The BJJ community is known for its diehard enthusiasts – but some teams stand out more than others. Like the rock climbers featured in the documentary Valley Uprising, who lived in Yellowstone (including the famous Alex Honnold who became the first person to free solo El Capitan) there is a community of BJJ practitioners who live for the sport, and have made excellence their objective.
This is the story of the Pedigo Submission Fighting team, more commonly known as Daisy Fresh, and their extreme commitment to the sport.
The History of Daisy Fresh BJJ
In the rural town of Mt. Vernon Illinois, there is a small run down looking laundromat with a small sign that reads “Daisy Fresh.” However, if you look inside you won’t find a single washer or dryer, (or even hot water!). Instead you will find a mat, a rack filled with Shoyoroll Gi’s, and people sleeping in sleeping bags.
Although it was founded back in 1997, the Pedigo Submission Fighting gym never bothered to change the sign hanging outside the front door. Thus the name Daisy Fresh stuck. The team claims at least three times a week someone walks into the gym with a full stack of laundry.
This little gym would go on to house multiple world champions at every belt rank. While the title of best will always be in contention, Daisy Fresh holds the title of the undisputed “most dedicated” practitioners of all time.
Daisy Fresh Lifestyle
The most fascinating thing about the Daisy Fresh team isn’t their aggressive and clean competition matches. Instead the most fascinating thing about them is their lifestyle that revolves almost entirely around BJJ. Many members of the Daisy Fresh team quite literally live at the gym. At night they go into a closet and pull out mattresses and sleeping bags.
It’s not unusual to see people in the corner at midnight, or two a.m drilling something that was worked on earlier in class. In the morning the team wakes up, puts their mattresses back in the closet, and starts training. Many members of the gym claim that they train for something close to nine hours a day.
To accomodate this “hobo Jiu Jitsu” lifestyle, many members of the gym don’t have jobs. The little amount of money they have comes from whatever Jiu Jitsu competitions they win, or whatever someone else at the gym loans them. Many of them share gis, and head coach Pedigo never charges them gym dues or rent if they can’t afford it.
In the documentary about the gym, titled “Daisy Fresh” and available on YouTube, it shows members stealing soap from a bathroom dispenser to wash their gis. The gym also has one microwave and a single hot plate for cooking frozen food. When the team can afford it their favorite meal is Panda Express.
Daisy Fresh BJJ’s Top Competitors & Notable Members
The Daisy Fresh team has a box full of world championship medals at their gym. They have had a champion at every belt level, and every weight class. This is as impressive as it is unusual because they are a smaller team with far fewer members than huge affiliations like Checkmat or Alliance.
Sathya “Bird” Wiltse
Sathya was encouraged to come and begin training by his brother Andrew. Neither of the brothers has their original birth certificates because they weren’t born in a hospital. Although they have been offered fights in other countries they have been unable to accept because they can’t get a U.S Passport. Sathya is a Blue belt world champion.
Currently in IBJJF Alejandro Wajner has a 2-1 record in IBJJF and has a Bachelor’s of Arts in Studio Arts. He helps manage the Pedigo Submission Fighting Academy and coaches a local high school wrestling program.
Jakob “Spatchy” Brooks
Originally from Australia, Jakob abandoned his lucrative job to move to the other side of the world and join the Daisy Fresh team. “I couldn’t even tell you what was going through my mind” he says in the documentary. It was very “Lets just see what happens.”
Valladares says his original plan was to be a pilot and was in the Marine Corps. However instead of going to school, he decided to join the Daisy Fresh team after meeting one of the Wilste brothers and watching them roll. Jorge won Worlds at purple belt, and finished second at Worlds as a brown belt.
Jacob “The Hillbilly Hammer” Couch
Jacob is a brown belt with a recent victory by submission over David Garmo at WNO. Couch, also known as “the Hillbilly Hammer,” was the 2020 Purple belt world champion and the brown belt Pans champion. According to Heath Pedigo most of his matches at worlds were finished in under 90 seconds.
Micheal Pixley recently won Worlds at blue belt with a dominant performance. According to Heath Pedigo all of his matches were under a minute. He is going to be competing against Shay Smith in Europe on February 26th.
FAQs About Daisy Fresh BJJ
Who founded Daisy Fresh BJJ?
Daisy Fresh was founded by Heath Pedigo. The official name of the gym is Pedigo Submission Fighting – although there is no sign outside the gym that has that name. He is a Black Belt under Rodrigo Vaghi. He also has had a successful MMA career.
Where is Daisy Fresh BJJ headquartered?
Daisy Fresh is headquartered in Mt. Vernon Illinois. It’s a rural town with a population of just 14,600.
When was Daisy Fresh BJJ founded?
Daisy Fresh was founded in 1997.
Why is Daisy Fresh BJJ called Daisy Fresh?
The original building the team trains in was a laundromat that was called “Daisy Fresh.” When the gym was created, no one changed the sign or put up a new one. It’s become a running joke and the unofficial name of the team.
Controversies and Daisy Fresh
One of the biggest controversies about Daisy Fresh was the name of their documentary “Daisy Fresh: An American Jiu Jitsu Story.” The team trains Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Heath Pedigo says the team has taken some heat for not “being attached” to a Brazilian name.
* It should be noted that the location of the gym, and the background of most of the team members can be considered fiercely American.
Culture at Daisy Fresh
The Daisy Fresh Gym is known for training very hard, and having many rough rolls. “You compete the way you train,” says owner Heath Pedigo. Many members of the team also pride themselves on not having a privileged lifestyle. They believe living a tougher life makes them tougher on the mats.
What’s their deal with Shoyoroll?
Many members of the team sport Shoyoroll gis in competition. This is interesting because Shoyoroll is known for being one of the more expensive BJJ bands.
Vince “Bear” Quituga, the CEO of Shoyoroll, says in the documentary how impressed he was with the team, saying of the team “It’s unfiltered and it’s real, if any time our brand can associate with authentic environments, i’ll take that any day over a ten time world champion black belt.”
Pride in Daisy Fresh Gym
Gyms that have a “hard” or a “warrior” like culture are known for producing some of the most successful, and accomplished athletes. You might be surprised to learn that the famous Renzo Gracie Academy in New York used to be located above a methadone clinic. Although many gyms and their members come from humble origins, they take great pride in their academy.
Daisy Fresh’s converted laundromat may be humble, but the Daisy Fresh team are fantastically committed to their gym and to their sport
In the documentary, many of the members of the team claim they would be dead if not for Jiu Jitsu, and the academy they live in. They have captured the spirit of Jiu Jitsu in a very unique way and have achieved a level of comradery that almost nowhere else can boast of. Looking at them could make any Jiu Jitsu practitioner question what dedication is.
Authentically Daisy Fresh
A recurring theme with the Daisy Fresh gym has been a feeling of authenticity. Heath Pedigo has stated: “The Daisy Fresh Gym is proof anyone from anywhere can do anything.” While some of the top BJJ athletes have started to get bigger and put on huge amounts of muscle, Daisy Fresh gym is full of fantastic competitors who don’t look much different from you or me.
Jack is a BJJ purple belt who holds a bachelors degree in English Literature. He enjoys traveling, reading, and the Bow and Arrow choke. One day he hopes to teach English overseas and become a published author.