An internationally-ranked jiu jitsu champion’s journey to success


Merrick Miller

During practice, Merrick Miller spars with his instructor, Alex Sensei, at the Midtown Grappling Academy.

Not only is sophomore Merrick Miller the best at jiu jitsu among White Station students, he is ranked first nationally and third internationally.

In 2017, Miller won the North American Grappling Association Championship in the expert super heavyweight division for those with an orange belt. That same year, he went on to tie for third place at the Pan American Kids International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation Championships.

Having competed in jiu jitsu and judo since he was seven years old, Miller credits his father for getting him involved originally.  

“At first I wanted to do karate but my dad—he didn’t really like karate—was much more interested in UFC at the time,” Miller said. “He’d always heard about jiu jitsu and taekwondo and judo… so he was the one that found a gym for me to train jiu jitsu in.”

When Miller first started eight years ago, he trained at Memphis Judo and Jiu Jitsu, but three years ago, his trainer started his own gym, the Midtown Grappling Academy. He wanted to continue with his instructor, Alex Meadows, so Miller followed him to the new gym, and even practiced in someone’s garage during the six month in-between period.

To get where Miller is now, hard work and dedication is essential. Unlike many sports, there is no off-season, and he has to be prepared for competitions every month of the year.

“I practice at least two to three times a week. I go at 6:00 p.m., and I get out at either 8:30 or 9:00,” Miller said.

Miller does sometimes get tired of the countless practices. But it is the true test of a dedicated athlete in how he perseveres despite everything else.

“The hardest part is staying motivated and having fun. After a while, you stop having fun with these things, and you’re just kind of bored,” Miller said. “But, recently, I’ve been getting more fun out of it because more people are [joining the gym].”

Despite training being time-consuming, the most rewarding part of his unique extracurricular is the competitions. Every athlete strives for success—something Miller has undoubtedly achieved. After becoming the NAGA champion for America—a title which he still holds—he tied for third at the IBJJF Championships that was held in California. Kids from across the globe came to compete. For example, Miller sparred against someone from Japan.

“There were about 230 kids there, but they narrow it down by age, weight, belt…,” Miller said. “It was the worldwide competition. If you win this, you are considered the best.”

Even though Miller is not planning to make a career out of his passion, he is looking to continue training in jiu jitsu and judo far into the future.