Nick Rodriguez: The BJJ Black Belt Slayer

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If you’re a fan of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, then you’ve most likely heard of no-gi grappling superstar Nick “Nicky Rod” Rodriguez. Nicky Rod is a former member of the notorious Danaher Death Squad alongside Gordon Ryan, Nicky Ryan, Craig Jones, Gary Tonon, and Eddie Cummings. He is considered one of the best BJJ fighters in the world.

Nicky Rod is a beast of a man. He fights in the super heavyweight division and has won against some of the biggest names in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, such as Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu, Mahamed Aly, and Orlando Sanchez. 

One of the most epic fights in his entire career was in the ADCC 2019 when he defeated BJJ legend Cyborg. This was a huge upset victory that sent shockwaves through the BJJ community. Rodriguez debuted in the ADCC as a blue belt, and he won against one of the most renowned black belts there is!

Abreu is considered one of the most dominant fighters in the sport, and many people thought he would easily dispatch Nicky Rod. But Nick Rodriguez proved them all wrong when he outlasted Cyborg throughout the 15-minute ordeal. 

What makes Nicky’s victories in the 2019 ADCC East Coast Trials and the ADCC 2019 Championship even more impressive is the fact that he only had less than two years of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training in his belt. Winning the 2019 ADCC East Coast Trials made him qualify for the most prestigious grappling event in the world, the ADCC Championships in 2019, and go home with silver. 

It is wildly uncanny, especially when you think about how long it usually takes for even the biggest names in the sport to fight and win in a competition as huge as the ADCC. 

Nicky Rod is undeniably one of the most talented grapplers in the world given how he made waves just shortly after he started training BJJ!

Nicky Rod’s Entry to BJJ

Nick was born on August 30, 1996, in Clayton New Jersey. Nicky Rod wasn’t new to the mats when he trained BJJ. In fact, he started his martial arts training when he was young. He competed in wrestling when he was in high school, so you can say he’s already started his sports and martial arts career at a very early age. Throughout high school plus a year at Ferrum College, Nick spent a lot of time training, competing, and dominating the sport.

His tremendous success in BJJ can be attributed to his wrestling career. You can say there are many BJJ grapplers whose wrestling background and performances were better than Nicky Rod’s. In fact, Nick did not qualify for the NCAA tournament in college. However, it’s hard to find anyone who made a dent in BJJ as quickly as Nick did.

In June 2018, while in college, Nick started training in BJJ under Jay Regalbuto at South Jersey BJJ. He squeezed in some time in his day to learn the gentle art while also pursuing a career in modeling. Regalbuto was quick to notice Nicky Rod’s talent and he knew his student had great potential, particularly in submission-grappling. It was then that Nick started to train in competitive BJJ, just three weeks into learning the art. 

Rodriguez dominated two pro-level competitions in two months: Grappling Industries in Wildwood and the IBJJF Nogi World Championships. He remained an undefeated champion then. In 2019, he bagged gold in the High Rollerz Open and the ADCC North American Trials, while he finished silver in the ADCC World Championship and Who’s Number 1. In 2020, he won third in the Kasai 7 HW Grand Prix. 

It was because Regabulto wanted Nick to up his game for the upcoming ADCC USA East Coast Trials in 2018 that he brought Rodriguez to train in different workgroups. This was where Rodriguez would end up training with arguably the world’s best no-gi grappler, Gordon Ryan.

Nicky Rod and the DDS

In October 2018, Rodriguez had his first private training with Ryan. From then on, Nick started training with the DDS in New York twice a week, heading into the ADCC USA East Coast Trials. Nick Rodriguez delivered a podium finish, winning bronze after just six months of training. 

His BJJ career started taking off from there. In September 2019, he proved his worth in the ADCC where he was awarded a silver plus a purple belt promotion on the podium. After the ADCC, Nick Rodriguez trained with John Danaher and the Danaher Death Squad (DDS). He thus became a mainstay in this wildly popular Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competition team.

The DDS is particularly notorious in the submission grappling circuit, as the no-gi grapplers who are part of this competition team are submission hunters with a 70% submission success rate. Nicky Rod’s favorite techniques are Blitz Pass and Body Lock Pass. The submissions he nails the most are his RNC and heel hook finishes.

His BJJ journey had its ups and downs. He won against renowned grapplers, but he also suffered losses from prominent competitors, such as Lucas Barbosa, Victor Hugo, Kaynan Duarte, Hudson Taylor, and Roberto Jimenez. Rodriguez holds an impressive record of 37-7.

What’s Next for Nick Rodriguez?

Sadly, this year, John Danaher announced the break-up of the DDS – news that shocked the BJJ world. Rodriguez was rather vocal about the breakup, talking online about cutting out the poison. He did not reveal who he was referring to and is prepared to compete with his former DDS teammates.

He trains with the B Team in Texas alongside Nicky Ryan, Craig Jones, and Ethan Crelinsten. John Danaher and the rest are opening New Wave Jiu-Jitsu, also in Texas. Nicky received his Brown Belt in June of 2022 from his team mates at B Team.

Nick continues to compete professionally. He was seen in three competitions this year. He taught in seminars this year, as well, and has also recently signed with Evogen Nutrition.

There’s no doubt that Nicky Rod is one of the best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighters in the world. He has the skills, the strength, and the determination to beat anyone who steps onto the mats with him. When it comes to BJJ, it’s hard to find someone who’s on par with this Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu beast.


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