F2W 154 Competitor Eric Naples On Staying Safe As A Smaller Grappler

Fight 2 Win makes their return to Philadelphia tonight for F2W 154, and among the many athletes who have stepped up to test themselves and showcase some great jiu-jitsu is Eric Naples.

Naples will be returning to the F2W stage for the sixth time this evening, with this match against Justin Stabley serving as his first F2W match in the gi as a brown belt. He took the match on short notice, but as someone who’s been training since he was in high school, he knows the importance of always being ready for a challenge.

When Naples started training back in 2013, his brother was already a blue belt. This, combined with his own enthusiasm for watching MMA, led him to start his own jiu-jitsu journey. “I used to want to train MMA back then, but I found out quickly that jiu-jitsu was my passion because I could compete as often as I wanted without the same risk of injury that MMA has,” Naples told the Jiu-Jitsu Times. “I’m glad I chose this path because it actually lead me to meet my girlfriend at a tournament in 2016, and we’ve been traveling and competing together ever since.”

Since then, Naples has been steadily progressing in the sport, earning a bronze at No-Gi Worlds and getting a big win at last year’s No-Gi Pans. It hasn’t been easy to get this far, though. Naples has worked a tough job as a pipe welder since 2016, and work often has to take priority over competing and training.

“A few times a year, I’ll have to take days off to go to a tournament across the country, and there are times where I absolutely can’t take off work, so I’m definitely conflicted sometimes. I work really hard to keep my jiu-jitsu up with the best of the best in my division despite not being able to train full time,” he says, adding that he believes the hard work and dedication he puts into his passion will earn him a world championship title one day.

This perseverance is practiced every day in the gym. Naples, who will compete at 130 lbs tonight, is often the smallest person on the mats and knows the importance of staying safe while getting a productive training session with larger rolling partners.

“As a smaller person, you need to know when to concede to certain positions to avoid getting injured unnecessarily,” he says. “Your pride has to go out the window because it isn’t realistic to think you’ll be constantly beating people 60+ pounds heavier than you. If a person 130 lbs or so constantly rolls with people 50 pounds heavier than them as hard as they can doing competition jiu-jitsu, their body just won’t be able to handle it in the long run.”

Naples also shares some advice for other smaller grapplers who struggle to handle bigger training partners. “Rolling with bigger people takes a different set of skills than your normal jiu-jitsu that you would do to someone your size,” he says. “A good amount is guard retention and keeping your base while on top. One slight mistake or off-balance while passing a bigger person can mean getting swept or reversed with ease, so it’s good to just work on keeping your base. It’s never worth it to become frustrated or emotional when somebody stops your jiu-jitsu by doing ‘big man’ moves. Yes, it can be frustrating, but we have to remember why we train. Train smart so you can train longer.”

Tonight, Naples will be hoping to get back into the F2W win column after his first and only loss for the promotion back in August. He hopes to get a few more wins on the big stage to get another shot at a title, and given that he already has four F2W victories to his name, the odds of such an opportunity are certainly in his favor. “I’m definitely looking forward to getting my hand raised and competing in Philly on the big stage one more time before the end of the year,” he says.

Regardless of the outcome of tonight’s match, Naples is young and has a long and bright future ahead of him. He’s got plenty of big goals and says they change every day. “I’m only 22, so I’m sure they’ll change a dozen more times before I’m 25. But I want to keep advancing in every aspect of my life. I’m lucky to constantly be bombarded with support from my girlfriend who really believes I can be one of the best in the world. I’ll keep working at that, and when my days as a competitor are past me, maybe I can see if making a living from jiu-jitsu is for me. There’s no rush, though, because I enjoy what I’m doing now. For now, I’ll keep working, training, competing, and taking it day by day.”

Fight 2 Win 154 will take place tonight in Philadelphia, PA, and can be streamed live on FloGrappling.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here