The Fight 2 Win crew (a.k.a. Team No Sleep) has a reputation for working nonstop, jumping up to compete on the very stage they build and dismantle every week, and then resuming working nonstop. Given F2W CEO’s Seth Daniels’ passion for judo (he’s a black belt in the sport, by the way) and the fact that F2W has made the decision to incorporate judo into their events, the promotion’s history would suggest that it was only a matter of time before Daniels himself ended up throwing or getting thrown by a fellow judo competitor on his own stage. Not many people, however, expected him to be doing it right now.
Daniels will be competing at Houston’s F2W 103 this Friday against fellow judo and BJJ black belt Jaime Lazcano. It will be Daniels’ first “serious match” in judo in nineteen years. And he’s doing it a week after getting neck surgery.
The surgery was, as Daniels puts it, “not that big of a deal.” It was a laser discectomy to correct serious neck pain caused by disc problems that had rendered him unable to turn his head to the left. “I tried every treatment possible,” says Daniels. “Before my last match in Denver, I couldn’t train right or lift. I basically was stuck doing hot yoga and working positions [in jiu-jitsu].” He says that following the surgery and fourteen cortosone injections in his spine, he feels “way better.” “The plan is that if this takes, and I feel like it did, I’m out of the dark for now and I don’t have to worry. But if it doesn’t, I have a severely herniated disc, and I’d have to get fusion surgery.”
Daniels says his doctor was aware of his plans to compete in judo just a week after the surgery (“I got the surgery then so I could compete as soon as possible.”), but if he requires a more invasive operation, he could be out of training for up to a year. His last consultation is just a few days away, and he booked a few fights for himself around that day just in case he has to stay off the mats for a while.
Despite his determination to compete, Daniels says that he’s going up against Lazcano — who he describes as a “great guy” — for the good of the sport and the promotion rather than for any personal reasons. “We have a rule: if we want someone on the fight card and we don’t have anyone to fight them, we have to do it ourselves. I had no intention of competing in judo anytime soon. [Lazcano] applied, and I wanted to have at least one judo match on every show, hopefully a lot more. There was no one else, so I said, f*ck it, I’ll do it.”
Daniels admits he would have rather had more training for the event, saying that he only trained for about a month ahead of this match. But he’s had the best coach he could hope for in Olympic judoka Ryan Reser. “I’m super lucky that I can train with one of the best ever,” says Daniels. “It’s just me falling a lot and chasing a rabbit I can’t catch. I’m lucky I’m not fighting Ryan, because that’s the worst thing in the world. He rips my soul out and mops it all over the mat. We did 100 throws, and he’s so good that it doesn’t even hurt. He’s that smooth.”
Ultimately, Daniels’ goal in quite literally throwing himself into this match is to do what he set out to achieve when he created F2W and then when he added judo to the cards: get people excited about the sport. “I don’t want it to be a decision no matter what,” he says. “I’ll try to rip his arm off or I’ll channel all my energy from 20 years ago and throw him. Or maybe he’ll kill me, and if he does, I hope he puts me through the mat and breaks all my ribs. People want to see other people thrown on their heads.”
Judo’s inclusion in F2W is recent, but it’s already attracting the attention of some important people. USA Judo reached out to Daniels for a meeting after some of their representatives witnessed F2W 101 in Denver, and Daniels was surprised at their reaction to what he was trying to accomplish. “I thought I was gonna get scolded. But then they pulled out notepads and said, ‘What do you think we should do? We want our numbers back, and we want to make it more exciting.’ They’ve been really supportive, asking how they can help. Now it’s a new era in the sport, and they want to make it cool and they’re all about making it cool and growing it.”
Regardless of his own match’s outcome on Friday, Daniels hopes that BJJ instructors see the benefits of judo and start to incorporate it into their own academies. “They shouldn’t be looking at this and seeing how useful and cool it is and then sending their students to another school to learn it. They should be increasing the value of their own school by just bringing an instructor in and having them teach it to their existing students,” he says.
Whether you love a good Cinderella story or want to see Daniels get thrown through the wooden beams beneath the stage, you can watch it all happen when F2W 103 streams live on FloGrappling on March 1.