The Road to TBA: AJ Jensen

AJ has devoted much of his life to Martial Arts. He started karate as a child and transitioned to Kickboxing and Muay Thai later on in life. He has had a very successful last 6 months in Muay Thai! He has won two consecutive championship belts at the US Muay Thai Open once in November and again in April. He is looking to bring home his third belt of the year but this time taking on A-Class competition at the 2018 TBA Classic Tournament! This will also be his last competition before he moves to VENEZUELA to teach for a year. Go AJ!

1. What is your weight class and current record?

Featherweight; 127 lbs. 9 wins and 3 defeats

2. How long have you been training Muay Thai?

I’ve been training Muay Thai for about two years, but before then kickboxing for another five or so.

3. Have you ever competed at TBA before? If so, what has been your experience?

Yes! I competed for the first time in B Class and had a great time using elbows for the first time ever. I ended up winning my first and losing in the finals to a guy way better at clinching than I was. I was very impressed with the respect coming from competitors, coaches, fans, and the officials.

4. How does a tournament differ from an ordinary fight?

I am much more relaxed going into a tournament knowing I am absolutely going to have a fight. In my brackets there have always been four to five competitors, some drop out and some step in at the last moment. I also really like fighting multiple times in one weekend. It’s fun to be able to pick right up from where you left off and make quick adjustments in your style and find new strategies you are comfortable competing with without waiting for another opportunity to fight.

5. Why did you choose to get into Muay Thai?

I started out competing in karate when I was young which was very fun. As I got into my teenage years I wanted to compete in a combative sport that was more fluid, and had fewer restrictions. Learning how to compete in kickboxing was a blast. Later I moved onto K-1 rules, and finally Muay Thai. Competing in the TBA and being able to add elbows, knees, and clinching into the game was exhilarating! Every class, sparring session, private lesson, and seminar I felt like I was picking up something new that could really change the way I fought. I like the variability of Muay Thai the best. Finding good weapons you like and weaving them together so it works for you.

6. Why did you choose to get into fighting?

I wanted to push myself! I’ve always idolized iconic fighters in pop culture and really wondered what it would feel like to be in a ring. I was curious to see if I could hack the competitiveness of combative sports.

7. Is fighting the same or different than you expected it to be?

I expected it to be hard. I was right! The training is time consuming and tiring but also really rewarding. The biggest challenge for me is keeping a consistent diet.

8. What was your first fight like? If you have never fought before… what are you most looking forward to?

I got my first chance to compete in my early twenties at a venue in Wyoming Minnesota. I was fighting a guy who had fought before but lost. The training was very difficult and I was finding my body was always sore and part of me was always injured (usually my toes). In addition, my opponent was trash talking me on Facebook which really wigged me out. I didn’t enjoy that. My nerves got the better of me on a few occasions, but come fight time that all went away. I didn’t have time to be nervous because I was too busy moving. The combinations I had trained came naturally and the hits I took didn’t stop me. It was a fight I felt dominate in and what’s more much more comfortable than I thought I would be. It wasn’t at all like laying awake at 3am thinking about how bad I could get hurt, or how much I’d hate to lose in front of my Mum. It was just fun.

9. How have you grown since your first fight to now?

I’ve relaxed a lot more. I’ve always been pretty tense going into competitions which has been restrictive. It’s harder to think and strategize when I’m tense. Sometimes I’d forget the drills I’d been working on and revert to the basics. A big part was being afraid to lose. At this point I don’t worry about losing as much because I know what it feels like and I know it’s not the end of the world. Now I enjoy the camp and the actual time in the ring much more.

10. What would you say has been the biggest benefit to fighting?

I really enjoy the goals fighting presents. Setting a goal to compete in a tournament is a great way to be motivated to get to work and gives me lots to look forward to. Within the larger goals I can work towards smaller ones as well: improving footwork, or better breathing practices.

11. What is your favorite part of getting ready for a fight? What is your favorite part of the actual fight?

I like setting new goals, such as flexibility and trying to use a few new combinations. This camp I’ve been trying to get more consistent at catching kicks. It’d be awesome to score some sweeps in addition!

12. What is your least favorite part of getting ready for a fight? What is your least favorite part of the actual fight?

Probably the diet. I don’t mind it so much because I don’t switch up what I’m eating as much I just have to eat less of it when the competition is closer. However, this time I’m really missing ice cream.

13. What does a typical “fight camp” look like for you?

Two classes a day, running four times a week, jump rope, private lessons, less time for socializing. Usually on weekends my girlfriend Hannah and I will go to a movie theater instead of a party or the bars. In part because the energy levels are pretty low but also because it’s easier than resisting beers and ice cream.

14. What does a typical “fight diet” look like for you?

No ice cream for six weeks, not even vanilla. Watching the carbohydrates I take in and making sure the ones I am getting are from a good nutritious source so no fettuccine alfredo either. I generally eat the same stuff all the way through, which is mainly whole foods. Breakfast is three eggs and a whole grain pancake, lunch is brown rice with steamed veggies and meat usually chicken, dinner is pretty much the same. Coffee is a favorite in the morning and in the afternoon. I like this french roast from a shop in Linden Hills. One week out is a little different, mainly the bare minimum of carbohydrates.

15. How does it feel to fight alongside so many teammates?

Super exciting! I can’t wait to see how we do. I think we’re going to kill it. Everyone has been looking super sharp so I’ll be really happy to get to watch my teammates tear it up.

16. How have your teammates and coaches helped you through this camp?

The social life at the gym makes going through camp really nice. It’s fun to see everyone at the gym and support each other. I like seeing what other people are working on and talking tactics and strategies. It’s very nice to have so many people to learn from, coaches and teammates alike.

17. What advice would you offer to someone who aspires to fight one day?

Do it! Work hard, run, eat right and see what you can do in the ring!

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