One of the brightest stars in America’s jiu-jitsu scene is Mason Fowler, a brown belt under Gabriel Procópio, currently training with Caio Terra. A young man who holds gold medals at the ADCC US trials, IBJJF World Championship, the IBJJF No-Gi Worlds as well as the IBJJF European Open.
Born in Fresno, California, in 1993, Fowler was a late bloomer to athletic activities – “I actually was not an athlete in high school until my senior year. I was hanging out with a bad crowd and getting into trouble“, Mason explained to BJJ Heroes in an interview given in March 2020.
When he did get a taste for the sporting life, Mason soon discovered he was blessed with the right genetics and work ethics to succeed, going on to play rugby for Bullard High, later making the California State University team in Fresno. His time on the rugby pitch, however, came to a halt after Fowler tried his first mixed martial arts (MMA) class, by the end of his first season at Fresno State.
“I was a huge fan of the UFC, starting when I was 15 years old. I used to get into fights when I was younger, and I actually believed I could be a professional fighter. When I first walked into a small MMA gym I asked them if they could get me into the UFC. I started training at 18, splitting time between boxing, muay Thai, wrestling, and no-gi BJJ.”
The gym where Mason Fowler initiated his martial arts training was the, now-defunct, Thrive MMA, where he was introduced to no-gi by a BJJ purple belt, professional cage fighter named Mike Moreno and later introduced to the gi by Brian Gonzales. Guided by these two coaches, Mason quickly realized he favored the grappling approach to fighting “I felt like it was the one martial art that I was naturally the best at. I loved to compete at jiujitsu tournaments as a way to stay busy when I didn’t have a fight coming up, but I would get frustrated when losing because I knew guys were training only jiujitsu full time and I had to train in four separate martial arts.”
As the Jiu-Jitsu Bug grew, Mason suffered a concussion while striking sparring: “One day during a normal sparring practice I left the gym with a headache and when I got home I was seeing flashes of lights for about twenty minutes or so. After that, I had a migraine along with other concussion symptoms for about 4 months. During that time I couldn’t do any kind of training and couldn’t even run or lift weights without getting dizzy.” This was a major blow to Fowler’s competitive aspirations, he who hoped to one day enter the famous UFC octagon.
Holding a record of 8-0-0 (6 as an amateur and 2 as a pro-fighter), the young California native was faced with a harsh reality and a tough decision – “I had no college degree and didn’t have any kind of back up plan. My thought at first was that if I couldn’t train jiujitsu I wouldn’t be able to receive my black belt and open an academy as I had planned.” After some serious thinking, a decision was made “I decided that it would be smarter to pursue a black belt in jiujitsu and try competing in more high-level BJJ tournaments“.
At the start of his decision, Mason was a grappling coach at Dethrone MMA, a gym that did not have a full-time BJJ black belt operative, that changed once Gabriel Procópio was introduced to the training center. Procópio who came from a program with a long tine of successful grapplers (BTT Juiz de Fora), names such as Bernardo Faria and Leo Saggioro. Procópio was not alone as more top tier training soon joined the ranks at Dethrone “I was very successful while training at Dethrone because they had contracted a very good black belt named Gabriel Fonseca to teach there for two years. Also during that time, we had recruited some high-level wrestlers like Ed Ruth and Deron Winn, who were transitioning to MMA. Even though they didn’t know jiujitsu they were athletes and caught on quick, and every round was a fight.”
With time Ed and Deron ended up leaving for the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) in San Jose, while Gabriel opened his own gym in Florida. Mason was left stranded in terms of top tier training. Nonetheless, Fowler’s talent and work ethics prevailed at the ADCC West Coast Trials that year (2019), a tournament he left victorious, and a tournament that opened a few doors.
“After winning the ADCC trials Caio [Terra] and Nick [Haloski] offered me a room to stay in and a job teaching at the academy,” a job Mason gladly accepted. After all Fowler has conquered while training outside a major jiu-jitsu camp, it is safe to assume this shift to Terra’s gym will have a tremendous impact on the young Fresno native’s career. Now training at one of the top gyms in the country, alongside a room filled with the cream of the crop of professional jiu-jitsu, many great achievements are expected from this outstanding talent, who we hope to see more of as soon as these dark pandemic times pass us by, and the grappling season kicks off once again.