Cover Story – Marc Monaco: Top Pro IPL Men’s Athletic & Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Title Winner

“…believe in yourself and have fun no matter what the result. You may surprise yourself!”


BEN: YOSEF: Congratulations on all of your success in 2020! Especially considering all of the challenges that the year brought. How did you stay so strong in 2020?

MARC MONACO: Thank you! Even though it was a challenging year with the pandemic, I had a lot of goals that I needed to accomplish for myself. I knew there would be obstacles to face, but I stayed strict with my nutrition plan and made sure to hit the gym at least five days a week. The hardest part was to stay strong mentally, not physically. But I knew that I had the right mind frame.

BY: Love it. When did you get into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu? And what peaked your interest about the sport?

MM: I started Brazilian Jiu Jitsu over 17 years ago. First, I was interested in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) after being a fan of the UFC! I was intrigued how easily a smaller individual could dominate larger competitors when I watched Royce Gracie and some of the other BJJ practitioners. I began my journey in 2003, as a 205 pound Bodybuilder, and got my butt handed to me by much smaller individuals that were much weaker than me, but knew how to use my strength, along with proper leverage and technique against me. I was instantly hooked! My first two years of training was very little, but after losing a few tournaments, I was determined to improve fast and decided to make training a full time commitment, and even replaced Bodybuilding.

BY: What was it about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu that pulled you towards it and away from Bodybuilding?

MM: I really fell in love with the sport, especially the idea of a smaller person being able to control a larger, stronger person. I always enjoyed lifting weights, but I embraced a newer challenge and set different goals. I did not find much success in Bodybuilding in my early 20’s. I really did not know much about the sport, and pretty much trained myself, which was a recipe for disaster! I competed in Bodybuilding from 2002 until 2004, but never had the resources to be successful at that time in my life.

BY: So, no Bodybuilding competitions from 2004 until 2020?

MM: No, my focus was completely on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and tournaments. I still worked out and kept in peak shape, especially for tournaments and super fights. But Bodybuilding competitions became a thing of the past for me.

     After over 30 BJJ tournaments and a couple Black belt Super fights, I needed a new challenge and felt that I developed the muscle maturity through martial arts, weightlifting, functional training and a better understanding of nutrition and how my body reacts. I went through a tough time in my personal life, and needed something to put my energy towards in a positive way, other than Jiu Jitsu.

     I started to seriously lift weights again and actually had a good friend of mine develop a grueling training program for me. I also reached out to IPL Pro, Elli Nichole, for nutritional advice and supplementation. I felt like I had “unfinished business” to accomplish in the sport of Physique Competition. And, at 40 years old, I finally had all of the components that I needed to at least be competitive on stage.

After 16 years, I competed in IPL Florida with the intentions of “belonging” on stage and being the best version of myself. I never imagined that I would win two Pro Cards at that event! Since then, I’ve been totally hooked!!!

BY: What a great story and a great path. And you definitely picked a good coach for advice in Elli Nichole! What tips would you give athletes out there who are looking to hit the stage for the first time? And what about those who have taken time off and are looking to get back up there? Do you have any insight for them? 

MM: My advice for first time athletes would be to listen to those with competition experience or expertise in specific areas like training program design, nutrition plans, supplementation and posing. Don’t try to do everything yourself. Make the final product a team effort! And most importantly, believe in yourself and have fun no matter what the result. You may surprise yourself!

     My advice for those that have taken time off and decide to get back on stage is to research the current competition scene and see which category or division works best for your current physique.  Competitions have changed a lot over the years, and it is important to stay current. Have fun and always try to look better than before!


BY: Do you have a favorite when comparing BJJ and Physique Competition?

MM: There really is no comparison between Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and physique competition…they are two totally different sports. I like them equally. Currently, my focus is on physique competitions because I feel there is so much more for me to accomplish. I’m still learning a lot about this sport and embracing the new challenges ahead.

BY: What is the difference between a tournament and a superfight?

MM: The difference between a tournament and a superfight is a tournament has several competitors within your bracket or division. Whereas a superfight is a single match, usually with a different set of rules. With a superfight, you will usually know who your opponent is in advance, so you can prepare for one competitor instead of several.

BY: And finally, what’s next for you?

MM: I have several goals for 2021, but my goals always change day by day! I’m one of those guys that says, “I’m only competing one more time” and then I decide to compete 10 times! My short term goal is to compete at IPL Florida and hopefully earn my Pro Cards in Sports Model and win my first Pro Open Athletic title. I’m confident that I will bring my best package yet, but the only thing I can control is the physique that I bring to the stage on competition day! And I’m totally content if I know that I gave my best efforts in preparation, regardless of the results.

     I’d also love to be featured in more magazines and help others to realize success in THEIR fitness goals as well. I hope to  provide inspiration to others and help them realize that with determination, sacrifice and dedication, they can accomplish whatever they put their mind to. This whole process and this past year has been a dream come true for me, and it all came through hard work…but not impossible work! Once again, thank you to the IPL and to you, Ben, for providing a platform for natural athletes to show their hard work on a fair and competitive stage!

About the interviewer:

Ben Yosef

Ben Yosef

Ben is the Publisher of ATHLETIC Magazine and the President & Founder of the International Physique League.

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