There's proof of concept in training submissions and jiu-jitsu for MMA, but no consensus on what that concept actually is. For most jiu-jitsu practitioners converting or fighters learning 'the gentle art' to add to their arsenal, no one method seems to prevail above the others. Ask one camp in Brazil, you'll get one answer. Ask a neighboring or rival camp, you're likely to get an entirely different response. This exercise can be repeated not only throughout Brazil, but worldwide.
Yet, there's no denying the prevalence and use of jiu-jitsu in MMA is changing if not outright declining. Historically, submissions are down. Jiu-jitsu is more widely used than ever, but it's not clear technical ability has risen beyond the intermediate stage even for high-level MMA fighters. More fighters use submission escapes and defense than any real offense.
As far as Eddie Bravo is concerned, this is directly tied to a problem he believes he diagnosed years ago, namely, the gi. Gi training for MMA, says Bravo, is why jiu-jitsu isn't as effective as it could be. His system, an all no gi universe, is much better suited for the rigors of a no gi sport, Bravo argues. Yet, despite Bravo's commercial success, belief in the gi lingers. Even today, the best no gi grapplers all train in and come from the gi. Some of today's best fighters attribute their effective use of jiu-jitsu directly to the very thing (the gi) Bravo adamantly believe is the problem.
Perhaps, though, it's all a misreading. Bravo isn't merely interested in making jiu-jitsu more functional, but the sport more popular. That's why on March 29th he'll be facing the very man he defeated to become a name himself in 2003, multiple-time world gi and no gi champion Royler Gracie in the Metamoris 3 main event. It's a full circle moment for Bravo. The launching point for his commercial ventures and stylistic evolution, after years of growth and unquestionable popularity, returns, but this time on a stage where all of what has amassed is tested for its efficacy.
Ahead of his long-anticipated rematch with Gracie this Saturday, Bravo opens up about his motivations for ending this chapter of his career, his stylistic evolution and why his push against use of the gi to train for MMA is as justified as ever.
I spoke to Royler and I'm going to ask you the same thing I asked him. How are you feeling about Saturday: are you looking to prove something, just have fun or maybe get it over with?
What did he say?
He said he was looking to have fun.
Yeah, me, too, man. In my eyes, if I can beat him twice, that removes all doubt I got lucky the first time. As long as he doesn't crush me and beat me really quick and I put on a good, valiant effort and I throw some heat on him; as long as it's a good, entertaining match, in the long run it might not matter who wins or loses. I think them most important thing for jiu-jitsu is, this is an opportunity to take jiu-jitsu to the mainstream where it should've been a long time ago.
The reason it hasn't been there is because of the point system. Now, we have Metamoris, submission only, the perfect format and boom, Metamoris 3. It has a pretty significant rematch in the world of jiu-jitsu. None of us are world champions or anything, we haven't grappled competitively in over 10 years. Still, it's the most-hyped event ever. It sold out in five hours. It's getting a lot of hype. For whatever the reason this event is so big, whatever it is - I'm not even sure, I can't even tell you - this is our opportunity to take advantage of it and really put on the best show possible. That really is the most important thing in the long run for the entire Brazilian jiu-jitsu community, is that me and Royler go after each other and we put on as beautiful a display of jiu-jitsu as possible. That's the most important thing.
Yes, I want to win. Yes, I've trained like a madman. I'm stronger than ever, my cardio is better than ever. My jiu-jitsu is better than ever, thanks to Jean Jacques Machado. I want to win. I'm going out there to win, but the most import thing - for everybody, for the sake of jiu-jitsu - is we put on an exciting show, a show that people can't stop talking about.
You've been a big proponent of the Metamoris format: submission only, 20 minutes. Interestingly, Keenan Cornelius has stated he likes the points format because he thinks it makes the game speed up a bit. For you, what is it about that submission only, 20-minute format that you think is the fairest or best for the sport?
Well, first of all, you take away ridiculous ref calls. You pull out the refs. The refs in the point system is just way too important, way too involved. And with the advantages and all that stuff.
I'm really shocked that Keenan Cornelius said that (Editor's note: jump to the 25 minute, 17 second mark of the above video to hear Cornelius' remarks on this topic). He probably thinks the way he thinks because he is one of those rare jiu-jitsu players that always goes for the finish, but that's so rare. If everybody was like Keenan Cornelius, then the points system works. Keenan will score points, but he's still going to try to go after you and finish you. Keenan is not known as a staller.
A giant percentage of points matches, at the end of the match whoever is winning holds and slows down. Very rarely do you have a guy at the end of a points match - the last minute or 30 seconds - where the guy winning is trying to submit the other guy. You don't really have that that often. You do have it, but it's rare. Generally, the coaches are telling their teammate or their student to slow down, don't make any mistakes. 'There's a minute left! Don't do anything stupid! You got a bunch of matches coming up!' The end of point matches are generally holding, stalling and one dude trying to panic or try to come back, but he can't because the other guy's holding.
Now, the end of a submission-only match, you don't have that because there's no reason. Nobody's ahead on points and it doesn't benefit anybody to hold on and not do anything. What you have at the end of a submission-only match is both competitors going for it, both attacking. Even if they don't get the submission, if it ends up in a draw, it's still super exciting you have both going for it, not one`dude clinched on and holding on for dear life and the other guy panicking. That's really what it is.
There should be zero debate about what's better: the point system or submission only. It's super crystal clear. It's all common sense. The point system has been around since day one, since jiu-jitsu's first tournament in the United States. Since that day, it's been a point system and it's never changed.
It's never been close to being on TV. Why? Not because people aren't interested. A lot of celebrities are into jiu-jitsu and TV networks have looked into it. They don't jump on it because it's boring because of the scenario I explained to you: one guy holding at the end. There's just too much holding. Keenan doesn't hold. Marcelo Garica doesn't hold, but generally, 80 percent of jiu-jitsu matches in the points system, there's holding and it's slow and it's boring. Jiu-jitsu legends don't even watch jiu-jitsu matches. Jiu-jitsu instructors don't even pay attention to what's going on in points matches. They don't even know who the top guys are because it's so boring. They think it's boring!
Now you have submission only and guess what? Metamoris is blowing the hell up. Why? Because it's submission only. If Metamoris had a points system, nothing would be going on. Trust me. It'd be a complete failure. A flop.
What's interesting to me is that what you're saying absolutely sounds correct, but this past weekend was the NCAA Division I national wrestling championships. The wrestling community has issues with their own points system, but not nearly to the same extent as you see in jiu-jitsu. Why does their point system work for them?
Because of the wrestling rules, pins are hard and are super rare. It's hard to pin to someone. In jiu-jitsu, there's so many different ways to finish guys. You can be on your back and it's not like a foul. In wrestling, you can't be on your back. They're so limited with their positions. Pins are super rare.
And nobody watches wrestling. All these people fighting for wrestling, 'Save wrestling, keep it in the Olympics', I want wrestling to be saved in the Olympics, I never watch it. I wrestled, I never watch it. Any time wrestling comes on, I think it's boring as f--k. It's a game of dudes trying to tackle each other. When you have jiu-jitsu out there, it's hard to watch wrestling. Just like with MMA, it's hard to watch boxing.
The goal of the submission-only format vs. the points format is very much like UFC vs. boxing in the 90s. Everybody was into the UFC, they knew the UFC as a fact was more entertaining than boxing, but the boxing people held on because they were, for whatever reason, some people just won't accept anything new. Some people didn't want to educate themselves on the ground. Some people have a vested interest in the boxing world and community, and were making money off of it. They saw UFC as a threat.
For a long time, boxing was still king and MMA was underground, but everybody in the MMA community, they came from the boxing community. Myself included, I was already into boxing. I was a boxing fanatic, then I saw the UFC and my unbiased opinion was like, 'This is way better because the only reason I'm into boxing is because it's the most extreme sport out there.' Man to man, they're just trying to knock each other out. I thought it was the most extreme and then when you look at MMA, the UFC, oh s--t, you can go way more extreme. You can actually fight on the ground? Fighting on the ground is considered fighting? Oh my god, it is. It looks awesome. It opened up a new dimension, so anybody trying to tell me that boxing was better than the UFC, I just thought they were retarded and I still think they're retarded.
How could you like boxing, which is a violent sport, they're trying to knock each other out, but you don't like MMA? To me, that's a clear example there's something wrong with your brain. And that's the same thing with submission only and points. If you are a jiu-jitsu fan and prefer a points system and then submission only, there's something wrong with your brain.
Let's talk about your development. The last time you guys faced was in 2003. How different of a grappler are you now compared to then?
My system is way more complex, way more sophisticated. So many more moves, it just keeps growing and growing. For every new transition, there's a counter and then we need a counter to that counter and then it grows. It's like the difference between a tree that was planted in 2000 and then it grew for 3 years and then what is that tree going to look like in 2014? Same thing.
But I mean, you're still fundamentally a guard player, right? You still have go-to submissions over other ones? Is that a fair characterization?
Yes. Back then in 2003, I still was very good at the twister. The rubber guard was just starting to develop. I had the lockdown game solid, electric chairs down. I still have all that, but so much more and so many new versions. It's like the version Pro Tools 3 and then Pro Tools 11. It's still the same operating system, still the same ideas, but there are so many more bells and whistles and different variations. It's a way more complicated system than it was back then.
Do you think Royler's changed very much since then?
I don't think so. I think he's one of those guys that believes - and rightfully so, because there's something to be said for sticking to the basics, don't get too fancy, just stick to the basic game plan. I've watched all of his matches from Abu Dhabi. That's how I warm up. I get on the stair master, put on YouTube and just watch it, and it's all super basic, but really, really, really good.
The only thing he does outside of the box is he likes foot locks. We've been preparing for that since the match was announced. He likes going for foot looks a lot, so I've been working with Erik Paulson, and Jean Jacques Machado is also awesome with leg lock defense. I've worked with Karen Darabedyan, Josh Barnett, Alan Belcher. No one's done more than him when it comes to defending leg locks.
I've spent a lot of time working on leg locks knowing that Royler likes leg locks and apparently there's a leak out of his camp that he's been working heavy, heavy leg locks. Hopefully, I am ready for it. Other than that, though, his game seems to be pretty straightforward and solid. Basic, but super solid.
Do you worry about the leg locks given that you're wearing gi pants this time around? Obviously you're training and preparing for it, but it is an added risk?
Yeah, but at the same time I can go after his legs, too. It's an advantage for him and it's an advantage for me. We'll both have the advantage with the pants. Who's to say I'm not going to go after his legs? If I decide to go after his legs, then the pants are going to help me.
Speaking of Keenan for just a moment, do you believe he can be the next American world champion?
If not him, then who? He's doing everything possible, really, to become world champion. As an American, what American is out there doing more than him?
10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu is bigger than ever. You have 45 schools worldwide. Yet, there's still some dispute about gi vs. no gi for MMA. For example, UFC fighter and BJJ black belt at Nova Uniao Yan Cabral said he, Jose Aldo and Renan Barao all train in the gi three times a week. So, why is there still dispute over the value of the gi?
If you grew up with the gi and that's what you're really good at and that's how you get most of your taps, you're going to say that. That's what you're good at. You want that to be true. It's in your best interest for that to be true.
The difference between gi and no gi, whether it's judo and wrestling or BJJ no gi grappling, is the same. The games are the same, but the way you perform the game is different. In judo and wrestling, the game is to get the takedown. In judo, it's done by yanking and pulling on the collar, throws that incorporate that. In wrestling, there's no collars or sleeves, so you have to get good at throwing people and taking people down with underhooks, overhooks and head control.
That's the same difference between BJJ and no gi grappling. The objective is exactly the same: you're trying to submit a guy. You're trying to pass his guard and submit him, but with BJJ, you do that by yanking and pulling the collar and the sleeve, just like judo, but you do it on the ground. Judo and jiu-jitsu are the same, basically. It comes from the same place. In no gi grappling, you're still trying to submit, but you're not yanking and pulling on any collars and sleeves, you're clinching and squeezing, your underhooks, your overhooks and your head control.
Now, if you get good in the gi, once you learn how to grab the collar and sleeve, that's just the beginning. Anybody can grab a collar and a sleeve. What's the difference between the way a world champion like Saulo Ribeiro grabs a collar and sleeve as opposed to a white belt the same size? They're grabbing it the same way. How come the white belt is getting choked by Saulo Ribeiro? They grab the gi the exact same way. You've got to spend, obviously, years and years grabbing those collars and sleeves, controlling bodies, the balance and the base and the athleticism and the squeeze of those grips and the control and the transitions and the set-ups and the submissions and the holding and the yanking and the pulling and the collars and sleeves and the yanking. That takes many years to master that game. The exact same time is needed to master the overhooks and the underhooks and clinching and squeezing.
It could take you 30 seconds to figure out how to do an overhook, but why, when you wrestle with Dan Henderson, is he throwing you all over the place? Your overhook looks exactly the same. Why isn't it effective? It's because Dan Henderson spent years and years polishing those overhooks and underhooks and squeezing and clinching and throwing. Years and years of clinching and squeezing and driving and smashing. Do you understand what I'm saying?
So, how the hell is yanking and pulling better for your clinching and squeezing than clinching and squeezing itself? Explain that to me. No one could ever explain that to me. They just say 'Hey, all the world champions train in the gi'. That's all they can say. When we talk about science, they can't talk science. They go, 'Ah well, all the science you need is all the guys that are winning Abu Dhabi, they all came from the gi.' Yes, because Abu Dhabi is about submissions. It's about passing the guard and submitting. It's no gi jiu-jitsu. That's what Abu Dhabi is: trying to get a submission. All the best submission guys, they all came from the gi because all submission schools, virtually all of them, they make you wear a gi. Of course they're coming from the gi. Of course!
I came from the gi and I don't like the gi, but I came from the f--king gi because there was nothing else. You have this gigantic pool of hundreds of thousands of people that train in the gi and this small, tiny section of people that never trained in the gi. Of course the gi guys are going to dominate. Of course they are, just like in the 70s when kickboxing was born. All the best kickboxers came from karate and kung fu and tae kwon do and the traditional martial arts. So, in the 70s, when you'd have these kids coming up saying, 'Hey, I want to be a kickboxing champion. I love this sport', they all said, 'You should start in karate or tae kwon do or the traditional martial arts. That's where all the kickboxing champions come from.' That's what they were all saying. But now, 40 years later, we know that if you want to be a kickboxing champion, the best thing to do is start with kickboxing right away.
Or, if you did, it wouldn't be detrimental. No one is saying, 'You won't be a kickboxing champion unless you start in karate first.' No one's saying that anymore. You can start in karate and tae kwon do first and you can become a kickboxing champion, but no one's telling you that it's mandatory like they are with jiu-jitsu. They're saying, 'It's mandatory that you train in the gi if you want to be really good at jiu-jitsu for MMA.' That's horses--t. That's complete ignorance. That's brainwashed idiocy.
I don't have a dog in the fight. I'm just asking for your position, but I'll give you what Cabral said, namely, that training in the gi makes you more creative and sensitive to technique. How would you respond to that?
That's not scientific. The sciences, it's the sciences. How can yanking and pulling be better for your clinch and squeezing than clinching and squeezing itself? It's impossible. It's impossible and that's the science. So, if you're spending most of your time yanking and pulling, you are not spending that time clinching and squeezing.
Just look at the UFC. There's so many black belts in the UFC. How many are known to have incredible guards? How many black belts in the UFC have three submissions off their back? I would say none.
I'm not sure, but it must be zero.
Zero, but in the gi in a jiu-jitsu competition, they have multiple, multiple submissions off their back. The difference is, in the gi, you're yanking and pulling on the sleeve from the guard and there's no punching or elbowing. Now, you take away the collar and the sleeve, that means you take away the fighter's stance, his fighting stance. And then you add punches and f--king elbows? How is the gi helping that? The gi is not helping that.
What the gi helps is gi training and gi competitions. It appears the gi makes your no gi better because you can train in the gi 10 years straight, never do no gi and then you can take the gi off one day and you'll be pretty good without the gi even though you've never trained no gi before. You'll be pretty good, but would it have been better had he trained no gi the whole time?
Let me ask you something. Would you rather go against a guy who has trained no gi for 10 years straight and you're going to do a no gi match with him or a guy who spent 10 years with a gi and his first no gi training was going to be with you? What would you rather have?
I'm not capable of effectively answering that, but intuitively, certainly the guy with the 10 years no gi experience is probably a formidable challenge.
Absolutely, just common sense. If, with the gi, yanking and pulling somehow magically was better for your clinching and squeezing than clinching and squeezing itself, then why aren't any wrestlers training in judo? They're not.
The gi makes you more open to techniques that don't work no gi. That's what it does. It opens your mind to working on techniques where you choke your opponents out with the back of his jacket. How is that going to help you no gi? It opens your mind with the gi and you figured out a way to choke your opponent out with his belt, but how is that going to help you no gi.
Even Marcelo Garcia himself, his newest strategy, his latest strategy - the best jiu-jitsu guy on the planet - says do not do anything in the gi that you can't do no gi because it won't translate and it's not good for your game. He's already saying half of what I'm saying. I've been saying that the whole time. Now he's saying it. He's saying it. So, what does that mean, scientifically? Is he more on what I'm saying or more what that guy you're quoting is saying? Marcelo is saying, when you're training in the gi, don't do anything you can't do no gi. Stay away from grabbing gi collars and sleeves because you can't do it no gi. He's basically saying what I'm saying now. Why? Because that's the problem. It's not going to help you no gi. He's already confirming it.
Roger Gracie said 80 percent of BJJ with the gi is useless in MMA. He said it! Rickson Gracie, quoted, 70 percent of Brazilian jiu-jitsu with the gi is useless in MMA. These guys are saying it. I've been saying it for 11 years and now they're saying it.
There should not be any debate anymore. It's ridiculous. It's like debating Tower 7. Demolition expert after demolition expert after demolition expert is on video watching it go down and telling you it's a controlled demo and there's no demolition experts on the planet who will get on video and say fires brought down Tower 7. But yet, people will still believe the government or believe that fires brought down Tower 7 when that's never happened in the history of skyscrapers ever. No plane in Tower 7. Demolition experts, 2,000 structural engineers, architectural engineers, they all confirm it was a controlled demolition. Yeah, people still believe the government because the government said, 'Eh, it was fires. It got hot.'
So, that right there tells you there's a certain percentage of the population, no matter how you break it down to them scientifically - and ironically, they're the ones always wanting science - but they only believe government science. They don't believe unbiased science. That tells you right there there's a sickness going on. There's some kind of brain disease going on that will not let intelligent people look at the evidence without any bias. Look at the evidence like a true detective. There is something there that will not let their brains do that and it's scary. It's not only in conspiracy theories in Tower 7, it's in a lot of aspects of life. Here's another one, jiu-jitsu, the same thing.
As we wrap this conversation, is this event on Saturday a one-off or could you foresee participating in future superfights?
I don't know. We'll see. I like the money. I got a family. Like UFC fighters wouldn't fight for nothing. I like the money. And now that Metamoris is breaking down the barriers and slowly peaking into the mainstream, there's money involved now, there's pay-per-view and all that stuff. This ain't one and done if I get a good offer, I'll keep it going. If I don't, then I won't.