Interview: Jayel Cotto’s Transition From Martial Arts to Professional Wrestling

Julian Cannon

Martial Arts and professional wrestling may be two different worlds, but in some ways, they are similar. For both, you have to be very skilled and have your body conditioned for both as if you are not prepared for it, bad things can happen. It takes a large amount of athletisim to do one or both and Martial Artist and independent professional wrestler Jayel Cotto is here to tell you how in this exclusive interview.

Thank you very much for taking the time to take part of the interview!
I would like to open with your background in Martial Arts. When did you begin doing martial arts and how many competitions have you won? 

I appreciate you having me! I’m a second degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and I started when I was eleven years old. I’ve been studying the art of Tae Kwon Do for almost nineteen years now… So that pretty much sums up my age lol! So far, I’ve never lost a tournament and I’ve been to countless and countless of them so that’s a bunch of 1st place trophies… But what I’m most proud of, is actually being a 2x world Tae Kwon Do champion. I’ve always wanted to go to the Olympics but it was that or my wrestling dream. I do still train though, I’ve always loved the art and it’ll always be part of who I am. 

That is very awesome that you have been doing that since you were young. I do know that the Olympics is coming to Tokyo next year, but do you think it will be possible to try for the 2024 Olympics if you had the choice?

Yeah, its always good to have some type of background like that especially being a woman it’s always good to have something to defend yourself. Dont think I could try for the Olympics anymore. I feel like you need to eat, breathe, bleed, martial arts and I feel like I wouldn’t be able to anymore since now I eat breathe bleed wrestling! So it’s a bit different this time around. 

No problem but that is true that you would have to eat, sleep, and breathe the Olympics. Next thing I would like to know, was it a hard transition to balance Martial Arts and Professional Wrestling when you first started training?

Oh my god yes! So when I was training Tae Kwon Do, I would be in the dojo like it was my job! Literally, for about eight hours or more. So, when wrestling came along, I would go to work my normal 9-5 job. Then, I would head over to gleasons gym for wrestling training for a few hours and THEN, I would take the train all the way to the dojo to relearn my forms and extra forms that came with my next degree belt. So I would stay at the dojo until it closed which I really appreciate a lot of the black belts and that would keep the dojo open til about 1am on some nights just to help me. I will never forget those days! But now, it’s a bit easier for me because wrestling now is my most dominant passion and it’s what gets the most attention from me.

Oh my! I can imagine the pain you had to go through juggling them both back and forth. But it is worth it in the long run. When you first told your trainer and other students and wrestlers that you know Martial Arts, how did they react? And do you remember your first match?

Oh yeah at some points, it was pretty awful to my body nonetheless. But it kept me in the best shape of my life. When I first told Johnny Rodz who’s my trainer, he was pretty interested in talking to me about it because he too studied a few arts back in his day so it was pretty cool listening to his stories. My peers loved it too they always made sure I kept it in my arsenal during training. Oh yeah! I definitely remember my first match from the time to what I was wearing. I remember wearing this vicious crop top with these black combat boots and some like black leather skirt I borrowed from Karen Q. It was a good match for being my first since it was against MJ Jenkins and Karen Q. I had a lot of fun and I did learn a lot that day. 

Johnny Rodz has trained a lot of wrestlers that we see today in the mainstream landscape of wrestling and in the independent circuit and it must have been an honor to train at his school. Who are your favorite women’s wrestlers and what is your take on women’s wrestling being taken more seriously now than ever across all promotions?

Yes. he definitely has and he continues to do so! Some of my favorite women wrestlers from back then were Jazz, Jacqueline and, Victoria. I loved them for their aggressiveness and the way they carried themselves as tough woman. As of the New Era, I really love Sasha Banks, Mia Yim, Mercedes Martinez, Becky lynch, and the list really goes on. The fact that women are not only breaking barriers in wrestling, but over the world means so much to me. We’re not the bathroom break anymore, but more of the main event and I feel like it’ll be even better for the next generation of women. Everyday we’re working just as hard or even as harder than the men and we’re taking what we’ve earned. 

Next time I speak to Mia Yim, I will mention your name! But I am very happy that it is more taken seriously now than ever and the women main eventing the big shows are the norm now which is also very great. Before we finish the interview, What are your upcoming matches that everyone needs to know about? and where do you see yourself in the future of professional wrestling?

That would be sweet! I have a bunch of dates coming up. My next match is July 5th for MCW a tribute to silver king. I have July 6th for wxwc4. I have IWA on July 27th. August 3rd Tier1Wrestling where I finally get to face one of my favorite people Nyla Rose. Secretly, I am also going to Puerto Rico once again and the date will be announced soon!  All my matches and upcoming dates will be on social media. Twitter and Instagram @jayelcotto 

With wrestling, I see myself not regretting that I’ve never done it. It’s always been my dream and my passion so I’m taking the ball and running with it to see how far it gets me. I also want to wrestle people all over the world and learn from the best. I just want to wrestle. 

Thank you very much for your time! and I am looking forward to seeing you in the ring doing what you do best!

Thank you for having me it was a good time!

Photo Credit: Brian Photo

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