Twin brothers Tye Ruotolo and Kade Ruotolo are two of the hottest talents in the martial arts world, and they'll bring their ground skills to the global stage of ONE Championship on Friday, May 20.
The 19-year-old phenoms will make their debuts in submission grappling contests at "ONE 157: Petchmorakot vs. Vienot," with Tye taking on Garry Tonon and Kade facing Shinya Aoki on the main card of the stacked event.
Tonon and Aoki are already superstars in both Brazilian jiu-jitsu and MMA, so the American twins can take massive scalps in their first promotional appearances.
Before they enter the ONE circle at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, find out how the young prodigies reached the top of the grappling world and joined The Home of Martial Arts.
From the potty to the tatami
Childhood and Brazilian jiu-jitsu were pretty much synonymous for the Ruotolo brothers.
Born in Maui, Hawaii, they moved to Huntington Beach, California, when they were just a few months old and soon began their Brazilian jiu-jitsu journeys.
Their father was an avid practitioner and enrolled his sons into classes at the age of 3. From there, it's been a constant in both of their lives.
"My dad was a blue belt at the time, so we were always just wrestling around with him before we started," said Kade. "And basically, as soon as we were potty trained, he knew he really wanted to get us into it.
Tye echoed his twin brother's remarks.
"From my first day, I was like, 'I'm in love with this thing,'" he said. "And we've been doing it every day since."
The duo soon started competing, and their prodigious talent quickly became apparent as they snatched up all the gold on the regional, national, and then international circuits.
Kade credits this success to their passion for the sport – and to a sibling rivalry that kept their fire burning.
"We started to do really well in the kids' ranks and started winning everything. Our parents were like, 'Wow, these kids are pretty good actually.' They started moving us up against all the bigger kids," he said.
"We started progressing and progressing, and we got to a point now where we're both No. 1 at what we do. Fighting each other, going head-to-head with each other our whole lives got us there."
Diverting an early burnout
Very few children start something at 3 years old and stick with it for decades without some blips along the way.
And despite being touted as future all-time greats from an early age, the brothers once found themselves on the brink of giving up Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
"I think we were probably around 12 or 13 years old, and we just got really burnt out on it. We thought we didn't really want to do it anymore and almost quit for about two months," Kade said.
Tye added: "That's when we realized it's important not to overtrain. You can overtrain, and then when you're training in classes, you're not getting better. It's like you'd rather not be there."
There was only one thing that could dig them out of the hole – the chance to be kids again. With Costa Rican heritage, the brothers went to their spiritual homeland to revitalize.
Once they got back on the mats, they realized that the disillusion was temporary, but it was a useful lesson for striking the right balance in their lives.
"I took a little break and went to Costa Rica for two months, went to the jungle, revived myself, and came back just eager to train again," Kade explained.
Tue elaborated: "It was really important for us to find the balance of not overtraining and doing everything else that we love: surfing, skating, and fishing."
Taking inspiration from a legend
It was around this time that a new coach entered the lives of these adolescent stars and helped them rediscover their love of grappling.
Brazilian jiu-jitsu icon and fellow ONE competitor Andre Galvao took the twins into his Atos HQ gym in San Diego, California, where he inspired them to commit their future to the sport.
"That was the time when we were starting to get really burnt out on jiu-jitsu and we took that break," Kade recalls.
“We went up to Atos and tried out a class for the first time in like two months, and then we fell back in love with it immediately. Andre welcomed us with open arms, and it just felt like a normal gym with great vibes. I wanted to be there again. He's helped a lot like that."
As two young men hoping to achieve greatness, the Ruotolos couldn't have picked a better role model.
Galvao has reached the top in both gi and no-gi competitions, and he's motivated his students to pursue their dreams, while also instilling his values.
"Everything I'm trying to accomplish, he's done, as far as jiu-jitsu goes," Tye said. "And not only that, just seeing the way that he runs his gym, it's such a massive gym, and he's there for every single one of the students, regardless of what he has going on in his life.
"I think the saying is, 'The greatness of a man isn't measured on how much wealth he acquires, but in his ability to affect those around him positively.' That's the thing that I really like to live by, and that's something that Andre taught us. He affects everyone so positively. I definitely look up to him in so many ways."
Reaching the top and eyeing new opportunities
Following their mentor's lead, Tye and Kade have accrued an incredible list of accolades that most lifelong Brazilian jiu-jitsu stars will never achieve. And at 19 years old, they'll get to showcase their rare talent on the biggest stage of all.
ONE recently brought submission grappling matches back into the fold, and the teen aces couldn’t be happier to take part.
“(Submission grappling) is such an amazing sport, and ONE does an amazing job of promoting it for what it is. It's to get the submission the fastest way you can, and do it in a proper way," Tye says.
Kade adds: "Everything, even Chatri's pep talks before (the events), really instills into every athlete why they're there. They're there for the finish. That's how it needs to be. It's going to be huge for jiu-jitsu."
For now, the Ruotolos are both focused on their tough assignments at ONE 157, but they've also inked a deal with ONE to eventually compete in MMA.
That has them excited for the future, and while there's still much to accomplish in the Brazilian jiu-jitsu world, both brothers also have their eyes firmly set on achieving greatness in a new sport.
"Jiu-jitsu is still our No. 1 priority, and it's going to stay that way for now," Kade said. "But as time goes on, I definitely want to explore different routes."
Tye added: "We've been focusing on the training aspect of MMA in the past year. So, yeah, we're getting there, we're ready. I'm excited."
This story first published at ONEFC.com.