Boys don’t like to fight

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Jeremy Henderson didn’t like to fight, but always seemed to find himself in one.

Jeremy had a tough childhood. He grew up with a single mom and an absent dad, and was always moving and having to start over in new towns and at different schools. He had several “dads” come in and out of his life and at one point, he and his mom lived in a battered women’s shelter to escape an abusive situation. When he was in 6th grade, his mom remarried and Henderson settled down in Cocoa Beach, Florida, where he stayed until he graduated from high school in 2000.

Jeremy (right) with Cyborg. Photo: Personal archive

“I had no direction,” he says, “I wasn’t an angry kid; I never started the fights. I just always seemed to attract trouble.” Although he didn’t like to fight, it was at that time he began to find himself drawn to the world of MMA.

Henderson graduated from high school early, at 17, and asked his mom to sign him into the Air Force. He thought maybe the military would provide him with the direction he needed so badly. “I wanted to get out of Florida,” he says, “I knew I didn’t want to stay there, but I didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do.”

It turns out the Air Force wasn’t it. Henderson signed up for six years and in 2001 he was stationed at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas. “The Air Force was not into MMA training,” Henderson says, “They didn’t want me to fight or compete, but I knew when I started training it was the only thing I wanted to do.” Henderson had finally found his direction, only to discover it wasn’t considered “acceptable” by Air Force standards.

He was determined to train in MMA regardless of the disapproval of his employer. About a year later, Henderson went to Dallas to watch a local MMA event. One person who really stood out that night was Marcus Hicks. “I was impressed with his fight and decided to meet him and start learning from him,” Henderson says, “He lived about 3 ½ hours away. I drove to his gym every weekend and learned more in a few hours than I did training every day back at Dyess.”

Hicks taught Henderson No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu and MMA. “Marcus was very quiet,” Henderson says, “He didn’t talk to many people, but we hit it off. He ended up becoming my roommate and best friend.” In 2005, Henderson was temporarily stationed in Dallas for six months and he began training with Hicks full-time.

“In 2006 I had my first amateur MMA fight in Missouri for an organization called Cage of Honor,” Henderson says, “I won my fight in 55 seconds. It was ground and pound from the guard and ended in a TKO.” There was no real Jiu-Jitsu in that match, but Henderson says he doesn’t think he even really understood what Jiu-Jitsu was at the time. He’d trained mostly in submission fighting and No-Gi for MMA.

Three months later Henderson had a second fight and lost to a Jiu-Jitsu guy.  “I was a huge fan of Randy Couture,” Henderson says, “So, with $300 in my pocket, some clothes, and my gym bag, I moved to Portland, Oregon to train out of Team Quest. I gave my apartment and everything in it to a guy I’d been working with in Dallas.”

But Henderson still wanted to train in Jiu-Jitsu. “Not too long after training at Team Quest I was driving to work one day and saw a local Jiu-Jitsu school, New Breed Academy, owned by Johnny Ramirez,” Henderson says, “I decided to stop in and see what it was all about. I fell in love with Jiu-Jitsu and training in the Gi.” Henderson started training with Ramirez, who let him move in above his academy. He slept and trained there full-time for five months.

That year, Ramirez took Henderson and some of the other students to California to compete in the Pan. “When we arrived in L.A. I knew that California was the place I wanted to live,” Henderson says, “When we got back to Portland I talked to Johnny about my training experience and he offered to let me stay at his academy in Santa Fe Springs, California, and teach the kids program there.”

Henderson happily moved to CA and enjoyed the life of training, teaching, and living by the beach. “It was amazing,” he says, “I got a chance to train with a lot of really great guys, like Andre Galvao, Marcelo Garcia, Leo Vieira, Marcel Louzado, Vitor Shaolin Ribeiro, and many more.”

In 2007, Henderson was feeling homesick for his family. His mom had moved to Abilene, Texas, in 2004, and so he decided to move back and open a school there, since he knew there were no Jiu-Jitsu schools in town. He leased a small 1500 square foot building and started “Redstar MMA.” “I was a blue belt at the time,” he says, “My school specialized in Jiu-Jitsu, Gi and No-Gi training, and MMA. I taught all the classes. A lot of my Jiu-Jitsu was No-Gi, so I traveled a lot to train with other Jiu-Jitsu practitioners to learn more about Gi training.”

One of those people was Vinicius “Draculino” Magalhaes, who had just moved to Houston to open up a Gracie Barra School. “I have been the biggest fan of his and his students Romulo Barral and Samuel Braga since putting on the gi, and I knew that he was the person I wanted to learn from the most,” Henderson says, “I contacted Gracie Barra about becoming an affiliate and flew Draculino to my school in Abilene for the first time in 2007.” Henderson’s academy is now officially called GB Abilene and Draculino is his professor.

Henderson received his purple belt from Draculino at the end of 2007. “Draculino has a true talent for showing details and the invisible Jiu-Jitsu that a lot of teachers understand, but have a hard time teaching. I think that’s what makes Draculino so great. He can compete with the best of them, but he can also teach the information that he uses in tournaments by showing you every little detail”, he tells.

Today, Henderson still travels around training with some of the world’s best Jiu-Jitsu practitioners to learn more about the art, but now he’s also flying them in to give seminars at his school. Most recently, Roberto Cyborg gave a class, while his next big seminar is on October 8th and 9th with Draculino and Romulo Barral. After that, he says he’s got his sights set on Kayron Gracie.

GB Abilene has outgrown two locations and they are now in their third and nicest location, a 4,500 square foot academy in a busy shopping center. “I’m so excited to be part of the GB team and to have Professor Draculino to learn from. It’s the most rewarding feeling to have a great academy and to be able to teach my students what I have learned over the years.” As far as his training is concerned, he is focusing solely on the Gi now. He will compete in the 2011 Pan and Worlds.

While Henderson’s life may have settled down and changed dramatically, his ability to attract trouble has not. It was after a seminar at Henderson’s GB Abilene school that he and Braulio Estima heard some shots at outside a bar. It’s nice to know that some things never change!

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