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From A Fighter's Perspective: Eddie Bravo (The Truth)

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The following is a piece written by local professional MMA fighter Jake Whitfield (3-1)

First of all, for better or for worse, Eddie Bravo is a legend. No grappler has sold more books or influenced more novice grapplers in the last five years. But why? Because he knows how to market himself. Because he has friends in influential places. And because he won one match in the summer of 2003.

Going into the 2003 edition of the Abu Dhabi Combat Club World Submission Wrestling Championship, few people knew who Eddie Bravo was. Those who did know him, knew him more as a commentator for Pride and King of the Cage than for his abilities on the mat. The 65 kg and under division in ADCC is a notoriously difficult division, partially due to the depth of talent... And partially due to one competitor named Gracie.

Royler Gracie is a legend. A true legend. Gracie Magazine, the only magazine dedicated purely to jiu-jitsu, named Royler the best of the decade in the 1990s. Royler began competing as a black belt in the late 1980s. He won every title in jiu-jitsu including the Atlantico Sul and the Company Cup (the forerunners to today's tournaments). He was a Brazilian National Champion. He was a Pan American Champion. He was the first Featherweight World Champion, a title that he would repeat for three more years. In 1997, he placed third in the Absolute Division of the World Championships. And he was the undisputed king of Abu Dhabi. Royler was the under 65 kg champion of ADCC in 1999, 2000, and 2001 and held a perfect 12-0 record going into the 2003 event.

More after the jump:

Prior to the event, Leo Vieira was seen as Royler's only legitimate threat to take his title. Previously Leozinho had competed up a weight class and this was his first year competing at under 65 kg. Baret Yoshida and Alexandre Soca were also seen as strong contenders but each had already lost twice to Royler in previous ADCC tournaments. Eddie Bravo, the North American Trials champion, was seen as just another name in the field.

Each and every year, ADCC results in several upsets. In 1998, a Machado Purple Belt named Ricco Rodriguez had claimed the heavyweight championship. In 1999, Egan Inoue had sent Renzo Gracie home early while an unknown wrestler named Jeff Monson won his weight class. In 2000, a Brown Belt named Ricardo Arona swept through the field and defeated defending champion Monson. In 2001, a blue belt from Norway named Jon Olav Einemo placed third after defeating Rigan Machado in the Opening Round. But 2003 would bring more surprises than any other year.

The tournament began as expected with the favorites easily picking off the weaker members of the field. The first big upset occured when the North American trials champion submitted three time defending champion Royler Gracie. Eddie Bravo became the first American to submit a Gracie and Royler was out of the tournament. Next Marcelo Garcia dominated Renzo Gracie to eliminate him from the competition. Brazilian Trials champion Ronaldo Jacare tore through his first two opponents with ease. Going into the semifinals, the tournament had been turned upside down. Leo Vieira set things right in the under 65 kg weight class by dominating Eddie Bravo, passing his guard a total of 9 times during the match. Marcelo Garcia continued to surprise and put favorite Vitor Shaolin to sleep in 18 seconds. Ronaldo Jacare and Ricardo Almeida engaged in one of the most epic encounters in tournament history and went through four overtimes before Jacare scored the decisive points. The weight class finals and third place matches were now set, but Eddie Bravo bowed out and refused to compete against Alexandre Soca for third place. The organizers brought Royler back in and Royler defeated Soca for the third time in ADCC to capture his fourth spot on the podium. Marcelo Garcia took home the title with ease in the 66-76 kg weight class. Saulo Ribeiro defeated Ronaldo Jacare for his second ADCC title. Jon Olav Einemo and Marcio Pe de Pano also took home gold. Then the brackets were drawn up for the absolute division. Dean Lister had been eliminated in the opening round of his weight class and was fourth alternate to even participate in the absolute. Amazingly four others bowed out and Lister was in. Lister easily submitted an overmatched Nate Marquardt in his first match. In his second match, he knee barred an exhausted Saulo Ribeiro who was fresh off his 20 minute final with Ronaldo Jacare. In the semifinals Lister defeated champion Marcio Pe de Pano by points. Then in the finals, lister heel hooked Alexandre Cacareco to win the absolute title. Lister had won the biggest title in grappling. Months later as the magazines began to print results "Lister wins!" was the biggest headline. Followed by an in depth analysis of Marcelo Garcia's domination of his weight. Eddie Bravo's upset win over Royler Gracie was invariably listed as one of the many upsets of the tournament but was given no more coverage than that.

Today, every book store in America has a copy of each of Bravo's three books. Not a single UFC goes by without Joe Rogan mentioning his name or his system. And nearly every match in the beginner division of every grappling tournament features someone trying to use the methods he claims to have created. So how did we get here? Seven years ago, Bravo was seen as a good grappler that happened to be at the right place at the right time. Royler was going to lose eventually. Anyone that competes for 20 years will be beaten someday. Eddie Bravo just happened to be the man that it happened against. So how did he become known as such an innovator and grappling genius?

When Bravo's first book "Jiu-Jitsu Unleashed" was released in 2004, most grapplers and jiu-jitsu practitioners bought a copy. Anyone that can even get lucky against Royler must be pretty good. The book introduced a little bit of Bravo's history and the basics of his jiu-jitsu game. The biggest thing that made "Jiu-Jitsu Unleashed" different from other books at the time was that it featured only his own personal game. Up until this point, jiu-jitsu books had offered a large variety of techniques to choose from so that anyone could benefit from the book. Bravo took an entirely different approach. He said "this is exactly what I do, this is exactly when I do it, and this is why". Every world class grappler has a system in their head of what they do, when, and why, but Bravo was the first to release his to the public. Immediately, other fairly thin, long legged, and flexible grapplers began to implement Bravo's game plan. He had removed all the guess work and all they had to do was follow the blue print. If you were heavier or had shorter limbs or lacked flexibility then you simply didn't use the things that he taught.

It wasn't long before UFC commentator Joe Rogan had gotten his good friend Eddie a job on air with the UFC. Bravo was now the on air unofficial judge for UFC fights. The sport was smaller then and most of those watching UFC pay per views trained, so they mostly already knew who Eddie Bravo was. Then came the Ultimate Fighter.

Like many other areas of the sport, the first season of TUF caused a huge change in the life of Bravo. Now, with hundreds of thousands of new fans watching the UFC Joe Rogan was the voice of authority on all things MMA. His was the voice they heard with every fight they watched. They heard him repeatedly talk about how ineffective Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is in MMA unless someone trained in "10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu" and they wanted to know what 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu was. This problem persists today. Alan Belchor has never been impressive on the ground in any fight yet Rogan will constantly remind us that he has an excellent ground game because he's a purple belt under Eddie Bravo. Meanwhile, Evan Dunham puts on a clinic against Efrain Escudero and Rogan says "....well... Dunham isn't completely helpless on the ground. He does have a brown belt under Megaton Dias," before quickly changing the subject.

As more and more fans entered the sport, Eddie Bravo released two more books. These books are two of the nicest, most professional looking books ever produced on jiu-jitsu and they promise to make anyone that reads them actually be able to tap their opponents just by looking at them (slight exageration). Lots of people buy these books and they freely buy Bravo's claims that he invented the Rubber Guard. Eddie Bravo might have invented the term Rubber Guard, but Nino Schembri was winning World Championships using the Rubber Guard when Eddie Bravo was only a blue belt.

Eddie Bravo titles his system "10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu: Jiu-Jitsu for MMA" yet he has never fought in MMA. Nino Schembri, the true inventor of the Rubber Guard, had only moderate success in MMA and never submitted anyone in MMA competition from the Rubber Guard. But at least he fought. In fact, even Bravo's famous triangle submission over Royler did not come from the Rubber Guard. It came from a traditional overhook and wrist control, a set up that is taught to every white belt in every academy around the world. A setup that was used long before Eddie Bravo even knew what Jiu-Jitsu was.

So I ask you, would you read a book on basketball written by someone that had never played basketball competitively? Of course you wouldn't. So why would you read a book about jiu-jitsu for MMA written by a man without even one amateur MMA fight? Greg Jackson has proven that someone who has never fought can still be a great coach, but who has Eddie Bravo ever coached. Dean Lister was a world class grappler long before Bravo and even did better than Bravo during the same ADCC tournament. Shinya Aoki received his black belt from Yuki Nakai before ever metting Bravo. Vinny Magalhaes was a world champion before ever training with Bravo. These are the men that Bravo uses as proof that his system works, yet if they have such faith in him then why has he never been in any of their corners for a fight?

Eddie Bravo has never won an MMA fight. He has never won a world title in Jiu-Jitsu. He has never won Abu Dhabi. These facts do not mean that he isn't entitled to his opinion. These facts don't diminish what he did on that one day in the summer of 2003. But these facts need to be known. Eddie Bravo is a good grappler that has done a tremendous job marketing himself, but can we please all just leave it at that?