It’s undeniable that the Daisy Fresh Brazilian jiu-jitsu team has gained enormous popularity lately. Led by the jiu-jitsu black belt Heath Pedigo, this team brings together a selection of the best BJJ athletes in the world, most of them young Americans from a humble beginning.
We’ve done the research and gathered the most relevant information about a team that is defying far more than naming conventions. Read on and learn everything about the BJJ team that is dominating the world stage.
The History of the Daisy Fresh Gym
Brazilian jiu-jitsu has always been a major component of MMA, and of course the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Part of the cornerstone philosophy of BJJ is that technique can allow for smaller, lighter fighters to triumph against heavier opponents. In this spirit, the humble beginnings of the Daisy Fresh BJJ team seem to have been a conquered obstacle to their success on the world stage.
Daisy Fresh Laundromat
If you ever found yourself searching for a place to do laundry in Mount Vernon, Illinois, you’ll find that the building on 17th street, formerly known as ‘Daisy Fresh,’ hasn’t been a laundromat for years. Even so, the current occupants claim that locals often bring in full baskets of laundry, shocked by the transformation of the space.
In 2016, Mount Vernon local Heath Pedigo began to rent the abandoned Dairy Fresh Laundromat. He paid a mere $500 a month to occupy the space. It functioned as an ideal space for a martial arts studio in that it had a parking lot and could house a full-sized wrestling mat. From here, Pedigo began to build a world-class team.
The True Name of the Team
Despite the ubiquity of the Daisy Fresh moniker, the gym itself is actually called ‘Pedigo Submission Fighting’ after Pedigo himself. Still, it is the nickname that has become famous online and in the ring. Players fully embrace the Daisy Fresh name, with the laundromat’s old logo often seen sewn onto their uniforms.
The History of Pedigo Submission Fighting
The gym, formerly known as Daisy Fresh, has become legendary for its grueling training and rough conditions. The gym’s fans and friends have described the studio as a mix between an intensive training camp and outdoor camping. The expertise coming out of this studio is often attributed to the sheer dedication of its founder, Heath Pedigo.
Heath Pedigo is the definition of an American bootstraps hero. He is a Mount Vernon native who taught himself and his brothers Brazilian jiu-jitsu by watching taped matches. They would copy the movements of the fighters over and over again to learn them, practicing on each other. Heath eventually earned a black belt under the tutelage of Rodrigo Vaghi.
Financial & Marketing Success
The David & Goliath story of this gym has captured plenty of media attention in both the Brazilian jiu-jitsu world and in fighting fandom as a whole. This has manifested in opportunities and promotions that would have been unthinkable for such a small, underfunded team.
Flograppling has been following the exploits of the Daisy Fresh squad since 2020. The documentary captures the daily life of those living and training at the gym and their performance at competitions.
The Pedigo Submission Fighting gym has its own YouTube channel as well as the Flograppling one. The PSF channel has over thirty thousand subscribers. On the Flograppling videos, the view count tends to scratch a quarter of a million views. Through these mediums, the story of Daisy Fresh had become a significant entertainment beyond the fights themselves.
Panda Express Sponsorship
The team often lives off of very bare rations, given the poor living situation of the gym. Their favorite place to celebrate wins is Panda Express. Andrew Wiltse reached out via social media to try to get a sponsorship from Panda Express, given the team’s outspoken love of the brand. Panda Express actually agreed, making Wiltse the first jiu-jitsu fighter sponsored by a fast-food brand.
Notable Daisy Fresh Alumni
As a world-class team, the Pedigo Submission Fighting gym has turned out several notable alumni, even snagging stars from other fighting arts and other countries. Most of the gym members have experienced some degree of success in the circuits, remarkable considering the humble background they tend to share.
Andrew Wiltse may be the most famous Daisy Fresh Alumni. He was crowned as the 2020 International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation Pan No-Gi Champion. He is also known for being outspoken on topics of controversy in the UFC. He features prominently in the Daisy Fresh blogs and has a strong online presence.
Sathya ‘Bird’ Wiltse
Sathya ‘Bird’ Wiltse is Andrew’s younger brother. Rumor has it that neither have birth certificates. This has led to issues with international fights; the Wiltse brothers have received several invitations to fights overseas. However, without birth certificates, they cannot obtain passports and can only compete domestically.
Like many members of the Daisy Fresh team, Jacon Couch proudly celebrates his origin with the nickname the Hillbilly Hammer. Originally from Hazard Kentucky, he helps produce Daisy Fresh content, such as a guide on finishing leg locks.
Chad Hawkins is an instructor at EPLegends Martial Arts studio and has won 7 Master World IBJJF Gold Medals, 5 Master Pan American Gold Medals, Abu Dhabi Pro Trials Gold in division and 2nd in absolute to my teammate, 16 IBJJF Chicago Gold Medals, 5 Atlanta IBJJF Gold Medals, and IBJJF Gold Medal.
Chris ‘Stump’ Heatherly
Christ ‘Stump’ Heatherly has an impressive record as a mixed martial artist. In 2018 he became the first competitor to use an Omoplata submission finish in Ultimate Fighting Championship history.
Alejandro Wajner is currently working as the head wrestling coach at the Mount Vernon Township High School, where he led the team to medal at the state level for the first time in seven years.
The highest viewed video on the Pedigo Submission Fighting YouTube channel is, as predicted, a fight. However, this video isn’t one of the many showing a member of the Daisy Fresh team at a competition. The gym receives a lot of criticism for its practices, including the grueling training schedule, the living conditions of the space, and the ethos of the leadership.
Noell and Powers Fight
During practice at the gym, two of the fighters had a disagreement. From their separate explanations of the events, it sounds as though Powers refused to shake Noell’s hand. Apparently, the two were former roommates, with Powers getting kicked out of Noell’s house. This tension boiled over to a physical altercation after class.
There has been criticism on the part of Pedigo and other members responsible for the Daisy Fresh team. Apparently, Noell and Powers asked Pedigo how to proceed, asking if they should go to the parking lot to fight it out. Rather than defuse the situation, Pedigo instead told them that he would set up a fight after class. The fight was then set up, recorded, and posted.
Living Conditions in the Gym
The gym does not have heating, making it extremely cold during the Illinois winter. There is also no air conditioning, which can be dangerous given the grueling training sessions multiple times a day in the humidity of an Illinois summer. Ironically, the team often struggles to have access to laundry for their uniforms. There is also difficult access to bathing and cleanliness for the gym.
Improvement of Conditions
Andrew Wiltse has invested a lot of the team’s prize money into making the gym a more habitable space. He claims to have gotten the electricity fixed, installed a washer and dryer, and installed a sink for dishes.
The Legacy of the BJJ Daisy Fresh Squad
The Daisy Fresh Squad is a ragtag group of men living at the poverty level in a former laundromat. While all of that is true, they are also world champions in jiu-jitsu fighting. Although they’re often referred to as Brazilian jiu-jitsu artists, their style as well as their story is distinctly American.
The Future of the Squad
While COVID-19 impacted much of the fighting world, many fans feel that the popularity of the Daisy Fresh team is just getting started. Whether through the team member’s social media, the Flograppling documentary, or their YouTube channel, every BJJ fan can track this rising star of a gym as they continue to defy the odds.