We sat down for an interview with Adam Wardzinski, one of the biggest grapplers to have ever come out of Europe. The Polish grappler had just finished a training session in preparation for the upcoming Polaris Squads 2 event. We covered a wide range of topics including the appeal of BJJ, life plans in the era of COVID-19, and why he refuses to call people out.
The Appeal of BJJ
I first asked Adam Wardzinski what brought him to BJJ, and what he loves about the sport. Instead of citing the UFC or self-defense, he brought up the universality of grappling:
“If you study the history of martial arts, you can see that there’s always some kind of wrestling style in every part of the world. That means that we were always looking for some kind of wrestling competition, and there’s rules for those grappling styles, such as Judo or Greco-Roman wrestling.”
On what makes BJJ his grappling sport of choice, Adam thinks that “it’s just about finding your favorite ruleset”. BJJ, for Adam, is the most enjoyable ruleset because it affords the most freedom of all grappling sports. It is not just focused on takedowns. Affirming most people’s reasons for avoiding takedowns, he said that training for takedowns can be painful and occasionally not enjoyable because one is “falling down many, many times”. However, he also said that people don’t like stand-up because they’re not good at it. “Whenever you get better at it, it gives you more pleasure. Whenever I learn more about stand-up, I feel better doing it and it is more fun”.
On Life Being Unpredictable
Adam’s plan for 2020, including travelling the world and competing in all the major competitions (such as the IBJJF Worlds and the ADCC Trials), were derailed by the global pandemic. He says, “life taught me that sometimes, it doesn’t go your way and you can have your plans but sometimes, things go really differently”.
When asked if he had any plans for 2021 or if there was someone he’d like to fight, Adam said, “I didn’t make any plans, I didn’t even think much of who I’d like to fight. I’m in the stage where I would like to come back and fight anyone. I feel pretty hungry and I’m training hard, all the time. I haven’t even stopped for a week”.
Throughout the interview, the idea of life being unpredictable was a constant reminder. When asked about how he came to coaching as a blue belt, he said it happened simply because he had a friend who owned a martial arts club and wanted him to teach some beginners. He had a blue belt —and a blue belt was rare back in the days—so that was good enough for him to be a teacher. He advised other colored belts to embrace teaching when given the opportunity because having to explain and break down techniques benefits them too.
I asked him how he came to develop his infamous butterfly guard game. BJJ in Poland, he explained, was a little more old-school than other parts of the world. “People were passing on their knees. I had many really heavy guys in my gym so I found that it was really easy to sweep them with the butterfly guard”. He emphasized the chance nature of the development: “it came with the times. I was just approaching different problems and trying to solve them and to be honest, many of those things came to me really naturally”.
Adam Wardzinski Preparing for Polaris Squads
I asked Adam about his preparation for the upcoming Polaris Squads 2 event, a team submission-only grappling event where he will be representing Team Europe. He said that preparations were different because “it’s the first time for me that it’s a tournament where I really have to submit the guy to win the fight. If you know my game, if you study my game, my game is really based on strong positions and submissions happen most of the time from very dominant positions”.
“I had to sharpen my game a little bit more and I tried to be a little more submission oriented. Training so far has been really intense because we made short rounds and after every two minutes, I had a fresh sparring partner, and my task was to just submit. It was very exhausting and very demanding but on the other hand, I was just training this morning, and I felt like my style got a bit more aggressive and a bit more submission oriented so I guess preparation did a good job. We did a good job there”.
I also asked if there was anyone from Team UK that he was particularly interested in fighting. He said that the European BJJ scene is quite small, so he had already faced all the heavier guys in the other team. He said that he doesn’t “want to call out anyone or put anyone in a position like, “Adam really wants to fight me”, like maybe there would be bad energy between us”. For Adam, it’s simply a competition; “I want to win, he wants to win, let’s see”.
I finally asked if there were any surprises we could expect from his team. He instead emphasized that it was the other team that might be full of surprises. He didn’t want people to think the competition would be easy simply because his team had the bigger names (Tommy Langaker and Espen Mathiesen are also in Team Europe). He said that the competition, being submission-oriented, would create the space for more surprises to happen.
“I know how tough they are, because I met them in competitions, and they’re super tough, resilient, and they can surprise with very crazy things… I just don’t want people to think that it’s going to be a walk in the park.”.
You can catch Adam Wardzinski competing for Team Europe on Polaris Squads 2 live on November 7th on UFC Fight Pass.