How Izaak Michell’s ‘Spiritual Journey’ Through The Jiu-Jitsu World Led To A ONE World Title Shot

Izaak Michell ONE Championship

Izaak Michell has been on quite the adventure en route to the top of the submission grappling world.

Now, the Australian standout will soon compete on the global stage for the first time in what will be the biggest opportunity of his career. He squares off with Tye Ruotolo for the American prodigy’s ONE Welterweight Submission Grappling World Title.

Set to go down on April 5 at Lumpinee Boxing Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand, at ONE Fight Night 21: Eersel vs. Nicolas on Prime Video, the World Title showdown has grappling fans buzzing with excitement.

Before he battles Ruotolo live in U.S. primetime to determine the planet’s top welterweight ground fighter, we take a look at Michell’s climb toward greatness. 

Finding Jiu-Jitsu: ‘I Was Pretty Hooked’

An athletically gifted and energetic youth, Michell grew up in Adelaide, South Australia, where he enjoyed practically any sport that got his body moving, from surfing and skateboarding to Australian football.

It was while playing “footy” when he realized he excelled in the more physical aspects of the game, which eventually led him to try out martial arts.

He told about his early days as an athlete:

“I was doing Australian football, or AFL. I was playing other sports at school, a lot of skateboarding, surfing, that sort of stuff. I found myself really enjoying the fighting aspect in the AFL matches. I liked getting in and under, that sort of thing. I was a midfielder and then I figured I might as well try to find some place I can actually just fight in general.”

After dabbling in Muay Thai and kickboxing, Michell — then just 16 years old — soon found his true calling in grappling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Recognizing his own prodigious talent for the grappling art, he set aside dreams of becoming a professional surfer or skateboarder to focus entirely on BJJ:

“I used to be really into skateboarding and competing and trying to get sponsors and everything, and I think surfing as well has always been one of those things that have brought me a lot of enjoyment. And then, jiu-jitsu. When I started to do a lot of that, I was pretty hooked and have been ever since.”

A True Nomad

Michell was determined to make BJJ his life. When he finished high school, the young Australian set out on an epic international adventure to train at the best gyms around the world and alongside the sport’s most talented athletes.

He lived a nomadic lifestyle, hopping from academy to academy and tournament to tournament.

He recalled:

“I was doing [BJJ] a lot, and then when I was about 18 I started to do a lot of traveling. I enjoyed traveling a lot and I enjoyed jiu-jitsu, so those two go hand in hand as well. I was traveling for jiu-jitsu, going over to do the World Championships in America, going to gyms before that for a month here, a month there, and it eventually led me on this journey around the world.”

Michell’s journey took him all over North America and included a road trip from Canada to Costa Rica. Through it all, he trained at world-class gyms like Team Lloyd Irvin in Maryland, as well as Renzo Gracie Academy in New York City.

Those experiences taught him how to train like the elite competitor he is today.

He said:

“That was a really eye-opening sort of thing, traveling overseas and joining a big team and experiencing that for the first time.”

‘A Search For Meaning’

At 25 years old, the Adelaide native firmly established himself as one of the planet’s top submission grapplers. He boasted victories over the likes of IBJJF Gi World Champion Jansen Gomes, as well as IBJJF No-Gi World Champion Roberto Jimenez.

But for Michell, BJJ is about much more than collecting medals – it’s about finding happiness in everything he does.

He said:

“Growing up, my parents ended up separating, and [I used] that experience to push me [toward] jiu-jitsu and find something that I was really happy to be doing every day. And jiu-jitsu was that for me. 

“Not only has it been a career and a way for me to make a living, but it’s also been a big spiritual journey, or just a search for meaning. I think that’s a big thing in jiu-jitsu, a reason why people stick around and really make it a lifestyle.”

While he might be considered one of the sport’s most entertaining grapplers, beloved for his all-action, ultra-aggressive style, Michell says that jiu-jitsu has been a way for him to find peace and calm, both on the mats and off.

He explained:

“I see that coming alive all the time in my life, especially in the journey that I’m on. You can stay calm, present, ready for life and just general daily living. Then you can do the same thing on the mats and vice versa. They do go hand in hand.”

Giving Back To Australia

Michell’s journey around the world and impressive career accomplishments have led him to ONE Fight Night 21.

He understands that given ONE’s massive global platform and its roster of top pound-for-pound World Champions like Mikey “Darth Rigatoni” Musumeci, Tye, and Kade Ruotolo, he has officially reached the pinnacle of the sport.

He said:

“I believe that ONE Championship is the biggest [organization] because they’re bringing in the best guys and they’re definitely giving us better opportunities to look after ourselves. I think it’s definitely up there and highly regarded, truly as big as anything else in the grappling world.”

At the moment, Michell is supremely focused on Ruotolo and the World Title opportunity before him.

But he’s already thinking years in advance after his career as an athlete comes to an end. He hopes to change lives for the better and spread the gospel of the jiu-jitsu lifestyle in his native Australia.

He added:

“I also want to spend the time after my professional career giving back, especially in Australia where I can open up a huge school and I can help and kind of give back everything that I learned from being overseas for so long.

“I can start making it a part of other people’s lives here in Australia. Not only can I make champions come out of Australia, but I can also help people change their life and give them that jiu-jitsu life.” 

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