The World of MMA – BJJ in My Eyes (May Bonus Article)

BJJ in my eyes (Bonus May article)

The world of MMA

Fedor “The Last Emperor” Emelianenko (

Fighters.  The great Randy Couture.  The great Rickson Gracie.  Royce Gracie in the early UFC’s.  We view fighters with different perspectives.  Fedor Emelianenko, arguably MMA’s top fighter in the world devastated Tim Silvia within 36 seconds, and Andre Arlovski almost as easy.  These are just a handful of great mixed martial arts fighters in the world who have proven their worth not just in the ring or the octagon, but through their mouth as well.

Recently it was reported a statement by UFC President Dana White regarding Fedor. )

The post on the subject discussed Fedor shooting back on Dana White after White’s comments from a paragraph of the above listed website:

Ever since the UFC tried — and failed — to sign Emelianenko, White has continually blasted Emelianenko, questioning his fighting ability, world ranking and his quality of opponents. In an October 2007 press conference, White even went as far as saying that Emelianenko “sucks” and that “Fedor isn’t even a top-five heavyweight let alone (ranked) top pound-for-pound (fighter).”

 Fedor struck back with his own statement:

Numerous times have I read mister White’s statements on Internet concerning myself. In my opinion, allowing yourself to say those things is not a sign of a gentleman or a grown man at all! If he candidly wants to prove himself right then let my fight with Randy happen or let me face the reigning UFC champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. In the future I wouldn’t want to hear those statements in my address ever again and I won’t tolerate that.

My last fight in Japan proved that I’m ready to fight anybody with any height advantage, skillset or experience. I have fought and still wish to fight the best athletes. The Randy fight is my goal number one right now, he’s a great fighter and this is a very unfortunate situation when too strict and one-sided UFC contracts don’t let this fight happen.

The whole world is eager to see me fight your champions, people don’t want to listen to your press-conferences. I’m signed with M-1 Global and this promotion is ready to organize such fights under our banner or in co-promoted events.

I remember the UFC from the very start.  I remember when Pride started, and how the MMA community grew.  I am an instructor in BJJ, and my academy also has classes in Muay Thai, no gi and MMA.  MMA is not an ‘art’, like so many opening and closing businesses seem to project as a sales tactic.  MMA is more of a sport, and no fighter quite trains the same.  Let me give an example.  In boxing, there are many boxing gyms, and different styles, but in all, they teach the basic same premise of boxing.  The jab, the cross, the hook, the uppercut, etc..  In MMA, its totally different.  MMA has basically three strategies:

  1. Striking
  2. Grappling
  3. Takedowns

Seems simple enough, right?  No way.  Now if we had some type of general program that taught lets say the fundamentals of boxing and kickboxing or Thai boxing, wrestling takedowns and basic Judo throws, and then basic Jiu-jitsu, there is something to work on.

Now lets get to the real world.  Instead we have some people who have never trained anything formally, yet now are claiming to teach ‘MMA’ or ‘BJJ’.  I know.  I have seen this mentality grow in the USA, and especially here in Texas.

We even have people with surreal projections and delusions about the fighting game.

Everyone and their brother seem to want to be one or claim to be one.  On every other corner there seems to be another “MMA”, or “Freestyle”, or “Evolutionary” type club or class with their intended portrayal of MMA knowledge.

I have been in the BJJ career for over twelve years, and I have seen the origin of it here in the USA, and Texas.  I have seen the bastardized versions of BJJ and grappling over my career, and the claims of expertise ranging from BJJ to MMA, to every single new trend or style of fighting.

I remember when I started teaching in 1996; it was akin to the Wild West.  When I started teaching, I received many different challenges from wrestlers or Judokas who just wanted to spar wrestling, or striking styles such as Karate, Taekwondo, etc., that wanted to test their striking against my grappling, and even to the extent where I received the ‘tough guy’ mentality fight challenge from brawlers who they themselves viewed the UFC and wanted to simply fight.

At that time, I didn’t care.  I obligated whoever came to the gym I taught at, and wanted to spar or challenge me.  After my first three and a half years of teaching, here I am accommodating whoever walked in to my class and wanted to spar with me.  I had already known of the Gracie challenge from Brazil that actually inspired the ideas that eventually became the Ultimate Fighting Championship on payperview.  At that time I was more naïve believing that too many adults were needing to understand the science of BJJ, as Rickson and Royce Gracie had these issues in Brazil that I knew of, but this hardly was the case, and I will expound on that later in this article.  I noticed this was interfering with my teaching, and aside from my personal testing; this was definitely becoming a colossal waste of time.  Poor Rickson Gracie in the old days…

I began to reflect upon the early UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship pay per view event), and how so many people had such a poor, disrespectful attitude toward the Martial Arts, that they felt their chance for self-gratitude was a challenge to me.

Now at that time, I wasn’t a Black belt or a purple belt yet.  I was a blue belt, and my instructor Carlos Machado asked me to begin teaching to spread the BJJ art.  I remember that discussion, and I actually felt I was not qualified to teach, as I was a mere blue belt.  My instructor told me it was spreading BJJ, not peacocking or claiming to be Grandmaster of the world.  I understood, and although I was a mere blue belt, I was at that time one of less than 20 in Texas.  I began teaching in Killeen, Texas, and I also offered a free class to anyone.  Wow.  It was more like a free shot at my head to anyone who wanted to be a tough guy.  I would end up receiving people who wanted to see how good they were on the mat, and never had any intention of joining.  That taught me a lot after three years.

I remember talking to my Instructors (The Machado brothers of Brazil) about these issues in my early times of teaching, and I sat back and absorbed their own stories similar to mine.

I remember when my Chief Instructor Carlos Machado told me of a challenge he had at a seminar from a high ranking Martial Artist who refused to believe Brazilian Jiu-jitsu was anything resembling legitimacy.  Carlos arm-barred the gentleman over and over again.

Despite this, the gentleman could not admit BJJ was a technical proficient art, instead he simply stated that Carlos and Rigan Machado were better than he, yet still not acknowledging the legitimacy of BJJ.  Wow.  There are none as blind like those who cannot truly see.

 This attitude is truly perplexing, and the avoidance at recognizing reality is what this month’s article is about.  In many different areas I will mention.

I receive anywhere from 50 to 100 phone calls a week from people just wanting to train MMA.  That’s right, just MMA, not the people interested in BJJ, grappling or self defense, philosophy or even growing as a martial artist. The Ultimate Fighter on Spike channel started with a popular approach to mainstream, when just the average Joe felt he could enter it.  This personal touch and home appeal instigated interest in the sport, and definitely improved ratings.  Fox actually had first shot at it but declined.  Of course to counter, they now show repeats of Pride fights.  Going back to the MMA callers, I usually hear the general requests of ‘wanting somewhere to train for a couple of months’, or ‘I wanna be a fighter’; to ‘I need the money so I wanna learn to fight’.

Sheesh.  Ohhhhhhh boy.

This approach may at first seem like a haven for clubs, academies or Martial art schools feeling this will improve sales, student base and income.

I disagree.  In the business and philosophical sense.  Oh, no doubt there are plenty of people that promise invincibility, or the ability to kill someone or beat the tar out of whoever they fight.  Another problem is most instructors who promise this type of future for prospective students have two problems:

  1. Why are they promising something as a bargaining chip?  If you have legitimate credibility, and an ability to convey techniques and information, you don’t need to promise anything about someone’s career, except a good program and training environment.
  2. I watched an MMA type reality show on MSNBC in the past, and it was emphasizing what I think is going to happen.  The fighters overall worldwide in MMA are B and C fighters, and I watched the instruction from their coaches.  Let me clarify that statement by remarking that it has nothing to do with fighter’s that have athletic ability, or athletic talent, or are tough guys who can fight tough fights, but instead their actual technical fighting ability.  Many fighters are very tough, and even win at times, but we have less and less fighters with takedown or throwing knowledge, ground knowledge or proper fundamentals of boxing, or Thai boxing, wrestling and BJJ.  This of course is not speaking for every fighter in MMA, just what seems to be more common than a George St. Pierre, Fedor, Randy Couture or an Anderson Silva.  Everyone and their brother is now claiming they know BJJ and Thai boxing.  I know for a fact many training or teaching have never trained directly under a certified instructor or an experienced Black belt in BJJ with a propensity to break down techniques, develop curriculums, classes and a training atmosphere instead of a hometown UFC.  In the USA we have a growing pop culture for MMA or BJJ or No gi.  If you go to any town in the USA and punch online to search for schools like those, you usually will find instructors that train by proxy, or by distance over time or via seminars, but less and less on a weekly training, private lessons, or seeking mentorship the proper way.  Most simply start up their own classes or even schools, get some bags, wear mma shorts and swing it out in practice thinking they are really learning mma.  I did not start like this.  I trained each week for my first two years of morning class, private lesson, lunch, then a little of the evening class before going back 3 and a half hours to my hometown.  I learned from my instructor Carlos Machado.  I learned tact, strategy, ethic, couth, developmental stages, hurdles, testing myself, mental struggles, technique, style and how to be a guide and how to mentor.  I learned this, but the experience and maturation of learning more was over time.  I never thought bragging or claiming a heritage that is deserved to my instructor should ever have been promoted.

Now don’t get me wrong.  There are many quality-training centers.  We all know that Top team has always developed some of the best fighters overall in the game by working with good boxing, Thai boxing, wrestling and Jiu-jitsu.  There are others as well, but overall, lets take a view about fighters.

What’s wrong with the quality of fighters?  One, the pay scale is very low, and for a legit reason.  Why pay top fighters if you are able to get away with sub par ones instead?

Good, rounded, quality fighters are getting more and more difficult.  More fighters are gravitating toward a limited boxing strategy, and that’s not what people want to see in MMA.  It’s not true boxing either.  We see a superman punch almost every single UFC or MMA event, and instead of jabs, combinations, body shots, shuffling, bobbing, weaving, parrying, adjusting, bobbing, feinting and other fundamentals of basic striking derived from boxing or Muay Thai, we see the common strategy of waiting to swing the overhand right.

It seems that every event nationwide will gladly post on website forums “fighters needed”, and they don’t seem to care where they come from.  In addition, all of a sudden, every Tom, Dick and Harry applies attempting to claim their glory as the next Rickson Gracie, or top fighter in their era.  Local events are the absolute worst at times in some areas.  Fighters may not show up, or not get paid, or the organization is horrible.

In San Antonio, Texas, there was an absolutely backlash of a promoted event a few years ago.  The event was cancelled at the last minute because the cage or ring could not be constructed in time for the show.  WHAT?  I believe there was some type of refund policy, but the point is how can we promote an event that we cannot even construct a ring?  Another event had cancelled because the promoter stated that the main investor backed out.  Both of these have two main problems:

  1. Lack of promotional backup plan and/or legitimate experience as a promoter
  2. Obviously working on a shoestring budget waiting for the big payday

This is a growing trend along with fighters and training centers.  What happened here?  Martial arts in the USA has always been for those of less work ethic about ‘faster’, ‘easier’, ‘getting my black belt’ and whatever else we can think of to avoid the grit of the true objective it should be—hard work and rolling up the sleeves.  In the sixties and seventies, we, the USA had interesting styles called Karate and Kung fu that came to the USA.  However, as temptation is always there, there became more and more frauds that claimed rank or claimed this or that with zero or little credibility.  It’s a perpetual circumstance.  A revolving circle if you will.  In the eighties when Tae Kwon do became popular in the USA due to its Olympic debut, did we call it TKD?  Oh no, here in USA we called it and still call it ‘American Karate’.  Look at BJJ.  It was and still is immensely popular with fighters, and people interested in the Martial arts.  Look what we did already in the USA.  Some people didn’t train in the gi, so they used No gi as their style.  Then you have some people who don’t formally train in either, and what do they call it?  MMA.  Here is a good comparison.  In Florida, America top team has an academy.  They do have competitors such as Nogueria and others fighting, but what do they pass their academy as?

Here is a quote from their website:

“ATT features expert instruction in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, MMA (Mixed Martial Arts), boxing, wrestling, muay thai, judo, and kids mma to produce well rounded competitors competent in all disciplines of MMA.”

How about that?  Notice they don’t simply pass themselves off as ‘MMA’.  They cover all grounds.

The real outlook from the public.

Hmmm, we view the UFC or other events as if they are the standard elite of fighters.  Some are.  Randy Couture has mastered good boxing skills along with his great wrestling ability, but more importantly, his ground and pound strategy and ability to tie up on the fight shows he is not simply a fighter; he is a smart fighter that studies other fighters.  Anderson Silva, who arguably is pound for pound the best fighter in MMA has displayed not just his excellent striking skills with his reach and timing, but his BJJ ground game has also defeated good grapplers.  Silva’s game is a multifaceted one, and at this pace, it will take another Anderson Silva type to beat him.

BJ Penn is another prime example of a good, balanced fighter.  BJ enjoys to work on his boxing skills, and has good timing, defense and of course his BJJ game on the ground.  Although some fans would state that Matt Hughes defeated him on the ground, I would beg to differ on their ground skills in comparison.  Some still don’t know that in that Hughes fight, in which BJ was absolutely dominating Hughes, had punctured a lung, and had no breathing ability to keep a good fighting pace.

“According to the findings of physician Sameer Nagda, MD, “There is evidence of a fracture of the right tenth costochondral junction with evidence of surrounding soft tissue edema and fluid consistent with moderate grade muscle strains of the intercostals and oblique musculature in the region of fracture.”

First major general public black eye in the MMA community.

When CBS aired its Elite XC, it displayed fighters and a show that was busy but anti climatic.  The main event was a shocker for CBS, and even stated it was the biggest upset in MMA.  Wow.  What an absolute total fabrication of the truth.  Kimbo Slice losing was an upset?  First black eye from Michael Rome article:

Fans Must Demand an Investigation of EliteXC

by Michael Rome on Oct 6, 2008 7:57 PM EDT in News 

According to Seth Petruzelli, the man who defeated Kimbo Slice on EliteXC’s recent CBS offering on October 4th, he was paid to keep the fight standing:

The promoter kinda hinted to me, and they gave me money to stand and trade with him.  They didn’t want me to take him down.  Let’s just put it that way.

His comments warrant an investigation.

Petruzelli also claimed he was paid in the six figure range to keep it standing, but his disclosed purse was only $50,000.  So unless he is lying, and there’s no reason to believe he is, he was paid an additional bonus to fight in a way that gave their star the best chance of winning.

This is outrageous, and just absolutely embarrassing for the sport of MMA, especially considering the fact that this happened on network television.  We already had people on ESPN mocking the sport all day today, when they get wind of this it will be a nightmare.

Make no mistake, if Petruzelli’s comments accurately characterize what happened, this is essentially fight fixing.  What would sports writers say if it came out that Floyd Mayweather was paid not to use his left hook?  Or if the lakers were paid to play a game without having Kobe Bryant take a shot?  The outrage is nowhere near the level it should be given this disclosure.  People trying to analogize this to “exciting fight bonuses” aren’t arguing in good faith, the argument isn’t even worth addressing. 

This situation is terrible for the sport, terrible for fans, and terrible for the other honorable fighters on EliteXC cards that are trying to forge real careers, but now find themselves tainted by this.

Kelly Kahl needs to conduct his own investigation of what happened here.  If it is true, everyone involved should be fired immediately.

The Florida Athletic Commission should conduct an investigation into this as well.

We can all roll our eyes and act like it’s typical scummy behavior, and just let it slide, but that will just ensure more of it in the future.  Only fans can make sure it does not happen again.

Update:  Seth Petruzelli has now changed his story:

“What was meant to be said was that I wanted to keep the fight standing for myself because I knew that was what the crowd, the promoters, and everyone wanted to see because that’s more exciting than just taking someone to the ground,” Petruzelli said. “That was my thing only. I wanted to keep it exciting so I decided to keep it standing. It had nothing to do with anybody else. That was all me.”

Upon being asked directly whether EliteXC officials had even hinted that he could receive a bonus by keeping the fight standing, Petruzelli clarified that no such act had taken place.

“No,” he responded. “Look, even the UFC gives knockout bonuses. Everyone gives knockout bonuses. There’s knockout bonuses, submission bonuses, all sorts of bonuses. I just wanted to keep it standing because I felt I could beat (Kimbo) at his own game.”

These quotes are mutually exclusive, they can’t both be true.  Again, it’s possible he slipped and said the wrong thing, but it is also possible he didn’t realize what a big deal the comment was and then changed the story to avoid problems.  I don’t know what the truth is, but his initial comments warrant an investigation.  

Second black eye in a week:


Not good for MMA.

Agency to probe Slice’s fight

Mercury News Wire Services

Article Launched: 10/09/200810:25:27 PM PDT

The Florida agency that oversees the State Boxing Commission has started a preliminary investigation into a mixed martial arts fight involving Kimbo Slice after a contestant suggested in a radio interview the results were fixed.

A spokeswoman at the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation on Thursday the agency opened the investigation because of the interest in the fight in which last-minute replacement Seth Petruzelli scored a quick TKO against the heavily favored Slice.

In an interview with an Orlando radio station Monday, Petruzelli said: “The promoters kind of hinted to me, and they gave me the money to stand and trade with him. They didn’t want me to take him down, let’s just put it that way. It was worth my while to try to stand up and punch with him.”

The implication was EliteXC promoters wanted Slice to win after San Jose‘s Ken Shamrock had to withdraw because he suffered a cut above his eye Friday, a day before the fight. EliteXC officials denied the allegations.

  Evander Holyfield has been offered a fight with WBA heavyweight champion Nikolai Valuev in December. Holyfield, a former heavyweight champ who turns 46 this month, has not fought since losing a unanimous decision a year ago to then-WBO champion Sultan Ibragimov.

It gets even worse.

UFC Promoter Dana White even interjects his opinion on the Kimbo Slice fight.  If we had three eyes, we would have three black eyes.  The funny thing is that Dana’s comments need no defense.  From Mythbuster, the below article was posted:

Dana White Sez: The EliteXC Fix Hurts Us, Too

by mythbuster on Oct 9, 2008 9:44 AM EDT 

Fronted by Luke Thomas.

In an interview with The Boston Herald, Dana spells out his disgust with the recent allegations of fight fixing by EliteXC, and how it affects Dana and theUFC:

“It put a nail in my coffin, too,” White said. “When dirty people go out and do stuff like that, it hurts. Promoters have a bad rap as it is because of the last 100 years of boxing. We actually started to turn that around and were doing the right things and then you have these guys coming out and doing (expletive) like that. It hurts us.”

“It disgusts me,” White said. “I’ve been busting my (expletive) for 10 years flying all over the planet to show everybody what a great sport this is and what amazing people are involved in it. Then CBS throws this guy who fights at people’s barbecues on the main event because they’re trying to compete with us, and he gets knocked out in (14) seconds by a guy who didn’t win ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ and couldn’t fight in the UFC. Then the guy turns around the next day and says, ‘The promoters actually paid me to not go to the ground with this guy. They paid me to stand up,’ which I’m pretty sure is illegal.”

Regarding EliteXC, Shaw and Kimbo, Dana says:

“(Slice is) a joke,” White said. “It was bound to happen. These guys have lost $60 million trying to get this thing off the ground. They’re building their promotion around a guy who can’t fight. It’s kind of (expletive) stupid, isn’t it? You’re in the fight business and you’re building your business around a guy who can’t fight.”

Frankly, whether the story is true or if Seth was just rambling in a bumbly stumbly hangover, the story is getting legs. I’ve seen it in the LA Times website and Boston Herald, and probably others. It doesn’t seem to be staying in the blogosphere.

Ouch.  Ouch.  Ouch.  Ouch.

It gets interesting.  We have so many people vying for their own fame and fortune, that we don’t have correct political promotion in the game.  Funny, when I was a kid, Don King and Bob Arum were to the two biggest names in boxing.  Don King was disliked by many, but he always did business with them, and they gladly took the opportunity.   Even Sly Stallone tried to promote boxing with Tiger Eye productions, his company.  His reality show for boxing was shortlived, but I do have to respect Stallone knew his career expanded from boxing in his Rocky movies.  He gave back to boxing, and still does.

Look at Larry Holmes, one of the greatest heavyweight champions of boxing.  Holmes beat an over the hill Ali, but was undefeated for years and fought the best of the best.  Unlike a majority of pro boxers, Larry Holmes didn’t retire broke.  He didn’t get high or drugged up and spend in and out time in rehab.  No, Holmes owns businesses, is wealthy and smart.

In bodybuilding, Lee Haney, who I always idolized when I was a child, has given back to bodybuilding.  He broke off of Joe Weider contracts, he worked with Twin Lab products, a relatively unknown company.  Haney opened up his gym called Animal Kingdom, but one of the most admirable things I read about him was giving back in his community as a spiritual man, he has also established Harvest House, a nonprofit retreat for children of deprived backgrounds.

As a kid, I remember a boxer name Sugar Ray Seals, that went blind.  It was so sad to see him when he went broke, and Marvin Hagler and a few others donated to him to help.  Where is any of this in MMA?

I enjoy MMA. I enjoy the art and philosophy of combat.  I respect those who put it on the line and take a punch.  I can respect those that practice the work ethic of learning, developing humility, show a good public display of diplomacy.  We have kids these days in junior high that already have the wrong idea.  We have young adults in their early twenties that look at being famous and rich without thinking what it takes to get there.  I love my science of BJJ.  I love the science of exploring different angles and dimensions of MMA.  I enjoy learning as much as I do teaching.  I remember 8-10 years ago we had kids barely out of high school wanting to open BJJ schools.  Some were white or barely blue belts.  It’s too bad there isn’t more of a guidance or a better sports manager system for MMA.  I think the UFC was too fast, too shocking when it started for general public.  Rorion Gracie wanted to give the public a view of what real combative sports were.  The Pride and Vale Tudo of Japan had the right idea, just didn’t work on other internal strifes.  Affliction seems to be going in the correct area, the fighters get paid pretty decent, and the show overall is actually pretty good.  Some minor changes with staffing, and more consistency to develop and captivate the audience would be a bonus.  The UFC has a lock right now, they do have a good deal with the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, and definitely have the crowd.  The tv show has dropped a bit, probably due to the shock value wearing off, and more of a pro fighter competitors, not the old ‘anyone can apply’ sale that did bring an audience.

What will the future hold?  It depends on the economical issues of the events.  If we get an influx of too many, lower levels of fighters, the crowd will get bored like it did in boxing.  What MMA needs is fighters that can actually act like a professional, talk like one, and win more than one or two championship fights before being dethroned.  Fans always want a champ that has been there a while.  Its tough in this industry and fighters similar to our newer influx of martial arts over the last decade (BJJ, MMA, no gi, etc.) need consistency.  Dollars are not there in the overall right now, as the crumble of past tv MMA events need to be careful to not promo another fighter too soon, too fast.  Let them grow, and lets promote the sport in all aspects.

Professor William Vandry

Vandry BJJ Academy:
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) & Muay Thai Boxing, Austin, Texas