Hey Nikki you’re so fine you’re so fine, hey Nikki!
Newest black belt under Andre Galvao, coffee drinking, nap taking, cuddle monster with a slight foot fetish, Nikki Sullivan sits down and gives some insight on her last year at Atos Jiu-Jitsu and the journey leading up it.
Black belt!! First of all, CONGRATULATIONS! Secondly, Where do you fall in the line of female black belts under Andre? Top 5 correct?
I think I’m 3rd for the women at Atos. It’s Angelica, Heather Raftery, and then me. I’m not sure if he (Andre) has gone out of the country and promoted others?
How does it feel to be on the forefront of a lineage? That has to be a pretty incredible feeling.
It means a lot. I’m just very honored to receive a black belt form Andre. I can’t think of anyone I would rather get a black belt from. If you get it from Andre it means you’re a black belt. It’s a dream come true. I moved out here a year and half ago and I never dreamed at that point that in a year and half that I would be getting my black from Andre Galvao.
You’ve been at Atos for about a year and a half now? What are some of the differences you’ve observed since being there? What do you think sets Atos apart?
I always thought that when I got my black belt I was going to say all these amazing things about people I train with, but I was very surprised by my promotion and I forgot those things. I’ve trained at a lot of gyms, there’s a lot of really good people out there.
Atos is special, we have a lot of talent and a lot of champions - I really believe it all comes from the top, there’s really a lot of wonderful people. I have great women that roll hard and roll competitively but are friends after the rolls. The hashtag #togetherwearestronger is more than a hashtag. Its true. So many people came to help me when they saw what I was working on or if they saw me having a hard time. Everyone is very encouraging. It makes people want to be there and it makes people want to stay. It’s a very special feeling, a feeling of togetherness. I definitely couldn’t have gotten to black belt without everyone that has helped. It’s funny but it’s true, when I first made the decision to come to San Diego I was more worried about getting ready to train at Atos than I was for training for worlds
Let’s talk about competition? You’ve been very active (and successful) on the competition scene. What are some your biggest accomplishment?
Double golding at master worlds is the biggest thing. Getting a master title wasn’t my goal for the year but it meant a lot especially since I fought some tough girls. Several of them held adult world titles too. I really didn’t think I was going to win that — especially the absolute, it meant a lot to me. I also won F2W titles in gi and no-gi so I got two bets in one year. I was one of 3 people to hold a title in both no-gi and gi . I think Caio Terra and Rafael Lovato Jr are the only other two that hold a belt in both . I placed 3rd in Pans for my division and 2nd in absolute. At Worlds I got bronze and even though I didn’t win that was the first time I had ever medaled at worlds. It was the best I had done since blue belt at either of those. I think even though I lost I felt very competitive. It was a good feeling to feel confident and see that I was right at that level.
Is there a favorite moment that comes to mind?
I got second at the LA Grand Slam. I wasn’t even going to do it — it was the week after No-Gi pans. I did it on a whim, and beat a black belt that had beaten me my first year at brown belt at Worlds so it was a good feeling to be able to win against her. I placed second, and felt very happy about that. It was a brown/black division
What does a typical day of training look like for you?
Every morning I get up and make oatmeal and coffee. Then I usually curl up back in my bed with coffee and read my bible and play a little guitar, then go train. After training I’ll eat then nap or go lift. And then I have more coffee and a snack before night training. Eat, sleep, and repeat.
How often do you lift?
I try to lift 3 times a week. Sarah Bryce wrote me a lifting program titled “Nikki’s get ripped or take a nap program.”
I play a lot of inverted guard, it’s probably what I am most known for. The women’s team affectionately named it the panda guard. I really like the kimura trap or the knee bar — but I’ll take wheat I can get.
Nikki, whats with this love of taking feet home with you?
I don’t even know if thats my thing. Before I came to Atos I trained for a while with Nice Guys in Kentucky. They specialized in leg attacks. I remember when I started training with them I was afraid of leg attacks. Training with them made me comfortable in that scenario. It was a nice tool to bring with me to Atos, it was something I was able to have and share with the other women. It was a valuable gift they gave me before I left. My style is very much take what is available — if it’s the feet, I take the feet.
What are some hobbies you have outside of Jiu Jitsu?
I like to play the guitar — its how I unwind. I like to read, I like to go to the beach, I like wine and chocolate , and cuddling.
What/who inspires you?
I’m very inspired by Andre and Angelica, they are why I came here. Not only because of how amazing they are at Jiu-Jitsu but because they are amazing people and very dedicated to their faith and their students. There are a lot of coaches who are out there to just get money. Andre and Angelica are dedicated to their athletes.
I live with Josh (Hinger) and he never stops — it’s really hard to slack off when you’re his roommate. If he’s getting up and training I can’t really stay in bed. I really like being around him — he’s very dedicated. He doesn’t wait for things to happen, he goes out and makes it happen, I like being around people like that.
This one is a little personal. Tell us what your most embarrassing moment on the mat to date is.
I’ve had a nip slip in competition - I don’t think anyone noticed — it was in an open and I had to stop. The girl was going against realized and we both looked at the ref — he realized something was wrong and he let me fix myself. I feel like girls take care of each other.
That’s when I realized I needed a good sports bra, haha.
Any parting words for our readers?
I’ve been doing this for about 9.5 years now. You're going to have highs and lows, mountains and valleys - I’ve had a lot. The more you put yourself out of your comfort zone the more intense you're going to feel those moments. There has been a lot of that but at the same time that’s how I know I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. When you’re in a comfort zone you’re not going to have that, you’ll be happy for the most part but you wont be pushing yourself. When you are pushing yourself as hard as you can you’re going to have some dark days. I got my black belt after no-gi worlds — probably one of the hardest tournaments of the year for me — going from that to back home and teaching and seeing my old training partners and family, then going from that to my black belt. I’ve gone through periods where I didn’t love Jiu-Jitsu and felt like quitting but I didn’t and its always been worth it. Never give up.
And - I want to call out Gordon Ryan for a sub only match gi or no-gi — all for charity of course. Professor Galvao has agreed to ref the match for the sum of 1 million dollars.
Thank you to my sponsors Bjjtees, Rolldawgz Kimonos, Groundshark Coffee, and Yoga for Bjj.