Gutierrez Middle School student making waves in the jiu-jitsu world

A few months ago, Manuel Israel Lopez, who everybody calls “MI,” took home some hardware at the North American Grappling Association (NAGA) World Jiu-Jitsu Championships in Dallas.

Fast-forward a bit and it’s like déjà-vu as the 12-year-old Gutierrez Middle School sixth-grader recently took home a title belt at a NAGA event in Houston.

When asked how he felt after winning the competition, MI, who is a shy young man of few words, simply said: “Good.”

MI doesn’t like to talk much, but that’s only because he prefers to do all of his talking out on the jiu-jitsu matt.

“That’s just the way he is. He’s shy in front of people but when he’s fighting, he’s like a different person,” said MI’s father, Matthew Lopez.

MI has been involved in jiu-jitsu since he was 6 years old and his passion for the sport continues to grow along with the number of title belts he keeps winning.

“I like to compete and I like being in the gym,” he said.

His father says that MI actually trains seven days a week and the days that he competes are his only real “off days.”

“It’s hard to get him out of the gym,” Matthew said. “He just really loves to practice so that he can continue to get better all the time.”

MI will get a chance to prove how good he this weekend at a jiu-jitsu tournament being held at Marine Military Academy and, after that, he’ll compete in an event in Corpus Christi toward the end of the month.

However, the event he is ultimately working toward this year is the Kids World International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championship, which will be held on Aug. 27 in Ontario, California, which is located east of Los Angeles.

“We are doing different fundraisers to help get money for the trip out there, including a chicken and sausage plate barbecue on March 19 in Combes.

“He’s working hard and looking forward to competing out there.”

With MI’s work ethic and determination, one can bet he won’t return from California empty handed.