Michael Liera, 26, trained at Atos Jiu-Jitsu HQ from the time he was a purple belt. Now, the André Galvão black belt is moving to Denver, Colorado to open his own gym with his training partner, YJ Lee, and together they are starting a new journey at Atos-affiliated Lefty Jiu-Jitsu Academy.
One of the most talented competitors of his generation, Liera won his first world title as a blue belt and two more in the purple and brown belt divisions. As a black belt, Michael is a Pan Ams (2018) as well as a European (2016) champion and has been writing his history on the black belt category for 5 years. This new step will cost Liera his current lifestyle. To leave one of the best BJJ training grounds in the world, a place where he was training and teaching full time. Michael, however, feels ready for the new challenge.
“It’s definitely hard because I feel like the most privileged person in jiu-jitsu here. I live 10 minutes away, with my family and I teach here, this is my job. I get paid to teach the 9AM class which, in my opinion, is the best class in jiu-jitsu that happens anywhere in the world, this class specifically and I’m close to the greatest of all time, professor André Galvão. All my friends are here, and all the best training is here. This is perfect. I can definitely stay here for the next 10 years, and I can keep going to competitions, but reality is I want to open my own academy“, said Liera.
During an emotional week of bidding farewell to his students and friends at Atos, Liera always showed that he is happy with his decision. He is moving without his family to his home state and is excited.
“I want to have my own mat space. It definitely makes me sad leaving, but I’m happy to know that I’m taking this next step. So, I’m excited. I have a mix of emotions. I feel happy, I feel sad, I feel motivated, I feel inspired but also feel like, nervous, anxious and scared… because is something that I’ve never done before. I know I have tons of support, I know I have so much help so I’m ready!“.
Liera began his jiu-jitsu journey with his father who was promoted to black belt earlier this year. His sister, Elizabeth Liera, is also an active competitor for Atos and was recently promoted to purple belt. The mother doesn’t train, but Michael says she is always supportive of his decision to be an athlete, one taken while in high school.
“I decided this really early and as soon as did, I committed 100%. I trained really hard, I dropped from high school and just kind of fully committed to this. In the beginning, when I dropped school she [the mom] didn’t know about my career choice, but now she understands“, said Liera.
And about the move. This will be a challenge and a goal at the same time, Liera confirms that he will remain active in high-level competitions, but now everything will be different. He always shared the mat with top tier athletes and recognizes the hardships found in ‘starting from the bottom’ but is excited to aim for the top. “The most valuable thing here is training. I will have students, I will have a gym, I will have my family out there, and friends, eventually. I will compete for myself, I will compete for my team, my academy and that’s super motivating.”.
Jiu-Jitsu means a lot to Liera
When you see Liera competing or teaching, you can always detect tranquility and patience. He is patient, supportive and always ready to help the students. During the interview, he referenced what jiu-jitsu means in his life. “This is gonna sounds super cliché, but jiu-jitsu is everything! I need a community, I need friendships, and when I need people around me I come to jiu-jitsu. When I need to distinguish myself as an individual, step away from the group, I come to jiu-jitsu. When I’m going to hard times, I come to jiu-jitsu even more“.
Liera moved, but he says he will be back to train, visit and, who knows, to teach as well.
“There is so much that I learned in this place. But one of the big takes that I bring with me from here, I guess, is that I really found my passion for jiu-jitsu here. I know I loved jiu-jitsu before I came here but here I really, really found my love for the sport“, concluded Liera.