‘It’s Just My Identity’ – How Life As A Child Prodigy Molded Tye Ruotolo Into A Global BJJ Superstar

Tye Ruotolo Magomed Abdulkadirov ONE Fight Night 16 71

Reigning ONE Welterweight Submission Grappling World Champion Tye Ruotolo has been competing in high-stakes matches at an elite level since childhood.

On April 5, in the co-main event of ONE Fight Night 21: Eersel vs. Nicolas on Prime Video, the 21-year-old Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu phenom will return in another high-pressure situation when he defends the gold against Australian standout Izaak Michell in U.S. primetime.

That contest at Lumpinee Boxing Stadium in Bangkok will mark Ruotolo’s first appearance since claiming the inaugural welterweight submission grappling crown last November with a dominant showing against Magomed Adbulkadirov.

But well before he was a ONE superstar, Ruotolo and his twin brother, ONE Lightweight Submission Grappling World Champion Kade Ruotolo, were recognized as two of the most promising and talented young grapplers the sport had ever seen. 

When he was just a 16-year-old BJJ blue belt, Tye defeated much older, more experienced competitors to take home fourth place at the prestigious ADCC World Championships in 2019.

The Californian told onefc.com that competing at such a high level from an early age alongside his brother – with such high expectations surrounding them – shaped the athletes they’ve become today:

“Of course, there’s always been pressure. We’ve just been doing it since such a young age that it’s part of our lives.

“It’s not even like we have an option. I don’t feel like I can just stop doing it – it’s just my identity. It’s just like who I am, right?”

Now an IBJJF Black Belt World Champion and perhaps the planet’s most dangerous pound-for-pound submission artist, Ruotolo has never known a life outside of world-class competition.

That’s not to say he lives and breathes jiu-jitsu every moment of every day, though. He and his brother have plenty of hobbies outside of grappling, but ultimately, they are fighters to their core:

“Sure I do other things. I surf, I got my other parts, but jiu-jitsu is what I do. So every time I compete, that’s huge. It’s huge to me because that’s who I am. You know, if I lose that, it’s a reflection of how I’ve how I’ve probably prepared.” 

How Tye Ruotolo Deals With Pressure: ‘That’s My Job’

Tye Ruotolo will throw himself back into the pressure cooker when he battles Izaak Michell in a World Title showdown at ONE Fight Night 21.

With the eyes of the global martial arts community on him, the American will once again try to live up to the massive hype and lofty expectations.

Ruotolo admits it isn’t easy, but given he’s been doing this since childhood, that pressure has become normal – just another aspect of his life as a top competitor:

“The same way that I guess someone would make sure they have to show up to work every day, it’s the same way.

“Like when I go to compete, I have to. I don’t have an option. You know, that’s my job. I can’t quit. I’m a jiu-jitsu fighter, you know? That’s what I’ve spent my whole life doing.”

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