“Darth” Rader Battles 10th Planet With Hard Work Instead of the Force

I sometimes think I get a ton accomplished in a day.  Between work, family, and other committments the reality is that sometimes jiu jitsu comes last.  It turns out that most of the time I’m just a white belt in the game of prioritizing and staying dedicated.  Justin “Darth” Rader shows that he is a World Champion in Time Management and a Black Belt in dedication and shows how even I can get there with a little practice and a great deal of sweat.

Last summer I had the pleasure of visiting Professor Rafael Lovato Jr.’s school in Oklahoma City, OK.  There I was able to take a class with Professor Justin Rader, who has the honor of being Professor Lovato’s first black belt.  Justin was the 2010 Black Belt Featherweight No-Gi Jiu Jitsu World Champion.  He is a two-time ADCC veteran and multiple time Grapplers Quest Pro Champion.  He is one of the black belt instructors at Lovato’s School of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and MMA, the wrestling program instructor and the JR Warrior Kids instructor.  To say my class with Justin was stellar is an understatement, as it was a perfect mix of technique and theory, unified by Justin’s personal experiences in hundreds of wrestling and jiu jitsu matches.

Justin Rader, World Champion and Internet Meme


When I find my motivation waning or find myself questioning why I put my body through the wringer during each class at Ribeiro Jiu Jitsu New Castle–Rozzi Self Defense Center, I take a moment to think of the passion and energy that Professor Rader brings to everything he does.  Justin was kind enough to take a few minutes out of his ultra-busy schedule teaching at Lovato’s and training for his superfight with 10th Planet star Denny Prokopos to talk to me about how things are going.

Todd Shaffer:  Your Superfight this weekend on June 15th represents a great battle between World Championship level Ribeiro/Lovato JR. jiu jitsu and one of the stars of the 10th Planet system. What challenges do you see Denny or the system posing for you and what challenges do you think your style will offer him?

Justin Rader:   Denny is one of 10th Planet’s most accomplished athletes. He is Eddie Bravo’s first black belt, and has competed against many of the top guys in this sport. Denny is a very versatile jiu-jitsu fighter, he can play from just about any position, he’s got his favorite moves and positions that are unique to him and hard to prepare for, and he is very flexible. I’ve also been watching video of his past matches, looking for tendencies, positions he likes to be in, etc.

I do this to prepare myself, but I do not let it take me out of my game and what I’m looking to do. I do this with any opponent I may be facing. I like to go in there, take my best stuff against my opponent’s best stuff, and see who comes out on top when the match is over. This is the mindset I go into every match with.

Also, with me, you know exactly what you’re going to get. I’m always going to be keeping the pressure on, constantly battling for position. This is how Professor Rafael Lovato Jr. taught me to be, and it’s what I will be bringing on June 15th.  One more thing I have been asked quite a lot recently is what I am going to change because this is a 20 minute sub-only match. I AM NOT GOING to change anything about my style. I want to prove that it is effective and efficient even in this format of rules.

And if you haven’t heard/seen Professor Rafael’s Pressure Passing System, it’s definitely something you should look into. He just came out with a no-gi version, and I highly recommend it, and I am sure you will be seeing much of it in this upcoming super fight!

Todd Shaffer:  Justin, you’re regarded as one of the busiest guys in jiu jitsu, recently finishing up school, internships, all while maintaining a full teaching schedule and training to win World Championships. Tell us what you do in your downtime? I find sometimes that personally my busy schedule masks an unwillingness to challenge myself. What advice would you have for someone who is juggling lots of life ‘priorities’ and trying to fit in as much training as possible? What do you say or what strategies do you employ when you “just don’t want to train, head to Tirey’s, etc.? How do you overcome?

Justin Rader: In my spare time, I like to read books (currently reading the Song of Ice and Fire series), and watch some of the TV shows I like. I do not really have much spare time though, but I truly love teaching and training jiu-jitsu. From teaching and helping run the kids program, to teaching the adults, to helping my teammates train, as well as train myself, I do stay pretty busy, but it’s very fulfilling. I love watching students improve, develop their own games and styles, and have a great time too. Here at Lovato’s School of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and MMA, we’re in the business of changing lives.

Regarding staying busy, training for World Championships and going to school all at the same time, working an internship that required 8 hours of my day every day, I will say was not easy, and I’m very happy to be completely done and have my degrees. However, as much balancing I did between the two, I would like to take a moment and tell everybody that I was not able to accomplish that alone. I have the very best support system and resources that gave me that opportunity. First and foremost, my parents, David and Mary Jane Rader, are the ones who helped support me financially to even attempt going to school and find the time to train as much as I did to chase this dream of winning world titles and continue to challenge myself at the highest level possible. They also got me started in martial arts at a very young age (4-5 years old I began wrestling), and this gave me a huge advantage over people trying to start in high school, college, or later. Without them, I would likely not have been able to earn my degrees and train to compete like I have. Also, the owners of Lovato’s Academy, Professor Rafael and Tina Lovato, were very supportive and helped work with me at every turn when school or my internship would interfere with the classes I taught and time I needed to train. I couldn’t have done what I did without them. I now understand and realize not everybody has this opportunity, and I’m very grateful to those who have helped me.

When it comes to finding time or trying to fit training in, I think you have to find where training is in your priorities in life, and what your goals with your training are. If your goal is to just have a fun hobby and meet new people while learning an art that is great for self-defense and is a lot of fun, then perhaps it’s not very high on the priority list. If you want to be a world champion competitor, that obviously means a very serious and rigorous training regimen and means you may have to sacrifice other things in your life during that time.

And during those times when you don’t feel like training, I think it’s important to find what motivates you and focus on that. For me, I know that for me to have a chance at competing against the best in the world, I have to train not only hard, but smart. And on days where I just don’t want to go in and put in the work required, I remember those few I represent and are closest to me, and that motivates me to get up, get going, and push through.

Todd Shaffer:  What do you think of the recent announcement of the rematch between Royler Gracie and Eddie Bravo?

Justin Rader: I was pretty excited to hear the announcement of the rematch between Royler Gracie and Eddie Bravo at the next Metamoris event. It’s going to be very interesting, especially because the rematch is taking place 10 years later, and so much can happen or change in that time. The rules of the Metamoris event also make this interesting, as neither competitor will have to worry about points, and it will be interesting to see their game-plans going into this match.

Todd Shaffer: Justin, can you speak to the recent storms that hit Oklahoma and the impact that it’s had on the school, the students, and you personally? I’ve personally followed the school’s efforts to be involved in clean up and volunteering. How are those efforts going? Of note, is Professor Rafael’s work to get the gi signed by the superstars of BJJ. Is there anything else we in the jiu jitsu community can do to help?

Justin Rader:  The tornado that hit Moore, OK and surrounding areas was devastating. So many people were affected, and so much was destroyed. The worst of the storm hit about 20-25 minutes south of us here in Oklahoma City, so for us personally we were generally unaffected. But I’ve been down to Moore, OK, as the Lovato Jiu-Jitsu Academy coordinated a volunteer group to go down and help clean up as much wreckage as possible. After seeing it in person, I cannot begin to imagine what those affected the most must be feeling. Right now, BJJ Rants and Jiujitsoul have helped put together a fundraiser as they donated a gi that was then signed by many of the top superstars in this sport and is now being auctioned off, and all of the proceeds are going to help those affected by the tornado. I’d like to ask the jiu-jitsu community to help make this auction known to try to help raise as much as possible. The auction will end this coming Saturday.

Todd Shaffer:  And finally, is there anyone you would like to thank? Training partners, sponsors, etc.?

Justin Rader:  I’d like to thank my parents David and Mary Jane Rader, Professor Rafael Lovato Jr., and my wrestling coach Andy Howington for all of their influence and investment in me. I say often that I am motivated to train and fight by those that have taught me so much, invested in me, believed in me, been teachers and mentors to me, and have been like family, and each of these people have done that. When I step out onto the mats, I represent them, and hope to make them proud. I’d also like to thank Professors Saulo and Xande Ribeiro, and Chris Savarese for their influence as well.

I’d also like to thank my sponsors OnTheMat and Lucky Gi, Novatek Laboratories, Kize Concepts, and Tirey’s Training for all of their help and support.

And thanks to BJJ Rants for the interview and help with the fundraiser for OKC!

Todd Shaffer:  Justin, I’d like to thank you first and foremost for taking the time out of your schedule prepping for your fight with Denny to speak with me.  You’re a great inspiration to jiu jitsu practicioners all over the world.  I’d also like to note how welcome you made me feel last summer when I was able to attend your wrestling class.  I recommend a visit to Lovato’s school to any jiu jitsu, wrestling or MMA practitioner.  Best of luck in your upcoming fight!

Fans can view Justin’s Superfight with Denny Prokopos by going to www.midwestsubmissionchallenge.com and ordering the live stream on Saturday at 3pm CT/4pm ET.

10th Planet vs. Ribeiro/Lovato BJJ

Justin can also be found on social media at the following sites:


Twitter: @darthrader86

Instagram: darthrader86

Justin is also available for seminars.  You can message him on Facebook to discuss hosting him.



Todd Shaffer

Todd Shaffer

Todd is a 41 year old, purple belt in Jiu Jitsu under John Rozzi and Saulo Ribeiro and a white belt in most other things.
Todd Shaffer

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