Mason Fowler has been around the Jiu Jitsu scene for ages. But, Fowler wasn’t well known among the more casual viewers for the longest time. Sure, he was always a killer. But he never had that one standout performance that made people say, “Wow!” That is, until Submission Underground 16 when he defeated Craig Jones in overtime. While the match was met with controversy, Fowler repeated his performance at Submission Underground 17, defeating Jones in overtime. Now Fowler takes on the legendary Vinny Magalhães this weekend at SUG 18.
Check out the podcast with Mason Fowler below on Spotify and anywhere else you get your podcasts.
The aforementioned matches with Craig Jones started much earlier than SUG 16. Jones and Fowler met at ADCC in 2016 and the loss to Jones was a nightmare for Mason Fowler. He used that as fuel to come back and be a better Jiu Jitsu player. It was he and his coach, Caio Terra, that put in hours inside the gym, preparing and getting better an inch at a time for the rematch with Jones down the line. When that time came, Fowler knew he was ready. After quite literally begging Chael Sonnen for a match against Jones, Sonnen granted his wish and set the match up.
“The reason I wanted the match so bad was because I had such a sour taste in my mouth from our first match at ADCC. So, I don’t know, I really wanted to get that win back. I had so many nights where I was up and couldn’t think just thinking about it. It just burned me inside. We did the match and I felt like I was able to follow a nice strategy and was able to execute on the game plan. There was some controversy because he made a noise and the ref stopped it due to a verbal tap. At one point, he made a grunt, some have called it a scream, some called it just a noise, whatever it was. I actually looked up at the ref and was like, ‘Verbal tap?’ He was like, ‘No, keep going.’ It happened again, and when it did the ref stopped it. I almost wish I wouldn’t have said anything and kept fighting. But when you’re in the battle, you’ re always trying to think of how are you going to win. If you have an opportunity and you think something might have happened that you think you win, you get a little excited. I’m a little glad that there was some controversy in a weird way because it brought a lot of attention to the third match and it brought a lot of attention to both of us. Mostly me because Craig is already well known. The fact that I had this big controversy against a really well known grappler, then we got to do a third match, that was huge for me and my career. Before ADCC, I was relatively unknown. Then after having a trilogy with one of the most well known grapplers in the world, I think it really raised my stock.”
Fowler goes back in to talk about his team. When talking about the preparation put in ahead of his match by his mentor, Ciao Terra, he has nothing but the highest of compliments. Fowler says seeing the game planning that went into practice once in the cage with Jones actually work, he was pleasantly surprised.
“Luckily, I’m in a really good position where I have a great coach. Anyone that’s trained with Caio Terra knows that he knows Jiu Jitsu, he knows it at a different level than anything I’ve ever seen before. He studies, he’s really big on studying your opponent. It’s not just training hard and then you’re going to go fight. We’re studying every movement that he’s doing and we got really familiar with his setups and he had everyone in the gym attacking me with those same setups training me with reactions to capitalize off them. Like I said, we had a really good strategy and a really good game plan. It’ s weird because during both the matches with Craig, especially in the third one, it was my third time preparing for him. Even in ADCC, we knew he was in the bracket and we were preparing for him almost a whole year. A couple of my training partners got really good at his game himself and use that as their main game now because they were doing that so much to me. In that third match, during it, I was just seeing things happen the way that Caio was telling me they were going to happen. He would do something and then I would react the way he told me to react and it would work. It was weird man, as it was happening, I was like, ‘Oh, shoot, that worked. Oh! That worked too!’ It was crazy. All the pieces were just coming together.”
Game planning is a big part of Terra’s preparation for his athletes and students. Even in a tournament, Ciao Terra is so in tune with the Jiu Jitsu world, he has a general idea of who will be around later in the bracket and has his students training appropriately for future matchups.
“Even in a tournament, Caio will have us studying the top four guys that you’re probably going to face in the semis and the finals. I’ve done that a little bit but not to the extent to where we’re analyzing the whole game and all the reactions and training for all these specific positions. We really went into a different level of training for a Jiu Jitsu tournaments and competitions. Craig has a really specific game that he plays. He has good Jiu Jitsu all around. But he catches most of the high level guys with a lot of the same sequences. That’s how everyone is, everyone has their A game. So, I was able to recognize the traps. By the third time, I felt like I kind of had a good idea of the system he uses.”
As for a fourth round with Craig Jones, Mason Fowler is down. But he wants revenge at ADCC and has his eyes on the gold medal this time. He says he knows Matheus Diniz, the man who beat Jones at ADCC in 2019.
“Eventually, yeah, for sure. Right now, me and him are at the top of the division. I’d like another ADCC match. That’s in my mind right now. Him and the other guy’s Diniz, he won ADCC and beat Craig in the final. They’re number one and number two. I’m looking forward to the next ADCC. I really want to make sure I get in and make sure I get a good performance in the trials and secure my place and then I can really focus. Last time I had a good performance at ADCC and I almost sold myself short. I wanted to go out there and perform and prove to myself that I’m one of the best which I did do, instead of now my mindset is proving that I’m the best and not accepting anything other than gold.”
Mason Fowler versus Vinny Magalhães
For now, Mason Fowler has just as big of a task in front of him. He takes on Magalhães in another tough match and, while some people are keen to dismiss Magalhães after his loss to Jones, Fowler knows it doesn’t always work that way. He is making sure he is just as prepared for Magalhães as he was for Craig Jones.
“We have a pretty good idea of Vinny’s game plan. There’s a couple different things that he could do. We have a pretty good idea. Me and Caio sat down and we both analyzed tape and we have a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen. The biggest thing for me is just not getting comfortable. A lot of people in their mind might think, ‘Craig tapped Vinny and I beat Craig so I should be able to beat Vinny.’ It just doesn’t work like that. Craig caught Vinny with a leg early on and that’s Craig’s game and he does that to everyone. That doesn’t mean that my game is going to work on Vinny the same way that Craig’s did. We’re anticipating Vinny to have a solid game. We think we know what his game plan is going to be and we’re training for it. I don’t want to give anything away. We think we know what’ s going to happen but, at the end of the day, I’m trying to treat this like it’s my first ever Submission Underground match. I’m not going to give big headed and be like, ‘I beat Craig, I’m the champ.’ I’m still training really hard every day and I’m doing all the extra things I did in training camp for Craig. I think it’s going to be good. I’m training a lot more with Yuri, me and Yuri have been training pretty consistently. He’s focusing on MMA, so he was doing a lot more standup the past couple months. But now, he has a fight booked and he wants to make sure his grappling is on point as well. So me and him have just been having these wars. I think Yuri is a good training partner for Vinny. They’re both really accomplished. I feel like I’m ready.”
Fowler has won medals and now he’s had a belt wrapped around his waist. When asked what he likes better, Fowler said he likes the paper the most. “You know what feels better from both of those? That check from Submission Underground,” he said with a big laugh. “That’s all I care about, you can keep the medals and the belts. I’m trying to get paid.”
Fowler continues talking about the belt and where he’s been keeping it after winning it away from Craig Jones.
“I’m just playing, the belt is obviously sick too. The Submission Underground belt is really nice. I gave it to my mom. It’s hanging up in her house. Her and my step dad the next day were like, ‘So, are you going to let us keep that at the house? We’ll keep it safe for you.’ They bought a $200 case for it, they got it hanging up. It’s nice, they’re taking care of it. It’s like a UFC belt, it’s hanging up in their living room.”
Now that his career is more self sustainable, Fowler has enjoyed a little more leisure time now not having to work a full time job and train Jiu Jitsu. Fowler likes to take his time off and just decompress from Jiu Jitsu.
“When I was younger, especially when I was training for MMA, I literally did nothing. I never would go out to eat. I was just stuck in MMA and was also working a full time job at the same time. Even when I was back in Fresno, I was working a lot teaching classes and doing privates and training all the time. Now, I’m able to make a little bit of money. The grind is still there, I still grind all the training sessions but I’m able to kind of relax and have some off time and some recovery time. Most of the time, if I’m not training, I’m either hanging out with my girl or playing Call of Duty. Those are pretty much my only two hobbies outside of Jiu Jitsu. I think that fits in. I’m either relaxing with my girl or I’m sitting on the couch playing video games. I’m getting my mind off of Jiu Jitsu but I’m also allowing my body to rest for a couple hours. Then I get a cup of coffee and it’ s like, ‘Alright. Let’s go back to work.'”