It’s very difficult for a 16-year-old to earn hundreds of comments and millions of views across social media platforms but after a knee-shredding heel hook at EBI 20, Pat Shahgholi did just that.
Barely able to drive, Pat “The Adult Slayer” Shahgholi has been performing far beyond his age for a couple years now. While most 13- and 14-year-olds are sweating how they’re going to adjust to high school, the homeschooled Shahgholi was starting to submit fully grown adults in some of the biggest BJJ tournaments on earth.
Growing up with the older crowd had Shahgholi wise and skilled beyond his years and given him a jumpstart to stardom or, at least for the time being, infamy.
“At first I started doing local tournaments,” Shahgholi explained. “I was just kind of impressed with myself and happy with what I was doing, but as time went forward and I started doing higher level tournaments and people really started liking my Jiu jitsu and asking for privates, I was like, ‘This is changing now. I’m really starting to have a professional career.’”
The skill level was on full display at EBI 20 when Shahgholi, for better or for worse, finished David Vieira’s night and next few weeks with a cringeworthy heel hook that left Vieira writhing on the ground.
Social media users voiced a lot of opinion about the finish. Where there were a handful of supporters and a handful of impressed BJJ enthusiasts, the loud majority were displeased with the amount of torque Shahgholi put on Vieira’s knee to complete the finish.
Describing himself as a dangerous competitor as opposed to a dirty competitor, Shahgholi explains that his mindset going into every match, especially with hefty prize money on the line, is, ‘It’s either kill or be killed.’
“In the competition standpoint when there’s 50 grand on the line, my opponent is trying to break me and submit me so I have the same intentions,” Shahgholi said. “In the training room I’m preparing and practicing to physically break my opponent down mentally and physically. It’s called breaking mechanics.”
The keyboards have been on fire and almost every angle has been breached, from criticism to hatred to flat out insults. It’s a rare occasion where a 16-year-old has put himself in the public eye where members of the same community are in the clear to tee off without filter. What they don’t know is Pat Shahgholi isn’t your typical 16-year-old.
“I love it. I love the hate,” Shahgholi said. “The next competition they’re going to keep seeing me for the rest of their time. They’re going to keep seeing me on their feed or YouTube, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, SnapChat, they’re just going to keep seeing me and they’re going to be mad. They’re mad at what I’m doing but they can’t stop that. They have to deal with it.”
Shahgholi explains that if the public continues to build him up as “the BJJ bad guy” and promoters enjoy it, he’ll embrace the role. He knows that there’s a slight chance he’s put a target on himself but, in all reality, it isn’t going to change much. It’s not like they were going to treat him much differently before his viral moment.
“There may be a little bit of [a target] but maybe not,” Shahgholi said. “I think everybody is just kind of mad, but what do you expect from the jiu jitsu game? People are training to break each other.”
The only request Shahgholi has for the general public is that they watch the entirety of the match and post-match before accusing him of being classless. Sure, he torqued the heel hook and sure, he celebrated, but he didn’t leave Vieira there to limp home. He took in the moment and paid respect, whether you saw it or not.
“It was excitement and pure joy but also, after I did my celebration, I picked him up, helped him up, gave him a hug and made sure he was all right,” Shahgholi said. “I think people should obviously watch the whole video and match before commenting.”
Anybody hoping to scare the 16-year-old back to his sophomore year is going to be awfully disappointed because not only is Shahgholi not going anywhere, but he’s embracing the spotlight and calling out names.
“Gordon Ryan did just leg lock the EBI champion and I’m known as a dangerous leg locker, so Nicky Rod, he’s the champ,” Shahgholi laid out. “I think we’d be good for each other.”
Whether Shahgholi gets Nicky Rod next or not, he’s likely to have a whole lot more eyes on his next match.
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