Going from suit and tie to a jiu-jitsu gi, Lodi resident Mikey Hothi manages his time between a career in the political arena and life in the ring.
When Hothi was in high school, he faced a lot of bullying. So at 16, he walked into the Nick Diaz Academy — a mixed martial arts studio started by Stockton native and mixed martial artist Nick Diaz. That’s where he first began studying Brazillian jiu-jitsu, a martial art that focuses on grappling and ground fighting.
“I did not want to be a victim. Instead I decided to do something about it,” Hothi said. “The Central Valley has some renowned fighters, and after doing research, I found the Nick Diaz Academy.”
Learning jiu-jitsu has given him an immense amount of confidence, Hothi said, because it has taught him proper self-defense techniques, and how to protect himself from unprovoked attacks.
After first stepping onto the mat nearly 13 years ago, Hothi continues to refine his technique as he takes part in elite jiu-jitsu competitions. Hothi is currently a brown belt, but is on his way to getting his black belt, mixed martial artist and UFC fighter Nate Diaz said.
“He is one of our higher-ranked competitors. He has been competing actively since I have known him these past 13 years,” Diaz said.
Earning a black belt is an arduous undertaking that very few achieve, Hothi said. According to the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation, there are only 4,379 people with black belts in jiu-jitsu, and only 849 of them from the United States.
Though he has a full-time career in politics — working as distict director for Assemblyman Jim Cooper, who represents Lodi — Hothi is not planning to give up on the sport. It provides him with the emotional reprieve he needs from the daily stress, intensity and pressure that comes with working in the political field, Hothi said.
“Politics is a very high-stress environment, and without that release from jiu-jitsu, I don’t think I would be as effective as a public servant,” he said.
Hothi works hard to stay on top of local issues, he said. He is often involved with constituent outreach, organizing events, helping write speeches, and helping Cooper stay abreast of what’s happening in his Assembly district.
“He deeply cares about people, and he cares a lot about Lodi. Ever since he started working for me, he has been a voice for his hometown,” Cooper said.
While Hothi remains dedicated to both politics and jiu-jitsu, he admitted that striking the balance between the two can get tricky at times, depending on his workload.
“I’ll scale back on the martial arts if I need to. But anyone who knows me knows how passionate I am about this,” he said.
Cooper is supportive, and when he has time he attends Hothi’s competitions, cheering him on as he takes on his competitors.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for him, and I admire what he does. It takes a lot of training and stamina. He has a tremendous work ethic, he is very disciplined and he has that same diligence in the office,” Cooper said. “Even though he trains (in jiu-jitsu), I have never seen him angry or even heard him raise his voice. He always has a calm demeanor, which is perfect in both jiu-jitsu and politics.”
Whether at home or at the gym, Hothi trains five to six days a week and rotates his routine with cardio, strength training, weight lifting, and practice fights, he said. If he is preparing for a match, he adds hot yoga to his routine and reduces his physically impactful workouts.
“I have hyperextended my knee at the gym pushing myself too hard. Over the years I have learned not to push myself too hard. Jiu-jitsu is about endurance and pushing yourself to the max while also knowing what your body’s threshold is,” Hothi said.
To prepare for a competition, he usually watches videos of his past matches, which helps him visualize his technique while mentally preparing for rounds. Competing recreationally sometimes gives him an advantage over his opponent because the stress of winning isn’t as fervid, as it is for career fighters, he said.
Over the weekend, Hothi competed in Fight to Win, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu competition that highlights regional competitors, with the addition of Las Vegas showmanship including lights, live music and a catwalk for fighters.
Hothi fought unsuccessfully against Fabrício Silva, a professional mixed martial arts fighter from Brazil. Despite the loss, Hothi said he was glad to have competed in such a high-level competition, and he was elated by the number of people that came to cheer him on.
“I have been given job offers, but I would never pursue (jiu-jitsu) as a career because I think it would erode my passion for it,” Hothi said.