Orlando Sanchez – BJJ Athlete

Orlando Sanchez

Orlando Sanchez’s early struggles

Orlando “The Cuban Tree Stump” Sanchez grew up in California and went through struggles throughout his life before Jiu Jitsu. First growing up in a rough neighborhood and finding an outlet through a variety of sports.

The sport he expelled the most at was football. So much so  that he earned a scholarship to play in college.

Orlando Sanchez would play through his scholarship and then be left without direction. He would turn to partying, drugs, and alcohol to fill the void in his life for over the next 5 years.

This party lifestyle with no physical activity would lead to Orlando gaining weight and going into a deep depression. He knew if he didn’t make a change that his life would soon end.

Date of Birth:February 5th, 1982
Place of Birth:Pasadena, California
Nickname:The Cuban Tree Stomp
Team:Gracie Barra
Height:5’9″ / 175.26 cm
Weight:235 lbs / 106.59 kg
Weight Class:Heavyweight
Martial Arts Record:13-8(BJJ) 5-0-1(MMA)
Notable Championships:ADCC Championship, IBJJF World Champion(blue belt), IBJJF Pan Champion(brown belt), Brazilian National Champion

Orlando Sanchez finds Jiu Jitsu

In an attempt to make a change, Orlando would first turn to Muay Thai training. Beginning his training at a Muay Thai gym near his home in Pasadena.

Sanchez enjoyed the training, because it got him active again, but he wasn’t passionate about it. He would find his passion through Jiu Jitsu.

Orlando began taking classes at a Gracie Barra school and immediately fell in love with Jiu Jitsu. To this day, Sanchez claims that Jiu Jitsu saved his life and he would surely be dead without it.

His training would start under his master José “Zé Radiola” Olímpio along with Alberto Crane and Romulo Barral. After Orlando started his Jiu Jitsu training, his instructors couldn’t get him off the mat.

Sanchez would be on the mat everyday for hours on end developing his Jiu Jitsu game. The love Orlando Sanchez had for Jiu Jitsu was apparent and he would soon get into competing.

Orlando Sanchez

Orlando Sanchez’s early run in competition

The Cuban Tree Stump as Alberto Crane nicknamed Orlando Sanchez would soon get the itch to compete again. Whenever there was a Jiu Jitsu competition near him, he was there competing and usually winning.

He would spend less than a year at white belt before moving up to the blue belt rank. Orlando Sanchez would dominate the super heavy and absolute divisions at this rank.

In less than a year of training, Sanchez would earn 2nd place at the IBJJF World Championship in the blue belt division. Then a year later, he would come back and win the championship along with a second place finish in the absolute division. 

His rapid progress and success in competition would lead to Orlando earning his purple belt in two years.

Orlando Sanchez’s success at brown belt

Orlando Sanchez would only spend a short time at purple belt before moving up to the brown belt rank. With only around 3 years of Jiu Jitsu training, Sanchez was already one of the top BJJ athletes in the world.

2012 was by far the best year of his time at the lower belt ranks. Sanchez would win the Pan National Championship before making a trip down to Brazil.

He would stay with his master Zé at his academy in Brazil to do a mini camp for the Brazilian Nationals. At the Brazilian Nationals, Orlando would make history becoming one of the first Americans to win double gold at the event.

This win would lead to Orlando earning his black belt once he came home. Just 4 year after he started training Jiu Jitsu.

 An emotional Sanchez gave an emotional speech about how Jiu Jitsu saved his life. Declaring that he would wear the belt with pride and dedicate his life to teaching the art he loved.

Orlando Sanchez wins at ADCC

Shortly after earning his black belt, Orlando Sanchez would open his own Gracie Barra school in Pasadena, California. His schedule would be full of training during the day and teaching at night.

Sanchez would also stay busy competing. In 2014, he qualified for the 2015 ADCC Championship held in São Paulo in the +99 kg division.

That year, Orlando Sanchez was the darkhorse of a stacked division. Going against world champions like Dean Lister, Joao Gabriel and Vinny Magalhães.

Orlando would dominate in his first match winning by armlock in the crucifix position. In the second round, he would be matched up with former ADCC champion Dean Lister.

The two would go back and forth in their match with Lister threatening leg locks and Sanchez with guard passes. At the end of the match, the judge would give the decision to Orlando.

In the semi finals, The Cuban Tree Stump would have another tough match against Vinny Magalhães. He would take another judge’s decision and punch his ticket to the finals.

His finals match would be another judge’s decision win over Jared Dopp. Adding the title of ADCC champion to his impressive resume.

Orlando Sanchez
Orlando Sanchez

Orlando Sanchez’s ADCC 2017 & 2019

Orlando would return to the ADCC championship in 2017 to defend his title. He would win his first match 2-0 to get to the quarter finals against Tom deBlass.

This was a stiff match against two rough grapplers that Sanchez would come out on top in. Then in the semi finals, he beat Jared Dopp for a second time to reach the finals against Buchecha.

In the finals, Orlando Sanchez would come up just short of repeating as ADCC champion. Buchecha would win his second ADCC title with a 3-0 victory over Orlando.

Then at the 2019 ADCC championship, The Cuban Tree Stump was surprisingly upset in the first round. He would lose by points to DDS prodigy Nicky Rodriguez.

Orlando Sanchez’s MMA career

On top of being a high level BJJ athlete, Orlando was also an MMA fighter from 2010 to 2015. In 2010, he began training Muay Thai part time at King’s MMA with Rafael Cordeiro.

It  was actually Cordeiro that encouraged Sanchez to start fighting MMA. Citing that he believed that Orlando was a born fighter and would do very well.

This convinced The Cuban Tree Stump and he would have his first pro MMA fight in 2010. It would be a quick TKO win within the first 13 seconds.

He would then win his next 3 fights between 2011 and 2012 with two by TKO and the other by submission. Then after a no contest in 2013, Orlando would win his last fight in 2015 by TKO before retiring. Ending his MMA career with a record 4-0 with 1 no contest.

Orlando Sanchez’s altercation with Sean Strickland

In 2021, Orlando Sanchez and UFC fighter Sean Strickland got into an altercation that went viral. Both were at the RCVA Training Center in LA training in different parts of the gym.

Strickland was doing MMA sparring, while Sanchez and a friend were doing boxing drills. After Strickland was done doing rounds his catch said that he should do a grappling round with Sanchez.

According to Orlando, Strickland said that he would “beat tf out of Orlando.” He then took his shirt off and went to do the round when someone started recording the round.

Strickland went for an underhook and Orlando Sanchez over hooked his arm and torqued it with a standing armlock. Nearly breaking Strickland’s arm.

Sean, who had a fight coming up, was irate that he almost got his arm broken. The video then went viral, which led to both receiving heavy criticism from the BJJ and MMA community.

Orlando Sanchez’s legacy

For the past decade, Jiu Jitsu has been Orlando Sanchez’s life. He earned his black belt in just 4 years through immense dedication and obsession.

Winning the biggest titles within the sport while also going 4-0 in 5 MMA fights. Today, Sanchez still runs his Gracie Barra Jiu Jitsu school in Pasadena. He still competes from time to time with his most recent appearance at a Who’s #1 heavyweight tournament.