“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
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
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
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.
MAN LET ME TELL YOU, 6 YEARS OF DEDICATION TO
ACCOMPLISH A GOAL IS SOMETHING MOST PEOPLE WILL NEVER BE ABLE” TO DO
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
6 YEARS OF DEDICATION HAS FINALLY PAID OFF
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.
THE US JUDO OLYMPIC TRIALS
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
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.
NOW HERE’S THE STORY OF WHAT HAPPENED ON THE BIG
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
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.
THE WEIGH INS
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
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.
BARNES VS. THEO
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
gripping ability was getting the best of Mark, once they went out of bounds when
he charged at Rhadi, which was the beginning of
THE ABSOLUTE HIGHEST I’VE EVER SEEN A MAN THROWN IN THE
AIR IN MY LIFE
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
RHADI VS. BARNES
FOR THE TITLE OF OLYMPIAN
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
RHADI IS THE 2004 OLYMPIAN, OR SO WE THOUGHT
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 BEST OUT OF 3
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…….
THERE WAS A MAJOR PROBLEM
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
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
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
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”
THE FINAL CHAPTER
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.
RHADI IS THE 2004 US OLYMPIAN
The ref awards Rhadi the win and he's now an Olympian
LET THE PARTY BEGIN.
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
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
NEXT STOP THE 2004 OLYMPICS IN ATHENS
The 2004 Olympic Judo Team
A MESSAGE TO MIKE BARNES FROM RHADI FERGUSON:
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)