Meet the heroes of the No-Gi Worlds

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There was a lot more action going on around the 2011 No-Gi Worlds than just the dazzling displays of Jiu-Jitsu on the mat. Purple belt Brent Alvarez and blue belt Billy Denney of Twisted MMA out of Eugene, Oregon, made history themselves as they drove into Los Angeles last Wednesday, November 2, to participate at the No-Gi Worlds on the following Saturday.

After a 12 ½ hour drive from Oregon, Brent and Billy headed straight to Legends MMA to train with Eddy Bravo until about 11:30 pm, before setting out to find a hotel close by in the Los Angeles area. Not really knowing where they were, the two selected a Comfort Inn on Vermont Street and checked themselves in. “We decided to find a close hotel,” Billy says, “We were told later that we were in a bad part of town.”

As fate would have it, they went up to their room and tried the key, but the door wouldn’t open, so they had to head back downstairs to get another one. Just like a plot out of a movie, Brent and Billy came walking out of the elevator with their bags, completely unaware of what was going on in the lobby.

An armed robber, later tagged as 31-year-old Luis Rosales, was holding up the hotel clerk and demanding money, a gun pointed straight at him. Apparently, the clerk told Billy and Brent later that he had quite a few stacks of twenty dollar bills in his drawer but only handed the gunman two stacks and closed the drawer. He told the robber, “That’s all you get.”

That’s when Brent and Billy stepped out of the elevator. “I’m not sure what would have happened to that clerk if we hadn’t appeared at that time,” Billy says, “I don’t know if the robber would have run off with the money or not. He was pissed off at the clerk knowing there was clearly more money there.”

Once Luis had the money shoved into his duffel bag, he began to walk towards the door. Unfortunately for him, he walked straight into Brent and Billy. “The manager looked straight at us and said, ‘He’s got a gun! He’s got a gun!’” Billy says, “The robber looked shocked when he saw us. He was five feet away. The clerk jumped on the robber’s back and tried to body lock him. The guy was basically dragging the clerk with him as he headed out the door. He put his hands toward the bag… all I heard was, ‘Gun!’ Brent and I dropped our bags and went to each side of him. I came around and got back control. I tried to hold the gun down.”

Brent goes on to say, “I saw the gun go into the bag. I grabbed his gun hand. There was money in the bag. I held his hand. I couldn’t see if he had his hand on the trigger or not. The clerk kept trying to pull his hand out of the bag as we were trying to hold it down, so the gun kept coming up and we kept pushing it back down! The gunman made eye contact with me and said, ‘I need this money for my little girl.’ I said, ‘Do the right thing.’ I was holding his hands.”

The clerk then ran up to the three of them involved in the scuffle and began pulling all the money back out of the duffle bag. He still hadn’t called the police. Billy says by then they were just trying to calm Luis down and give him the sense they were going to let him go. So, when the clerk called out to them, “Should I call the police?” They said, “No.” But Billy says he had plenty of time to call them, “Especially when he was taking the money out of the bag and then left for a couple of minutes. I don’t know where he went, but he didn’t call the cops. I don’t know why he didn’t.”

At that point, Luis said to Brent and Billy, “You can let me go now – you’ve got the money.”

Brent said, “I can’t let you leave with a gun, man.”

Luis said, “I can’t give it to you.”

Brent replied, “You’re not leaving here with a gun in your hand. Show me your hands.”

Brent finally got the gun away from Luis a few minutes later and it dropped into the duffle bag. The clerk came back and grabbed a 9 mm handgun out of it and took it away. Brent and Billy yelled at him to call the police. He ran off to make the call.

Brent says Luis wasn’t punching or kicking. He was just struggling to get away. So, Billy moved to the front of Luis and Brent took his back, got him in a body triangle, and then applied a rear-naked choke. The two say the police video that has gone viral on the web has been edited quite a bit. The three of them struggled for a long time but it was behind a wall, so you couldn’t see them, and it was ultimately cut out of the video.

Luis began choking and struggling, saying, “I can’t breathe!” Brent loosened up his grip a little and he and Billy sat and waited there for the cops to come, which they finally did. Billy says, “The cops were surprised to see us. They jokingly said that we obviously had it taken care of when they saw us on the floor with the guy in a chokehold. They asked us about our training. We told them Brent trained in krav maga, so he used it to control his wrists and he used his bouncing experience, from a communication-wise perspective, to talk the guy down. We obviously used our Jiu-Jitsu to subdue and hold the guy. One of the sergeants there said they were going to have to have department-wide training in martial arts now!”

Brent and Billy became national heroes from the incident, but neither of them considers what they did news worthy. They both say, “We don’t really think what we did was a big deal.” And they legitimately look confused and dumbfounded by all the attention they’ve received from their acts of valor.

As Brent reflects back on the situation, he wonders why he didn’t just knock Luis out. Although he’s trained in krav maga and weapons training, both Brent and Billy train in MMA first and Jiu-Jitsu second, so they are somewhat mystified as to why their Jiu-Jitsu skills came into play first and foremost.

Brent surmises, “I think I took the gentle route because the guy just didn’t seem violent. I looked in his eyes and just didn’t see violence there. He kept talking about his little girl, so we just kept trying to talk to him… I think maybe it was stupid now, but at the time, the gun just didn’t register to me. I was more concerned about his well-being. I was a bouncer for years and that and my Jiu-Jitsu just went immediately into play.”

A couple days later, the two showed up to the No-Gi Worlds, not expecting all the attention they received. In fact, they hadn’t even realized that their story was all over the news. Announcer Tony Torres announced their presence at the No-Gi Worlds and a big round of applause went up all over the pyramid.

Billy Denney (left) and Brent Alvarez at Worlds / Photo by Deb Blyth

As far as their No-Gi Worlds performances went, Billy took home a bronze in his middleweight blue belt division after four matches. He won the first with an arm-triangle choke and won the next two by points. Purple belt Brent won his first match 14-0 and was submitted in his second, knocking him out of medal contention.

As an aside, the LAPD youtube video has now reached over 584,000 views in one week, making it the second-most-viewed LAPD youtube video of all time. The most-watched video has 708,000 views, and that is two years old, so Brent and Billy may take top spot before too long. “I know it seems like a big deal, but it’s just not registering as a big deal to me,” Billy laughs.

This was Billy’s first time to Los Angeles and at the No-Gi Worlds, and he excitedly says of his experience, “I had a blast! I can’t wait to come and compete again next year!”

Guys, just please promise us all that you ‘ll get a hotel recommendation and a reservation BEFORE leaving Oregon next time!


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There are 10 comments for this article
  1. BillyDenney at 5:59 pm

    Thanks Deb the article is as close to what happened as I can remember! All I have to add is a word of advice to any individuals planing on a future hotel robbery, ask the clerk if there are any guests trained in Jiu-Jitsu.

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