At the highest levels of mixed martial arts, the fighters hire their coaches, for nutrition, for conditioning, for striking, for wrestling, for submissions. Even at the super camps, the fighter is in charge. And it is not uncommon for fighters to switch camps, in search of growth opportunities.
However, MMA was born from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which traditionally had a different approach, with the team placed ahead of the fighters, like the military. Anyone switching camps was referred to witheringly as a “creonte” (traitor).
At UFC on ESPN+ 19 on Saturday, Cub Swanson fights BJJ monster Kron Gracie. Swanson is on a four-fight losing streak, and was submitted in two of the past four fights; for this fight he wisely determined to focus more on refining his Jiu-Jitsu. However, Swanson, himself a BJJ black belt belt, said during a recent appearance on the UFC Unfiltered podcast, that he was denied access to multiple BJJ academies because he is fighting a Gracie.
“I’ve been kicked out of a couple of jiu-jitsu schools because of the respect,” explained Swanson, as transcribed by Farah Hannoun for MMA Junkie. “They don’t want to train somebody that isn’t a Gracie, which really pisses me off.”
“It takes me back, because when I got into jiu-jitsu as a sport, it helped save my life. I was going down the wrong path. People know the story, I was getting into trouble, and I found jiu-jitsu. I fell in love, and I just competed all the time, and it became a passion. I was really interested in the Gracie family and what they did. And huge honor and respect to them and then after competing and doing all that, I learned the politics of the sport and how ridiculous it could be, and it kind of left a little sour taste in my mouth, and that’s why I started doing more MMA.”
“Fights like this I need to be technical. I think I need to not show him any respect when it comes to getting comfortable and just start punching him in the face. I also am a black belt. I’ve gotten criticized for my jiu-jitsu before, but I wasn’t able to always roll with the best of the best grapplers because I was focusing on my striking.”
During the UFC on ESPN+ 19 open workouts, the man Swanson will be attempting to punch in the face defended the traditional approach.
“The way I grew up in training and fighting martial arts is basically you have a clan and a team and you’re with your team forever,” said Gracie, as transcribed by Mike Bohn for MMA Junkie. “If you leave your team you’re traitor. That’s the way I grew up. I have this instilled in me and no matter what’s going on with me or my team that’s my team. I don’t get to just pick and choose as I go along with this career, whether it’s jiu-jitsu or whether it’s fighting. In the old times of war you had a clan and you can’t just go, ‘I didn’t like this clan this time I’m going to go somewhere else.’
“I think in modern-day right now you tell me something like that it’s like, ‘Duh.’ I want to know what gym told him not to. I saw him have a photo with a jiu-jitsu gym that was. He didn’t have his jiu-jitsu already set up? He doesn’t have his team set up? He’s been fighting for 15 years and doesn’t have these resources already? It doesn’t make any sense to me that this happened now.”
“I’m grateful I get to test myself against Cub. I know he’s lost a few fights but he’s a top opponent and he’s only lost to top guys. It’s going to be a good test.”