From Backyard courts to selling out arenas


This week’s Alumni Highlight is West Valley’s own Jared Vanderaa. Jared Graduated High School in 2010, while in high school he played on the football team and was a vital member of the wrestling team. Jared was known as a happy, goofy kid, and many considered him a “Gentle Giant.” As accurate as that was, not many of his classmates were surprised to see what career path Jared chose.

Jared Vanderaa is a heavyweight MMA fighter and current EFC (fight organization based in South Africa) champion. Jared is a hometown boy who got his start on the wrestling team at West Valley High School. When I asked about it, he remembered it like it was yesterday. “I was walking to school, but I was late, and I heard the police sirens behind me. At first, I was scared. I thought I was going to be in trouble. Instead, Officer Nacua (long-time West Valley resident police officer and wrestling coach) took the time to recruit me to the team, and that was it.”

Ever since his sophomore year, Jared has been in love with martial arts. Initially, he was on the football team, but quickly developed a passion for combat sports when he joined the wrestling team. Jared started his amateur MMA career in October of 2010, four months after graduating from high school.

Vanderaa fought as an amateur for five years before making his professional debut in MMA; I asked him what took him so long to start his professional career. He said, “I wanted to make sure I challenged myself to see what I was good at and what I needed to work on; that way I can make sure my game didn’t have any holes in it.”

Vanderaa started his pro career in June of 2015 after failing to find an amateur opponent that wanted to fight him. Fast forward, four years later he was the EFC Heavyweight Champion waiting for his opportunity to fight for the UFC. This chance would be through Dana White’s Contender Series or a UFC fight contract.

He spends his time training at Dan Hendo’s Athletic Training Center in Temecula CA., and teaching classes every week at Team Quest San Jacinto in San Jacinto, CA. Even though Jared has a passion for fighting, he also loves teaching martial arts to the local youth. Jared hopes that he can make a difference in their lives and help some of discovering the love of martial arts just as he did.

Do you know someone who graduated this valley and would like to nominate them to be the Alumni Highlight? Email me at and tell me about them. I look forward to hearing about all the great graduates of our local high schools doing big things.


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