A Message To Female Super Heavyweights: “Keep Showing Up”


“Dear haters, I have so much more for you to be mad at. Just be patient…”

Breakout Checkmat La Habra Super Heavyweight Purple Belt Erin Quillen didn’t think her post a few days ago would gain viral attention, she was just frustrated with the treatment she was experiencing in her quest to be the world’s best.

In three and a half years of training under the legendary Lucas Leite, Erin has an impressive resume befitting of her world-class caliber coach. She is the #3 ranked IBJJF purple at her weight in no-gi, having reached the #1 spot in no-gi and #2 spot in gi as a blue belt before being promoted to purple. She has won numerous superfights and taken home gold medals from No-Gi worlds, the IBJJF European Championships, and twice from No-Gi pans. In fact, she was named the Blue Belt Breakthrough Athlete of 2020 by BJJ Heroes prior to receiving her purple.

She is an example of someone who works a full-time job while also balancing marriage with her rigorous training schedule, at the very least killing two birds with one stone by sharing this journey on the mats with her husband since she started. By all accounts she is doing everything right, supporting her teammates, helping out beginners, competing at a high level, making connections with sponsors and others in the community, yet she has been subject to undue criticism simply for the weight class in which she fights.

In an Instagram post shared by Tom DeBlass and raising great debate about the criticisms that heavier competitors often face, she does not mince her words. She is here to stay, and she wants to fill the tournaments with athletes such as herself. Here is the post in its entirety:

“I’m going to say what female super heavy competitors experience, generally in silence. Whether we think we don’t deserve to be heard or are trying to take the high road, or worst of all, believe we deserve the treatment we receive, way too often, we allow people within the grappling community, even on our own teams, to mistreat us. Enough is enough.

No matter how much we train or how technical we are, every win is diminished because “of course you won. You’re bigger and stronger.” Even if we pull guard, we are accused of laying on our competitor or being a boring fighter. We receive side-eye from smaller competitors and endure our opponent’s corner being rude, making comments about our weight or assumptions about our conditioning.

In the gym, our training mates can use all their assets (flexibility, agility, speed, etc.), but the moment we use our assets (weight, strength, etc.) we have coined a bully or no one wants to roll with us.

And if, by the graces of God, a jiu-jitsu news outlet decides to report on a larger female competitor’s success or a promoter matches larger female competitors, be prepared for a slew of negative comments about why you aren’t good enough, how you look like a man or a wild beast, or discussion on what health problems you might have.

And don’t get me started on finding gear that fits properly. They have gis for the 300lb, 6ft man, but a 5’8 girl with some t&a, forget about it. If the pants fit, the top is too big. If the top fits, you can’t get the pants over your bum.

I have personally experienced all of these things (plus more), but I have actively made a point of pushing through and paving the way for other women like me. All women in grappling experience challenges, but super heavy issues far exceed those. So my call to all the superheavies is: don’t back down. Don’t let them win. We have just as much a right to be on the mats and on top of podiums as ultra-heavyweight men and as the light-weight females. Keep up the hard work, and keep winning those golds. Let the grappling community know we are here to stay. And to everyone else, remember… just because we may make it look easy, the struggle is undoubtedly worse than you could ever imagine. Be kind. Be inclusive. Or at the very least, don’t be a jerk. Peace and love.”

A critic may look at her comment and counter with, ‘well isn’t jiu-jitsu created for the weaker, more frail opponent to overcome the stronger opponent? Did Helio Gracie not revolutionize art for this purpose? What about the fact that the Gracie’s used Royce over Rickson in UFC 1 to beat the giants because it would show how jiu-jitsu is made for the small to overcome the giants?’

Everybody loves a good David and Goliath story, but these arguments neglect the very notion that jiu-jitsu is, in fact, for everyone. It is not for the small, the big, the short, the tall, the American, the Brazilian, the Australian, or the European. It is applicable as a staple in life for all walking, breathing humans. It is effective enough as a martial art in that a weaker opponent can certainly overcome a stronger opponent with less knowledge. This much has been proven in the early UFC’s. The very notion of ‘effectiveness’ is a sliding scale, and weight does matter, but it is certainly not the be-all end-all. Technique plays a considerable variable.

The disenfranchisement of heavier training partners creates a negative feedback loop in the jiu-jitsu community. A heavier person walks into the academy, feels excluded, ends up quitting, the result being less enrollment in heavier weight divisions in tournaments, less gear being bought thereby disincentivizing suppliers from stocking heavyweight gear, and fewer opportunities for motivated athletes like Erin to test herself in an effort to compare apples to apples. Female jiu-jitsu enrollment at tournaments, while steadily improving, does not need another obstacle discouraging or disparaging athletes from the playing field. The only intervention, according to Erin, is direct and deliberate consistency on the mats and on the tournament scene.

Jiu-Jitsu Times reached out to Erin for this story, and she has this to say:

“I just want super heavies to remember that we can’t change other people’s behavior. We will always have adversaries. But we cannot quit. We have to keep showing up and taking our place on those mats.”

If you are a heavier jiu-jitsu practitioner,  the solution is simple; keep showing up. Let’s hope Erin’s message inspires some of those that are questioning the trajectory of their journey to stay consistent.


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A post shared by Erin Quillen (@brutal_viking_bjj)


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Dr. Arman Fathi is a staff contributor for the Jiu-Jitsu Times. He is a licensed Doctor of Chiropractic in the State of California and a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt under the Redzovic family in Chicago. He is currently living in Southern California training under Professor Eddie Bravo at 10th Planet HQ and Professors Ryron & Rener Gracie at Gracie University HQ. He is the head instructor and owner/operator of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Laguna Hills. Learn more and claim your free 10-day trial at www.gracielagunahills.com. Alavanca fight gear www.Alavanca.com Quikflip Apparel Visit www.quikflipapparel.com and enter code FLIP10 for 10% off any order. Arman can be found on Instagram @Dr_Arman_Hammer.


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