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EBI 3 Review


EBI 3 Review

ebi3.0.0It’s a shame that the headlines leading out of the third incarnation of the Eddie Bravo Invitational had more to do with the behind the scenes business dealings of the sport, rather than the actual practice of jiu-jitsu itself. But such is jiu-jitsu.  We all want the sport to grow and the players to be compensated accordingly—and, as it turns out, still have a ton of differing opinions on how all of that should be carried out.  As a result, statements about statements, rampant speculation about dealings pretty much no one has any real clue about, and continued rhetorical nonsense sadly divert the attention away from a series of matches (and the very talented athletes involved in said matches) that truly merit some attention.

Because if we’re talking about EBI 3 on it’s own merit, there’s plenty to talk about.

Days before the event, invitational namesake—and 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu founder—Eddie Bravo hit the rounds and made the intentions of his current passion project very clear: the goal of the Eddie Bravo Invitational is to get jiu-jitsu on network television.

It’s a bold declaration and one that the sport seems to be inching closer to each day (or so the optimistic of us keep telling ourselves).

Still the question at hand seems to be: is EBI ready for network television?

If we’re basing this purely on demonstrated athletic talent and the display of an alternative to the norm of sport jiu-jitsu, then yes.  EBI has carved out a niche unto itself that takes the difficult task of staging a 16 man tournament and making it feel fresh.  Utilizing a unique format and overtime ruleset (a tiebreaker system again designed to culminate in a finish), the event manages to extract a set of performances out of its competitors that you actively do not see at other invitationals/simulcast jiu-jitsu events.

Then again, that might also be because each submission in regulation can potentially net them $2,500, but incentive is hardly a bad thing (especially for spectators).

At the very least, EBI sets itself apart from other organizations through a few critical avenues.

For one, the athletes seem game to keep the action fast and submission-oriented.  While a lot of organizations talk about putting a premium on a “finish,” EBI is one of the few formats that delivers on it in record time.  Many of the submissions came within the three to four minute mark, as competitors showed they were less concerned about finding a position to stall or safely sit in and more about initiating the chase.  And when it works, the exchanges are nerve-wracking (if you’re a participant and haven’t worked your heel hook defense, you should probably stay home).

The accelerated effort by the athletes also seems to lead to an accelerated pace for the event.  To put things in perspective, eighteen matches took place during this three hour plus event—which is nearly three times the amount of matches for roughly the same price as Metamoris, with approximately forty percent more submissions (those are just the facts).

Additionally, EBI is also not short on star power.  People like Richie “Boogeyman” Martinez, Eddie “Wolverine” Cummings, Nathan Orchard, and Josh Hinger are certifiable rock stars who thrive in fast-paced formats like this (while EBI 3 standouts Darragh O’Conaill and Karen Darabedyan were given a great avenue to show off their considerable skill).  Their precision for attacks and ability to transition are truly things of beauty.

Which is why even a bold move like adding a “starring” credit to the marquee pays off in dividends.  Giving Garry Tonon top billing is a move that, frankly, you don’t really see too much from rival organizations.  In a 16 man tournament where anyone can have a bad day, it’s logistically a risky endeavor to single out one person.

However, in Tonon’s case, the placement of his name in bold letters comes with good reason.

Garry puts on a show.

As the past few months have shown, it doesn’t matter if he has a match against a relative newcomer, a seasoned pro or even a current teammate (thank you, Garry and Eddie for giving us more than a gentleman’s agreement to the next round), Tonon will make a match worth your while.  Now a two-time welterweight champ, it is easy to see why he has become the epicenter of all things exciting in jiu-jitsu.  With a mix of definitive finishes and matches that showed a gritty resolve in the toughest of spots, Tonon earned every bit of having his name on the marquee.

That said, you know your bench of talent is deep when your champion doesn’t even get the biggest ovation of the night.  That honor went to the stars of one of the kids super fights, Grace Gundrum and Alyssa Wilson, whose matches alongside Demian Balderrama, Jacob Harris, Jessa Kahn, and Cora Sek prove that not only is the future of the sport in good hands, but that it also looks terrifying.  If this is how good their jiu-jitsu is now, just imagine how much better these kids are going to get as they progress.

The inclusion of three kids super fights ended up being one of the highlights of the evening’s festivities, as the stars of tomorrow proved they were capable of putting on matches that were equally (if not more) entertaining than their adult counterparts.  If you haven’t already, please take a look at the very fun match between Gundrum and Wilson right here:

Go ahead.  I’ll wait.

However, going back to our earlier prompt of being ready for network television, there are a few considerations to explore:

I am a huge fan of the organization’s commitment to showcase new talent.  EBI is one of the few jiu-jitsu tournaments that puts new talent (of varying degrees of skills and specialties) on the same mats with established names to create interesting, if not sometimes unexpectedly entertaining stylistic match ups.  Nonetheless, if we’re talking network level sports, we’re going to need narratives.  The introduction to the athletes is an important tool in describing their own journeys to audiences who often have little understanding or comprehension of the sport.  The more audiences understand the athlete, the more they’ll tune in.

Additionally, in terms of venue, while the Orpheum Theatre put jiu-jitsu front and center of a large stage, the set up really seemed to limit the number of angles that the camera could capture the action.  While simplifying the set up, it also makes it harder to get the angles that compliment the ridiculously fast and furious style displayed by many of the athletes.

Finally, for the love of everything holy, would it kill one organization to know how to properly sign off on a broadcast?  The commentating team did a just fine job talking us through the matches, but at the end of the evening a wrap-up to close out the show seemed more like an afterthought—as the three members of the commentary team struggled to find the words to sum up the experience.  Moreover, while the live audience seemed thrilled by the matches, they jumped out of their seats rapidly thinking the show was over.  By the time someone came out to give finals participants, Tonon and Hinger, the opportunity to talk about their experience, only a fraction of the audience seemed aware this was part of the protocol.  If the live audience’s evacuation is any indication for spectator interest (it is), it’s a good indication they want the close of a show to be directed by the commentary team who have their short soundbites ready to encapsulate their experience.

That last one might not seem like a major consideration to the everyday jiu-jitsu fanatic, but—if we’re talking about getting this on TV—presentation is everything.  Though it should be noted, EBI is hardly alone of being guilty of this.

Nonetheless, watching the progression from EBI 2 to EBI 3 is one that signals hope.  While EBI 2 had a night club vibe that staged not one, but two sixteen man tournaments to an occasionally rowdy audience (that seemed to wane as the event made its way into the early part of the next morning), EBI 3 demonstrated that the organizers are ready to make adjustments to improve the overall audience experience.  And for it’s first time airing on internet television (thanks to the folks at Budo Videos), it’ll be interesting to watch as they continue to adjust for the experiences for those watching at home as well.

While we wait for the next EBI, several other tournaments and events will come and go.  With more options will come more dealings, as competition will breed more changes to the headline narratives.  Even though it’s fun to entertain the headlines from time to time, for those of you already sick of the politics dominating your newsfeeds, I offer you this following consideration:

As more competition will enter the fray, your voice will hold more sway than ever before.  If you care more about actual matches than gossip, then seek out those matches.  And whatever it is that you do support, do so boldly.

Because people and organizations will be watching the numbers as they tinker with formats and presentation—and as the crazy turn of events this week has proven, we are no longer in same era of competitive professional jiu-jitsu anymore.

Our thanks to Blanca Marisa Garcia and Ryan Drexler from for allowing us to use their photos for this article.


Video: AROUND THE MAT (Episode 1)


Video: AROUND THE MAT (Episode 1)


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Around the Mat, Episode 1 | Like many of you, I don’t feel jiu-jitsu gets the credit it deserves.

Sure, it’s made incredible leaps and bounds in popular culture over the last two decades, but it seems like most sports media outlets don’t really know what to do with the sport.

At times, it can be frustrating, sickening, downright criminal that our athletes don’t get the proper respect or acknowledgement for the performances they give on the mat.  With our training partners and in our gyms, we talk a good game about how it’s truly a shame this happensas the cynics among us argue “maybe the sport isn’t right for mainstream sports coverage?”

John Evans

We, however, respectfully disagree.

As a student of media, I've ingested my own fair share of sports media and talk shows. Which is why you can't convince me that for all the pomp and circumstance cable shows ascribe to a ten second video clip of Tom Brady throwing a football during the off-season (“OMG guys, Tom Brady threw a football today—and it looked GOOD; they going to the Super Bowl this season!”), we can't find a way to talk about some of the cool things going on in a sport like ours that doesn't even have the luxury of an off-season.

It was with that concept in mind, a collection of like-minded folks from the BJJ community decided to pull their resources together (and form like Voltron) to create our own little jiu-jitsu panel talk show we like to call Around the Mat.

Lex Fridman

In it, we have clips from some of your favorite matches at this year’s IBJJF’s Worlds, an interview with the winner of the submission-only winner of the brutal Dream Jiu Jitsu Baddest Brown tournament (Brian Carlsen), and all the panelist trash talk you can handle.

Not only do we talk about current events in the sport of jiu-jitsu, but we also do our best to shine a light on the BJJ competitors who are doing extraordinary things on the mats around the world.  It's our hope to spotlight athletes who are household names and up-and-coming bad ass jiu-jitsu competitors

This week we chat with Brian Calrsen who, through his major win at Dream's Baddest Brown, helps us understand the mindset of a grueling submission-only format, the differences between sub-only and competing two weeks earlier at the IBJJF Worlds, and even the mental mindset needed to compete in a 51 minute match against Sebastian Brosche (and still have to compete in a no time limit, semi-final and final match).

Kevin trying the whole photo thing.

The video above marks a true labor of love among a collection of jiu-jitsu enthusiasts and practitioners.  As we go on, we'll bring on new panelists and modify the format (based on any feedback you might be willing to provide).  But, the group of us here are truly passionate about the sport and hope we can help contribute in a positive way.

We're proud of the product and we look forward to hearing what you guys think about it.  Thanks for watching and we hope you enjoy it!



Reprint: Support Nampa Nogi: A Non-Profit Grappling Gym

This is an article I hope helped do some good for a group of guys who basically wanted to help out others who couldn't afford jiu-jitsu in one of the lowest income per capita regions of the US. I haven't had the chance to catch up with these guys lately, but I'd love to hear how their story has progressed since the time of this interview.

Many fans of the UFC freely admit they may never be the next Anderson Silva, Forrest Griffin or Rich Franklin (at least the sane one’s do), but for a healthy number of Mixed Martial Arts enthusiasts, MMA is more than just a spectator sport.

For every professional fighter who spends hours in the gym trying to diversify their fight game, there are hundreds of amateur practitioners hitting the mats to stay in shape, improve their confidence or stay focused outside of school.

And for those weekend warriors—who aren’t necessarily looking to end up in the Octagon—the long term commitment to regularly practice Mixed Martial Arts is not just time consuming, it can also slowly chip away at one’s disposable income.

Enter Nampa Nogi. A donation-based, not-for-profit organization, spearheaded by three MMA practitioners, that aims to create a space for like-minded individuals in Nampa, Idaho who are struggling to make ends meet, but don’t have the money to train at a gym.

And what would be the total cost per month to join said proposed gym: absolutely nothing.

“We’re looking to fund a non-profit, volunteer-based grappling gym. We know lots of people in the area who do martial arts… like [UFC fighter] Scott Jorgensen who’s doing some videos with us,” said Nampa Nogi co-founder Samuel Lang.

Through the use of the website, (think kickstarter, but more different), Lang and two of his fellow MMA enthusiasts Shayne Yetter, and Austin Hanzlik are asking for fellow fight fans, martial artists, and, yes, even famed MMA fighters to give what they can (donations as small as $1 on up) to help fund their community gym.

“Just on our Twitter campaign we’ve got a lot of re-tweets from people, even UFC fighters who ask ‘where is this,’ ‘oh man, I wish this was in my area.’ I have multiple notes in my inbox that say ‘maybe this’ll start a trend.’ Hopefully,” said Lang.

According to Yetter, the idea to open a gym came about after the trio interacted with a number of individuals throughout their community who had an interest in MMA, but who couldn’t afford to take classes with them.

“All gyms are expensive, but MMA gyms are sometimes even twice as expensive as that. I think a lot more people would enjoy doing if they had more opportunities. And there’s not that many opportunities for the casual, non-professional fighter,” said Hanzlik

While the three guys were able to teach many of the fundamentals to their friends (even drawing upon Lang’s ex-military training and experience rolling at Jorgensen’s Combat fitness), they found themselves without a permanent place to roll for the growing number of individuals who expressed interest in training.

“I think the main difference between using an established space as opposed to organizing a large group of people at a park or getting some mats and rolling somewhere else is: 1) it’s not weather specific and 2) that you have a permanent place that’s inviting to others to basically come and train when they can—that’s what we’re going for,” said Yetter.

The trio, who have received shout outs from UFC fighters like Jon Jones, Urijah Faber, and Brian Stann for their cause on twitter, state that their ultimate goal is to utilize willing mixed martial arts experts and blackbelts in the community who have expressed interest in teaching at their space.

“Right now we’ve got more than a few dozen people interested, but I think that’ll change as we get closer to our goal. Mostly, because the physical place isn’t ready yet and we can’t promote it until it’s done. I think people are skeptical that this could even happen, but we’re pretty much putting everything we can into it.”

And yet, despite a flood of positive responses and well wishes from supporters on the interweb, the group’s is currently $2,300 shy of its $3,000 goal going into the home stretch of the campaign (the campaign ends at 11:59pm on September 14th).

With a designated training space already accessible and ready for renovation and a partner with a background in construction (Hanzlik), all of the money raised from the campaign to be used to purchase mats and lumber.

“The construction is to physically raise the floor up a little bit, put some plywood on it, give it a little bit of spring in it, put mats on top of that. Mats are the main thing that we don’t have in our space. But that’s goal, getting the space in a place that makes it safe and we can get people to come,” said Hanzlik.

But what happens if they don’t make their goal?

“We’re putting a lot of sweat equity into it already, I’m currently covering a lot of construction and tools out of my own pocket. We all work and we all have families, so we’re not going to be able to put in thousands of dollars, but we know a place like this could help,” said Hanzlik.

A sentiment that’s echoed by Lang.

“If we don’t make our goal, we’re still going to try and find a way to get something going for the community, but that’s in addition to everything else—time, promotion, organizing, and maintenance—once we actually get the gym up,” said Lang.

And what do they have to say to charitable donors who may be concerned they’re merely funding a recreational fight club for three guys and their friends?

“I think our best appeal to potential donors is this: the people who do train know how it makes them feel. It gives you a sense of belonging, a sense of team. It’s all about martial arts and sharing it with others. And to know you can give it to someone else—knowing they might not be able to afford it in the same way you can—its really an amazing feeling,” said Lang.

For more info on where to donate, visit their Indiegogo site or follow their Twitter (@MovementMMA).



World Jiu-Jitsu Expo - Five Grappling Interview

There's been a lot of talk lately about Five GrapplingIf you're like me, you've seen dozens of mentions of it on Facebook with a five man round robin (and a mysterious jiu-jitsu practitioner known as "?").

Which is why it was so great when the CEO of the company, Dayan Henson took some time out of his schedule at the World Jiu-Jitsu Expo to talk with us about his big event this weekend in Anaheim.

If you live in LA, they still have some limited tickets available.  But if you want to catch the action, Five Grappling will be airing the fights live on their website (FREE!!!) at  Be sure to give them a look.

And, also, please don't mention to them that I still have the belt.  Thank you.



BJJ Breakdown Breaks Down Kevin

As some of you may recall, last month Kev competed in a no gi, BJJ tourney over on the other side of the world (Virgina).  Turns out, we found video evidence of it.  And our pal, JOHN EVANS, was nice enough to give that match the royal BJJ Breakdown treatment.

Not only does John do a nice job of analyzing Kev's technique (or occasional lack thereof), but he's also nice enough to ignore the fact that Kevin's shirt makes him look like a slightly slimmer Kool-Aid Man.

On a serious note, we'd like to thank John Wiseman Franklin for allowing us to put the match up on our website and BJJ Breakdown to analyze it.  We hope it's an educational tool for all those who enjoy BJJ and who enjoy making fun of Kevin as much as I do.

And props to the always excellent BJJ Breakdown.  Hopefully we'll have more of these in the future for you to analyze.  My only request is that next time there be more jokes at Kev's expense (like this, "I'm glad to see they settled on a catch weight for this match.  And by catch weight, I mean, Kev 'caught' a case of being fat."  That's just off the top of my head; I'm happy to refine it).