Interview with the Jiu-Jitsu Hustler
Hussein Abbas-Zade is a BJJ brown belt from Frontline Academy in Norway, under Eduardo "Teta" Rios.
He has the ability to keep his focus on training and competition long-term, but at the same time have an open mind to new things coming along, and to be both serious and fun-loving.
Next to being an instructor at Frontline, he is the owner of the Norwegian Jiu Jitsu store JITSBUTIKK, BJJ Fightgear Norway and he runs a real estate business.
In this interview Hussein tells us about his life during the COVID-19 lockdown in Norway. Do you rather watch the whole interview? You can do so here.
How is life in Norway during the lockdown?
It’s different from what we are used to, but we have to adapt. The time is different, but the people are still the same. We have restrictions from the government. You need to have 1 or 2 meters distance between each other, so every gym is closed.
When it comes to business, nobody is going to buy a gi or rashguards when the gym is closed. So what I did is focus more on home equipment, like grip trainers, and acai. That kept me going these last 2 months.
When it comes to training, normally we have 2 sessions a day at Frontline, but now we have minus 2 sessions a day. Which is why I started to train with the street workout guys. I’ve set some new goals, like maybe to compete in the Norwegian Street Workout Championships. Just to keep my body working, instead of lying on the couch and eating chips all day.
What type of exercises are that, for people who don’t know anything about it?
Basically it’s a lot of exercises with your body, like pullovers, pull ups and push-ups. Which I think is pretty cool, and pretty useful for jiu jitsu as well. Because you’re always holding the bar so your grips are getting stronger and you’re working with your body which is very essential for jiu jitsu as well. I think, especially for me, it’s a very good alternative training for jiu jitsu.
How do you stay motivated?
I think we are creatures that need a goal to get motivated. That’s why I set the goal to compete in a street workout championship. Which is why I'm training everyday, to learn some tricks and get stronger. At the same time I think this will make my body stronger, which is always a benefit when it comes to jiu jitsu. Goal setting motivates me every time.
Is that also what brought you where you are today?
Absolutely. When I started, I knew it takes an average of 10 years to get to black belt. Then I thought: “Oh shit, if it takes 10 years then it has to be difficult.”. So one year after I started, I set a high goal: I want to win black belt worlds. That goal would keep me going even when I did my bachelor and worked 2 or 3 jobs. When you set a high goal, you have no excuse not to train.
Last year you won your division at the World Pro in Abu Dhabi. How was it?
In my final match, I had to face a really good fighter. There is nothing he hasn’t been winning from white to black belt. I had already lost 2 times against him, but when I lose on points in my mind I have a feeling that I can still win.
For me winning over that guy in the final, ment more than actually winning the gold medal. It was a confirmation to myself that I really could compete and beat the best guys.
When I was writing the most important facebook and instagram post about the medal, I realised I had dreamed of this for years. That felt really good, and I couldn’t hold my tears anymore.
How was life after winning the world pro?
Girls, money, fame. Just kidding. When we came back, we had some extra money. This was actually one of the first competitions where we came back richer than we were before. Usually we come back poor from the competitions, but this time we came back with a smile.
Even though it’s World Pro, in my mind I thought: “It’s only brown belt, so relax. It’s nothing huge yet. Relax, your goal is to win at black belt. So this is this medal, and let’s go to the next.”
I knew we had the IBJJF World Championships in front of us, so I set a new goal and started training towards that.
Now everything is closed, how do you plan for your next goals?
I have heard that Abu Dhabi will have the competition in November this year, so I’m training towards that with the calisthenics training.
I also have private training sessions with 1 guy, 4 times a week. Every private class I try to teach him what I know and also try new positions, so we both learn. I’m fixing the small details in my game, to become a better fighter than I was yesterday.
I’m really thankful for the opportunity I have. Not only to go to the class, earn money and go back, but also to evolve.
Next to jiu jitsu, you also run a webshop and you recently started in Real Estate. Have you always been this entrepreneurial?
I haven’t always been this entrepreneurial. But once I was talking to a guy who was doing really good business wise, and I asked him: “What should I do? Which work should I get in order to become successful?”. He told me one thing I will never forget: “You can not work to get rich. You have to open something, you have to do something big from nothing, like open something new and then sell it. That's how you're going to get rich.”
This changed my mindset forever.
After that my mind started shifting the same day and I started to see small opportunities here and there.
What's your definition of being rich?
For me it basically means I have the freedom to do everything I want. It’s not in numbers for me, but it's more in freedom. For example when you want to go somewhere with your wife, you just buy tickets without thinking about money.
What would you advise other athletes to be able to support themselves?
Guys, you can't imagine how lucky you are. Nobody helps us as BJJ athletes, so we have to find our own sponsors. We have to learn marketing while we train, we have to learn how to sell ourselves as athletes. That's a really good thing, because you only have jiu jitsu for 15 - 20 years as a competitor. After that you have to live somehow, you have to pay the bills. I think we are a little bit lucky that our sport is still in the beginning steps. It pushes us to not only be good in jiu jitsu, but also learn some things in other areas of our lives.
When I was a blue belt, I wished I was doing judo. In Judo they have a national team and get all the support. So my mind was almost begging for some extra attention, money and support.
Then I switched my mindset.
These judo guys, they don't do anything, they only train and they don't have to do anything themselves. But meanwhile, while I train BJJ, I also have to learn some marketing and I have to see opportunities along the road. Which makes me a better person. So if you shift your mindset like that, you should look in a positive way that we have to struggle a bit more and that will help you. Just like it helped me.