Last week in Hawaii, UFC middleweight star Chris Leben was promoted to blue belt in Jiu-Jitsu by his teacher Sidney Silva, as GRACIEMAG.com previously reported, here.
Having completed the term of his suspension from the UFC for doping, the knockout artist invested his efforts in Jiu-Jitsu training to please his gentle-art professor.
“Chris has a really good ground game. He has a complete notion of basic movements, and as he’s temporarily suspended from fighting and without a date for his next fight, he’s been paying special attention to his ground game, especially in the gi—something he’s been working on for about eight months,” Sidney Silva told GRACIEMAG.com.
“It took some time, but I managed to convince Chris that the true essence of Jiu-Jitsu is in the gi. Although there are a lot of naysayers, Gi Jiu-Jitsu training is essential for MMA fighters: it’s training in the gi that helps the fighter get a tight and precise ground game,” added the black belt Romulo Barros, a Rickson Gracie student.
The UFC star’s presence in the Hawaiian academy has served as a stimulus to the other students. “He’s really stoked about Gi training, and it’s rubbing off on the other students,” said the Jiu-Jitsu professor, who had to defend Leben’s promotion.
“There were folks who disagreed with giving him the belt, saying he should be promoted even higher for being a UFC fighter, having submitted Akiyama [in 2010] and all, but it’s like I explained to him: When he said he wanted to train in the gi and humbly asked what belt he should use, I said, “A white belt.” Well, at the time he was surprised by my response, but he accepted it with the utmost humility because I explained that MMA and No-Gi grappling are not the same thing as Jiu-Jitsu,” Sidney elaborated, already making predictions about the new phase the fighter is seeing.
“The guy’s great people, a warrior, and he’ll throw down with anyone. He’s at a great stage in his life, is healthy and focused on his UFC return, which should happen shortly. I feel he’s going to make the middleweight division all the more exciting,” said the wise Jiu-Jitsu professor in conclusion.
Watch Leben taking on a “Super Dave” during a break in training.