Robert Drysdale at the 2007 BJJ Mundials.
Brasa jiu-jitsu ace Robert Drysdale will join us this week on The FightWorks Podcast. Drysdale, who defeated Marcelo Garcia in the absolute division of the ADCCs in 2007, has been busier than ever. In our chat in this episode Drysdale answers two questions from you, the Mighty 600,000, about the challenges of being a big guy in jiu-jitsu, about being Frank Mir’s submission grappling coach on the eighth season of Spike TV’s The Ultimate Fighter, preparing for his MMA debut on October 17th, opening his own new school in Las Vegas, and more.
Gracie Barra’s Flavio Almeida appears this week as well. We will discuss the brand new Gracie Barra Competition Network, which is GB’s new effort to begin holding regional tournaments around the country just for folks who train at Gracie Barra associations, with the goal of preparing their jiu-jitsu competitors for the highest level of competition. The first tournament from the GBCN will be held at Irvine Valley College on October 25th.
Don’t forget that you can contact us to get your questions answered here on The FightWorks Podcast: BJJ Radio too! Just call (877) 247-4662!
ROBERT DRYSDALE INTERVIEW
The FightWorks Podcast: Robert how are you doing?
Robert Drysdale: Very good, how are you guys doing?
The FightWorks Podcast: Robert it’s not your first time on The FightWorks Podcast. For those who don’t know you can you give a real quick introduction?
Robert Drysdale: My name is Robert Drysdale, I’m 26, soon to be 27. I was born in the United States and grew up in Brazil. I’ve been training Brazilian jiu-jitsu now for 10 years. I won the Jiu-Jitsu World Championships a couple times, I won the Abu Dhabi open division in 2007. I’ve represented Team Brasa for five years now, training under Leo Vieira, who gave me my black belt. Now I’m living in Las Vegas, training at Xtreme Couture and just getting ready to fight MMA.
The FightWorks Podcast: You’re very well qualified to answer some of the questions that I got from some of our listeners. We have a toll free number that our listeners call and they leave me a quick message and then I present it to folks like you who are experts in training and been black belts a long time. The reason I’m giving these questions to you is because they’re questions about being a big guy in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. For our listeners out there, could you tell them your height and weight?
Robert Drysdale: I am somewhere between 6’2″ and 6’3″. My natural weight is around 210 pounds and 215 pounds but I am walking around now at 205 because I am dropping weight.
The FightWorks Podcast: I’m going to play our first question. Again, these are questions from folks about being a big guy who trains BJJ.
Question: Hey Caleb, this is Matt up here in Boise, Idaho. I train with Keith Owen BJJ. I’m a big guy: 6’4″, 240 pounds. When I go to tournaments I’ve noticed that all the belts, white through black, that the big guys have problems doing takedowns. I’m not really good at jumping guard, or anything like that. I’ve been working on takedowns and my question is, among the guys you talk to, what is their advice for a big guy like me to tighten up my takedown game?
Robert Drysdale: If we’re talking about sport jiu-jitsu working in the gi I would recommend talking to a judo instructor to learn throws where your height and weight will help you. You have to use your weight for your advantage. If you’re talking no-gi, I would look for a wrestling coach; Greco-roman, freestyle, or whatever. Work on that. He’ll give you a few ideas. You’re going to like certain positions. After he gives you a set of options, you’ll decide, “Hey this is a position I like, so I’m going to work on this one.” You end up finding stuff you like and that’s the whole point. Certain positions you learn, but you’re never going to use them. Others, you like them right away and they fit and your game. So basically I would look for someone who’s good at takedowns, talk to them, and have them give you a few ideas.
The FightWorks Podcast: The second question from one of our listeners, is this one. Here we go:
Question: Hey Caleb, big fan of the show. Thanks for the opportunity for the questions. Here’s my situation quickly: I’m a white belt and I’ve been training for around eight or nine months and I have my second competition coming up in a few weeks. Out of all the guys in my academy I am pretty much the heaviest and the tallest. When I compete, it’s in the super heavy division. One thing I noticed in my first competition is that I have trouble with the taller and heavier guys in my division because I was used to rolling with shorter, faster guys with a different game. In particular I had problems with positional escapes because getting out of side control is a completely different ball game when there’s a big guy on top of you who weighs 250 pounds instead of 150 pounds. So could you recommend anything I can do for my future competitions to help get ready for the difference in size of my opponents and their different kind of rolling games? Thanks a lot!
Robert Drysdale: One thing I always try to keep in mind is that [you shouldn't] try to be the heavy guy. There are moments to be the heavy guy and moments to be the little guy. If you’re having a hard time moving it’s probably because you’re not positioning yourself well. A lot of times when you’re bigger you tend to think that you’re going to solve everything by just pushing the guy off of you. Let’s say you have the guy in front of you. Don’t think about pushing him away. Think about blocking and preventing him from getting the better position and moving yourself away. It’s something that took me a long time to understand. When I finally did it made a huge difference in my game. People always think that when they have a problem that they want to move the problem. Don’t move the problem. Move yourself away from the problem. It’s different. It’s all about position. Keep that in mind. It’s all about positioning yourself the right way so you don’t get stuck. When you let the guy get those underhooks, you let him grab your pants, and then you’re pinned. Now you gotta use strength and power. Ideally you don’t want to let the guy get that position. You want to be moving and position yourself before he gets there. But the main thing is to not think about pushing him away. Think about moving yourself. Very different.
The FightWorks Podcast: I’m sure our listeners appreciate your advice on those. I thought we’d talk a little bit about what you’ve been up to recently, because you’ve been a very busy guy.
Robert Drysdale: We finished The Ultimate Fighter on SpikeTV a while ago, and now I’m just helping Frank Mir for his Minotauro Nogueira title fight. Frank’s getting better, man, better every day. The guy is evolving quickly. He’s very smart. He’s the kind of guy that you don’t have to repeat yourself many times with. You tell him something once and he’s got it right away. I wouldn’t be surprised if he finishes Nogueira. A lot of people think that Nogueira’s the superior grappler. I wouldn’t be surprised if Frank finishes him. I really won’t.
The FightWorks Podcast: Let me ask you this before you go on to something else: how did you get involved with being Frank Mir’s grappling coach on The Ultimate Fighter show?
Robert Drysdale: I know Frank’s manager. He approached me and he was doing some business with Demian Maia and that’s how he got my phone number. He called me one day. I spoke to him, met him, he was a cool guy and then he introduced me to Frank and he wanted me to work with Frank. Me and Frank got along really well and then Frank invited me to be his jiu-jitsu coach and I said, “Absolutely.” So that was it. Me and Frank get along really well and it was a fun experience.
The FightWorks Podcast: So I take it that you were selected to assist Frank Mir in this upcoming fight against Nogueira for your grappling background and size?
Robert Drysdale: Yep, absolutely. That’s it.
The FightWorks Podcast: I know that you will make your own MMA debut here soon. Tell our listeners about that.
Robert Drysdale: I’ve been preparing for a while now. I didn’t want to just jump in like a lot of guys do who move to MMA from sport jiu-jitsu. Some do well, others don’t do so well. The thing is, it’s different. Even if I don’t become an expert in standup, which will probably take a lifetime to become an expert in boxing or kickboxing, I just wanted to be comfortable enough so that when I got hit I wouldn’t freak out. If you’re not used to getting hit, well different people react differently. A lot of people get angry, some people get scared, so I just wanted to make use of that to the point where actually I feel very comfortable with my standup now. I feel very confident I can go pretty much against anyone standing. That’s basically it. Now I have a fight coming up in Vegas on October 17th. I’m fighting at 195 pounds in a catch weight. I’m excited man, I’ve been waiting a long time and prepared a long time for this fight. Been conditioning three times a week with Alejarra, Frank Mir’s been helping me, been wrestling with Randy Couture three times a week in the morning, Wanderlei Silva’s been helping me a lot… All the guys at Xtreme Couture have been really helpful. My boxing coach Skipper Kelts is an amazing boxing coach. He’s been helping me a lot. My hands have gotten much, much better in the past few months. I’m ready to jump in [to MMA].
The FightWorks Podcast: Speaking of the transition from world class jiu-jitsu into MMA, did you get a chance to watch Xande Ribeiro‘s recent MMA debut, and Jacare’s recent fight?
Robert Drysdale: I didn’t watch Jacare’s first fight in DREAM. I know he tapped the guy. I saw the one he lost to Gegard Mousasi. I’m not trying to take credit from Mousasi – they guy beat Denis Kang his first match, in that second match he beat that judo guy from Korea, in the third match he beats Melvin Manhoef, and in the fourth match he beat Jacare. He fought the four toughest guys in the whole Grand Prix. That’s pretty amazing. So I am not trying to take credit from him, but in his fight against Jacare it seemed more like Jacare landed his face on [Mousasi's] foot than the other way around. He was just throwing his legs out there and one happened to land. I don’t believe in luck, but I don’t think that would happen again. I think it’s the kind of thing that if they fought ten times, Jacare would beat him nine of them. But yeah, [Mousasi] is really good. Jacare just made a mistake. He took him down, he kind of stood back up, got a little too excited, and leaned in with his face in there, made a mistake and got caught. It happens. As far as Xande Ribeiro, I think he did well. I think the other guy was tough. The guy was a good wrestler. He was playing the anti-game: he didn’t want to engage. If you look at the guy in the whole fight he didn’t do anything at all. He was just running away from Xande. He was just backing away and keep himself from being taken down. He didn’t throw much in punches or kicks or anything. He was just avoiding, expecting Xande to shoot in. Xande got him down one time and let the guy get back up. Another time he went for an armbar and the guy barely got out. And the third time the round was up. Who am I to make any criticism but what Xande could’ve done better was set up his punches a little bit, set up his take downs a little better with punches. A bunch of times he was just shooting in out of the blue, just shot in like it was a jiu-jitsu match. You have to punch, make the guy cover up, and then shoot in. Maybe clinch more with the guy, maybe even go to guard. Why not, you know? Can’t take the guy down? Go to guard! “Let’s sweep this guy, let’s finish him!”
The FightWorks Podcast: You know it’s funny, I was over at the University of Jiu-Jitsu maybe a month ago to interview Penny Thomas. Saulo Ribeiro and Xande and the guys were there, and they were watching this old PRIDE fight on the big screen they have over there between Daniel Gracie and this Japanese guy Sugiura. At the time I was like, “This is the most boring fight I have seen in my life. Why are we sitting around watching this?” Two days later they announced that Sugiura was going to be Xande’s opponent. Just like you said, he was the most boring fighter out there.
Robert Drysdale: It’s incredible! The guy was avoiding, avoiding, waiting for Xande to shoot. It’s like, “come on man, people want to see a fight!” So I think Xande did his job, he did what he had to do. I am guessing that Saulo yelled something like, “You have a minute left” or “You have 30 seconds left”, and Xande just went Wanderlei Silva-style on him. Just went all out, because you never know what the judges might be thinking. They might’ve given the guy the win, who knows. In my opinion, Xande dominated the whole fight. He just had a hard time taking the guy down. He was the aggressor the whole time.
The FightWorks Podcast: It was the same thing in that Daniel Gracie match. Daniel Gracie and him just beat each other up the wholte time, and the guy just doesn’t go down. But luckily Xande just pulled it off at the end.
Robert Drysdale: He’s a tough wrestler, man, you gotta give it to him. He’s hard to take down. Xande had a real hard time and when he did, he didn’t take advantage of the positions he had, and that’s it. But he won, so he did good.
The FightWorks Podcast: We’re all excited he won. Hey I understand you have some big professional news of your own, outside of your MMA match. You’ve got some big changes coming your way.
Robert Drysdale: Yeah man, I am opening up a school in Vegas. When I first came here I didn’t want to do it. I just wanted to focus on my MMA career, but I love teaching class and I learn a lot when I teach class. To me, teaching is learning. I probably learn more than my students, when I teach. Because you’re always seeing something new. You’re always making up new stuff. And I had so many people come up to me asking, “Robert when are you going to open up your school? When you going to open your gym in Vegas? Rob, come on, let’s open your gym.” So many people. I was getting emails from people that live in Vegas waiting for me to open a gym to start training jiu-jitsu. So that convinced me to say, “You know what? I am going to do it.” I got a buddy of mine that is helping me out with the business part, I am going to be teaching classes. My wife Michelle is going to be teaching classes, so I am excited. We should be open in the next week or two.
The FightWorks Podcast: That’s a really huge deal. We’re excited for you. I know you’ll send us the address and everything so we can help get the word out, right?
Robert Drysdale: Yeah we got 1234 South Rainbow. It’s on the corner of Rainbow and Charleston. You can’t miss it. It’s just off the 95. It’s a good location. Anyone who lives in Vegas will know it.
The FightWorks Podcast: And this is going to be a jiu-jitsu school, right? In the gi, no-gi…?
Robert Drysdale: Gi, no-gi, advanced, beginners, women, kids… We’re going to get boxing, kickboxing, maybe a conditioning class later on. I’m thinking we’ll get a beginner’s MMA class. Something like that. We’ll have it all. All the people that are passionate about the sport will have it all at this place.
The FightWorks Podcast: How does this, if at all, affect your position at Xtreme Couture as grappling coach?
Robert Drysdale: I spoke to the guys, they’re cool about it. I’m still going to be training there, I’m still going to be helping the guys out. I’m just not going to be teaching class anymore. I’m not going to be teaching the jiu-jitsu classes. They understand, you know. They have other guys to help them out over there. I just felt like I had to move on. I wanted to have my own place. and that was it. They’re super cool about it.
The FightWorks Podcast: The time was right.
Robert Drysdale: Yeah the time was right. I love the guys over there, they’re incredible. I just felt like it was time for me to move on. I wanted to have my own place and that was it.
The FightWorks Podcast: Alright Robert well this has been great. We appreciate you answering our listener calls. Did you have anything else our listeners should know about before we let you go?
Robert Drysdale: Well this is not something I have available right now, but we’re going to open up a program where guys who are from out of town and foreigners can come over to Vegas and train at the academy. I’m thinking about getting an apartment for guys can come and train full time. So that’s something to keep in mind and keep updated on. It’s similar to a thing I had before in Brazil and I’ll be doing in Vegas. I just want to get guys that are crazy about jiu-jitsu and grappling to train full-time.
The FightWorks Podcast: What’s your website?
Robert Drysdale:: www.RobertDrysdale.net.
The FightWorks Podcast: Thanks a ton for coming on the show and please tell Michelle we said hello.
Robert Drysdale:: I will! Alright, thanks!