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Keenan Cornelius
Born Keenan Kai-James Cornelius
(1992-02-25) 25 February 1992 (age 31)
Hilo, Hawaii, U.S.
Other names Black Belt Hunter
Cat boy
Residence San Diego, California, U.S.
Height 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Weight 195 lb (88 kg; 13.9 st)
Division Middle-heavyweight (2012-present)
Middleweight (2011-2012)
Lightweight (2008-2011)
Style Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Fighting out of San Diego, California, USA
Team Atos Jiu-Jitsu (2013-2019),

Team Lloyd Irvin (2011-2013),

BJ Penn's MMA(2008-2011),

Cassio Werneck Jiu-Jitsu (2006-2008)
Rank      Black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under Andre Galvao
Keenan Cornelius
Medal record
Submission Wrestling
ADCC World Championships
Silver 2017 -88kg
Silver 2015 -88kg
Bronze 2013 Absolute
Bronze 2013 -88kg
ADCC North American Championships
Gold 2012 -88kg
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
World Jiu-Jitsu Championship
Bronze 2019 Absolute (black)
Bronze 2018 Heavy (black)
Bronze 2016 Middle-Heavy (black)
Bronze 2014 Absolute (black)
Gold 2013 Middle-Heavy (brown)
Silver 2013 Absolute (brown)
Gold 2012 Middleweight (purple)
Gold 2012 Absolute (purple)
World No-Gi Championship
Gold 2017 Middle-Heavy (black)
Bronze 2017 Absolute (black)
Gold 2014 Middle-Heavy (black)
Silver 2014 Absolute (black)
Gold 2012 Middle-Heavy (brown)
Gold 2012 Absolute (brown)
Gold 2011 Middleweight (purple)
Pan-American Championship
Gold 2018 Super-Heavy (black)
Bronze 2018 Absolute (black)
Gold 2015 Middle-Heavy (black)
Silver 2014 Middle-Heavy (black)
Gold 2013 Middle-Heavy (brown)
Gold 2013 Absolute (brown)
Gold 2012 Middleweight (purple)
Gold 2012 Absolute (purple)
European Open Championships
Gold 2020 Heavyweight (black)
Silver 2020 Absolute (black)
Gold 2018 Heavyweight (black)
Gold 2013 Middle-Heavy (brown)
Gold 2013 Absolute (brown)
Gold 2012 Middleweight (purple)
Gold 2012 Absolute (purple)
Brazilian National Jiu-Jitsu Championship
Gold 2012 Middleweight (purple)
Gold 2012 Absolute (purple)
Asian Open Championship (Brazilian jiu-jitsu)
Gold 2018 Ultra-Heavy (black)
Gold 2017 Heavyweight (black)
Gold 2017 Absolute (black)
Atlanta International Championship
Gold 2012 Middle-Heavy (brown)
Gold 2012 Absolute (brown)
Houston International Championship
Gold 2012 Middle-heavy (purple)
Gold 2012 Absolute (purple)
Boston International Championship
Gold 2013 Middle-Heavy (brown)
Gold 2013 Absolute (brown)
Las Vegas International Championship
Gold 2013 Middle-Heavy (brown)
Gold 2013 Absolute (brown)
San Francisco International Open
Gold 2014 Middle-Heavy (black)
Gold 2014 Absolute (black)

Keenan Kai-James Cornelius is an American martial artist. His competitive achievements include what has been called a "grand slam" in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, having won double gold medals at four major tournaments: the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship, Pan-American Championship, European Open Championship, and Brazilian National Jiu-Jitsu Championship - as a purple belt. He is also known for his creation of guard techniques such as the Worm Guard.

Early life and education

Cornelius's first exposure to martial arts training began at a young age, under his step-father, martial arts teacher Tom Callos, who was BJ Penn's first Brazilian jiu-jitsu instructor. At the age of 14, he began casual grappling training with friends. Shortly thereafter, he began receiving formal Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instruction under Cassio Werneck, then training for three years under BJ Penn, before ultimately joining with Team Lloyd Irvin. Despite his high-level victories as a purple belt and above, Keenan claims to have had a poor competitive showing early in his career, prior to his joining Team Lloyd Irvin, a move which Keenan held responsible for his later success.


On February 28, 2012 Keenan won the Abu Dhabi World Pro Trials Montreal Purple belt +74 kg absolute division. In April 2012 Keenan competed in the World Pro Jiu-Jitsu Cup, winning his division (-82 kg.) and earning a bronze in the absolute division. On June 26, 2012 Keenan was promoted to brown belt under Lloyd Irvin. On February 27, 2013 Keenan announced his split from Team Lloyd Irvin. A few days later, it was officially announced that he would be joining Atos Jiu-Jitsu. After his transition to Atos, Keenan continued his run as arguably the most accomplished brown belt in the history of the sport, winning nearly every major tournament at his weight and open class with the only exception being the 2013 IBJJF Brown Belt Absolute Division where he placed second. On September 14, 2013 Keenan was promoted to black belt under André Galvão. On December 8, 2013 Keenan won the medium-heavy/heavyweight division of the 2nd IBJJF Pro League for the prize of $5,000 by defeating Diego Gamoral and Jackson Souza.

On March 29, 2014, Keenan was scheduled to face Vinny Magalhaes in Metamoris III. However, Vinny was forced to withdraw before the match, being hospitalized with a MRSA infection. He was replaced by Rickson-trained black belt Kevin Casey. The match ended as a win for Keenan, using 50/50 guard and getting a submission with an inside heel hook. In April 2014 Keenan competed in the 2014 Abu Dhabi BJJ World Pro Championship, winning bronze in the black belt adult 94 kg division. On August 9, 2014, Keenan competed against Magalhaes at Metamoris IV. The match ended in a draw. On November 22, 2014, Keenan competed against Yuri Simoes at Metamoris V. The match ended in a draw. On January 10, 2015, Keenan competed against Dean Lister at Polaris Pro Grappling. He won the match with a reverse triangle choke from back control.

In 2021, Cornelius was unable to compete and was forced to withdraw from a match on Who's Number One as a result of an aggravation of an old back injury suffered when deadlifting.

Legion Academy

After a falling out with his long time gym ATOS, Keenan decided to open his own gym and fight team. On August 6, 2019 he announced he would open Legion Academy in San Diego CA. Since launching the Legion AJJ academy, Keenan Cornelius has attracted some of ATOS' top athletes to his team including Andris Brunovskis and Darin Conner DeAngelis.

On January 19th, 2021, Cornelius awarded his first BJJ black belt to long-time training partner and Slovenian Judo black belt Miha Perhavec.

Technique development

Keenan is known in the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu community for his creation and successful use of a unique gi guard system. Nicknamed the Worm Guard by Galvão, Keenan ties his leg to his opponents hip and opposite leg with one hand and his opponent's loose lapel, locking them into place while leaving Keenan two free limbs to attack on one side. He and others have continued to iterate and invent techniques exploiting the lapels of the Gi jacket, a trend that is credited to Keenan's initial success with Worm Guard.


In 2013, Cornelius published a 5-part DVD set teaching concepts of his competition style.

In 2016 Keenan Online, a membership site, began offering his curriculum.

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