh and shoot the breeze right before we fight. I think we can, because we respect each other and we respect the sport. I just wanted you to know how much I care about you in front of the whole World. You are the man bro. I love you,

FERG 2004 Olympian (..and I know I didn't get here by myself)












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