Josh Cisneros is a rising phenom in the Brazilian jiu-jitsu world. Representing Elite Team Visalia, the 21-year-old black belt has 18 wins in his competition career. Cisneros also owns gold medals from the IBJJF Pan Championship and American Nationals, along with a silver medal in the Pan Championship No-Gi division at the 149 lbs weight class. Cisneros sat down with Virus to discuss his jiu-jitsu lineage, his ambitions for his career, and his proudest accomplishment on the mat.
Josh Cisneros was born to be a Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion. The 21-year-old is a direct descendent from the very foundation of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, making his success at a young age no surprise. His father trained under Royce Gracie at the Gracie Academy in Orange County when the gym originally opened in 1994. The elder Cisneros would then wait until Cisneros was 12-years-old to introduce him to the mats.
After wrestling for most of his childhood, Cisneros recalls immediately falling in love with jiu-jitsu after his father’s introduction. He eventually decided to focus his attention on BJJ over wrestling, which was a wise choice considering his current success. Cisneros would develop under Tom Knox at the Elite Team Visalia, receiving his black belt in 2020.
“The more I thought about competitions, the more excited I would get. I would feel more motivated to train harder, to push myself more”
But it was his performances in competitions that separated Cisneros from his peers, which is not surprising considering his preparation. Having to cut down to his 141.5 lbs division, he follows a low-sodium diet when preparing for prestigious competitions like the IBJFF Pan-American Championship and the World Championship.
Otherwise, his success in live matches is forged well before competition day. While many of his peers become nervous as a match approaches, the thought of the big stage only further motivates Cisneros to perform at his best.
“The nerves went away by themselves. Over enough time and competitions, I stopped feeling nervous - instead, I’d get excited,” says Cisneros.
Cisneros also looks at tournaments as a way to define his career. His goal is to achieve a Grand Slam of winning the Europeans, Pan-Americans, Worlds, No-gi Worlds, and ADCC - all in the same year. It was also during competitions where he realized his love for Virus gear, especially in the quality and durability while putting in hours on the mat. His go-to top during tournaments is the Ranked Short Sleeve rashguard.
His lofty personal goals are backed by an impressive competitive resume. His proudest achievement thus far is winning the 2020 IBJJF Pan-Americans, a feat he accomplished just two months after receiving his black belt. The significance wasn’t just in the title, but in the manner of his victory, pulling off one of the biggest upsets in the tournament by beating Paulo Miyao in the quarterfinals.
While Cisneros might aim for the sky in terms of his career goals, he is firmly grounded in his day-to-day activities. He counts his most important mentors as his parents, Knox, and Osvaldo “Queixinho” Moizinho.
Though Cisneros has also learned important lessons on the mats. He credits BJJ with teaching him the importance of having trust and confidence in himself, and that he could accomplish anything with hard work.
“In anything that I do, I should be trusting and confident that I have worked hard enough to be the best I can be,” says Cisneros about transferring lessons from the gym into the real world.
Of course, having that trust and confidence in your work helps when you’re passionate about what you’re doing. His love for BJJ motivates Cisneros to not only train everyday, but make sure he’s giving back to his teammates. He emphasizes the importance of passing knowledge onto others, even if it means that he’s giving away secrets to his own game.
After all, Cisneros himself is a byproduct of that give-and-take of grappling knowledge. The skills, sweeps, and submissions were passed down from one of the sport’s originators in Gracie to his father, before it was taught to him. The championship pedigree now rests in the younger Cisneros, who will eventually pass down his learnings to the next generation of grapplers. But first, there are many years of tournaments, competitions, and matches to win, and ambitions of his own to fulfill.