It is undeniable that jiu-jitsu is already heading down two avenues: if you only train in the Gi and you’re neglecting your nogi, chances are unless you’re super talented or prepared to put the hours in, your teammates are already miles ahead – You’ve got some catching up to do!
This has created a generation of young athletes that have walked into submission grappling at a moment when all these new systems have been taught/learned from the outset. This has no doubt forced some of us to adapt our own styles, and to give respect to those who perhaps have a lot less mat-time than us.
I have kept my eye on one of these talented individuals from the sidelines and in such a short period witnessed him make his own waves within the nogi grappling circuit. Just a couple of months ago he put on a fine display showcasing his rapid development against a veteran opponent, coming out victorious, which again is a testament to how a young, hungry and talented generation has started to emerge itself from within the UK and Ireland.
It is my great pleasure to have this young athlete on here, we are pleased to welcome:
Share with us briefly who you are, where you are from (or where you reside) and how long you have been training jiu-jitsu?
My names Tyreeze Cunliffe I’ve been training jiu jitsu for 4 years now. I’m from and train out of Manchester at Henshall BJJ.
How have you been coping with the current stressful times, have you managed to keep training and if so how has it affected you and how have you adapted and overcome this?
So I’ve pretty much trained the whole way through COVID my mum and step dad are blue belts in jiu jitsu too so I’ve had them as partners and I pretty much started a COVID club of around 6 of us just training and improving our games during lockdown it’s made me improve a lot more. People haven’t seen the new version of me.
It’s long overdue as well, but well done on your victory at Grapplefest 9 against a tough and experienced opponent! You were locked in a 50/50 battle for quite some time there, at moment both exposing the heal. Were you ever worried in that fight? Have you watched it and if so could you analyse it from your point of view?
Thank you bro but yeah man of course I watch all of my matches over losses or wins. I was a bit disappointed because I couldn’t get the sub but a wins a win.
I originally went to 50/50 to try break his legs not stall so it was a bit frustrating being there for so long but you can never rush in them positions or you’ll end up getting subbed. I really thought he tapped of the first inside heel hook I caught his ankle popped many times during the match especially during my first attempt on the outside heel hook it wasn’t nice haha.
I was happy with the win but not the performance, as you know I’m still 17 he’s been training jiu jitsu since the early 2000s maybe earlier I was born in 2003 so for me to beat someone who’s been training longer than I’ve been alive is a very good win for me. To be completely honest during the match I never felt in actual danger I can see why people thought it was a close match but so it should be at the level I’m competing at.
No matches should be easy.
I guess it wasn’t that long ago, but were you a good kid at school?
School wasn’t one of the things I excelled in. I only really went because my boys were in there. I got kicked out school just before my GCSES. I was only allowed in for exams which I didn’t do the best on either, I think I only got one GCSE which was Design and Technology.
Where do you currently train and who is/are your coach/coaches?
My coach is called Steven Henshall he’s been on GrappleFest before if you’ve seen him he’s a brown belt under Andy Aspinall. I train out of a small attic in newton health Manchester called Henshall BJJ.
How did you discover your passion for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
I actually have liked fighting from young and I still really do, it’s the only thing I am actually good at. So when I came across MMA it was very interesting for me. I didn’t train MMA for long but Ste put me in a Gi and had me train jiu jitsu instead. This was pretty much the start. At age 13 I was tapping higher junior belts, I was training harder and more consistently than most kids my age so I knew my time would eventually come.
We’ve been watching you grow as a young competitor for a couple of years now, it’s always great a great thing to see a young athlete flourish, what has changed most for you in those few short years?
Training has changed the most when I was younger I trained more but now I train harder. Also now I’ve got to beat all these adults I’ve got to be strong as you know most of the guys I’m fighting have the man strength I can’t get yet so I don’t just train jiu jitsu, I’ll do strength and conditioning as well as looking after my diet and some supplements. I train and treat my body as a professional athletes.
Silly question, but Gi or Nogi? Are you still training a lot in the Gi?
Nogi of course, I train gi around once a week maybe twice if I’m lucky. To me nogi is the harder of the two and it’s what I’d like to be the best at. Don’t get it twisted I will be competing in the gi again I just have to sacrifice that for now to get my foundation and name in jiu jitsu.
What is your biggest ambition at the moment that you want to achieve in grappling?
ADCC champion! Nothing else interests me more than going to trials beating everyone then going worlds and beating everyone again. I can’t see it happening for another few years but it will definitely happen. The brits are letting ourselves down there’s not one British man that has won a match at ADCC. Ffion is the closest we’ve had. I feel like in the next few ADCCs they’ll be a British man (Jed /Eoghan/ Ross) to win a match also feel like I’ll be there myself in the next 5/6 ADCCs.
Is there anything about your sport that frustrates you?
The only real thing within the sport what frustrates me what I can’t emphasise enough is being good at jiu jitsu doesn’t make you untouchable!
Do not talk sh*t to people because you’re good at jiu jitsu, theres whole different REAL world out there. I wont talk to much on the matter but the message is pretty clear.
How do you find the world of competition? You appear very confident, but are there some nerves being what we see?
Competing is just a day at the office for me if I’m honest, I can go into a comp no nerves whatsoever and I just love to put a show on. I only really get nervous when I NEED to win a match when there’s no pressure I’m sure I’ll compete at my best.
How long into your training did you start competing BJJ?
I did my first competition few months in junior Europeans it was I got default bronze after getting beat of a top kid. I ended up getting him back in the long run beating him 8x I think. This is what I meant from the start I didn’t stress these losses I just made a list of people that have beat me knowing my time would come.
What has/have been your toughest fight/s to date and why?
I’ve had a lot of fights but toughest fight has got to be against Lucas De Sales. I never actually felt in danger but I felt my gas tank depleting and him getting strong and stronger. Very good match for me probably the best guy I’ve fought expect from Ross Nicholls and Jed Hue.
What has/have been your biggest accomplishments to date and why?
I’ve won pretty much everything at junior elite BJJ events but I don’t really class that as one of my best achievements. Getting that win on GrappleFest was the biggest achievement for me.
How do you condition yourself in the lead up to a competition, what would that look like?
I train hard as possible as much as possible. No other way about it I train how I normally train it’s more to do with the lifestyle I live not as much going out if I go out it’s gotta be training.
Do you generate a game plan for your fights?
I’ll have set tips in my head but never a set game plan. Maybe I’ll know I can leg lock this person so I’ll edge more towards that game but I’ll never have a set game plan I just do what I feel like once I’m there. I come to win.
Top or bottom game?
At the moment it’s top game. I like passing guard to strangling people but I can do both.
Who would you say are your top 3 inspirations in the world of jiu-jitsu, past or present? And why?
Definitely Gordon Ryan theres no one really else who I’d say I want to be like. He’s the best!
As far as UK level guys who are doing bits right now and I’d want to be on there level there’s Jed Hue, Ross Nicholls and Eoghan Flanagan.
Is there anyone or anything else in your life who serves as a prodigious inspiration to your progress? Maybe family or friends?
There’s just set people I can look at and think they’ve really made it for themselves. There’s Aitch from Moston of course and also my manager Mike Taylor there 2 guys who look out for me and have really made something out of life.
We’re seeing an influx of incredible fighters coming out of Europe, Africa and the Middle East, are there any current athletes you think we should be keeping an eye on?
What is your favourite submission and why?
Either inside heel hooks or rear naked chokes. Haven’t hit many rear chokes in comp but in the gym all the time.
Have you ever had a serious injury that hindered your training? How did you handle the recovery process?
Worst injury I’ve had was my shoulder I’m not exactly sure what was up with it but big up asthetics physio for getting it back to top competition shape.
Do you follow a specific diet or watch what you eat, especially nearing competition time?
I have a very good diet as it is this was only developed over lockdown, you do not want to see what was eating before then i really do realise now why I was so unfit.
As nutrition is a large portion of what we are about, could you briefly talk us through what you would usually eat?
Big up Powerbowls my nutrition sponsor. I’ll have breakfast as normal probably train then eat a bowl train again then eat again. That’s pretty much me everyday I’ll eat fruit and stuff In-between meals.
Do you have any other passions in life outside of the sporting world?
I don’t hold any passions outside of combat sports I do have a life outside of it though I’m not like most the jiu jitsu nerds haha.
Important question, what is your favourite food?
Honestly not fussy I will eat anything but if it’s a must answer I’d say anything with meat on it
Most hated food?
I don’t like sushi the most out of all food.
Wolf of Wall Street. Easy.
Favourite quote to live by?
I don’t know if this counts but a close individual to me was called out on not being the most school smart person when called out on this he replied with “I can still count tho can’t I” and this has honestly stuck ever since, sounds stupid but for someone like me who’s never acknowledged or used anything I was taught in school it really does fit. I’m going to make my life regardless of grades.
Do you have any plans to compete again soon? Can you tell us a bit more about that?
I compete next month October 17th against a good competitor. We’ve had bickering in the past and it’s finally time to show why I’m really the real deal. This should be live-streamed on submission superfights so don’t miss it.
Any particular mentions or shout-outs to sponsors?
Shout out to all the important people in my life who help my day-to-day you know who you are!
And thank you for featuring me on the article.
We are truly grateful when someone takes the time to share part of their personal story with us, but to also share part of what goes on in the mind of an athlete who has huge ambitions.
The great thing about Tyreeze is that he is still just 17, competing against some of the best adults, always learning and always developing!
We look forward to seeing you on OCTOBER 17TH – KEEP AN EYE OUT!