I grew up in Miami, lived in Lakeland, Sarasota, Los Angeles, Gainesville and, most recently, Seattle. I just moved to Charlotte to be closer to family, sunshine and, to be quite honest, better jiu jitsu.

Seattle wasn’t much of a hotbed for BJJ. I trained at the biggest school in the Pacific Northwest – Gracie Barra – and tried to compete as often as possible when I wasn’t pregnant. But there weren’t many tournaments – I’d say about five per year and four big ones.

Florida, on the other hand, is off the wall with tournaments. When I first started grappling in 2011 I competed A LOT – I was living in Lakeland at the time. There was COPA, Newbreed, NAGA, IBJJF Miami Open, Disney Martial Arts tournaments, Art of Grappling, Abu Dhabi Pro qualifiers and plenty of submission-only events. And it continues to grow.

That’s why the talent level, in my opinion, is so high in Florida. They have some of the toughest females: Amanda “Tubby” Santana, Erin Harper, Tammi Musemeci (she just recently moved to Vegas), Gezary Matuda, to name a few, and of course the guys: AJ Sousa, Cyborg, Marcio Cruz, Marcel Goncalves, Matt Arroyo.

Competing pushes your game to another level – my professor once told me you learn more in one tournament than you would in two months of training – and, for me, it’s a way to stay interested in BJJ.