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· On the Spot ~ Robert Drysdale

· Article author: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Posted on 07/21 at 11:46 AM

There was a time in MMA when an individual with the jiu-jitsu credentials of Robert Drysdale may have been hyped as the next Royce Gracie. Those were the days of lopsided fights, 300-0 bare-knuckle records, and masters of self-created martial arts systems.

Now, Drysdale is just another green fighter, looking to make his way up from the ranks of the minor leagues of MMA. It is still not every day that a grappler with the qualifications of Drysdale enters the sport. A multiple time jiu-jitsu world champion and the 2007 Abu Dhabi Absolute Champion (a title that many consider to be the greatest of all in the world of grappling), Drysdale is not just another highly-hyped stud.

Drysdale is well-known in MMA circles, having trained former world champions like Randy Couture, Wanderlei Silva, and even being featured on “The Ultimate Fighter” as Forrest Griffin’s jiu-jitsu coach.

The grappling ace was long-rumored to be the next jiu-jitsu crossover into MMA, finally making his debut on the Armageddon Fighting Championships 3 card in Canada this past weekend, submitting Bastien Huveneers with an arm triangle choke at 1:12 of the first round. was recently able to catch up with Drysdale to discuss his big win, what his future holds, and his opinion on the BJJ vs. wrestling debate.

David McKinney: Did you expect such a quick victory in your first MMA fight?

Robert Drysdale: I wanted to get a submission as soon as possible, you know. Of course I was ready to fight three five-minute rounds, but I saw the opportunity early in the match and I took it. Actually, the fight did not go as planned; I did not expect it to go that way. I expected him to be a little more cautious and pretty much be ready for the takedown. But he came out swinging at me, so that makes the takedown a lot easier.

McKinney: Why did you decide to compete in Canada in your MMA debut?

Drysdale: I thought it was a good offer, and the promoter was always cool to me. I was looking for a fight, and I heard from some other organizations. But I just got the vibe that they wanted to bring my name up and build my record and basically get my name out there. So I decided to go with [Armageddon Fighting Championships.]

McKinney: What are your plans with the AFC from here on out?

Drysdale: I’ve got a few more fights with them, and I was looking at jumping into another organization. But I have three more fights with them, possibly I’ll have another fight in November and I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully if they have a belt for the 205 division I’d like to have that belt and we’ll see where things go from there.

McKinney: There were some rumors that you were going to compete during one of the last two seasons of “The Ultimate Fighter.” Is there any truth to these rumors?

Drysdale: I was trying out for the show, and things were going well, but I had some medical issues that prevented me from fighting. That kind of put me off track for awhile. Now I’m coming back and I’m 100 percent focused on what I’m doing. I can’t go 90 percent—90 percent doesn’t work for me. So I had to put things on hold until I could focus on my passion. I was pretty much in limbo for a year, but now I’m back, I’m healthy, and my mind is good. I’d still love to be on the show.

McKinney: You mentioned in an interview prior to your fight that you’d like to face Roger Gracie, who is signed with Strikeforce. Why?

Drysdale: I just think that it would be an interesting fight. We were supposed to fight in the Abu Dhabi super fight last year, but he had an injury so we couldn’t do it. It was a fight that we were both looking forward to and the fans especially wanted to see it. It’s unlikely that we’ll fight again in submission grappling, so why not do it in MMA? We have the same background, we’re built in the same way, and we’re both beginners in MMA; we both have horrible hands. So we’ll see what happens.

McKinney: You’ve said that you would like to be in either the UFC or Strikeforce sometime next year. Is that still the plan?

Drysdale: Well yeah, I’d like to get these three fights with the AFC out of the way, but once I’m done with them, I’d like to move on to the bigger shows. That’s what I’m looking for down the road—I’ll be a part of any big organization like the UFC, Strikeforce, or DREAM.

McKinney: Are you planning on remaining at light heavyweight throughout your MMA career?

Drysdale: You know what? Actually I had such an easy time making 205. I walk around at like 220, so it was way too easy. I couldn’t even believe how easy it was. I think I could make 185; I’ve gotten down to 200. I don’t feel my best at that weight, but I think I could make 185. Really I could fight at heavyweight, but I’m just too skinny. I could probably put on some size if I had to. I’ll probably stay at 205 right now. Ideally I’d like to see a 195 class – that would be perfect.

McKinney: You’re a well-known BJJ trainer for MMA fighters, with links to former champions like Randy Couture, Forrest Griffin, and Wanderlei Silva. Does that add any pressure for you to be successful in MMA?

Drysdale: No, if anything it boosts my confidence. I feel like I’m training with the best in the world in this sport, so there’s no reason why I shouldn’t do well. I know whatever I’m going to encounter in that ring is not going to be anywhere near what I’m used to. I don’t feel pressure from other people at all, but I put a lot of pressure on myself.

McKinney: Talk about how your style of BJJ is different from traditional jiu-jitsu and how you translate that to MMA.

Drysdale: I always go for submissions over positioning and in the sport of jiu-jitsu that can be a bad thing, because you don’t want to compromise a position if you’re fighting for points. Especially my no-gi game is always very aggressive—I go for a submission before I look to hold position, so I’m constantly trying to look for an opening wherever I’m at. I don’t need a mount; I can finish you from my back.

I think that translates well in MMA, because at the end of the day the judges really don’t care about positioning that much if you’re not doing any damage. You could be in the mount for a whole match, but if you’re not doing any damage it doesn’t mean anything. The judges really want to see you go for submissions. I’ve always had that style; I’ve always been aggressive and I’m looking for a way to tap my opponent, no matter what.

McKinney: BJJ seems to have taken a backseat in MMA to wrestling in the recent past. Why do you think that is?

Drysdale: I totally disagree with that. I see way too many submissions in MMA. I hate when somebody says something like, ‘Oh, the wrestler doesn’t need jiu-jitsu.’ The wrestler that doesn’t get caught in an armbar is doing jiu-jitsu whether he realizes it or not. You may not be looking to submit, but when you learn to defend that triangle, you’re going to learn jiu-jitsu—there’s no way out of it.

I get that all the time from people. ‘You know, you don’t have to learn this or you don’t have to learn that.’ People have been saying for awhile that the guard is dead in MMA. We just saw the pound-for-pound most dominant fighter in MMA history get tapped in a triangle in a couple minutes.

Another thing that you have to keep in mind is that I don’t separate wrestling and jiu-jitsu. Everything that is legal in wrestling is legal in jiu-jitsu—they’re not that different. The sports have developed in completely different ways, so people get that impression that they’re totally different.

I think that a lot of people that think that way are people that their egos get in the way and they think that they don’t have to learn it, because they know that if they jumped in a jiu-jitsu class that some 18-year-old blue belt would tap them. A lot of MMA fighters can’t handle that. It’s a lot easier to play the “anti” game than it is to learn. It’s not that hard to run away. Learning how to control position and go for submissions, it takes skill.

People that have the mentality of ‘I don’t like this’ or ‘I don’t need that’ are always average. And I’ve been around many of these guys for a long time. The guys that excel, the most successful ones are the ones that are always willing to learn.

McKinney: To that point, what is your opinion of a guy like Brock Lesnar, who pulled off a submission in his last fight?

Drysdale: Brock wants to be dominant in this sport, he’s a smart guy and he’s willing to learn. He wants to learn how to make people tap. He could just be a big meathead and say ‘Oh, I don’t want to learn this,' and he’d probably still do really well, but he knows that if he wants to excel and if he wants to be remembered, then he’s going to have to learn.

McKinney: What are some BJJ techniques that are underused in MMA?

Drysdale: I would like to see more transitions. People that are on the bottom always just hope for a standup.

McKinney: What are some of the most common BJJ mistakes that are made in MMA?

Drysdale: Good back control; I don’t see that enough. I think it’s the most dominant position in the ground game and it’s by far the best position for submissions. Very few guys know how to control the back and stay there. There is also poor defense from the bottom—very few guys know how to defend themselves from side control or the mount. They try to scramble and push, and they get away with it, but that just shows athleticism—it doesn’t teach you anything.

McKinney: Who is somebody in MMA that really impresses you with BJJ?

Drysdale: Demian [Maia] is my favorite, and we have very similar styles. Whenever I watch him, I feel like I know what is coming next. His reactions are similar to mine, so I feel like I know what he is going to do next because we trained together so long. There are other guys that are successful, but I think skill-wise he’s the one that impresses me the most.

McKinney: In 5-10 years, what will MMA fans say about Robert Drysdale?

Drysdale: I would like to still be around then and doing well in this sport. I have big expectations for myself, so I’d like to think that I’d be one of the biggest names in the sport. But it’s not like I had plans when I started training that ‘I’m going to be here’ or ‘I’m going to be there.’ I just really like what I’m doing and I’m having fun. As long as I like what I’m doing and I’m enjoying this lifestyle, then I’ll keep doing it. But the minute that it’s not fun anymore I’m going to quit. Right now I’m in love with this sport, so who knows how far I’m going to get.

In addition to MMA Spot, David McKinney is the MMA columnist for UWeekly Magazine and a contributor to MMA Madness.

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