As some of you may know, my MMA career was met with an unfortunate and regrettable situation in June of this year, where I acted unsportsmanlike and did something I immediately regretted.
I take full responsibility for my actions, but my manager and I (among others in the sport) do feel that the punishment – a $1,900 fine and a year-long suspension by the New Mexico Athletic Commission (NMAC) – is severe. We appealed the NMAC’s decision but to no avail. We were told earlier this month that the suspension stands, and that I’m unable to compete and make my living as a mixed martial artist (in any state or country) for one year.
For a short time after this whole incident, I considered retiring completely from MMA. A year seemed like such a long time to be on the bench, especialy considering I spent the first part of 2014 laying in a hospital bed and then rehabbing from a ruptured appendix. It’s been a long and unexpected road since that turn of events about 11 months ago. I had been on a good run and was finally climbing up the ranks in the UFC. What a difference a year makes.
After some thought, I just couldn’t come to terms with this being it. It wasn’t the way I wanted to go out; it is NOT the way I will go out. I’d rather train through this year and come back to MMA with more knowledge and a few more medals. My hunger to compete and to prove my capabilities is still here, and it isn’t going anywhere.
That’s why I’m going to compete at the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) Long Beach BJJ Pro in December. This will be my second venture into jiujitsu competition. In 2012, as a blue belt, I won the IBJJF Adult World Championships in a grueling day of competition – 7 matches over about 6-7 hours. I was upgraded to purple that day (and to brown this past July by my coach and mentor Master Ricardo Liborio). I’m looking forward to bringing the same attitude and getting the same results at the Long Beach Pro this year, with your help!
It’s always been my goal to retire into sport jiu-jitsu after my MMA career, and given that I have some “free time” right now, I thought I’d get a head start. I’ve come to really dig jiu-jitsu, as most people who give it a serious look do. It’s like a physical chess game, a puzzle for your body. I tell my students at American Top Team HD that the real reason everyone practices jiujitsu is so they can come in the gym and feel like a ninja, and I’m no different. Other kids wanted to be football players or doctors, maybe basketball players; I wanted to be a NINJA. Enter jiu-jitsu. In the wake of my suspension, I can really focus on my ninja skills and go to ninja competitions where I show everybody that I am, in fact, a ninja.
My first ninja pursuit was wrestling, which I started at age 10. I pursued wrestling through high school, where I was on Blue Spring High School’s State Championship squad, and in college at the University of Nebraska, until 2004 when I discovered jiuitsu. During my time as an exchange student in Central America, I ran across a Ryan Gracie blackbelt by the name of Mauro Sergio. Mauro quickly recognized that my friend Brandon and I had grappling experience (wrestling), and he allowed us to come and train in exchange for wrestling instruction.
I spent a lot of time training and learning from Mauro but wouldn’t put on a gi (the traditional ninja uniform) for another 5 years. In 2009, I fought Andre Galvao in the quarterfinals of the DREAM Welterweight Tournament. I won the fight, but not before surviving many positional and submission attacks. I knew Andre’s background as a world-class jiujitsu competitor, so I immediately went gi shopping & wandered into Cleber Luciano’s studio in Huntington Beach, CA. I’ve been training jiujitsu ever since.
In 2010 I got invited to come train at the American Top Team (ATT) headquarters in Coconut Creek, FL. That has been the location of my pre-fight training camps ever since, and I’ve become especially close with Master Ricardo Liborio, a blackbelt & Brazilian Jiujitsu legend whom I admire very much. In May of this year, my friend and fellow MMA fighter LC Davis and I opened up our own ATT location – American Top Team HD. So now I can not only train jiujitsu but also coach and teach others the skills of a ninja.
How to Help
I’ve set a goal of $2,500 based on the costs of air travel to Long Beach, lodging, food, tournament entry fee, etc. I would also like to bring along a videographer to document the entire trip, so you all can see the process.
You can help me get to California by contributing on my RallyMe page. Any amount will help and is much appreciated.
July 2014 Promoted by brown belt
2012 IBJJF Adult Blue Belt World Champion
2012 Midwest Jiujitsu Champion (weightclass & absolute)
2009 US Open No-gi Champion, 2nd Absolute (unlimited weight class)
Thanks in advance to:
Any help spreading the word would be greatly appreciated through Facebook, Twitter, Email, etc. I appreciate your support.