UNF senior follows his dream as a Jiu-Jitsu fighter

Tierney Harvey

A typical day for UNF senior Iuri Lucius involves training for two hours at a local gym and weightlifting for another hour. To the average student, that may sound like a lot, but Lucius is anxiously awaiting his upcoming graduation date when he’ll be free to train even more.

Lucius, a double major in finance and financial services, practices jiu-jitsu, and he takes it seriously. He’s been practicing the martial art for six years and has competed 32 times. Lucius is wrapping up his final semester at UNF this fall, but instead of pursuing a job in finance, he decided to follow his dreams and accepted a job coaching jiu-jitsu in Arizona.

“When I said yes [to the job offer], I’m thinking about other people,too. Jiu-jitsu can change people’s lives,” Lucius said. “My life changed. I know I’m a better person and a better student.”

He said the martial art is just a hobby for some people, but for him it’s a lifestyle.

“Everything I do right now, I think about jiu-jitsu. I eat, I do my diet. I don’t go out too much because of jiu-jitsu, because of tournaments. I’m looking forward to have a future in this sport,” Lucius said. “I’m going to try to do as much as possible until my body says, ‘Hey, you can’t do that anymore.’”

Lucius discovered mixed martial arts (MMA) before focusing on jiu-jitsu. He spent a few months practicing MMA before realizing he would need to master one martial art before moving forward. His professor in Brazil recommended jiu-jitsu.

“I said, ‘Okay, I’ll try then.’ Since that day, I never stopped training and falling in love with the art,” Lucius said.

Photo by Jack Drain
Photo by Jack Drain

Lucius distinguishes competitors from other students by their dedication. According to him, some students simply go to class and have fun, but competitors live for jiu-jitsu: they study, research moves online and even come to class when they are injured to observe.

“That’s the amazing thing about competitions. The human being thinks they are special, they are the best. But when you go to the competitions, you see there are so many guys, good guys, just like you. Or better, way better than you. It keeps you humble,” he said.

Lucius told Spinnaker his first competition was rough. During the month and a half of training leading up to it, he lost over twenty pounds. He did it to qualify for a different weight division, and when he lost the weight easily, he decided to go down another path.

“That was crazy. I’ll never do that again,” he said. “It makes no sense to get weak to fight. Today I feel like is the best body shape I have. I’m not going to go low, go up. I’m going to stay in my normal weight. That’s the right thing to do. But that time, I wasn’t so sure about that.”

Lucius went to college in Brazil for two years before he decided to move to the U.S. for more opportunities to make a living through through jiu-jitsu. He said here, it is possible to make good money through competitions, seminars and owning a gym. His parents were supportive, but adjusting to life in the U.S. with Portuguese as a first language was difficult.

“The first month in Wisconsin was really sad. All of this self-motivation I’m talking about, it was tough to keep alive,” Lucius said. “I moved to Jacksonville and it was way worse because my first year, I lived off-campus. It was tough to have a social life. It was always train, train, train, study, study. I wasn’t making a lot of friends.”

Lucius trains at the Gracie Barra gym, a 10 minute drive from campus. He also sometimes helps out another student who coaches twice a week on campus. He said it can be exhausting to coach on top of his regular training, but he enjoys teaching the beginners.

“Right now, I’m tutoring here at UNF in finance and accounting. And I’m a student, so I only can train two hours per day,” he said. “But after graduation, I want to train twice a day — at least two hours in the morning and two hours at night — six days a week.”

Lucius plans to start his new job in January and said he’s excited to live closer to California, a major hub for jiu-jitsu in the U.S. He received other job offers for better pay, but he wants to chase his dream.

“Hopefully in a few years, you’re gonna see my name as the world champion in jiu-jitsu. That’s the goal,” he said.

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