GQ: What do you enjoy about jiu-jitsu?
Vijay Hanumantha Raju: It’s obviously a good workout. Other than that, you meet people from different walks of life. In the gym it doesn’t matter who you are or where you came from—sort of like what happened at the tournament.
For me there was a personal side to it as well: I’ve found the BJJ community in the gym to be amazing and made quite a few great friends—which was especially important to me since I was going through a breakup, from the most amazing person in the world who literally changed my life. Going from being the happiest ever to the other end of the spectrum was tough, and just being around my BJJ training partners was helpful. I know a lot of men don’t talk about the emotional or mental facets of their lives but I know for a fact that BJJ and all my training partners definitely helped me with all that stuff. It just sort of takes you away from everything else that’s happening around you and for a couple of hours
So was this your first tournament?
It was my first tournament. And I was actually skeptical about competing. We were talking about it for quite a few months at the gym, and one of my training partners—she said she would compete, and then a few weeks later a bunch of other people signed up, so eventually I was like, okay, sure. I’m glad I did.
So the match with Zuckerberg was your first match ever? At what point in the day did you realize it was going to be him?
When I was looking at the list of competitors before the actual tournament, I tried to figure out it out a few days before and I couldn’t come up with anything. He had used his middle name—he was under “Mark Elliot.”
It was literally about two, three minutes before the actual match that I realized.
So he wasn’t there warming up? Did he have a special entrance or something?
He was not in the common warmup area, for sure—I’m assuming that he was more in his own secluded section where he was warming up.
Was there a big crowd for it? Did people know when it was going on that it was going on?
I guess, yeah, there was—but obviously during my match I don’t think I was able to figure out what was happening. But there were definitely a lot of people.
Did he have coaches there that were shouting advice at him?
Oh yeah, he had quite a few people, and I realized later they are top-tier people. I think one of them was Dave Camarillo. Obviously, they were shouting instructions during all the matches.
Do you think that helped? Did you hear them yell anything that you could tell you was trying to do?
Yeah, a couple of things. I was going for a lot of takedowns, single legs and double legs. And that’s something that they wanted him to do as well. So the first round he didn’t do it and the second one they kept saying, “Okay, fake the take-down!” But I was like, okay, I can hear that.