In August 2016, BloggED featured Insight School of Washington (ISWA) student Ariel Rodrigues and her endeavors as a trained Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter. Ariel developed a passion for the sport when she had the opportunity to take a kids’ MMA class at Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighter Wanderlei Silva’s gym when she was 8 years old.
Now a junior at ISWA, Ariel – known as “Lil Taz” in the ring – still gets to live out her passion while balancing a full online course load. She says that her favorite part about attending online school is still the flexibility. “It allows me to attend classes and do schoolwork from wherever I am, giving me the opportunity to focus on my training,” she said.
Her training schedule is still extremely rigorous: “I am at the gym from 6 a.m.-9 p.m. where I do my schooling, training and also coach kids classes. I train six days a week, with several classes a day at different locations. I usually start on my schoolwork when I first get to the gym before my training classes start. I’m also able to do my Class Connects either on the mats or in the office at the gym,” explained Ariel, who specializes in Muay Thai, Taekwondo, Filipino Martial Arts (FMA), and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ).
Even with a busy schedule, both Ariel and her mother, Lisa Graves, agree that the flexibility of online schooling has definitely been a major factor in enabling Ariel to compete at a high level. “Without the opportunity of Insight, she would not be where she is right now with her fighting journey!” Lisa explains.
Ariel added: “The only way I am allowed to travel for competitions during the school year is because I am able to bring school with me!”
To date, Ariel has now competed in a total of 34 Brazilian Ju-Jitsu tournaments, 11 Muay Thai/kickboxing fights, which include exhibition and sanctioned fights, as well as four cage grappling matches and one cage grappling tournament. Just last weekend, “Lil Taz” took gold in both Gi and No Gi competitions at the Revolution BJJ Tournament in Tacoma, Washington, winning all but one of her matches by submission.
However, even successful athletes have to overcome hardships. Ariel suffered a knee injury in August just three days before she was set to make her amateur MMA debut. She was pulled off the mats for two months. Even injured, she insisted on being at the gym with the rest of her team. Now that she has fully healed, she is back and stronger than ever!
This February, Ariel won a women’s cage grappling tournament, earning the championship belt as well as $250 cash! Next up, she will be flying to Irvine, California, to compete at the Pan International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) Championship on March 10, and three months later she will be heading to Long Beach, California, to compete at the World IBJJF Championship for the second year in a row!
Ariel is set to graduate from ISWA in less than two years, and while she is still unsure of what her post-grad plans are, both she and her mother have expressed enthusiasm for continuing her academic career online so she can continue to live out her dream.