FIGHT! Doctor: Pete the Greek

FIGHT! Doctor: Pete the Greek


(Dr. Pete with BJ Penn, Jake Shields, and Bas Rutten. Props to

A fighter’s body is a machine geared for top performance and every machine needs regular tune-ups. Peter Goldman, DC, is one of combat sports’ best mechanics. Dr. Goldman practices a rare branch of chiropractic developed approximately 80 years ago by Dr. Thurman Fleet called Zone Healing, the goal of which is to balance the six interconnected systems of the body: circulatory, eliminative, digestive, glandular, nerve, and muscular with an emphasis on mental strength.

A black belt in Oyama full contact karate and a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt under John Machado, roughly 40% of Dr. Goldman’s practice are martial artists. Each week will check in with the man BJ Penn credits with fixing his neck and Bas Rutten believes put an end to his asthma.

Pete Letsos is not a household name among mixed martial arts fans like “Jacare,” Bibiano Fernandes or even Andre Galvao yet there was “The Greek” on the same mats as them for four years in Brazil.

Letsos was a prized student of Carlson Gracie, and at his late trainer’s suggestions, he traveled Brazil to take his already respected game to the next level. When Galvao, a world-renowned grappler, was a blue belt, Pete “The Greek” was a purple belt. He trained all over Brazil with anyone not affiliated with Brazilian Top Team — Letsos respected his teacher’s old jiu-jitsu beefs – but it was in America that his place in jiu-jitsu changed forever.

“I went out [to Hawaii] and trained with BJ Penn and I was his training partner and stuff. We went to the beach—this is 2004—the sandiest beach in Honolulu and a big wave picked me and slammed me on my neck real bad and almost paralyzed me,” he said. “My training came to a cease.”

He hasn’t been active since. That is until this past week when he visited Dr. Goldman.

“He cracked me three days in a row and I have no pain whatsoever for the first time in six years,” he said. However, it wasn’t the first time he saw Dr. Goldman. After the accident, Penn referred Letsos to Dr. Goldman and he didn’t see “too much results.” He believes that is because it was too soon though and the injury was so severe.

Pain free for the first time in six years, it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Pan Am bronze medalist.

“My mom has been very sick so I’m very sick. So I’m very stressed. And so I needed the extra energy. I needed something to help,” he said. “By him helping me, I can help my family even more right now because…I needed it.

“I hope to God it stays like this, that’s the thing. I don’t want to claim that I’m fixed 100% because people are gonna want to put me in the cage right away, you know what I mean?”

He’s excited to beat people up on the mats because “if you don’t kick their ass, they get a little bit cocky sometimes.” Feeling young again is a new feeling for the hard-nosed grappler. He’s slowly taking on the challenges newfound health is bringing him.

“Oh my god, this is crazy because this is what I do for a living. It’s like having a guitar player, every time he picks up a guitar, his arm goes numb,” he said. Because of this, Letsos has been forced to teach at his school, Rio BJJ, in the hands-off style Carlson Gracie’s practiced in his later days.

“I’m only 30-years-old, I teach like I’m at 70. I’m more into, ‘Hey, I’m not the toughest guy in the world,’” he said. If he is the toughest Brazilian Jiu-JItsu guy in the world or wants to be, at least now his body may allow him to do so.

“Dr. Pete, he’s like a magician, I don’t know. I can’t really explain it. He fixed me–holy cow!”


  1. I’m an executive in Chicago with a large software company and started training at Pete’s school about 9 months ago. While I’m learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu one letter at a time, it’s been amazing and I’ve learned so much that I can’t believe it. Pete is a great coach and motivator.

    His technique is absolutely amazing and his ability to apply pressure and pass the guard is legendary.

    If Pete is able to compete again now that his neck is rehabilitated, I’ll for sure be there to cheer him on and look forward to continually learning from his competitions.

    Go Pete!!


  2. Pete is a great instructor, even with a hands-off style. His ability to adapt his teaching style to an injury is reflective of his peerless understanding of jui jitsu – he turns a disadvantage into a strength!

    I’ve learned a tremendous amount in my time as a student at Pete’s school in Chicago and I know others have as well. If you want to learn BJJ Pete is the guy.

  3. Pete is an amazing BJJ coach, he is a great motivator, I had learned so much under his instruction, I could not thnk of a better place to train other than RIO JJ, if anybody wants to know real BJJ look no further and join RIO JJ.

  4. Pete “The Greek” has been my BJJ instructor since his school, Rio Jiu Jitsu opened two years ago. Back then when I started as a white belt, I couldn’t fully appreciate just how talented he is. I had based my decision to train with Pete because of his extensive resume and the endorsements of professional fighters. Now I can say first hand that his impressive reputation is well-deserved.

  5. Thanks again for all the kind words from everybody. Anybody interested in training Brazilian Jiu jItsu in the
    Chicagoland area send us an email at or visit our website at http://www.riojj. I have been focusing alot of
    energy on my team Rio Jiu Jitsu. Its was also great seeing two old friends(BJ and Kenny) kick some A#@ at UFC
    last weekend.
    Once again thanks to everybody for making it happen

    Best Regards

  6. Pete the Greek is without doubt the best JJ teacher in the midwest and possibly even the US. He has fully dedicated himself to the teaching of jj, unlike alot of other coaches who compete as well. Pete knows everyone in the JJ game, mostly because he has the history of beating them on the mats. Anyone I know who has rolled with pete says the same thing, ” he is the best I rolled with, Period” On top of that Pete teaches every class at his school, EVERY CLASS!!!! I have been to many other gyms where I haven’t even seen the head trainer in several visits to their gym. Pete and RIO JJ will no doubt be a fixture in the JJ competition scene for the next 40 years, and although his goal isn’t to go into MMA quite yet I have a strong feeling only time stands between him and a dominant MMA team.

  7. Thats great to hear your neck is better. Pete “the Greek” is an amazing coach now, i cant imagine how much better its going to be now that he can be hands on. He teaches my 13 yr old son, Xavier, and not only is he a great instructor he serves as a mentor to keep my son humble and respectful. Rio JJ is making big noise in the midwest and will be nationally.

  8. Pete is a phenomenal teacher who really cares for his students. Also, though the article indicates that Pete is hands-off, I don’t really agree with that. He teaches every class personally and will often roll with his students. Furthermore, I’ve trained at many different schools since I travel M-F for work, and I’m always amazed at the pressure and technique that Pete possesses. If you want to get A+ training in the Chicagoland area with a great bunch of guys, I highly suggest checking out Pete.

  9. Not much more I can say about Pete and RioJJ. I’ve been training there for just about a year and it’s been an amazing experience. Not only am I confident that I’m receiving some of the best instruction in the world, but Pete creates an atmosphere where there are no egos and all of his students support each other.

  10. I have been training at Rio JJ since July. At first I was overwhelmed with the seeming complicated moves, but Pete explains everything in detail using metaphors that stick. I talk about Rio JJ, Pete and everything I learned so much that my wife has forbiddened BJJ talk……. But I still do, Sorry babe.

  11. I’ve been training with Pete for only a few months, and cannot emphasize enough how the experience has changed my perspective on so many things. Pete’s gym is without a doubt simply the best experience I could have asked for as a newbie to the sport. The atmosphere he creates is one of mutual respect and equality.

    I also disagree that Pete is a “hands off” teacher, going to class knowing that every time you show up you will be taught by a world renowned Jiu Jitsu artist adds so much value to the experience, and he does get on the mat frequently to demonstrate.

    If you want to learn to “roll” and you live in the Chicago area start with Rio Jiu Jitsu, you won’t be disappointed. Take it from someone who jumped in feet first without knowing what I was getting into.

  12. Pete is a warrior in the fullest sense of the word. When faced with a potentially career-ending injury, he
    focused his energy on becoming a world-class teacher and poured his passion for BJJ into his school.
    When a warrior encounters an obstacle, he adapts, reassesses, and deals with the situation at hand. I
    have never once heard him complain or feel sorry for himself.

    He is truly dedicated to his students and invested in their development. Just last weekend he was teaching a
    class right before heading to a local tournament with a group of mostly first-time competitors and he
    was like a kid on Christmas morning. His energy, excitement, and pride were palpable. No doubt he’s doing
    what he loves.

    When Pete talks about jui jitsu as a tool for building self-respect, self-improvement, and teaching you to face
    your life’s challenges, you know he backs up his talk with his walk. The poise, patience, balance, and
    intensity he shows on the mat is also the way he lives his life.

    Pete really pays attention during class and is quick to share encouragement, but he will also tell
    you right away when you’re doing something wrong, so you know the praise is real when it comes. This
    reminds me how amazing it is that this guy was BJ Penn’s training partner and here he is, at pretty much
    every class. I doubt there are many places, especially in the US, where you can get this level of attention
    from someone so experienced. He does roll with students and do hands-on demonstrations, but if his neck
    really heals up…oh man, watch out.

    I’m fairly new to BJJ, but I am loving it. I feel very lucky to have found RioJJ and see myself training there
    for years to come. Pete has created an atmosphere of true respect; everyone there wants everyone else
    to improve. I haven’t encountered a single person I can’t get along with at this school. Still, while the
    camaraderie and support is strong, the training is quite serious. We really go at it in this little gym.
    The sparring is challenging and intense, but always with a focus on preventing injury.

    There is no pressure to spar (though most do), especially if you’re new, and Pete makes a point to stress
    that you can still make great improvements in BJJ through drills, technique, and conditioning. His
    understanding of the fundamentals is amazing…and even more impressive is his ability to convey this

    I would recommend RioJJ to anyone at any level of jui jitsu–from complete novice to advanced grappler.
    Students range from teenagers to 60 somethings, men and women, from all walks of life.

    Come on in and roll.

  13. Pete “The Greek” Letsos and RIO JiuJitsu are starting to make big noise in Chicago and in the MidWest. The school has only been around for about 2 yrs and they’re already doing exceptionally well in tournaments.
    Pete is an excellent instructor with world class skills. Pete didnt just do it locally, or regionally, he did it internationally and he won on the world level. A true Carlson Gracie black belt whose skills can be vouched for by some very familiar names, including (but not limited to) Eddie Bravo, Jeff Glover, Fredson Paixiao, Miguel Torres, Kenny Florian, BJ Penn, etc… The list can go on and on.
    Im very grateful to be learning from Pete and look forward to continuing my progress for years to come.

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