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Grappler and coach head to world finals

Oct 02, 2017 02:30PM ● Published by Jana Klopsch

Koffi Adzitso will represent the United States at the World Grappling Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Koffi Adzitso)

The story of U.S. grappling team member Koffi Adzitso begins at a young age when his family left Africa and settled in Utah as refugees. His new life would take him on a journey to the World Grappling Championships in Azerbaijan.

“Only 20 people made the team, lots tried out and two of us come from Utah. We get to represent the USA and travel out of the country as team members,” Adzitso said.

The World Grappling Championships are scheduled for Oct. 18-21 in Baku, Azerbaijan. 

Adzitso trains with Taylorsville resident and former grappling World Champion Brandon Ruiz. He began hand-to-hand combat training after graduating from Cottonwood High School in 2007. While training he met Ruiz and began learning from him.

“I heard about wrestling my senior year and went out for the team. After high school I was doing MMA (mixed martial arts) and that is when I met Brandon. Every time I compete Brandon is in my corner. I have learned everything from him. This time I made the team with him,” Adzitso said.

He joined the Colts wrestling team his senior year and placed second in his weight class at the Utah High School Activities Association state wrestling meet.

He encourages kids to wrestle as early as they can.

“Wrestling teaches a lot of discipline and how to respect people. I learned to honor people and be responsible,” Adzitso said.

Adzitso and his family came to Utah when he was 11 years old. He moved from Togo, Africa. His parents got jobs at the airport to support his family.

“My parents really struggled to give us a good life here. They gave up a lot of stuff to come here and we settled in and became citizens. We came here with only the stuff we could fit in our suitcase,” Adzitso said.

Because he is different he got into a lot of fights in school. 

“I dressed different, did not speak English and looked different than everyone else. Back in Africa we fought a lot. When I was bullied I would defend myself. Then I started wrestling and instead of fighting after school I was on a team. I felt this was it, and I knew it would keep me away from trouble,” Adzitso said. 

Grappling differs from wrestling—it is wrestling to submission. This means a competitor is expected to submit either verbally or by tapping his opponent to admit defeat. Refusing to “tap out” can risk unconsciousness or serious injury.

His supporters have started a go fund me account to help him raise funds for travel while attending the championships. It can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/send-koffi-to-world-championship.

Adzitso estimates his trip to the world championships will cost about $5,000. He works for Intermountain Health Care in the purchasing warehouse.

He trains by riding his bicycle to work and working out with Ruiz his coach. He rides 34 miles a day and spends approximately 12 hours a week perfecting his skill.

He qualified for the team in April at the U.S. Grappling World Team Trials in Las Vegas. He finished fourth in the 84 kg class. 

Adzitso is nicknamed “The Lion King” in Ultimate Fighting circles and began fighting in 2007. His UFC record includes 20 wins and 11 losses. He had nine knockouts. His last UFC fight was in 2014 when he began training for submission grappling full time. 

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