By Jeremiah Taylor
Photos by Jeremiah Taylor & Brian Espinoza’s West Coast Jiu Jitsu’s Facebook Page
Throughout the state of California, an outside-the-cage battle takes place as MMA gyms fight to make their mark. Although it cannot be judged on takedowns or KO’s, the competition is fierce. Powerhouse gyms up north like Urijah Faber’s Ultimate Fitness/Team Alpha Male and Dan Henderson’s Team Quest down south have already set a standard of excellence for the rest of the Golden State. However, Brian Espinoza’s centrally-located West Coast Jiu Jitsu (WCJJ) in Oxnard is quickly establishing itself as a place for aspiring amateur and young professional fighters.
“I’m the biggest gym in the 805,” says Espinoza.
“Hey bro, welcome to West Coast Jiu Jitsu,” greets Julius as I walk in the door. Julius, a close friend and affiliate of Brian, runs the business side and front desk of WCJJ, and is likely the first face you see when entering. In the storefront are multiple belts simply resting on the counter tops, countless medals and ribbons modestly hanging from the walls. No glaring eyes, just a friendly and family oriented atmosphere. “We are definitely a brotherhood,” explained Julias, with a major emphasis on respect, and the ‘art’ of martial arts.
From the moment you take your shoes off to walk the mats, it becomes very clear that this is a breeding ground for fighters. Gym member ages vary from six to 45, and the MMA team boasts 15-20 male and female competitors.
To that end, WCJJ is no slouch on the amateur and professional circuits. Nick Willert, (7-2) one of Brian’s active professional fighters and coaches, attributes much of his success to WCJJ, stating “Brian has helped me in every aspect of the game.”
David Tubbs, a rising star on the amateur circuit and current Combat Fight League (CFL) middleweight champion, also plans to make his professional debut later this year. In September, David was the main event at the U of MMA’s ‘Salute to Service,’ taking his fight on a 48-hour notice. He won by submission at 1:23 of the first round.
Unlike many MMA gyms, every student at WCJJ has a specific coach, designated based on that student’s strengths and backgrounds. WCJJ offers classes in Muay Thai, kickboxing, women’s self defense, Crossfit cardio training, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and assorted kids classes. So regardless of whether you are training to become a professional fighter or just shed some pounds and get in shape, WCJJ has everything you need to polish the body and mind.
At WCJJ, they aim to satisfy all aspirations of members, no matter how big or small. “We are a partnership in discovery. Not everybody wants to be a fighter; we suit their needs,” Brian affirms. “You become who you wanna be here; I don’t dictate it.”
WCJJ has a new-school approach to old-school ideas. “Brian’s all about changing lives” according to Julius Mojica, whose respect and understanding of Brian’s passion for instructing is evident. Julius also owns Combat Fight League (CFL), a amateur league that many WCJJ members compete in against other teams.
Brian’s training philosophy is based on his study of the martial arts over the past 21 years. Born and raised in Oxnard, his humble beginnings in karate at the young age of nine gave him the discipline and enthusiasm to pursue other forms of martial arts. After competing as a child in karate, Brian’s instructor noticed he had very heavy hands and suggested he “needed something with more contact.” Reluctantly, Brian’s father permitted him to train in boxing and kickboxing when he was only 14.
Brian competed in several boxing/kickboxing amateur fights throughout his high school years, while wrestling his sophomore and junior years of high school. When he was 18, Brian discovered Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and became enthralled. Noting his knack for the ground game, it was at this point that Brian started training in MMA. At age 27, he took a trip to Thailand to train in Muay Thai.
Brian returned in 1995 to open his first gym, ‘BJJ/Muay Thai Academy,’ thus creating the first MMA gym in Ventura County. Since 2003, West Coast Jiu Jitsu has been on the map, making big waves in the amateur circuit. Having already expanded WCJJ three times, he is looking to expand again. “I’m always trying to stay ahead of the game,” he explains.
Brian also has an affiliate gym in Oregon, 503 West Coast Jiu Jitsu, run by a former student Jason Pittman, who holds a blue belt under Brian.
Today, Brian also utilizes his years of training and expertise as one of the few certified instructors of local law enforcement to train hand-to-hand combat and self-defense. His MMA team and gym curriculum are both larger than ever, and as the West Coast Jiu Jitsu name continues to gain recognition up and down the Pacific region, Brian feels optimistic about helping establish central California as another hotbed for MMA action.
For more info on West Coast Jiu Jitsu and its affiliates, visit one of the following locations:
West Coast Jiu Jitsu
2945 Los Olivos, Suite 101
Oxnard, CA 93036
503 West Coast Jiu Jitsu
9906 Southeast Empire Court
Clackamas, OR 97015
West Coast Predators D.F.
Esquina Isabel La Catolica, Col. Alamos