If you’ve been watching the FloGrappling film series on Daisy Fresh, then Pedigo Submission Fighting needs no introduction. For those of you who haven’t, here is Mikey Musumeci’s introduction to who they are:
There’s this crazy team in Illinois which is like the middle of nowhere. And they train REALLY hard. And it’s like super super cool. They won white belt worlds, like the team trophy. Again, it’s the Midwest, there’s really no jiu jitsu in the mid west that people know of and there’s this team that is winning Worlds and like different matches. They have a super high level competitor Andrew and he’s winning all the different belt ranks of Nogi Worlds and like super, super high level.
Mikey referred to them as “crazy” because film series showed them living in their laundromat-turned-gym. The head coach Heath Pedigo found an abandoned laundromat, which only needed $500 a month for rent. He then turned it into a jiu jitsu gym and invited athletes to live and train there full time under his tutelage.
The Former MMA Fighter Turned IBJJF Competitor
One of those athletes is Alejandro Wajner, a former college wrestler and MMA fighter, who was considering a move to California when Heath made him an offer to join the Pedigo Submission Fighting team:
I’d just graduated from college. I wrestled in college for 5 years and then I got my degree. I then started training at this gym down by my school and I was doing really good in MMA. At the time I was like looking to get out of town. So I was gonna move to California. Heath knew, we weren’t super close friends or anything. He just reached out to me and said – hey I heard you’re thinking about leaving. I was like yeah I wanna get outta here. So he told me to come down to PSF, he said – look give me two weeks. You can come stay at the gym and if after two weeks, you’re bored, you can move to California. And I took him up one it so I drove down to the gym which was an hour and a half away instead of California which was thirty and a half hours away. I went to Mt Vernon first and I just never left.
When Wajner first arrived at the gym, it was quite a shock and took a little getting used to. It was just him, the Wiltse brothers and two other athletes sleeping, eating and training in a gym so small you couldn’t fit a full sized wrestling mat. What made him stay was the belief that Heath instilled in all his athletes:
We knew that what Heath was showing, what Andrew was doing was real. Also because Andrew started killing it and Bird was killing it in competition. We knew that Heath’s system worked. He said look man all you gotta do is believe in this sh*t. I’m telling you guys, you will become famous. So we just never stopped believing in what he told us. So you can say he almost brainwashed us into thinking that we could do it and it happened. Literally we started doing the sh*t he told us and no matter how hard or hot or cold it got we stuck with it and now we’ve started to really win on a serious level. And it’s cool to see it all come to action.
The Australian Who Gave Up His $100k Job to Join the Team
Jakob Brooks was an 18 year old mattress salesman visiting California from Queensland, Australia when he met the Pedigo Submission Fighting team. He had made friends with Orlando Sanchez who invited Jakob to stay at his gym and compete in the Pan American Championships. Coincidentally, Orlando had also invited the PSF team to stay at his gym as well. The only way the PSF team could afford to compete at Pans was by loading up every car they had with athletes, splitting gas costs and sleeping in Orlando’s gym to keep costs low. According to Wajner, Jakob really bonded with the team and felt like he could really improve if he kept training with them. So after competing, he decided to pay their gym a visit:
Jakob didn’t really have anything going for him in Australia, other than a really good mattress selling job. He was a mattress salesman making over 100k AUD a year. At the time he was 18. You know he was killing it. He was making a lot of money for an 18-year-old. So he visits us and he just falls in love. He has a great personality and he’s crazy funny so we all hit it off. So like he stays for three months then his visa runs out and he goes back to Australia for 30 days and he comes back and he’s just kinda like – Man I wanna do this sh*t for real. He was seeing serious progress training with us but he was still really behind in his jiu jitsu. So He got on a student visa and he started going to school so he could stay longer. He’s doing that now. It took him about a year and a half before he actually started winning all the IBJJF’s at Blue and now he’s a purple belt and doing good as well. He’s now with us full time and it’s great.
The Methodology Behind The Pedigo Submission Fighting Team’s Success
According to Wajner, their recipe for success is fairly simple: Consistently training at a high intensity, having a coach and training partners who hold one another accountable, and team camaraderie.
I think a lot of it just comes from like training. It’s hard to explain but the level of intensity is really high. So Heath has certain things, like you know any coach will have certain moves or certain drills that they like to show. But he keeps the intensity up the whole time. So we get really used to being uncomfortable in uncomfortable situations. This is where we beat a lot of our opponents. The technique just comes too. We drill every day. That’s why our white belts win the novice worlds every year, it’s because what they lack in technique they have in toughness. The intensity that you get used to is what a lot of white belts aren’t used to. So I think a lot of it has to do with that. I think our system is based on that. It’s just really solid good technique and just hard intensified practices. So I think that’s really the secret. It really isn’t any secret its just we just stay consistent with it.
We really just train hard. Heath’s really there the whole time. He’s in our face coaching us, making sure we’re pushing ourselves. All the guys, we hold each other accountable and push each other. I mean I wrestled on a college team and this is what a good college programme consisted of. Everyone has the same exact goals, everyone is in 100%, and everyone is trying make everybody a champion. I think that has a lot to do with it. You know at a lot of jiu jitsu gyms people don’t hang out with each other all the time. Only in the gym. We’re like all together as like a unit. That has a lot to do with it.
I think a big part of our team getting better faster is we have so many more people in the gym that are full time. Everyone is a different size and has a different style. Before, there were only 5-6 of us but now We have 15 – 20 people that are really hard to deal with every day. So no matter what, we get 15 guys that are gonna be hard as hell. So having that many guys with that many different styles is what’s making our white belts and our blue belts better faster. And helping the upper belts get better faster.
Crazy or not, I have a feeling the Pedigo Submission Fighting team are going to continue to make waves in competitions next year. Of course, the PSF team aren’t the only ones who’ve taken to living in the gym or sleeping on the mats. If it’s something you’re interested in, take a look at this article for a run-through of what it’s really like.