When Cole Franson competed against a girl and lost his first ever Jiu-Jitsu match, he pondered his options: walk away and never compete again in the sport or give it another shot.
The Clovis native chose the latter. And little by little, the decision continued to pay off.
He went from feeling lost everyday to a brown belt, to worldwide tournaments.
“I was getting beat up and I didn’t know what I was doing. I feel like I didn’t get used to it until like five years in,” said Franson, who started in Jiu-Jitsu at age 14.
Although he was getting beat up from Day 1, Franson never stopped enjoying the sport.
“I liked it so much, I didn’t really focus on [getting beat up],” Franson said. “I just liked showing up, training.”
Franson, now ranked as the No. 1 brown belt Jiu-Jitsu fighter in the United States, is heading to the 2018 Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship in the United Arab Emirates, which will be held from April 24-28.
The tournament is considered one of the world’s premier Jiu-Jitsu events with over 6,000 competitors from 46 countries. But, Franson says he will not be fazed by the tough competition.
“It’s just the mentality you have to go in with,” Franson said. “Everything you do, you will be able to do it. It doesn’t matter against who.”
Franson learned that lesson earlier this year when he doubted himself and lost in the first round of a tournament in San Francisco.
“It was supposed to be an easy tournament,” Franson said. “In my mind, I was thinking I couldn’t do certain things. I kept doubting myself. After that tournament, I was like ‘OK I can’t doubt myself anymore.’”
Two weeks after the San Francisco tournament, Franson won the 2018 Pan American Championship for adult brown belts.
The Pan American Championship is one of the four major events, which includes Europeans, Brazilian Nationals and Worlds.
Franson said his success so far is thanks to his trainer Mauricio “Tinguinha” Mariano.
“He’s such a strong person in everything,” Franson said. “He never reacts too hard. He never lets things push him back. He’s somebody I try to emulate a lot.”
While Franson has seen his share of ups and downs in Jiu-Jitsu, his trainer has remained consistent.
“I’ve gotten angry at practices and flipped out and he just sits there and laughs at me because he knows how to react towards that,” Franson said.
While his goal right now is to win the world championship, Franson has also set his mind on teaching the game and competing for many more years.
“I just want to teach and do Jiu-Jitsu,” Franson said. “I know that that I can’t do it forever because it takes a toll, but I have to be smart with how I eat, how I train.”
Franson vividly remembers when he got his blue belt at age 15.
“I just sat there and I was like ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life, but I just want do Jiu-Jitsu. I don’t care if I have a job. I just want to train,’” Franson said.
The Buchanan alum is currently a senior at Cal State Fullerton, where he is studying studio arts.
“I really am appreciating getting better at that part of my life too,” Franson said. “Especially learning how to learn from Jiu-Jitsu and now applying that to art is actually helping me. When I was younger, I tried to do art and I wasn’t open minded to work at things I wasn’t good at. Jiu-Jitsu made me realize you have to do all that stuff.”