Ultimate Athlete #11 September 2002 article. UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Tito Ortiz promoted his first “no gi” grappling event on July 20, at Golden West College in Huntington Beach, California. Tito, as well as many MMA stars, treated competitors and fans to autographed pictures and trading cards.
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Team Punishment competitors were in full effect, including UFC vets Ricco Rodriguez and Zach Light. All competitors received cool t-shirts featuring a little guy defeating a big wrestler by armbar.
Little Noah Tillis was the first to stand out, winning the kids division by defeating Sasha Scharf and Ian Comer. Ruas Vale Tudo’s (RVT) Ron Pak won the High School Advanced Division by arm-barring Luis Zamora before defeating Justin Morgan.
Golden West wrestler Chase Gormley shined even before stepping on the mat. He took sixth place in the High School Wrestling Nationals and won State Champion his freshman year at Golden West. He recently started training in submissions with Bo Hershberger and said he wanted to compete in submission tournaments to keep in shape off-season.
Gormley quickly took down Keapraseath in his first match, obtained the mount and then secured a straight armbar. In the finals, he beat fellow Golden West teammate Van Haven to win the Beginner 222 lb. division.
In the Intermediate 160 lb. class, Jimmy “The Wolverine” Terrell defeated Florentino Martinez from Fabio Santos Jiu-Jitsu. RVT’s John Keen got a bye in the first round to meet Terrell in the semi-finals, whom he defeated.
Rick Estrada (Next Generation) defeated Justin Frantzen (Fabiano) in the other semi-final bracket. Keen defeated Estrada in the finals earning the first place victory. Florentino Martinez then beat Justin Frantzen for the right to battle “The Wolverine” for 3rd Place. Again, Terrell was victorious to take third place.
The Intermediate 187 lb. division saw Jesse Juarez (GWC) come out the victor. Juarez defeated Brian Talbert (Team Punishment) before defeating Travis Henderson in the semi-finals. On the other side of the bracket, Michio Grubbs (Harris International) defeated Menellin Mark before beating Brain Bair in the semifinals.
Juarez defeated Grubbs in the finals, taking first place with Grubbs taking second. Talbert went on to defeat both Bair and Menellin to take third.
Randy Bowers (Team Punishment) took first place in Advanced 147 lb. by defeating Matt Barraza. Bowers came close to an arm triangle choke, but couldn’t finish it. He controlled and defeated Barraza 3-0. Antonio McKee, Team Punishment’s newest member, won the Advanced 160 lb. division by defeating Steven Magdaleno and Mike Dixon (also Team Punishment). Dixon defeated Joe Camacho, taking second place.
In the Advanced 173 lb. class, Scott Bieri (Nova Uniao) took the show, submitting both Preston Scharf (SLO Kickboxing) and UFC vet Zach Light. Light then beat Scharf on points 3-0.
Advanced 187 lbs. saw Jeremy Williams (Next Generation) and Jason Miller (Team Punishment) shine. Williams got a bye in the first round, defeated his second round opponent and took on Miller in the finals. Williams overcame Miller, earning first place.
Mr. Ortiz himself then asked if I would compete in the Absolute Division. He said it would be cool if I fight and write. How could I say no to the man? I warmed up, and then entered my Zen-like rest to conserve energy.
Ricco Rodriguez had a super fight against 300+ lb “Scary” Jerry Vrbanovic. I was too busy warming up to really watch, not knowing the giant Jerry would be my upcoming opponent. Vrbanovic managed to reverse Ricco Rodriguez and escaped a triangle choke. “Mr. Suave” submitted him via armbar.
The Absolute division was almost entirely made up of pro MMA fighters. Three Team Punishment or HB Ultimate Training Center fighters: Jason Miller, Randy Bowers and “Scary” Jerry Vrbanovic were prepared to take on the competition.
They took on Joe Camacho, Randy Harev (who trains with Rodriguez), and yours truly. Miller took out Harev by armbar in a surprising upset. Bowers beat Camacho by points. Then it was time for “The Wolfman” vs. “Scary!”
I didn’t have a corner so Tito said he would be watching me closely. I circled and tried to get some intensity going into the crowd. “Rampage” Jackson started to smack talk me loudly from the stands. I guess he hadn’t liked me giving him shit on the Underground for howling when he came out in Pride.
I had to deal with him saying I wasn’t the real Wolfman, and that I was a Tito wannabe since I was wearing my Coliseum 2000 flame shorts. From what I recall, Vrbanovic’s size and strength was too much for me as he bull-rushed me down to the ground. I defended a can opener neck crank, but didn’t want to try anything from the bottom on a guy that size; I settled for half guard.
The giant started to get his other knee through to mount, so I bucked his massive body over, moving to his guard. Officials warned for stalling, and eventually, they restarted us. Vrbanovic shot in, but I sprawled and spun around into mount. I stayed low and tested his reactions. When he tried to push me off, I swung my leg over his face to get the armbar, and he powered up, so I ended belly down. I had to start popping his arm, but he tapped.
They immediately put me against Jason Miller without a break, so I hardly remember what happened due to fatigue. I was out positioned a lot, and Miller has serious ground skills (his BJJ instructor Paulo Gazze “Junior” later told me he is a very good purple belt, besides being an undefeated MMA fighter).
My stubbornness allowed me to survive both an Achilles lock and a tight neck crank. I know I had a couple of escape points back to my feet and worked some nice sprawls. The match ended with Miller unable to submit me with a Kimura shoulder lock.
Miller then submitted Randy Bowers in the finals by rear naked choke. Miller took first place in the Absolute and second in Advanced 187 lb. divisions. Randy Bowers took first place in Advanced 147 lb. division and second in the Absolute. Yours truly took third place.
In Team Points, Team Punishment easily took first with 180 points. Golden West College took second with 149 points, and J-Sect Jiu-jitsu took third with 73 points.
Check out www.titoortiz.com for more information on upcoming events. These submission-grappling tournaments lay down the foundation for MMA fighters to gain mat experience. You can see a lot of stars on the rise just by attending.
The Wolfman’s Las Vegas and Huntington Beach Adventure: July 15th-22nd
As soon as I got off of the airplane, Team Punishment’s Aaron Brink welcomed me. Brink also runs the “Aaron Brink Face Punching Academy.” Enrollment is free, except for the price that your face pays. With 20 wins, all by KO or TKO, Brink is indeed an exciting fighter with a recent big win over Valentijn Overeem.
We drove through the desert to train with Ricco Rodriguez in Las Vegas. We arrived at John Lewis’ J-Sect Jiu-jitsu, and I participated in a “no gi” class taught by Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro. Over the next two days, I trained hard and hung out with Ricco and Randy Harev.
In the morning, I watched Rodriguez and Brink perform takedowns while I squared off against Harev. I pictured Rodriguez getting Randy Couture (they meet at UFC 39) on his back in the second or third round, and how well Couture deals with that determines the outcome. Later, I helped teach a gi private to a lovely lady and somehow managed to get a neck message in return.
Finally, it was time to get back to training, and Ricco said it was time to get in the cage with him. Ricco moves really well on the ground for such a big guy. While I was able to pull off a few escapes or reversals, I was submitted multiple times. One time, I escaped off the bottom and moved back to my feet, actually securing a guillotine/chin hold-then I was shoved into the fence and launched into the air! Ouch!
Ricco apologized, but I was already continuing. Once we finished grappling, it was time to run. I did a one-mile lap, while Ricco and Randy did two.
The next day started with one hour of straight cardio. That night we did a 90-minute no gi class, and both Ricco and myself rolled with Marvin “The Beastman” Eastman. Twice J-Sect played “The Wolfman” vs. “The Beastman” for some back and forth grappling action. After kicking the banana bag a little while, I foolishly changed clothes. Ricco advised me it was time to go lift weights next door.
After returning to Huntington Beach and competing in Tito’s Invitational, I sparred with Brink again. It’s like getting beaten in and out of a gang or something. Colin Oyama then used me to push Brink through some great drills. I watched “Rampage” Jackson hit Thai pads and, of course, exchange in more smack talk-all in good fun of course.
On the airplane from Las Vegas to Detroit, I bumped into none other than WWE’s Booker T. Washington. Once I told him I was on the first episode of WWF Tough Enough, he obliged me to walk and talk with him towards our departing gates. He was just leaving the Vengeance PPV in Detroit.
I told him of my desire to challenge Tazz to a “shoot” match, and he said Tazz wasn’t that tough. He asked what “Tank” Abbot was up to after finding out I just came from Huntington Beach. I told him he was happy living off the major dough from his now defunct WCW contract. He said if he hadn’t become a pro wrestler, he would probably be doing ultimate fighting!