Adversity taught me to rely on God for my strength, and made me a stronger person.

Steven Wagner

“Adversity taught me to rely on God for my strength,
and made me a stronger person…”


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I started training Brazilian Jiujitsu  in 1998 with professor Paul Silva at His 1st original Academy Aveline Brazilian Jiujitsu.  I won my 1st few tournaments and wanted to pursue MMA. I switched schools a couple times trained with Rodrigo Medeiros for quite a while and Also with Dean Lister. I actually fought Razor Rob McCullough in late 2001. After that I bounced around a bit and never really had a “home academy “. I headed down the wrong road for a while and eventually got the help that I needed. That’s when I saw Professor Paul Silva had his own academy.

        So as soon as I was on the right track I decided to make his academy home.. A while later I was working a 2nd job as a bouncer and hurt my back requiring 2 separate surgeries. It sidelined my training for an additional 2 and a half years. Throughout that time professor Paul never let me give up. He’d always ask me when I would be coming back. There was a time I thought I’d be done but through a lot of prayer and hard work I was healthy enough to give it another shot.. I had been diagnosed with liver disease, and four months later the FDA approved a new cure with a $90k price tag.. My insurance denied me the medication three time, after about four months the drug manufacturers gave me the medicine. It had a lot of side effects and made me very weak and I experienced a lot of fatigue, but I never stopped training.

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        I was getting smashed by everyone because it was so physically draining but training was my therapy and was a great outlet for me to channel my frustrations. In October I was “cured”. I still continued to experience a lot of side effects but was getting healthier and healthier. It wasn’t until I got my 8-month post treatment labs done that I really started to feel good again. Professor asked me if I would compete in Jiujitsu World League. And I was eager for the opportunity.

        I trained really hard for it, not only on the mats but in the gym as well. I still battled with a bit of post treatment fatigue but I relied on a lot of prayer to give me the strength I needed to prepare. Professor Paul also pushed me beyond what I thought I could handle and told me I’d thank him later. So in my first time back to the competitive Jiujitsu scene in 13 years at Jiujitsu World League Super Championship I won first in the purple belt masters division.

        I learned that with faith and hard work you can accomplish whatever dream God puts in your heart. I have to give a lot of credit to Professor Paul Silva, Professor Rafael Davis, and all my Carlson Gracie teammates. It’s an absolute honor to share the mats with them, and I’m grateful Professor Paul could see the champion in me when I couldn’t see it in myself. I’m so grateful to be back training and competing. It has been a long journey, but all that adversity taught me to rely on God for my strength, and made me a stronger person.

        I have also learned that no matter how hard things get never give up. I am truly grateful to be a part of the Paul Silva/Carlson Gracie Jiu-jitsu family. That is truly what they are is family. Winning that tournament has given me new motivation to see just how far I can go with God on my side and the right people behind me. OSS

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