Into the Octagon – Former Mira Costa wrestler Jean Paul LeBosnoyani fights for his place among the champions of mixed martial arts
by Kevin Cody
Friday night (May 19), former State number 5 ranked Mira Costa High School wrestler Jean Paul LeBosnoyani will enter the octagon at the Gil River Resort and Casino in Arizona to fight former Colorado State All American wrestler Jacobi Jones for the Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) Lightweight Championship.
The lightweight division is 155 pounds. LeBosnoyani’s “walk around” weight is 185 pounds.
In the days prior to the fight, LeBosnoyani will sweat out 10 pounds.
In the weeks prior to the fight, he will have lost 20 pounds by dieting.
In the two months prior to the fight, LeBosnoyani will have trained three times a day, six days a week. Training days include sparring, strength training, and exercises with his “Mental Sensei.”
“Sundays I do nothing physical, though that’s difficult for me. I’ll review tapes of my sparring sessions. I’ll review my game plan. When I have a fight, I’m thinking about it 24/7,” the 24 year old, Hermosa Beach mixed martial arts fighter said during a recent interview at his father Nono’s martial arts studio in downtown Hermosa Beach.
The intensive preparation reflects the significance of an LFA title fight. LFA title holders move up to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), a goal LeBosnoyani has single mindedly pursued since he watched his father serve as strike coach to UFC Hall of Famer Royce Gracie. The Gracie family founded the UFC in 1993 from their Torrance training facility. Royce Gracie is Jean Paul’s godfather.
The intensive fight preparation also reflects the gravity of professional MMA.
“There is nothing to compare to the raw primality of being locked in a cage and doing everything possible with your body to inflict pain on your opponent,” LeBosnoyani said.
LeBosnoyani’s martial arts training began early.
“I have been on the mat of my dad’s dojo since I was a newborn,” he said in a 2017 Easy Reader interview. “My father used to carry me in a kangaroo harness on his chest while he taught classes. He would instill things into my brain, explaining techniques. It was our version of reading children’s books. But, instead of ‘Living happily ever after,’ it was about how to break someone’s arm.”
Among his father’s early lessons was to approach fighting like a chess match.
“You’re trying to see several moves ahead, and then wait for the opportunity,” LeBonoyani said. “As a fighter you always want to submit your opponent. You don’t want the fight to be decided by the judges. But if you’re hyper-focused on the finish, you’ll be blind to everything else. So, my dad taught me to focus on the process. When you do that, the submission, or knockout will present itself to you.”
“Don’t make it complicated. Don’t be a Jack of All Trades and a master of none,” he also recalled his father telling him.
Most of LeBosnoyani’s submissions result from his mastery of the arm bar, the triangle choke, and the double take-down (putting one’s opponent in the guard when the fighters crash to the mat).
“I constantly find myself falling back on the lessons I learned from my dad as a kid. The main one being don’t rush anything. You want to make sure you have position before you move in for the submission.”
LeBosnoyani’s mat training began at 3. His jiu jitsu competition began at 5. By the time he was a fifth grader, at Hermosa Valley School, he was competing internationally.
That year, in 2010, he won gold in eight of eight matches in the the 11-year-old, 90 pound division. The competitions included the Canadian International Jiu Jitsu Open in Toronto, the Abu Dhabi Jiu Jitsu Championships, the California State Championships, and the Pan Kids Jiu Jitsu Championships, at Cal State Dominguez Hills.
At Mira Costa High, at his father’s urging, LeBosani reluctantly joined the school wrestling team.
“I refused for a month. I saw wrestling as jiu jitsu with handcuffs on,” he recalled.
Mira Costa coach Jimmy Chaney changed that attitude.
“He instilled in me the basics of wrestling. He made me a more well-rounded fighter,” LeBosnoyani said
“Wrestling is the art of getting someone to the ground and holding them there. Jiu jitsu is forcing your opponent to submit. Wrestling is like a knife. Jiu Jitsu is like a Swiss Army knife. Together, they are the ultimate weapon,” he said.
In 2017, his senior year, LeBosnoyani was the fifth ranked wrestler in the State in the 170 pound division, and helped lead his team to the CIF Southern Division Championships.
He was also competing in martial arts. In 2016, he won the North American Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (NABJJF) World Championship. In 2017, he won his first Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fight at the Adrenaline Mixed Martial Arts Academy in San Bernardino.
LeBosnoyani trains at CMMA (California Mixed Martial Arts) in Gardena. His MMA coach is Chad George. George, a former high school wrestling All American, and the 2017 bantamweight Combat Jiu-Jitsu World Champion. George’s recently released audio book, “A Champion’s Mindset,” is number one on Amazon’s list of martial arts books.
“Chad puts all the martial arts together. He prepares you to go to war,” LeBosnoyani said.
Fridays are fight nights.
“I go through the day anticipating my upcoming fight. In the evening, I fight [UFC fighter] Christopher Giagos, my main training partner. We do five, five minute rounds because that’s how long championship fights are,” he said.
To develop the power and endurance to last five, five-minute championship rounds, LeBosnoyani works with Mike Saffaie, a Brazilian jiu jitsu brown belt, and former Mr. California. His clients include UFC fighter, and fellow South Bay native Brian Ortega.
“We do specific training to emulate what the body goes through in a fight. Knowing I can perform for 25 minutes gives me confidence that I have the gas to go the distance if I don’t finish the fight right away,” he said.
To cement his confidence, LeBosnoyani works with sports psychologist Caleb Rogers, known as the Mental Sensei for his work with MMA fighters and NFL players.
“We do a lot of visualization to navigate the roller coaster of emotions that come up. What a warm up looks like. How the fight starts and ends. You can prepare physically all you want. But all that preparation is for nothing if you’re not mentally prepared.
“Fighting in the octagon is a balance between playing chess, and being in a state of flow. You have to be mentally engaged to pick up on your opponent’s tells, and to execute. But you don’t want to be hyper focused on one thing. You want to be in the flow, like water, adapting to everything that’s happening.”
That’s as close as LeBosnoyani gets to romanticizing MMA fighting.
“I’m focused on using my body to its fullest potential. That means using my knees, elbows, and feet to punch, and to slice my opponent. Knees and elbows are very sharp. They cut with very little force. If you can cut your opponent above the eyebrow, they lose visibility and mobility,” he said.
The only compromise LeBosnoyani admits to in his preparation for Friday’s fight is “cutting weight.”
It’s a compromise all fighters must make before they step on the weigh-in scale.
“Once you weigh in [typically the night before a fight], you have until the time of the fight to rehydrate. You definitely don’t go into a fight feeling 100 percent. Everybody cuts weight because otherwise you’d be too small for your division. If I fought at 185 pounds, I’d be fighting someone cutting weight from 220 pounds. In the future, I hope they find a way to mitigate weight cutting because it is very taxing on any human body, let alone on athletes going into the most physical thing you could possibly do.”
Pre-fight, LeBosnoyani exhibits none of the swaggering showmanship common to MMA fighters. His only tattoos are “Today is temporary” on his right thigh, “Mufasa” (King) inside his right bicep, and 13 small hashtags (Lucky 13) on the right side of his chest.
He expressed respect for Jones, his upcoming opponent.
“We’re both 5-1. We’re both well-rounded. He’s a tough wrestler. He’ll be a good test for me,” LeBosnoyani said. ER
The Legacy Fighting Alliance Lightweight Championship fight on Friday, May 19 may be viewed live on UFC Fight Pass at 7 p.m. Pacific Time. The fight takes place at Gila River Resorts in Chandler Arizona. ER