Jiu jitsu fighter spends his time training UCSD athletes

LA JOLLA, Calif. -- When jiu jitsu fighter Matt Cox isn't training to become a world champion, he's likely spending his time training University of California San Diego athletes.

A typical day for 28-year-old Cox involves a lot of training. By day, he works with student athletes at UC San Diego as a strength and conditioning coach. By night, he trains as jiu jitsu fighter.

"Once I was done wrestling in college, I had a couple years off to where I was focusing on lifting and some power lifting," Cox said. "But I missed fighting people."

With 18 years of mixed martial arts experience under his belt, Cox gave jiu jitsu a try a few years ago and quickly took to it. He's currently a purple belt and trains twice a day with a local gym in San Diego.

"I think every sport is challenging, but for me it's so hard," Cox said.  "Not only are you trying to win, but you're trying to break your opponent mentally and physically. It's just a different feeling for me, sparring with someone."

Cox arrived at UC San Diego as a performance coach in 2017 and currently trains all the aquatic sports teams -- including water polo, for which he incorporates his MMA background.

"The sport requires a lot of fighting in the water," Cox said. "We have this mat room and we'll do boxing, wrestling, jiu jitsu once a week. It's not a direct transfer, but there's similar qualities of just fighting someone, sparring."

Cox said competing at a high level in jiu jitsu helps him better understand and relate to the athletes he's training. "I can appreciate what certain sessions in here will do to me. I might have this idea that we should do all this, but I'll try it out and then I'll go practice. Then I'm like okay, maybe that's too much, or maybe it's not enough. I feel like I have a better understanding of what people can handle," Cox said.

Cox has competed in four competitions so far this year, two of which he won. Though he's still learning the sport, Cox aspires to be on the  podium at the jiu jitsu world championships later this year.

"I've been beat up plenty of times. The worst thing that happens is I'm not going to feel well for maybe a week, but at the end of the day I have confidence just knowing that I've been training hard and preparing myself," Cox said.

His next competition comes in June, at the American Nationals in Las Vegas.

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