AJP Stories: Yuri Hendrex from loss to victory honoring his late friend

March 2, 2024

With his highly technical Jiu-Jitsu, Yuri Hendrex has carved a name for himself in the AJP, most recently conquering the 2023 ADWPJJC last November. But behind his talent and lighthearted demeanor, Yuri carries an important mission for both himself and a fallen friend whose name is engraved in the Brazilian's black belt. Check out the lines below to learn about Ayan Martins and the shared dream that helped Yuri overcome grief and become one of the most accomplished athletes of his weight class.

"Ayan was my childhood friend. We're from the Brazilian state of Macapá and he used to live close to my grandparents' house, so I would always see him playing around there. In 2013, we started training in Jiu-Jitsu and, after three weeks, fought and then lost in our very first competition. Looking back, that's when we really became friends because we started training like crazy every day after that tournament.

"In 2016, Master Cícero Costha went to Macapá to give a seminar. We talked to him about going to São Paulo and trying to make a living from Jiu-Jitsu, and he opened the doors of his gym to us. In addition to studying, I used to work as a helper in a bakery while Ayan was a mechanic assistant, so it took us a month but we finally managed to get enough money to buy a one-way ticket to São Paulo.

"Fast forward a year and we were two purple belts, well on our way to becoming successful Jiu-Jitsu athletes. Ayan had a girlfriend at the time and she invited us to spend a couple of days in a house her family had in a rural area. By the time we got there, we were really excited and even stayed in the pool until dawn, just fooling around and having a blast. On the following day, we learned that there was a river not far from there and decided to hike up to it, but that's when things went sideways.

"As we made our way to the river, we found a portion of the path blocked by some cattle. To avoid the animals, we decided to jump a nearby fence, but didn't see a live wire that was hanging from a light pole hidden in the tall grass and Ayan, who was ahead of us, ended up stepping on it and got badly shocked. We quickly took him to the hospital, but it was already too late and the doctors told us he was gone.

"Losing Ayan like that, I was really shaken and even considered abandoning Jiu-Jitsu and returning to my hometown. He not only was a great friend but also an incredibly talented athlete, we used to dream of training with and eventually surpassing the Miyao brothers together. After all of his affairs were put in order, I was really down but then I remembered all of our plans and how we talked about always following our dreams no matter what, and it motivated me to go all in on my training. I worked hard and, when I became a brown belt, I had his name engraved in my belt. Gone, but never forgotten.

"As a black belt, I still carry his name because I know he would be a great athlete and an even greater professor. We started teaching when we were still blue belts, he was incredibly dedicated and even experienced because he learned capoeira and judo before Jiu-Jitsu. We used to talk about making history not only on the mats but also in MMA, so I'm carrying his legacy. I also trained capoeira and my focus now is to further improve my Jiu-Jitsu and then shift to MMA to make history. And, of course, I know Ayan will be there with me, giving me strength every step of the way."