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Sarasota fighter wins Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu championship in California

The 9 year old has been training for two years.

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At a certain point, wrestling her siblings was not enough. 

Leslie Foxworthy, then 7, would try to take down her three brothers, the oldest with a 10-year age advantage, on the regular. Foxworthy would even go after her two sisters on occasion. It was all in the name of fun, of course, but she was also displaying some skills, to the point where her father, Scott Foxworthy, asked her if she wanted to try out a real combat sport. 

She was thrilled. After looking at different schools, Foxworthy began attending Vieira Martial Arts Academy, where she studies Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Two years later, Foxworthy is not only up for any opponent in her path, but is beating them. On Feb. 9, she won the Pan Kids International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation Championship in her age group, clinching the title against Kylie Jett with an armbar submission. The championships were held in Long Beach, Calif.

Foxworthy finished second at the same event in 2019. Now, the 9-year-old is a world champion. 

"I was so excited," Foxworthy said. "After getting second place last year, I wanted to win this year. All I remember after winning is being happy." 

Leslie Foxworthy has been practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for two years.
Leslie Foxworthy has been practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for two years.

Foxworthy said she was not nervous before the competition. At this stage, she said, a match is a match. Whatever the stage, she knows what she has to do. Besides, she said, her family gets plenty nervous on their own. 

"It's stressful," Scott Foxworthy said. "You just hope the preparation and process pay off, but you never know. And it's not a sport where you continue no matter what. If you lose, that's it. You can go to California for one 30-second match."  

Thankfully, Foxworthy did a little better than that. 

Foxworthy competed in the event's Super-Heavy division of the Junior ranks. Scott Foxworthy said it is difficult for Leslie to make weight. She dedicates herself to the task a month or more ahead of time, swapping out unhealthy meals for salads. It's another reason, on top of winning, that he's proud of his daughter, he said. She has been working hard all the time, not just during practice at the academy. 

"It doesn't bother me," Leslie Foxworthy said, in reference to her siblings eating the things she can't during those months. "But I do miss pumpkin bread and some other carbs sometimes."

On top of the physical development, Scott Foxworthy said, the sport has also helped Leslie mature mentally and emotionally. She walks off the mat with a smile, win or lose, he said, and when she wins, she gives her opponent a hug. She's been in their shoes, he said. She's still working on being a good loser — Leslie smiled and laughed as he said as much — but she is on her way. 

Now that Foxworthy is a champion, she doesn't plan on slowing down. She recently received her white-striped yellow belt from her academy, and wants to continue climbing the ranks. 

"I want to do this forever," Foxworthy said. 



Ryan Kohn

Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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