Last week, Robert Drysdale promoted one of his most illustrious students to the rank of black belt in Jiu-Jitsu: former UFC light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin.
GRACIEMAG.com contacted Drysdale at his gym in Las Vegas, where MMA beasts like Frank Mir, Martin Kampmann, and Griffin go daily to brush up on their Jiu-Jitsu.
The truth is that Forrest squashes 95% of the black belts out there” Robert Drysdale
Did Forrest deserve his black belt? What’s your assessment of his Jiu-Jitsu?
Drysdale: Perhaps all I need to say is that I’ve seen a lot of world champion black belts get worked over by Forrest in the gi. I’ve also seen an ADCC champion train with him for ten minutes and not score a single point. Forrest has competed in the gi before, and he’s even beaten big-name guys with Jiu-Jitsu C.V.s
What prompted you to give Forrest his black belt now?
What defines a black belt? Each teacher has his own criteria – they’re rarely the same for everybody. Mine are the following, in this order: character, discipline, technique, results. And Forrest qualifies according to all of them. He has character, trains more than anyone else I know, and his showings in the UFC attest to his technique and results.
What’s Griffin like as a student?
He trains every day, loves the sport, and is disciplined and humble, always asking questions and looking to learn new things. It would be easy for a guy in his position, a UFC star, to put himself on a pedestal and think there’s nothing left to learn – which happens with a lot of people, especially in MMA. But no, the guy comes to class, does the positions with the white belts, doesn’t complain, and never asked for special treatment. Besides technique, his head is that of a Jiu-Jitsu black belt.
He even ventures a spider-guard every now and again” Drysdale
Does Forrest train in the gi much?
Sometimes. Of course, he has no intention of competing in the gi, which is why it would make no sense for him to train exclusively in the gi. But the gi teaches us certain things that we wouldn’t learn without it, and Forrest understands that perfectly well. He even ventures a spider-guard every now and again.
You gave a brown belt to Martin Kampmann, another star who demonstrated a solid ground game in is latest fights, against Paulo Thiago and Jake Shields… What’s your assessment of his technique?
Martin has been training with me for some time now, he was one of my first students here in Vegas. He also has an open mind and likes to learn. I’ve rarely seen someone evolve so quickly. His Jiu-Jitsu is obviously focused on MMA, but he is always adding new positions and submissions to his game. He has a positive attitude and contributes a lot to the academy.
Why does so much controversy always arise on the internet when an MMA star gets his Jiu-Jitsu black belt?
I think people expect everyone to take the same path to black belt. Most start as teenagers, train exclusively in the gi; some are competitors, others not, but most have a similar story. When someone is promoted and got there by anything other than the traditional route, it causes suspicion and resentment. But the truth is that Forrest squashes 95% of the black belts out there.
What was the experience of being head Jiu-Jitsu coach at Xtreme Couture like?
It was cool, I got to train with people with styles that are totally different from what I’m used to. I made friends and learned a lot about the sport. I got to help a number of athletes and I think I can say that I had a positive influence on several fighters here in Vegas. I also have a great relationship with Randy Couture and everyone at Xtreme Couture. I still spar over there twice a week, but now I teach exclusively at my own academy, Drysdalejiujitsu.com.
How are Jiu-Jitsu and MMA coming along?
They are two different sports that evolve differently. There are their similarities, but one needs to recognize that pure Jiu-Jitsu doesn’t work on its own anymore. That talk has fossilized, it’s from the nineteen eighties. There’s a lot to learn from the other styles, like wrestling, sambo, boxing, muay thai, judo.
Any thoughts of competing in the gi in 2011?
I dedicated eleven years of my life exclusively to competitive Jiu-Jitsu. I competed at the Worlds, the Brazilian Nationals, the ADCC, State Championship, Brazilian Team Nationals, etc. I competed against the best in the world. I won some and lost others. But to be honest, I’m not interested in competing anymore. I’m almost thirty years old and don’t intend to dedicate the rest of my youth to a career competing for fun. I have other objectives and goals.
Any final message for the Jiu-Jitsu community and GRACIEMAG.com readers?
Train, have fun, compete, make friends, train in different styles, try new positions, keep away from inter-academy rivalries and politics, as they’ll just hold you back in life. Focus your energy on your evolution as a fighter and not childish rivalries. Recognize how we’re all beginners and have much to learn, regardless of belt color.