FARMINGDALE — It is just a game.

A line uttered so commonly by people today to lessen the importance of winning and losing that even the simplistic meaning of the phrase has become watered down.

When though, is it not just a game?

When does the outcome truly matter?

For the Lawton family, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is more than just something they are passionate about — it is their way of life.

“You can’t underestimate the motivation and kind of your ability to overcome difficult circumstances when you have a family,” Jarod Lawton says. “Our sole livelihood depends on our school and my fighting. It’s all we do, it’s our entire life and we dedicate so much to it.”

“It’s our fun, it’s our work,” adds Jarod’s wife, Marcela, in a Portuguese accent. “It’s our everything.”

A Gardiner Area High School graduate, the soon-to-be 30-year-old Lawton is about 6 feet 2 inches tall of long-limbed muscle.

On this day he’s leaning up against a desk just past the entrance to Innovative Athletics, a martial arts studio on Maine Avenue he helped found along with his wife — who is busy teaching a private lesson on the mats some 15 feet away.

“I grew up in this area so coming back here was easier for me. I kind of kidnapped my wife and brought her back here,” he says with a laugh, drawing a matching smile from Marcela. “It was definitely a culture shock for her.”

The two grew up on opposite sides of the equator nearly 5,000 miles apart, with Jarod splitting his childhood between West Gardiner and Hallowell and Marcela living in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

A common bond would ultimately bring them together though.

Jarod Lawton did not begin training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu — BJJ for short — until 2008, yet martial arts have always been a part of his life.

“I had grown up around martial arts since I was a kid,” Jarod says. “My dad (Shannon, also at teacher at Innovative Athletics) trained taekwondo; he’s a black belt.”

Once he began training in BJJ though, he was hooked.

“I decided to move to Florida to get more serious about my training just because Florida is a hot bed for martial arts, BJJ and (Mixed Martial Arts),” Jarod says. “At first I was more focused on BJJ and I did take one professional fight about two years into my training with BJJ.”

In Florida Jarod began training at the Coconut Creek-based American Top Team, where in 2010 he met Marcela.

“I just like came to Florida to stay there a couple months with my cousin and I end up staying and training,” she explains. “Then I met Jarod.”

“We got to know each other pretty well. We shared a lot in common,” Jarod says. “We trained originally at American Top Team and we spent some time training with Team Popovitch out of Fort Lauderdale. Then we moved back here.

“I went under a local instructor here, Alexey Cruz, and we’ve kind of connected with some of the other local schools in the greater New England area. We’re now all together as New England United BJJ Academy.”

Since returning to Maine — or in Marcela’s case, coming to the state for the first time — the Lawton’s have enjoyed their fair share of success at some big tournaments.

Marcela took a break from her training when the couple welcomed their son, Andre, two years ago but by the end of 2012 she was back at it. She placed third at the New York Summer Open and second at the Boston Summer Open in 2013, and soon after received her black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

A little over one month ago she took second in the women’s black belt rooster division at the World Jiu-Jitsu Championships in Long Beach, Calif.

“The Worlds is like the most prestigious Jiu-Jitsu tournament in the world,” Marcela Lawton says. “It lasted four days. I had two fights. I won the first one, I submitted the girl and the second one it was no points. It was a draw.

“…There was no points so it was a refs’ decision so they decided to give it to her.”

Jarod Lawton, also a black belt in BJJ, has had similar results recently in his decorated career, as he placed second at the New York Summer Open and third at the Boston Summer Open for his weight class in 2013.

He has also been a successful MMA fighter in limited action. Lawton holds a 4-1-0 professional record and is coming off a knock-out victory over John Ortolani at 4:46 of the second round at New England Fights XII in February.

In September he will return to the octagon for a welterweight bout against John Daniels (2-3) at NEF XIV at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston. Headlining the card will be a super heavyweight bout between former two-time UFC world champion Tim Sylvia, a native of Ellsworth, and Christian Morecraft.

“It’s pretty cool. It’s just amazing to see how far the sport has come in a little less than two years,” Lawton says. “To be on the same card with someone that’s been a two-time UFC champion is pretty awesome.”

While Lawton is certainly honored to be on the same card as the former UFC champ, he has no wide-eyed ambitions to be the greatest MMA fighter of all time. His are far more humble, yet equally driven by passion.

“I don’t have any huge aspirations to be like a UFC world champion. My ultimate goal is just to have an amazing academy,” he says. “I really love teaching. I love competing, but I know that’s not going to last forever. I want to influence and inspire people in their lives just to be healthier and live the Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle. Care about their lives, care about setting goals and achieving goals and just being healthy and fit.

“I never thought I would be interested in teaching kids and then once we got the kids program going I couldn’t imagine my life without it. Inspiring these kids everyday is phenomenal.”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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