Toronto hasn’t received so many stars of a single sport on the same weekend since the last ice hockey All Star Game it hosted, don’t ask me when. It’s been a while.
Besides the fighters on the best card of the year thus far, UFC fans around these parts are looking forward to Anderson Silva, Rashad Evans, Mauricio Shogun, Shane Carwin, Anthony Pettis and dozens of other high-caliber athletes putting in an appearance. It’ll be a bash, despite the rain there’s seemingly no end to. The weather will only clear on Saturday. Smack-dab on the day of the “storm” itself. Such irony.
Besides the special guests, the city is rich in less high-profile figures with a love for MMA and Jiu-Jitsu – and who make their livings from it year round. Such is the case of Professor Jorge Britto, a Gracie Tijuca black belt who’s had his day making noise around Rio de Janeiro but now toils quietly and abidingly in Canada.
“Jiu-Jitsu is growing off the hook here, piggy-backing on the UFC’s popularity. Right now we have 600 students signed up at the academy. And let me tell you, that’s nowhere near where it can get,” says the master and our GMA, as he keeps watch over forty white belts rolling in a well-equipped academy. Most of the students sought out Toronto BJJ to get into shape, but some of them dream of one day fighting in Rogers Centre at the Fertittas’ and Dana White’s show.
Jorge Britto will have his chance to show his stuff before UFC fans. The Vinny Aieta and Royler Gracie student is training for and confident about his match this Friday at 1:30 pm at the Grapplers Quest wrapped in to the UFC Fan Expo. It will be a four-man lightweight submission grappling tournament. First, Jorge tests his No-Gi skills against the game Ryan Hall (Brasa). The winner of that meets either American UFC star Diego Sanchez or highly-touted Canadian grappler Andrew McInnes, who face off in an interesting pre-UFC USA-versus-Canada match. The superfight on the program has Fabio Holanda (BTT Montreal) taking on the USA’s Nolan Dutcher.
I ask whether Britto sees the tournament as a way to gain notice should he, for example, end up facing Sanchez. “No, because I don’t want to be famous. I’m going out there to have fun, do the Jiu-Jitsu we love so much, and then go home to my students at the gym. I like my job as a teacher; I know I’ll produce my champions in the near future, and that’s what’s satisfying to me. Now if somebody famous falters, of course, I’ll put my Jiu-Jitsu to work,” he says.
Now there are other teachers planning to put their Jiu-Jitsu to work that very weekend in Canada.
Today’s featured star in the newspapers is Mark Bocek, remembered as one of the Fertittas’ and Dana White’s first instructors, when the UFC top brass first started training back in 2001 – ten years ago. “Bocek was a purple belt and he’d tap us out every 13 seconds,” White often recounts.
The good-natured Bocek, you may recall, is the guy who called George Sotiropoulos out in the Octagon awhile back, boasting of being the best grappler in the lightweight division. He’s not one to count advantages, but he thought the crowd would take kindly to the provocation.
Sotiropoulos lost not long ago and will sit out Saturday’s show, but the matchup between black belt Bocek and brown belt Ben Henderson is still enticing to gentle art fans. It happens that Ben “The Smooth” trains and competes in the gi, in Arizona, with much greater frequency than Mark does. Could the gi make the difference? GSP assures that it does, and he wants to make that clear against Jake Shields. What are your thoughts on that, dear reader?
Be it as it may, the Bocek-Henderson fight is a solid candidate to end up as fight of the night. And as runner-up Jiu-Jitsu match of the week, second to the final at the UFC Fan Expo.
Rogers Centre, Toronto, Canada
Saturday, April 30, 2011
Georges St-Pierre vs. Jake Shields
José Aldo vs. Mark Hominick
Vladimir Matyushenko vs. Jason Brilz
Lyoto Machida vs. Randy Couture
Mark Bocek vs. Ben Henderson
Preliminary card on Spike TV
Nate Diaz vs. Rory MacDonald
Sean Pierson vs. Brian Foster
Preliminary card (informal Canada vs. USA)
Yves Jabouin vs. Pablo Garza
Claude Patrick vs. Daniel Roberts
Ivan Menjivar vs. Charlie Valencia
Jason MacDonald vs. Ryan Jensen
John Makdessi vs. Kyle Watson