The Curious Case of Bixente Lizarazu and Jiu-Jitsu

Photo by Oscar Alonso Algote, CC BY

If you’re of a certain age and follow football, then perhaps the name Lizarazu means something to you. The one-time Bayern Munich left-back was an incredibly skilled player who played at the highest level with both the club and his native country France. But did you know that he’s also handy in a fight?

While Lizarazu was known throughout the footballing world for his calm and assured skill with the ball at his feet, upon his retirement, he took a rather odd path. The usual route for ex-footballers is either coaching or media work, and while Bixente does work extensively on French TV, it was Brazilian jiu-jitsu that replaced football as his passion.

In 2006, Lizarazu retired from the game as a Champions League, European Championship and World Cup winner. With such incredible success, you’d think he’d put his feet up for a well-earned rest, but no. Already an accomplished surfer, he took up the skeleton and hoped to one day represent France at the Winter Olympics. That was not to be, and in search of a way to maintain his fitness, he turned to Brazilian jiu-jitsu and has never looked back.

He started training in 2008 under French black belt Yannick Beven and took to the sport immediately. Anyone who has trained in martial arts will appreciate how difficult it can be to take on a new discipline at the age of 40, but within a short year, Lizarazu was competing in the European Championship Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Portugal. He competed in the blue belt senior tournament for lightweights and won. It’s a testament to the dedication this man put into his training that he was able to defeat fighters who had been fighting or training for years if not decades.

Of the 2009 tournament, Lizarazu said that he wondered what he had let himself in for and was surprised he maintained his composure to see it through to the end. And a year later, he competed at a purple belt and placed third in Europe, which, again, is a phenomenal achievement.

They say that successful athletes never lose that taste for competition and Lizarazu is the perfect example. A dedicated footballer, he was well-respected by his former teammates with many naming him as the player they valued the most and the one that they often looked to for inspiration both on and off the pitch.

A former World Cup winner himself, we’re sure that Lizarazu will be keeping a close eye on the tournament in Russia. And regardless of his total immersion in the Brazilian martial art, we’re sure he’ll be supporting his home nation. Although how far they’ll go is anyone’s guess with the French in the competitive looking group C.


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