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Elisabeth Clay, Alaska’s Grappling Phenom

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Bernardo Faria BJJ Foundations

Arguably the most promising brown belt in the world today, Elisabeth Clay first made herself known to a wider jiu-jitsu audience at the 2017 ADCC US West Coast trials, where she beat two of the most prominent black belts in the world on the way to a gold medal, as a 16-year-old blue belt.

Many meaningful events have taken place since that breakthrough tournament, the latest of which saw Clay challenge and beat the current IBJJF World No-Gi super-heavy and open weight black belt champion, Kendal Reusing – who, traditionally, competes two weight classes above Elisabeth. A match that took place at the Fight 2 Win 143 event.

The range of achievements could be overwhelming for any young person, but once you enter Elisabeth’s mindset, it is easy to understand she is not your average “young person”.

Clay started practicing gymnastics when she was 18 months old, following her older siblings’ steps who were competitive athletes in that field. First in Texas, where Elisabeth was born, and later in Oklahoma, Clay always carried the assertiveness of greatness with regards to her athletics career: “I wanted to be an Olympic gymnast” she admitted to BJJ Heroes in a June 2020 interview, days after her 20th birthday. Unfortunately, her Olympic aspirations fell through the cracks once her family relocated to Alaska, following her father’s long-standing dream of living in The Last Frontier State.

The new Alaskan reality did not adhere to Clay’s commitment to the sport, “They weren’t giving enough hours at the gym” said Elisabeth, “I’ve never wanted to do something if I couldn’t be the best, not that I would be, but I wanted the opportunity to try. With the lack of hours I couldn’t.” Given her circumstances, she opted to take the hard decision of quitting at the age of 11.

It took Elisabeth only a few months to set her athletic aspirations towards martial arts, joining a small MMA club, located on Soldotna, AK. First dipping her toes in both Muay Thai and jiu-jitsu, later opting to focus on grappling.

Staying true to her nature, Clay immediately gave her 100%. After 4 years of training under coach Mason Ryder Spadafore, the teenager was ready to step it up and join a bigger team with a more diverse training room. For that, she chose Jordan Kontra’s Legacy Jiu-Jitsu in Anchorage, a gym affiliated with the international grappling team, Ares.

Under the guidance of Kontra, a the age of 16, Clay became an overnight sensation in the grappling world, earning medals at World, Pan, ADCC trials, etc, while also making her professional debut at the Onnit Invitational.

During her short, yet plentiful career, Elisabeth has impressed her fans with both her mat skills and the maturity of her decisions. Fully aware of her potential, midway through 2018, Clay opted to move to the Ares Jiu-Jitsu Team headquarters in Modesto, California, there working with two of the top grappling coaches in the nation – Osvaldo Moizinho and Samir Chantre. Unfortunately, the California experience was shortlived as the phenom returned to Soldotna to help her family – “At the beginning of 2019 I moved back to Alaska to help my family and make sure my little brother could keep training as he had no one to drive him.” A minor setback for Clay, who also stated “I am moving back down to most likely Arizona” in 2020.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B6CmSDhpHnP/

Currently ranked #1 in the IBJJF No-Gi brown belt division, while being an ADCC trials champion as well as a 3x World No-Gi Champion, 4x Pan No-Gi Champion, it is easy to ascertain Elisabeth is on the right path to achieve greatness in the sport.

Current Grappling Curriculum

– 2016 IBJJF World Championship Gold
– 2016 IBJJF World Championship Silver (open weight)
– 2016 IBJJF Pan Championship Gold
– 2016 IBJJF Pan Championship Gold (open weight)
– 2017 ADCC US Trials Gold
– 2017 IBJJF World Championship Gold
– 2017 IBJJF Pan Championship Silver
– 2017 IBJJF Pan Championship Bronze (open weight)
– 2018 IBJJF World Championship Silver
– 2018 IBJJF World Championship Gold (open weight)
– 2018 IBJJF World No-Gi Championship Gold
– 2018 IBJJF World No-Gi Championship Gold (open weight)
– 2018 IBJJF Pan Championship Gold
– 2018 IBJJF Pan Championship Gold (open weight)
– 2018 IBJJF Pan No-Gi Championship Gold
– 2018 IBJJF Pan No-Gi Championship Gold (open weight)
– 2019 IBJJF World No-Gi Championship Gold
– 2019 IBJJF World No-Gi Championship Gold (open weight)
– 2019 IBJJF Pan Championship Bronze
– 2019 IBJJF Pan Championship Bronze (open weight)
– 2019 IBJJF Pan No-Gi Championship Gold
– 2019 IBJJF Pan No-Gi Championship Silver (open weight)
– 2019 ADCC US Trials Bronze

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