January 2011

January 2011


The submission hold is the unique facet of mixed martial arts that separates it from nearly all others. The drama that an attempted hold renders on a crowd is gripping in ways the cheap thrill of a flash knock out is not. Here are 42 fighters who we owe the pleasure of thanking for making the submission victory our own.




As with all lists concerning the best in MMA, the hard part is figuring out who makes the cut. A proper criterion is the only way to set a regimented creed of standards to objectively judge. And here they are:


QUALITY — Submissions over first-rate opposition weighed heavily.


CREATIVITY/DIFFICULTY — Utilize a rare or ingenious submission and you score big.


SIGNIFICANCE — Title shots, drastic upsets, career changing aspects, etc.


AWE FACTOR — Win the crowd, win a spot on this list.


This is a list of current and relevant MMA submission artists and where they stack up today. Kazushi Sakuraba, Ken Shamrock, and others are exempt due to their current lack of submission accomplishments. And, this is just MMA submissions. Achievements in other venues like Olympic wrestling or the ADCC can be noted to clarify their history, but will not be counted as a determining factor. Marcelo Garcia is one of the all-time best Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialists, but he is not accomplished in MMA.


With the fine print and lawyer talk out of the way, it’s time to dive into the dangerous guard of the top 43 submission fighters in MMA. Keep the ice bags and crutches close by.




It seems fitting to start this off with a man from one of the best submission schools in the world, Nova União. While Sandro prefers finishing fights the old fashioned way—punching his foes until they cannot feel feelings anymore—his opponents have to pick their poison with his powerful grappling game.


Best Sub—Any time you can submit a guy without going to the floor you score major points. This featherweight locked up Matt Jaggers in a standing arm-triangle choke, pushed him into the corner of the Sengokuring, and squeezed until Jaggers fell over unconscious.




“Gumby” has seen some things, man. Then again, he’s had 112 career fights, winning 57 via submission. And no, that’s not a typo. He has 57 career submission victories. Although he’s lost a little pep in his step these days, it’s not a good idea to say that to his face, or you might end up in lala land.


Best Sub—Although Horn has two submission wins over Chael Sonnen (guillotine and arm bar), Gumby’s best work was putting Chuck Liddell to sleep with an arm-triangle at UFC 19 in 1999. It was the first loss of Liddell’s career and the only defeat in his first 13 fights.




The only man on this list from Down Under, Sotiropoulos has been a surprisingly nasty submission fighter after his stint on the TUF 6. Picking up some tricks along the way from 10th Planet’s Eddie Bravo, the Aussie is meticulous, voracious, and lots of other very big words.


Best Sub—The way Sots yanked George Roop’s arm with a kimura at UFC 101 made it look like the whole shoulder was going to come out of its socket. Victims have been pulled out of burning buildings with less urgency.


40. Joe Stevenson


Who says you need long limbs to be good at submissions? Listed at 5’7”, which is just a bad joke, the compact Stevenson is able to make his tiny frame an advantage. Using his short arms like tiny levers, he is able to clamp tightly around his foes’ necks, helping him score his favorite submission—the guillotine.


Best Sub—After a couple rounds of trash talk between the two fighters in the media, “Daddy” and Melvin Guillard’s bout took all of 27 seconds for Stevenson to seal the deal with a—you guessed it—guillotine.


39. Urijah Faber


Also a choke artist, all of Faber’s submission wins have been by guillotine or rear naked. The unyielding pace he forces on his opponents only ends when the ripped man gets a pit bull-like grip on a neck.


Best Sub—There’s nothing quite like submitting a master of submissions. Rafael Assuncao is a master, but it didn’t stop Faber from latching on yet another rear naked choke. Sometimes a tool belt only needs one tool.


38. Joe Lauzon


He made his mark by defeating 7-to-1 favorite Jens Pulver by KO in his UFC debut, but it is his submissions that make up the bulk of his highlight reel. “J-Lau” reeled off eight straight wins to start off his career, all but one coming via submission hold.


Best Sub—Jeremy Stephens is no slouch. So, hitting an armbar from the mount, then scrambling for several seconds, jockeying for position, and still getting the submission is worth more than a simple UFC Submission of the Nightcheck. It’s also worth an “attaboy” from FIGHT!


37. Kenny Florian


Boston’s own may not need creativity, as all of his submission wins in the UFC are by the effective rear-naked choke.“KenFlo” is adept at beating the will out of his opponents before willfully putting them out of their misery with a merciful choke.


Best Sub—His submission wins are all the same, so 1/4 of a point for each RNC against Takanori Gomi, Clay Guida, Joe Stevenson, and Din Thomas. These are four tough guys who are missing a few million brain cells courtesy of Florian’s touch.


36. Cole Miller


The American Top Team product is not the most intimidating fighter—his nickname “Magrinho” means “skinny” in Portuguese—but the lanky Georgian’s submission wins fill in the gap. At only 26 years old, he is just entering his prime.


Best Sub—A better display of his ability would be his triangle choke on Jorge Gurgel, but the mind-boggling eye candy goes to his kimura win over Dan Lauzon. Turning an inverted triangle into a kimura while hanging upside down is too much fun to pass up.




Built like a refrigerator with tattoos, “The Snowman” is one of the most interesting fighters on this list. At 5’9” he is as wide as he is tall, stocked with short arms and legs and nothing resembling a neck, begging to be the answer to the question (despite having two submission losses), “Is anyone unsubmittable right now?”


Best Sub—At UFC 57, Monson secured a north/south choke on Branden Lee Hinkle that left Hinkle’s body completely limp. After Monson rose from his unconscious opponent, the camera zoomed in on one of the most eerie stares into oblivion few had ever seen in MMA.




The UFC Welterweight Champion has a positional, dominant ground game that he uses to wear down his opponent until they give up an appendage in surrender to the French-Canadian. Ironic, I know.


Best Sub—In the rubber match with former all-time welterweight badass Matt Hughes, St-Pierre left no doubt the torch was officially passed, hitting a beautiful kimura-to armbar transition that had Hughes screaming in pain.




It’s scary that the least dangerous part of Marquardt’s game may be his submissions. He is now punch happy, but let someone leave their nec
k, arm, or leg out for him to snatch and people will remember why he was King of Pancrase.


Best Sub—Yuji Hoshino at Pancrase Proof 6 made the mistake of shooting a high crotch and lifting Marquardt in the air. Like Nate planned it all along, Hoshino landed himself in a triangle and “The Great” simply locked it up for the win.




What he lacks in polish, he makes up for in style. The speedo-wearing showman has found a niche for himself in Japanese MMA by taking on gargantuan opposition and submitting most of them. If we are ever attacked by giant aliens, only Minowa would have the adequate experience to defeat them.


Best Sub—In true “Minowaman” fashion, he took on 7’2”, 350-pound Korean kickboxer Hong Man Choi at DREAM 11. After a back-and-forth first round, Minowa was finally able to secure his patented heel hook in the second round, curing little-man syndrome for thousands of small guys everywhere.




Another wrestler convert, Sobral took his international wrestling experience and Gracie Barra jiu-jitsu techniques to turn himself into one of the best grapplers in his weight class. The combination of wrestling and submissions has yielded the light heavyweight plenty of victories.


Best Sub—At UFC 74, “Babalu” faced a David Heath that had rubbed him the wrong way. Unfortunately for Heath, this was not a tennis match. Sobral cinched a tight anaconda choke and held it a few seconds after the referee moved in to stop it, causing Heath to fall into unconsciousness. The UFC sent Babalu packing, but the sub was spectacular.




A tougher-than-nails BJJ black belt,Aurelio has never been finished, but he has submitted 13 of his opponents with armbars, triangle chokes, and rear-naked chokes.


Best Sub—Aurelio hit a high-speed transitional armbar against Ryan Roberts at UFC Fight Night 13, but “Maximus” has been and will forever be known as the man who tapped out Takanori Gomi with an arm triangle, back when Gomi was unbeatable in Pride. It’s most likely already engraved on his tombstone.




The man known as “Mayhem” is better known for his just-escaped-a-mental institution charm and his role as an enforcer against bullies on MTV’s Bully Beatdown, but it’s his great submission game that keeps him going in MMA.


Best Sub—He may be far past his prime and fighting on two haggard legs, but when Miller arm-triangle choked Kazushi Sakuraba at DREAM 16, he made history by submitting a man who had never been submitted before. (Saks sub loss to Kimo in 1996 is highly suspect).




The three-time World Brazilian Champion may only have three submissions in professional MMA, but he is a threat every moment of every nail biting second he is on the floor. With only10 fights, the DREAM Featherweight Champion has plenty of time to wow the fans with his slick jiu-jitsu.


Best Sub—It took only 42 seconds for “The Flash” to armbar current Bellator Champion Joe Warren, which is still Warren’s only loss.




It was not good enough for Vazquez to earn his black belt from a Gracie, he had to marry the daughter of one. The Carlson Gracie product has merged his wrestling background with jiu-jitsu to become one of the most dangerous submission threats in the WEC featherweight division.


Best Sub—During the prelims of WEC 50, Mackens Semerzier felt what it was like to get stuck in a standing rear naked choke. The submission was so good, Versus aired the untelevised fight online following the event.




One of only two ladies to make the list, Coenen sheds the striking only stigma of the Dutch and has churned out 13 career submissions. Her tall frame, 5’9”, and active guard make her groundwork a thing of beauty to watch.


Best Sub—Her best sub put her on the map for American audiences when she armbarred Sarah Kaufman for the Strikeforce 135-pound title. Kaufman complained Coenen held on too long, but the two immediately reconciled and squashed the issue. Leave it to the ladies to be the ones that act like gentlemen.




Another Nova União product, Leites has a diverse submission game but prefers the straight armbar and arm triangle choke as his weapons of choice. Throw in some great positional grappling skills and a high-flying judo throw every now and then, and you have one fun Brazilian on your hands.


Best Sub—He had three submission victories in the UFC, but only one earned him the coveted Submission of the Night bonus. At UFC 74, Leites armbarred Ryan Jensen in the first round to earn the win and some bonus money.




Pick your poison with one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world:stand and trade and you get knocked out, take him down and you get submitted.A BJJ black belt under the Nogueira brothers, “The Spider” uses his extremely long appendages like, well…a spider.


Best Sub—After taking a beating from Chael Sonnen for 23 minutes, Silva went to Sonnen’s Achilles heel and slapped on a triangle, tapping the world-class wrestler. However, he still couldn’t shut Sonnen up.




One of the most dominant fighters to ever weigh 170 pounds, Hughes transitions his amateur wrestling roots beautifully into a hybrid grappling style. The “Country Boy” learned a thing or two about submissions out on the farm.


Best Sub—It is tempting to pick his kimura-defense to armbar on GSP, but submitting Ricardo Almeida, a five time placer at the Abu Dhabi Combat Club World Championships, with a Dave Schultz front headlock must not be ignored. The move caused everyman in the Midwest with cauliflower ears to shed a couple tears of joy.




One of only three Caesar Gracie jiu jitsu black belts, Diaz could be much higher on this list if he was not so damn good at punching people into oblivion. The Strikeforce Welterweight Champion’s precarious guard disgruntles people from shooting on him, hiding his biggest weakness—takedown defense.


Best Sub—The fight finders say “No Contest,” but you and I know better. Facing the then consensus number one fighter in the world in Takanori Gomi, an all out war was abruptly halted by the white whale of submissions: the gogo plata. Failing a post-fight drug test dismisses the win from the record books but not from our memories.




Professional boxer + fulltime fireman + all-time leader in UFC win bonuses = one fun fighter to watch. Two of those win bonuses have been submissions, and that is out of 19 career submission wins.


Best Sub—Chris Lytle’s best submission didn’t even earn him a submission of the night bonus. At UFC47, Lytle tapped out Tiki Ghosn with a bulldog choke. You should win an award any time you tap out a professional fighter in the UFC Octagon with the same move you used to choke your little brother with in the backyard.




This WEC bantamweight has the wicked combination of tap-you-at any-point submissions with aggressive takedowns, including double leg shots and inside leg trips.


Best Sub—He became the first,and only, IFL Featherweight Champion by slapping on a
lightning fast armbar on LC Davis.




The man they call “McLovin” sure doesn’t look the part, but beneath the glasses and mustache lies a submission machine. The Jorge Gurgel black belt scores huge with diversity, rarely scoring the same submission twice.


Best Sub—The Submission of the Year on a lot of people’s ballots in 2008, his whizzer step-over armbar against Josh Burkman was reckless, wild, and, according to Hazelett, “technically unsound.” But that is exactly why it looked so good.




The best part about watching Thiago fight is hearing Wallid Ismail screaming in his corner. Second best part, watching him dive for Brabo chokes like it’s the last loaf of rye in a Russian bread line. The UFC welterweight was victorious in the first 11 fights of his pro career, winning seven by submission.


Best Sub—After knocking Mike Swick on his butt, Thiago quickly locked in his patented Brabo choke. Swick fought valiantly, only to wake up a few moments later.




Note to every middleweight in the UFC: Do not let your legs anywhere within 50 feet of Palhares unless you plan on using crutches. The Brazilian Top Team black belt has some of the nastiest heel hooks to go along with a very complete jiu-jitsu game.


Best Sub—Against another very good black belt in Fábio Negão, “Toquinho” scored a fight ending heel hook. While controlling his back from the standing position, Torquinho rolled to the hold and forced the tap. It looks far more spectacularthan the last sentence gives it credit for.




When Carlson Gracie Sr. says you are the best, people takenotice. The former WEC Champion has a long frame for his weight, which he uses well with his Muay Thai, but even better with his jiu-jitsu.


Best Sub—Against Chase Beebe at WEC 32, the mullet master sunk in an anaconda choke, rolled to his back, and switched to a guillotine that would have cut a lesser man’s neck in half.




Any leg lock fan has to appreciate the cringe inducing style of Kitaoka. The Sengoku Lightweight Grandprix Champion firstmade his mark in the leg-lock-happy Pancrase promotion.


Best Sub—He has submitted Paul Daley, Carlos Condit, and Kurt Pellegrino among others, but none are bigger than the straight ankle lock over Takanori Gomi. It only took 1:41 for Kitaoka toboth simultaneously win the Sengoku Lightweight Title and eliminate all memory of Gomi’s Bushido win streak.




A lot of good Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighters have astute submission games and attempt to round out their other skill sets—not Yahya. The ADCC Champion knows what he does well and is more than happy to stick to it, scoring 14 submissions in 15 victories.


Best Sub—With a move normally set aside for heavyweights who can rely on gravity for the extra force, Yahyahas pulled off three north/south chokes, with the best coming at the expense of Eddie Wineland.




One of only two fighters on this list without a Y chromosome, Fujii is perhaps the most dominant submission fighter of all-time. In 22 straight victories “Mega Megu” scored 18 submissions, finally losing in her 23rd fight against Zoila Frausto.


Best Sub—Nothing like a good old fashioned rolling leglock. Against Serin Murray, a single leg shot turned into a textbook toehold and win number eight. Try doing that in a pink sports bra.




The former UFC Heavyweight Champion can lock on armbars, chokes, kneebars, kimuras, and just about break any appendage on the body of whoever happens to be standing in front of him in the cage.


Best Sub—This may be the toughest one to pick with his make shift shoulder lock of Pete Williams and Octagon welcoming kneebar of Brock Lesnar, but the submission no one will ever forget is the basic armbar he scored on Tim Sylvia. Basic, that is, until Sylvia’s forearm snapped in half and turned into a backwards boomerang.




Catch wrestler extraordinaire Barnett reminds the MMA universe that there is more to submissions than what Royce Gracie taught us. The Erik Paulson protégé specializes in leglocks, but he is more than happy to crank anything you give him.


Best Sub—His heel hook over Hidehiko Yoshida helped an ongoing storyline in Japan on the supremacy of catch wrestling over judo.




In proper medical terminology, Imanariis bonkers. However flamboyant and unique he is out of the ring, the quirks improve exponentially when he is in the ring. But that strange style of fighting also hosts one of the most dangerous submission games in all of MMA. Perhaps the most innovative submission fighter, Imanari has scored wins via omoplata neck crank, flying armbar, and more heel hook attempts than he has landed punches.


Best Sub—Against Robbie Olivierat Cage Rage 20, a flying front kick attempt by Imanari turned into a flying triangle attempt, which then turned into a flying armbar finish—all in the span of about four seconds.




“Jacare” could be on top of this list in a few years. The five-time World Jiu-Jitsu Champion is one of the most skillful athletes, and he continues to get better with every fight. The Strikeforce Middleweight Champion also has a positional awareness, helped in part by his judo blackbelt, which has translated beautifully into MMA.


Best Sub—Matt Lindland has tapped out his share of black belts, so it had to feel good for“Jacare” to arm triangle Lindland at a 2009 Strikeforce event. Jacare also armbarred the Olympic silver medalist in the 2003 ADCC.




A Cesar Gracie black belt, Shields is also a converted wrestler who has amassed a 15-fight winning streak with his self described “American jiu jitsu.”I do not know what it is either, but it must be working.


Best Sub—Shields was chosen to be Robbie Lawler’s welcome to Strikeforce. A rather unwelcoming guillotine slipped in by Shields stopped Lawler’s six fight unbeaten streak dead in its tracks.




“The Last Emperor” has been raining havoc on the heavyweight division ever since the turn of the decade, and in no small part thanks to a submission game perfectly suited to his frame. A small heavyweight, Fedor relies on smooth hips and a fundamentally sound ground game focusing on armbars and chokes.


Best Sub—The short choke on Tim Sylvia showed the world how Fedor handled the top American fighters, but his same choke over Kazuyuki Fujita showed heart and resiliencyno one had seen from him before.




The former Shooto and TKO Champion flows seamlessly on top, which is even more surprising considering his 5’11” frame on a featherweight. Those longs limbs make short work of fighters who are not paying attention, especially with his patented triangle from mount.


Best Sub—Another mounted triangle victim, Mark Hominick tried to hang tough as the closing seconds of round two ticked away at TKO 25 for the featherweight strap. Hominick woke up without the belt.




If comeback submissions counted in this list, “Big Nog&#8
221; would be on top. The Brazilian Top Team standout is notorious for taking a beating over the course of the fight, only to swipe victory from the clutches of defeat on an unsuspecting victim. Back when few heavyweights had high-level jiu-jitsu skills, Nogueira was making it look easy.


Best Sub—In trademark Nog fashion, Mirko “Cro Cop” spent the majority of the first round of their fight landing kicks and punches while defending desperate takedown attempts. By some miracle, Nogueira was able to drag his opponent down and score an armbar victory off a scramble.




The first non-Brazilian winner of the Jiu-Jitsu World Championships saved his best for the cage. Other worldly flexibility and dexterity make dealing with his guard like serving spaghetti with a spoon. While he rarely tries anything flashy, Penn scores most of his submissions by beating the will out of the other fighter and finishing him off with a choke.


Best Sub—After a one-year hiatus from the UFC lightweight division, “The Prodigy” returned to the Octagon as a welterweight, taking on the seemingly invincible Matt Hughes.Within one round, Penn had Hughes tapping out. The smooch he gave him at the end was probably to soothe things over.




Another ADCC Champion made a seamless switch from sport jiu-jitsu to a sport where jiu-jitsu works but you have to worry about getting punched. He won Submission of the Night in four of his first five UFC fights, three against guys training at Team Quest. Few fighters can live by the true jiu-jitsu credo of beating an opponent without throwing one punch like Maia.


Best Sub—After tossing Chael Sonnento the ground with a foot sweep, Maia landed in a mounted triangle and finished off the outspoken contender just seconds later.




Rounding out a Brazilian contingency of notable submission stars, the World and ADCC Champion took nothing but pure jiu-jitsu slick into the MMA arena. Not as athletic as Jacare or well rounded as BJ Penn or takedown savvy as Maia, “Vai Cavalo”has still found success and has never faltered too far from his roots. He also holds the Kryptonite everyone wondered existed.


Best Sub—A mere 69 seconds into their main event bout, Fedor Emelianenko—the number one heavyweight in the world—fell head first into the most dangerous guard in the heavyweight division and tapped out via triangle/armbar. Fedor went from god to still-best heavyweight-ever-but-now-finally-looking-human. It’s arguably the most significant submission ever executed in the young sport of MMA.




He has been called dirty, he’s been called a flopper, and some people give all the credit to his magic, spandex pants, but there is no denying the “Tobikan Judan” is the most dangerous submission fighter in MMA today. Despite having a striking game Shirley Temple could tap dance through, Aoki has run roughshod over nearly every fighter he has faced. The 27-year-old has a unique approach to dragging fighters down into his web where the wiry lightweight tangles up limbs, sometimes never giving them back.


Best Sub—Where to begin? Hes howed the world what a gogoplata was against Joachim Hansen, flying triangle choked Clay French, broke Keith Wisniewski’s arm in half while standing, and, in case people forgot what it was, put another gogoplataon Katsuhiko Nagata, this time from mount. But nothing beats Shinya Aoki snapping Mizuto Hirota’s humerus—the bone between your shoulder and elbow that’s never supposed to break—on New Year’sDay. A combination of a hammerlock meets an Indian burn put Hirota in a cast and sealed Aoki’s legacy as the cash cow of orthopedic surgeons the world over.


A lot of blood, sweat, and tears go into MMA training, so don’t overlook something as painless as proper nutrition planning to keep you performing at optimal levels. Just as you regularly wash your mouthpiece every night (you do wash your mouthpiece, right?), you need to pack your MMA training fuel, including: pre-training snack, in training hydration, and post-training recovery snack. These nutritional necessities will keep your energy levels maximized and the risk of fatigue and injury minimized.


Go Steel


While plastic water bottles may be convenient, many leach harmful chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA) into your water. BPA is an endocrine system disruptor, meaning it mimics hormones such as estrogen, possibly leading to hormone irregularities, as well as myriad other health issues. Stainless steel water bottles are a much safer alternative.


Remember, these recommendations are for quick, convenient, portable snacks. Your regular meals and snacks prepared at home should consist primarily of whole, clean, unprocessed foods with the proper balance of carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fat.




In the 30–60 minutes prior to training, carbs are king. Carbohydrates digest quickly, help maintain blood glucose levels during exercise, and replace much needed muscle glycogen (storage form of the carbohydrate glucose within the muscles). Low-fat and low-protein content of the pre-training snack is necessary to facilitate gastric emptying (the time it takes for food to leave your stomach) and to avoid gastro intestinal distress. Approximately 40–60 grams of carbohydrates should be sufficient. Some athletes have no trouble consuming these carbs from solid foods, such as apples, bananas, or a Power Bar Fruit Smoothie Bars. For fighters that prefer liquids or semi solids,consider items such as Gatorade G1 Prime sports drink, gels from Power Bar and GU, or an all-natural fruit/veggie juice.




If intense training lasts more than an hour, refueling and rehydrating during the workout is key. A sports drink containing 6–8% carbohydrates and electrolytes will give you easily digestible carbs, as well as the water and electrolytes lost from sweating. Ironman Perform and Gatorade G2 Perform are two readily available drinks of this kind, providing 50–70 calories, 14–17 grams of carbs, 110–190 mg sodium, and 10–30 mg potassium per 8 fluid ounces. Many athletes alternate between plain water and sports drinks to get the recommended 30–60 grams of carbs and 16–24 ounces of fluid per hour of exercise. These are general guides, especially for hydration, as sweat rates differ for every athlete. You can find sweat rate calculators online to get your customized hydration recommendation.




Recovery nutrition is vital. Within the first 30 minutes after training, strive to consume 0.5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight. A 150-pound athlete would need approximately 75 grams of recovery carbs to start to replace glycogen stores. Protein also takes the stage at this point for muscle building and repair, but amounts will vary depending on your training. If you’re hitting the weights hard on a regular basis, you’ll need 20–40 grams of protein post-workout along with the carbs above. If strength training has taken a backseat to more cardio, 15–25 grams is sufficient. Natural peanut butter and jelly on wholegrain bread, Gatorade G3 PRO Recovery, or Muscle Milk, are all portable recovery snacks that give you a carb/protein combo. Keep drinking water too. You’ll need 16–24 fluid ounces per hour of intense workout.


I know that knockouts are the most exciting part of MMA and KO artists quickly rise up the ladder of popularity. But, for my money, submissions are the real thing of beauty. One look at the top fighters in the UFC and Strikeforce and you’ll see that many of the champions and contenders are highly ranked in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.


World-class wrestlers with a few years of submission knowledge are the new breed of fighter. These guys can land the take down, stay on top, and score enough damage to win the round. In many ways, the wrestlers are negating the strengths of the grapplers. Additionally, the rules and judging have made it more difficult than ever for grapplers to showcase their skills.




There are five specific changes that can be made to one’s training regime and mindset that can help grapplers become more successful in MMA. One theme that holds true in all five of these keys is: being on top is better than being on bottom.


1. Incorporate More Wrestling


Wrestlers are training in BJJ, so BJJ practitioners need to do the same with wrestling. When it comes to MMA, being on top is always better than being on bottom. However, wrestling has more to offer than just take downs. Wrestling training can add a lot to your scrambles, transitions, and top game control. Starting your grappling training from your feet will give the participants a much better feel for the stand up to ground transitions of MMA.


2. Focus On Sweeps


If you end up on bottom, sweeps are your path back on top. In addition, sweeps are a great way to set up your submissions. A failed sweep often opens up a related submission attack. As an example, hip-bump sweep, guillotine, and kimura all work in unison. A successful sweep in MMA can immediately change the entire fight.


3. Perfect Your Escapes


Training to escape is one of the least enjoyable aspects of BJJ. However, no BJJ practitioner would argue that escapes aren’t an important aspect of grappling. Being on the bottom in an MMA fight—outside of the guard—is a dangerous position. All fighters must learn to stay relaxed on bottom, defend themselves from strikes, and work back to a more suitable position. Training in bad positions and learning to survive is important.


4. Train With Strikes


Carlson Gracie once said, “Punch a jiu-jitsu black belt in the face once and he becomes a brown belt, punch him in the face twice and he becomes a purple belt.” Punches and elbows make top positions more dominant and some bottom positions and techniques downright dangerous. Train grappling for MMA with grappling gloves while allowing strikes.


5. Learn to Get Up


An effective guard offers three constantly chained attacks. I call this the S-3 game.


• Submission (always the ultimate goal of grappling)
• Sweeps (see number 2)
• Standing up out of guard. Pressuring the top man to hold you down can open the other two lines of attack. More importantly, being able to stand up can help negate the advantages a world-class wrestler has. No one has been better at this skill than Chuck Liddell.


Shark Attack


“I am a shark, the ground is my ocean, and most people can’t even swim.”—Rickson Gracie


On November 12, 1993, I watched a skinny Brazilian man beat three larger fighters on the ground in less than five minutes. Even the announcers were confused by the tactics he was using.The birth of MMA and the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu invasion took place that night in Denver, Colorado. Some viewers might have seen Royce Gracie’s UFC 1 Tournament victory as a fluke. However, I just knew I had to learn to do what Royce could do.


It took some time before I had the opportunity to train in BJJ, and after 11 years of training, I received my black belt from Roberto Traven in April 2009. Still today, I watch fights like a chess match. My love of grappling has never wavered.


It takes many tough hours to become skilled at BJJ, and those hours can be both painful and frustrating. Even for skilled athletes, it takes upwards of 10 years of constant training to reach a world-class level. To ensure success in the cage, focus on fundamentals, high percentage moves that work under the pressures of MMA, and proper strategies. These five keys can help even the most experienced grapplers make a smooth transition to MMA.


In just 10 short years, Long Island native, Timothy Ferriss, has gone from Princeton grad to author, entrepreneur and angel investor. Ferriss is the bestselling author of The Four-Hour Workweek, which reached the No. 1 status in both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Even though Ferriss has amassed experience in collegiate wrestling, Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, among other disciplines, he considers himself a fan more than a practitioner. On the heels of his success with The Four-Hour Workweek, comes his new book, The Four-Hour Body, a compilation Ferriss feels can be very beneficial to the practicing mixed martial artist.


TF: “Most people associate me with professions of time management and productivity while working with companies like Google, Microsoft. The reality is that my obsession with physical tracking pre-dates all of that by about 10 years, so I’ve re corded almost every workout that I’ve done since age 18, and I’ve done thousands of blood tests—my house looks like an ER because it has so much medical equipment, and the reason I waited to write this book, which I’ve always wanted to write more than The Four-Hour Work week, is that the The Four-Hour Work week gave me access to the best scientists, the best doctors, and the best athletes and persons in the world…


I think there’s no audience that this will address more than the mixed martial artist because my athletic background is all based on grappling and striking. So my point of reference for everything was the physical attributes of the mixed martial artist, and that could range from maximal strength development to ultra-endurance to dissipating heat or cutting weight. Almost every one of the 50 topics covered in the book applies to a mixed martial artist.”




Ferriss isn’t one for understatement; here are the titles to some of the sections in the book.


• From Geek to Freak: How to Gain 34 Pounds in 28 Days
• Six Minute Abs: Two Exercises That Actually Work
• Hacking the NFL Combine
• Ultra Endurance
• Engineering the Perfect Night’s Sleep
• Pre-Hab: Injure-Proofing the Body
• Effortless Superhuman
• How To Add 100 Pounds to Your Bench Press
• How to Hold Your Breath Longer Than Houdini
• Living Forever: Vaccines, Bleeding, and Other Fun


You get the drift.




You’re offended by step-by-step illustrated instructions on how to give a 15-minute orgasm.


A common theme that I have gleaned while visiting MMA training centers across the country the past few months is that the majority of gyms are against air conditioning. A close second is that most successful gyms and fight teams are like a family.


Although MMA is considered an individual sport, fighters depend on their teammates, coaches, and training partners to help them prepare for their next bout and lean on them for advice, support, and guidance.


Uriah Faber’s Team Alpha Male is made up of several friends whom he has known since high school, and it could be compared to a college fraternity. American Top Team, led by father figure Ricardo Liborio, has a heavy Brazilian influence that places a high premium on family. Twin brothers Trevor and Todd Lally, who run Arizona Combat Sports, are very familiar with the competitive nature of family and don’t let a few squabbles get in the way of their success.


Like every training center and fight team, all families are unique with their own combination of strengths and weaknesses, but, at the end of the day, you always know that they have your back.


Ultimate Fitness/TeamAlpha Male

Location: Sacramento, CA
Uriah Faber and Matt Fisher


Fighters Who Train at Alpha Male


• Urijah Faber: Former WEC Featherweight Champion
• Danny Castillo: UFC Lightweight
• Joseph Benavidez: UFC Bantamweight
• Chad Mendes: UFC Featherweight
• Kyacey Uscola: Tachi Palace Middleweight
• Justin Buchholz: Former UFC Lightweight
• Lance Palmer: Four-Time D-I All-American Wrestler


What You Don’t Know


• Many Team Alpha Male members have, at some point in their careers, lived on “The Block,” which is comprised of five rental houses that Faber owns and rents out to other fighters in Sacramento.


What Separates Alpha Male From Everyone Else?


Team Alpha Male forms like Voltron, and Urijah is the head. I think we are the best looking team in MMA.”—Danny Castillo


American Top Team

Location: Coconut Creek, FL
Dan Lambert, Ricardo Liborio, Conan Silveira, and Marcelo Silveira


Fighters Who Train at ATT


• Thiago Alves: UFC Welterweight
• Thiago Silva: UFC Light Heavyweight
• Hector Lombard: Bellator Middleweight Champion
• Mike Brown: UFC Featherweight
• Jorge Santiago: SENGOKU Middleweight Champion
• JZ Cavalcante: Strikeforce Lightweight
• Denis Kang: W-1 MMA Middleweight
• Jeff Monson: IFC Heavyweight
• Cole Miller: UFC Lightweight
• Bobby Lashley: Strikeforce Heavyweight


What You Don’t Know


• Although the Coconut Creek, Florida, location is considered American Top Team’s main headquarters, there are 18 other locations in the Sunshine State and training centers in Connecticut, Georgia, Colorado, Oklahoma, New York, Massachusetts, Texas, and Illinois.


What Separates ATT From Everyone Else?


“We have many world-class fighters and a lot of great coaches, and they all give you little bits and pieces. My fight game is like a mosaic—you take a little piece from each guy and put it all together, and then you have your painting.”—Mike Brown


Arizona Combat Sports

Location: Tampa, AZ
Trevor and Todd Lally


Fighters Who Train at ACS


• Jamie Varner: UFC Lightweight
• Pat Runez: UWC/PFC Flyweight Champion
• Ryan Diaz: KOTC Bantamweight
• Estevan Payan: Bellator Featherweight
• Jacob McClintock: Bellator Welterweight


What You Don’t Know


• After sharpening their MMA skills at AZ Combat, former ASU wrestlers CB Dollaway, Ryan Bader, and Aaron Simpson left the team in June 2010 to start their own gym. However, the next generation of former Sun Devils is beginning their careers at ACS including John Moraga, Clifford Starks, and Pat Runez.


What Separates ACS From Everyone Else?


“We don’t use wrestling to win. We use wrestling to add to our fighters’ stand-up. Most wrestlers can’t strike, and we try to teach them to use their strengths to build up their weaknesses.”—Trevor Lally


If there’s one thing we love about living in the South, it’s sweet Southern belles like Athens’ own Charlie Brooke. Don’t let the puppy dog eyes fool you, this is one Georgia girl that isn’t afraid to bite.


You’re an Athens girl huh?Is it safe to assume you’re a ‘Dawgs’ fan too?


Oh yeah!


Did you make it to the game last weekend?


No, I was working for AXE that night, but I saw a lot of it on tv.


How long have you lived in Athens?


Well, I was born in Lawrenceville, but I spent most of my life about 10 minutes outside of Athens


Southern girl through and through, excellent. What do you do for fun in Athens?


I like to go to the clubs here and in Atlanta and dance. I love to go camping, and I love to cook. Especially baking, I absolutely love baking. Working out is kind of a hobby of mine too. And I go to a lot of the MMA fights in and around Atlanta.


So you are an outdoorsy girl that likes to party and cook. That’s a pretty formidable combo. Do you have a nerdy side at all?


Oh, definitely, I love playing Wii, and Forza Motorsports on the Xbox, and i’m on my laptop all the time Tweeting & Facebooking. I think that’s pretty nerdy.


Are you a badass at Forza? Could you hang with The Stig?


I’m out of practice but I’m pretty good. I can definitely hold my own. I’m really good at Wii boxing too.


Are you saying you can throw a mean punch?


OH Yeah!


Speaking of punching, how is ring card business going?


Well, I was working for Sin City Fight Club, which became  Sport-FightX, but it recently came under new ownership. I’m not sure if they’ll be using me anymore for their fights.


I think they would be wise to. Maybe after this you can negotiate a new contract.


Yes! Sounds like a plan.


So you’re a fan of the sport though, obviously?


Oh, definitely.


Do you have a favorite fighter?


I totally knew you’d ask that. I’m gonna have to say Urijah Faber.


Faber is a bad mofo. Most girls we ask seem to like GSP.

Yeah, I hear people say that all the time.


Have you been the cause of any bar fights up there lately?


Haha, never! The last thing I need is to get arrested. Last New Year’s Eve, I was working at Flanagan’s though, and we had like three fights that night, it was practically a brawl. I am always the first one there to cheer them on though.


Trouble with a capital “T.”


A troublemaker with her heart in the right place!


That’s great actually. No one wants a boring girlfriend.


Definitely. I’m the bad girl that you can still take home to Mom.


Heard any bad pick up lines lately?


Yeah, “Did it hurt?” “What?” “When you fell from heaven.” I mean, really?


That’s pretty bad but I’ve heard worse. What kind of guys are you attracted to?


I like guys with a playful personality because that’s how I am. And I like guys that are cocky, because they can handle being made fun of. And they have to be strong, mentally and physically.


Sounds like you’re a woman that knows what she wants and how to look out for herself.


Yep. That’s what happens when you have a cop for a dad and two brothers that are in the Marines.


Please remind us to never upset you. What does your dad think about you modeling and generally causing a ruckus?


He’s not happy when I get into trouble, but he still loves me. I am good when I’m at home, I cook and clean and take care of the family.


Want to send a shout out to your brothers?


Yeah. To all the Marines in VMFA-122 and all our troops at home and abroad, thanks for all you do! Come home safe!


Well said Charlie. Ooh-rah!


“Porra! Porra! Porra!” I’m screaming, partially because I just learned the Brazilian multipurpose cussword, but mostly because I’m being jumped by José Aldo and Nova Uniao’s gang of lightweights.


After teaching Nova Uniao some of our wrestling techniques, we were being welcomed with a light hearted beating, and at this point in the face-slapping, multi-man dog pile,I was now being bitten on my ass. I wriggled away from the ass biter, but was suddenly being simultaneously arm barred by José Aldo and his training partner as someone laughed with a Portuguese accent and snapped a photo.


“Let me go, José Aldo,” I screamed, since he was the only guy I knew by name, in a room full of world-class fighters. I escaped, or was released, and was now out of breath, but a small guy, sensing my exhaustion, jumped on my back, put both hooks in, and stretched me out. José came back to abuse me more, probably due to his love of Bully Beatdown and his desire to abuse the handsome, charismatic host.


I met my breaking point, and from my terrible position, I grabbed Aldo’s gloved hand and bit down on his forearm. “Desperate times…”as they say. I should have known that retaliation was coming. The same tattooed guy from Part I of this adventure (see the December issue, or get a subscription already) BIT ME AGAIN! This time, it was a hard, nasty one on the back. This Brazilian mini-riot lasted about 30 minutes or so, and finally, when a truce was called, we went to enjoy a signature of every gym in Brazil—a freezing shower. They don’t waste money on hot water in Rio. As I disrobed, everyone burst into laughter—the last bite left a huge bruise.


We all got a good laugh out of that, and after the icicle shower, we go out into the dirty streets of downtown Rio, which is completely tiled with tiny trapezoid rock. These stones give the city a character that is slightly dingy, as well as rustic. It’s a place with fantastic character—not the cookie-cutter asphalt roads and concrete sidewalks that we are accustomed to in America.


We headed down to the local sandwich shop, and even though I’ve eaten the purple black frozen berry pudding with every meal, I still spout “Um Ass Eye EE!!” I’m met with a frozen bowl of sweet goodness, while still expressing my disbelief at the back-biter, and my regret for not returning the favor. Strong looking porters walk through the streets carrying rickshaw-type carts—filled to the brim with pineapples—in front of the facade of a house that looks very much like an old mansion in New Orleans. I devour the pudding while super tour guide Marcelo Alonso laughs to the rest of this table in his thick Brazilian accent, “Man, this guy is Brazilian now, he loves the açaí.”


We headed back to the parking garage, and I paused to high-five some of the guys, including José Aldo, who is even cooler in real life than in the cage. While doing this high-five love fest in the streets of Rio, one guy’s face stood out to me, but I couldn’t remember why, that is, until one of his partners in crime pointed at the guy and pantomimed a biting motion. It took a second to register, but when I saw his tattooed neck, I knew what had to be done. I gave a high-five, pulled him into the bro hug, and bit down on his trapezius muscle hard enough to bruise him through his tattoos.


“Porra lesque,” I yelled—the equivalent of “Fuck, Dude”—and laughed up a storm with the rest of the crew as he scurried off into the yellow streetlights of RDJ. Joe Rogan had mentioned to me, before I left on this journey, some type of bacterial infection that comes from rat droppings that makes men and women more aggressive and affects a large portion of people in Brazil. I started to wonder if I was infected.


I wondered if extreme fatigue was one of the symptoms. We had been working out hard now, every day, running on next-to-no sleep the entire time and climbing a mountain here and there. Just as I was considering this in the backseat of the car, Marcelo Alonso, not wanting to wait for some slow driver to take a left, skill fully cuts off a more timid driver through his left side. It’s a move I always wished I could make in America, but I must not have contracted the rat-doo virus yet. With some technical swerving, we were back on a busy, two-lane highway that overlooked the beach, which, despite being late into the evening, was illuminated all the way down the shoreline as far as I could see.


“I’m giving you guys tomorrow off,” says coach Ryan Parsons, snapping me from my stare out the window “We’ve been running you guys hard.” I looked over at teammate Pat Cummings, who has bruises on his exhausted looking face and no skin left on his feet—a testament to being a wrestler who never trains without his shoes on…until this trip. “Day off? Sweet! What’re we gonna do?”


When we awoke the next morning, the godfather of Brazil, Marcelo Alonso, had arranged the best present he could for me and Pat: hang gliding. I was so excited when I heard this news that I did a Jersey Shore fist pump double time, and Pat followed suit. We arrived at the beach that served as the landing zone for the gliders, and I started to get psyched. This was basically a childhood dream. Actually, the childhood dream was to fly with rocket boots, but this was about the same. The action journalist that he is, Marcelo Alonso followed behind our official hang-gliding vehicle, and we charged up the mountain in a much shorter time than expected, mostly due to the 45 degree inclines that the small SUV had to endure through the leafy-green rainforest mountains. We climbed higher, and a happy tension built.


Finally, we reached the top, hopped out of the truck, and marveled at the view. We weren’t quite as high as our last mountain climbing adventure, but that didn’t matter. We were about to jump off this mountain. As this was sinking in, I became increasingly amped. Standing on the wooden deck platform, Pat and I began singing at the top of our lungs, “IIIIII just want to fly, like a bird up in the-sky, I’m so high, high high high higher than high,” and then, for a photo op, I did a jumping split leapfrog over Pat’s back dangerously close to the edge of the cliff. The jump prompted this exchange with ace photo journalist Marcelo Alonso and my hang gliding instructor, whose face was growing more concerned that he would be jumping off of a cliff with a kite strapped to his back with me.


“Sorry to ask, but this man looks like he’s plugged into 220 volts of electricity. It looks like he doesn’t need wings to fly. Did he use some ‘additive?’” Marcelo explained to him that I often get excited, and he relaxed a bit. After a few test runs on the ground, we took a sprint and jumped free of the earth. Now, I had been imagining this since I knew what a hang glider was, and maybe it’s due to my adrenaline gland being burned raw from fighting for so long, but as soon as we were in the air, I felt the most serene and calm feeling I had felt ever. I looked down at the beautiful beach, the fantastic mountains, and the favelas (slums)ant-hilling up the sides of them, which looked oddly perfect from a far, and I had a revelation.


I’m here in Brazil. I’m doing the things that I’ve always dreamed of doing. When I first started my MMA journey, I had imagined this, all of this—training with the most skilled nameless fighters on earth, eating food I couldn’t pronounce, right down to flying through the air above luscious jungles and picturesque beaches. This is real. I am here. “Please do not touch my control bar,&#822
1; the nervous pilot barked (Marcelo had not yet explained that the pilot thought I was coked out), snapping me out of thought and back into the realization that I’m still hundreds of feet in the air, masterly banking left and right, occasionally catching a warm air current that extended our lofty descent to the beach. I finally let out a yell of excitement, and before I knew it, we were catching our feet on the sand.


Upon arrival on the beach, Dr. Parsons had his shoes off and had joined a small group of soccer-fan-looking people in a strange hobby. Pat and I watched as the three took turns balancing on what looked like a cargo strap that had been pulled taught between two palm trees about a foot off the ground. An older gentleman gracefully walked across the tightrope from one end to the other, as I walked to one of the many beach stands that dot every beach in Rio and came back with a celebratory água de coco (coconut water) for me and Pat. As we slurped the young opened coconuts, we watched in awe as a young woman danced across the wire, occasionally putting her leg out for balance like a ballerina. By this time, Ryan Parsons was getting the hang of this low-flying circus act, and he was actually able to take three or four steps until it got too unstable to walk on. Unable to ignore the challenge, both of the adventure twins attempted the walk, but I just came away agreeing with Pat: “Damn, that’s hard.”


“I have a meeting tonight,” says Dr. Parsons, and Marcelo had Brazilian journalism to type up, leaving Pat and I to fend for ourselves. We marched down to the happening street in Barra that we had frequented for food, and in a twist of homesickness, we found a Mexican restaurant along the lines of open air cuisine.We plopped down on the patio, ordered enchiladas and margaritas in Spanish, and listened to talented musicians play American pop songs, sometimes subbing in Portuguese verses. “Damn, this guy is good,” says Pat. “I’ll tell you what else is good,” I say, “this margarita! UM MAIS AMIGO!” “No, DEUSH!” yells Pat.


The girls at the next table got a good giggle from our obvious lack of Portuguese. Now that there was no chaperone, it felt like school was out for the summer, and taking into account our flying adventure, it now felt like a bit of a vacation. We cracked up about the trip, downed some spirits, made friends with everyone that surrounded us, and high-fived the waiter while singing along with a Beyonce song. “Where do we go dance tonight?” I asked the waitress who had taken a special interest in me, since she spoke the best English in the joint. “Baronetti, in Ipanema, is good place tonight.”


“Baronech!” we exclaimed in unison, paid the bill, dropped some Reis in the tip jar for the over-skilled and underpaid guitarist, and thanked everyone for the experience, but no one understood us. Before we could get to the street, Dr. Parsons walked up with some reporter or librarian, or someone boring, and tried to encourage us to sit down. Yeah, right. The powder keg had already been lit, and the last words I remember from him were: “Have you guys been drinking?”


Taxi, tunnel, another streetlight, beach, another town, and I’m singing “The girl from Ipanema.” We stumble into a long line, and I ask, “Que es esh? Baronech?” This got some giggles and some affirmative head nods. I saw Pat’s dismay at the line, but I’ve spent along time in Hollywood, so I knew the drill. I walked right up to the very front of the line and did what you are supposed to do. I looked important. Literally, in two seconds, the velvet rope was pulled back, and we were ushered into the club with the instructions, “Have fun, and no fighting.”


Fun we had. When I say “dance,” think super gay go-go dancers at a gay pride festival. We DANCED. And before long, we had every woman in the entire club surrounding us. If they weren’t shaking their heads in disgust, they were joining in the excitement. A few guys gave us dirty looks, but no static. They just must have had too much rat feces around them. For some reason, in the club, you have a membership card, and you don’t pay cash until you leave. So I was just waving my card about, slapping shot after shot and laughing hard, finally noticing how cool the LED ceiling looked. Then the haze is heavy.


Lights up. Crowd rumbling. Pay my card. Run to a taxi. Head out the window in a long tunnel. Hotel lobby. Now really singing, “The girl from Ipanema” in my hotel room. Awaken in a stupor. What? Where? Who? “Hurry up.We have to go. We’re late.” No food, no water. Charging into the crumbling courtyard of a South American sports complex, the tennis players stop between serves to look at the hung-over American with the wacky hairdo. We climb the stairs, and I’m wondering how I ever got out of bed, but when I see the sign on the door, I forget all about my physical body and feel another kick to my, thus far, abused adrenaline gland: “Brazilian Top Team.” Standing in the doorway is the legend Murilo Bustamante, I’m ecstatic when I see the room full of tough Brazilians warming up in the gym that looks like a converted classroom. How many dreams can come true in one trip?


One of my favorite active fighters, Toquinho is there, and before I know it, we’re training. He’s kicking my ass, then I’m kicking his, then back to mine, and the round is over without getting my knee broken from one of his famous leg locks. The training goes on, and although my heart is in it 100%, my body considers vomiting on a training partner who asks, “You okay, man?” I’m fine. I’m living my dream. Nothing is taking this from me. The grappling rounds begin, and I roll with a friendly guy who I had been talking to before training began. After some positioning and scrambling, this skinny bastard catches me in the sneakiest anaconda choke ever. I had never seen an entrance into it like that. Not only that, but before the end of the round, he catches me in it AGAIN, from a slightly different variation. I’m incredulous, but I thank him for the excellent training, and I inquire about the move to attempt to get it in my arsenal. We leave the gym, and epic tour guide Marcelo Alonso explains, “Man, that’s Milton Vieira, he’s the inventor of the anaconda choke. He teach it to everyone, the Nogueiras, everyone, man. It’s very nice.” Yes, yes, it was very nice.


The next hours are blurry. Maybe it was the constant stream of adrenaline finally coming down. Maybe it was exhaustion finally setting in. We made a stop at the beach in Ipanema and sat on some chairs that they have for rent, as a constant stream of vendors came by to sell tea, snacks, and, I think, pot. The beaches in America suck in comparison. I reclined, and although I never can sleep face-up, I think I passed out. Really, I’d like to think that this was all a dream. A crazy açaí filled dream that changes your life when you wake up. In a way, it was. I had expectations of Brazil from my own imagination, the Brazilian friends that I have, and the movie City of God, but this trip blew all of them away. I’ve left so much of the story out—another trip to the favela where I danced the samba, learning some BJJ techniques from the coach of an archenemy of mine, Jacaré, and Marcelo Alonso’s silent sidekick—who was with us the whole time but never spoke—that I dubbed “Silencio.” I awoke on the beach and admired Brazil in a whole new way. I watched groups of people expertly play volley-soccer with their feet, and realized that the people of Brazil play with passion. I never understood why my Brazilian-American friends have so much love for their home country, but I do no
w. They have a lot of love to give. Everything they do, they do with a fury. It’s an unmatched passion. I don’t know if it’s the glorious views, the aggressive women, or the900-foot Jesus, but something gives them a passion that allows them to excel at whatever they choose, be it fighting, hang gliding, or driving in traffic. I would like to think that a little bit of this passion rubbed off on me during the trip. Then again, it could be a viral pathogen contracted from rat turds.Time will tell. PORRA LESQUE!


When Bryan “The Beast” Baker stepped into the cage on June 24, 2010, to fight Alexander Shlemenko in the Bellator Fighting Championship Middleweight Tournament Finals, very few people had a clue that the biggest fight of his life was being fought outside of the cage.


Baker, a 24-year-old with a13-1 record, entered the cage that evening battling chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML)—a cancer of the white blood cells, and a condition where the average five-year survival rate is approximately 54%. However, nobody outside of Baker’s family and close friends knew it that night, and he preferred to keep it that way.


“I didn’t need anybody giving me any kind of negative reaction or trying to make a decision that would change my life,” says Baker. “My mind was on winning the tournament, and that was that.” It didn’t matter that he was suffering from anemia, fever, and fatigue.


Diagnosed on April 19, 2010, Baker could have pulled out of the tournament and cited the life-threatening disease as the explanation. But the Team Wildman fighter went against his family and doctor’s orders, and he proceeded to enter the tournament with his first fight a mere 10 days later.


“When I set my mind to something, I get it done,” Baker explains. “There are no rules that you can’t fight with leukemia. So there was no reason for me not to fight.”


With only two days of abbreviated training, Baker laid waste to Sean Loeffler at  2:43 in the first round of the highly competitive tournament. It was an amazing feat, considering all that he was going through. However, the Bellator tournament schedule has fighters compete at a grueling pace, and Baker was scheduled to fight again less than a month later in the semifinals against Eric Schambari. Again, Baker struggled through a five-day training camp but scored a resounding submission victory at 2:29 in the first frame.


Despite suffering from a possibly fatal disease, “The Beast” was fighting on a higher level. He was determined to topple the juggernaut of leukemia, but the fight outside of the cage was taking a toll on his body. Baker would goon to lose in the finals against Alexander Shlemenko by first-round TKO, but rather than point at his condition, Baker pointed at himself.


“It was just one of those days where I couldn’t snap to it,” he says. “I just didn’t have the right mindset going into that fight, and I paid for it.”


Baker never uses his condition as an excuse. There are no excuses for Baker, only obstacles to overcome.


Back in February 2010, Baker and his trainer Thomas Denny moved their training camp to Colorado in order to prepare for the upcoming Bellator tournament. It was going to be a grueling camp, but nothing that “The Beast”—nicknamed for his ability to outwork everyone in the gym—couldn’t handle. The thin air and high altitude present problems for all fighters who train in Colorado for the first time. So, being short of breath and a bit weak was nothing out of the ordinary.


“I thought I just needed to get used to the altitude,” Baker recalls. “A few weeks went by and everyone was getting used to the altitude, and I was getting worse. I actually got sick and passed out in the bathroom. My vision was off and my skin was turning green.”


His family and coaches were unsure if it was mononucleosis, a staph infection, or something else. It turned out to be “something else.”


“I had blood work done and sure enough, I had leukemia,” Baker says, exhaling when he cites the date April 19, 2010—the day he was diagnosed. “It happened so fast. In a week, I went from being normal to having cancer.”


While most people with a life threatening condition would take heed to the doctor’s advice to not compete in a fight scheduled 10 days later, Baker is cut from a different cloth. He doesn’t take “no” for an answer.


“I’m a really positive person, so I just looked at battling this disease as another obstacle that God put in front of me that I had to overcome,” Baker says. “Just like in a fight, in life, you have things thrown at you from all different angles, but you can’t let those things stop you from doing what you want to do. They’re just obstacles that you have to overcome.”


In the months since being diagnosed, Baker has made a remarkable recovery thanks to the drug Gleevec. As of press time, the cancer is in remission, and Baker will be back to his beast-like ways that garnered him attention in the first place. That’s a scary thing, considering what he accomplished at 40% strength.


“The longer time goes on, the deeper into remission I’m going to become,” he says. “I’m only getting better and stronger since the last tournament. I just know I’m going to dominate that tournament next time and get my shot at Bellator Champion Hector Lombard.”


With the cancer in remission, Baker fully intends on competing in next year’s middleweight tournament, which kicks off in January. To prove that he’s ready for another shot, Baker qualified for Season 4 by disposing of UFC light heavyweight challenger and MMA veteran Jeremy Horn with a dominant three-round unanimous decision victory.


“I showed that I still want it with my victory over Jeremy Horn. I showed that I am still here. I am getting better and overcoming a lot of things,” Baker says. “I’m an all around fighter that keeps expanding. You are going to have to bring so much to the table to beat me.”


Hanging prominently—but curiously—in the front office of the Renzo Gracie Academy in New York is an enlarged photograph of one of the most seminal victories of Kazushi “The Gracie Hunter” Sakuraba. The photo is from the closing moments of the fight between Sakuraba and Renzo Gracie at Pride 10, won by Sakuraba from a standing kimura with just 17 seconds remaining in the second and final round.


This victory by Sakuraba was his third over a member of the Gracie family, and arguably his most impressive. When he defeated Royler Gracie at Pride 8, Sakuraba had a weight advantage of more than 40 pounds, and the fight was stopped by the referee, which was supposed to have been against the special rules of the bout. When he defeated Royce Gracie in a 90-minute marathon match during the Pride Grand Prix 2000, Royce had fought only once in the previous five years. While the victory over Royce, whose corner threw in the towel, tremendously enhanced Sakuraba’s popularity and reputation, there were still many who questioned his talent.


Renzo Gracie, then 33 years old, entered the fight with a documented record of 9-1-1. He had defeated standouts Maurice Smith, Sanae Kikuta, and Oleg Taktarov, and had only lost a decision to Kiyoshi Tamura in Rings, while getting a draw with Akira Shoji at Pride 1. With both fighters wearing shorts and no shoes, this evenly-matched bout featured an array of back-and-forth striking and grappling, with Renzo holding his own throughout.


As the end of the fight approached, Renzo attempted a takedown and managed to gain standing back control, but Sakuraba trapped Renzo’s left arm. They eventually went to the mat, with Sakuraba turtling up, still holding Renzo’s arm. Then Sakuraba exploded upward, spun to his left, and twisted Renzo’s left arm into a kimura arm lock.As they went back to the mat, Renzo’s arm broke, and the referee stopped the fight.


Why is this photo hanging in the academy of this proud member of the Gracie family? Renzo gave two reasons: “The first reason is because I didn’t tap. So that was a victory of mind over my body,” Renzo says. “The second reason is to remind me that I need to improve every time. So, every time I walk in, I look at that picture and remember the defeat, and I go back to train again and improve myself. It’s a very humbling picture that I keep there to remind me of how human I am.”


Renzo believed he was winning the fight before the stoppage, and admitted, with a laugh, “I was already celebrating the victory, because in my head, I couldn’t lose in the last 30 seconds. And I lost in the last 17!” He also praised Sakuraba’s grappling and called his jiu-jitsu “unbelievable.”


Renzo summed it all up with this message: “Living and learning—that’s the secret to fighting.”


You’re a third-degree black belt in taekwondo. Do you still work those techniques?


I teach taekwondo, so I still review the basics and stuff. I’m working on getting my fourth degree. Eventually, I want to run a taekwondo school. That’s my goal—taekwondo mixed with an MMA gym.


Outside of your camp, what fighters do you look up to?


GSP for sure. When I first started, he was just an up-and-comer, and nobody knew who he was, and now look at him. I definitely look up to him and guys like Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida—traditional martial artists.


Do you consider yourself a traditional martial artist?


I’m definitely a traditional martial artist first and a mixed martial artist second.


Is the nickname “Showtime” hard to live up to?


It’s not a lot to live up to. “Showtime” is because I fight flashy. It’s not like an alternate personality. It just happens to be how I fight. It’s hard to explain to family and friends—it’s not a split personality. It’s a nickname in the cage and that’s it. Out of the cage, I’m still Anthony Pettis.


Do you consider yourself part of the new wave of mixed martial artists like Evan Dunham and Ryan Bader—fighters that have made an immediate impact?


My goal is to become the complete fighter. MMA is still a new sport, but a few of the fighters are fighting everywhere—good jiu jitsu, good grappling, good striking. Honestly, my little brother is the reason why I’m trying to keep up with everything. He’s wrestling in high school, his kickboxing is great, and his jiu-jitsu is good. Soon, I’ll be fighting guys who have been wrestling and striking their whole lives. That’s where it’s headed.


What does family mean to you in regards to your MMA career?


Family means everything. Family comes before any of this. If it ever came down to family and quitting mixed martial arts, I’d always put family first. Family is a big reason why I’m doing this. We grew up in a rough neighborhood. There wasn’t much for us to look up to. We didn’t have a lot of family members graduating college and having good professions. Most are regular workers making hourly wages. MMA is a way we can separate ourselves from that and do something we love doing. My brother looks up to me. I want to be his role model. He’s a big reason that I train as hard as I do and put everything I put into this.


Who beats you up the most in sparring?


Pat Barry.


UFC fighter Erik Koch is your roommate. What’s his worst roommate habit?


I’m not gonna put him on blast, but I’ll give you one. We have this George Foreman grill. I use it for all my chicken and all my food when I diet. He never cleans it after he’s done using it, so every time I go to use it, it’s all crusty and nasty.


What sport would you say you are absolutely terrible at?


Soccer. I suck at soccer. Even in high school, they said, ‘This Hispanic kid should play soccer,’ but I had no coordination in my feet or something—man, I suck at soccer!


When did you realize MMA was something you were good at?


I had my first amateur fight on my 20th birthday, and I finished the fight in 24seconds.


What country would you like to fight in?


It’s not a different country, but I’d like to fight in Puerto Rico. I’m half Puerto Rican and Mexican, so Puerto Rico would be a great place to go. There are a lot of Puerto Rican fans blowing up my Facebook, asking when I’m going to be fighting there.


You Milwaukee boys are known for your Miller Lite. What’s your favorite beer?


I don’t drink a lot of beer, but I like a Blue Moon every now and then.


Tell ya what, I’ll buy you a Blue Moon if you take me to Puerto Rico.




Thanks Anthony. We look forward to the next time it’s Showtime.