Mendota native wins grappling world championship

Danny Rodriguez, center, won the 2023 Grappling World Championship during October's United World Wrestling Championships in Loutracki, Greece. The 77kg (168 pound) grappler won all four of his matches to take home his third world championship. Rodriguez won a Jiu Jitsu championship in 2017 and a combat wrestling world title in 2018. (Photo contributed)

Danny Rodriguez is now a three-time world champion after competing in Greece


Staff writer

MENDOTA – You may know or not know, a world champion lives in LaSalle and is a 2003 Mendota High School graduate.

Danny Rodriguez, 38, dove into professional mixed martial arts in 2005 at 19 years old.

Since then, he has won three world championships (in three different forms), has vied for other championships, has battled in 20 MMA fights, and coaches at Rodriguez Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at the Peru Mall.

The latest of his world championship wins came on Oct. 14 at the United World Wrestling Championships in Loutracki, Greece as he stood atop the podium for the Veterans A No Gi 77kg (168 pounds) Division.

“The experience was surreal. I got there a day before to be able to adjust just enough so I could compete,” Rodriguez said. “If the flight got delayed or anything crazy happened, odds are I'd be arriving the day of the tournament and I would have been more stressed than I'd need to be. We had a good situation where we got there the day before, got registered, and had a night to just relax. I got a few good hours of sleep in.

“There were a whirlwind of emotions going on; there's anxiety. There are people from countries all over the world. We got to meet and hang out with the Canadian team. It was kind of nice to get to know people before things got serious.

“It was a peaceful environment the day of competition because I felt prepared. I was pretty confident. The actual competition is stressful because no one likes to go out there. Everyone wants to win, knowing that, and facing the unknown of someone wanting to hurt you, it can be stressful.”

Rodriguez won all four of his grappling matches (which include wrestling, judo, Jiu Jitsu, Sambo and other mixtures of grappling without striking), won one match by submission, racked up 14 classification points, 17 technical points, and 25 points for the team standings.

In the final, he beat Suren Khurdayan, from Armenia, 4-1 in technical points and 3-1 in classification points.

“To go there and get one of them to submit is pretty good. My first matchup was the hardest one. That was when I was the freshest. It was a good experience. I had four opportunities to win world championships. I won the grappling championship in the No Gi Division. I pulled out of the grappling Gi Division because I rolled my ankle in the championship match of the No Gi Division, and I competed in freestyle wrestling and Greco-Roman wrestling.

“Freestyle wrestling is a different animal in itself. Wrestling is based on back exposure and they tally up the points. You can go through one sequence and pretty much lose the whole match in 5-10 seconds without an opportunity of submission or fighting back. Once you get thrown or get a good take down on you, there are opportunities to leg lace and to get more back exposure where you can lose quickly.”

The freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling classes were something new to him.

However, he added them to his Greece trip as a high school senior year last hurrah or bucket list options.

Rodriguez placed in the top eight in both wrestling divisions to contribute to Team USA, which won the team standings in freestyle and Greco-Roman.

“I got to knock off a few things off of the bucket list. I'm looking at this as a plateau because it just gives me more ideas,” Rodriguez said. “I only want to continue to be successful. My next goal is to do another professional mixed martial arts bout. Jiu Jitsu is always going to be my main focus. I started in 2015 and earned my black belt in 2018. I always want to improve and what better way to improve than to get into a professional fight again.

“To have this be a senior-year moment, who knows if I'm able to make the trip to Croatia next year to compete in the veterans United World Wrestling Championships. We're already planning to go to Kazakhstan and competing in the grappling world championships as a team. They have under-15 and under-20 divisions and we want to bring some of our students.”

Now that he has added the grappling world championship to his 2017 Jiu Jitsu world championship and his 2019 combat wrestling world championship, he's still pushing himself and his students to accomplish more.

Classes are held at Rodriguez Brazilian Jiu Jitsu on Mondays and Wednesdays for kids, Monday-Thursday for adults, and different classes are held on Friday.

Although he knows he has to move forward, he won't forget his time in Greece.

“There were a bunch of amazing people I was able to meet, teammates, coaches, and opponents. The atmosphere was so peaceful even though you were surrounded by a bunch of men trying to be the best,” Rodriguez said. “It's a different feel. When it was over, we were all friends and we tried to get to know each other even if we were from different countries. I was able to bring home a singlet for one of my students from Hungary.

“It was great. Being in Loutracki, Greece was a dream. You can't find a beautiful place than that and fight in two different styles of tournaments. In my opinion, they should be there every year. It won't get boring going to Loutracki.”