April 12, 2016

    Last week I got to spend time training and teaching in Mexico City, Mexico. Let me start by saying I had a great time and I love the Mexican people. Everyone was so nice and really made me feel like family, what a great group of people.

    I love traveling the world and meeting new people. That’s one of the major benefits of being in Martial Arts, you get to meet so many new people, some who become good friends even.

    Before I write about my most resent trip let me start off with a little backstory on Mexican Mixed Martial Arts, and how I came to be a part of it. It’s a long story but I think you’ll like it. Read on.

    BJJ/MMA in Mexico and the man who brought it there

    My relationship with Mexico started when I met a guy named Mario Delgado back in 2000. We first met at a tournament called the Kimono Kombat, which took place in NJ in June of 2000.

    All the best teams in BJJ where there from up and down the east coast and beyond. This event gave us a chance to find out who truly had the best BJJ team and who the best competitors were.

    Again, this was a first for us because most of the top teams would boycott different tournaments and because of this, you never had the best teams and fighters all in one place at one time. Now we did and the time for results had come.

    Mario and I were both competing, Mario at Blue Belt and myself at Purple. Both at lightweight. While I was waiting for my matches to start I kept hearing about this young kid who traveled from Mexico and came out of nowhere to win the whole division earlier in the day.

    His name was Mario Delgado I found out and this particular weight class he won featured some of the best BJJ Fighters from all over the place. Mario won in the finals in a wild match with rising star Noah Booth, who at the time hadn’t been beaten in BJJ.

    As it turns out, I too had a heck of a day. In fact I consider this my breakout performance and also very much the same for Mario. I won the purple belt under 170 pound division and the open weight class, both as a blue belt.

    I didn’t run into Mario at the tournament that day, but rather the following week training in NYC at Renzo’s, where Mario was also training.

    After a really good training session where I got to experience first hand just how talented this kid really was, we got to talking and really hit it off. We exchanged contact info and promised to stayed in touch.

    UFC training
    This is Mario, who also works for the UFC Latin America. I took this pic while he was on TV in my room!

    My first trip to Mexico and the growth of BJJ/MMA since that time

    I followed up with Mario and about 6 or 7 months later I flew down to Mexico City to train help him train because at the time he didn’t have many (2 at the most) high level guys to workout with.

    I’ll be totally honest, I knew very little about Mexico so when I got down there I had no idea what to expect. In my mind I thought I’d be sleeping on dirt floors and eating bugs for meals.

    That wasn’t the case at all. In fact, I soon found out I was the one who lived the poor life cause Mario had a pretty sweet setup.

    I was young and stupid and clearly didn’t know much about the world at that point in my life. These days I think much differently that’s for sure.

    As It turns out, Mario’s comes from a highly successful family that owned a cabinet making company. It’s really a great story of rags to riches in fact. His father built this company from the ground up and was so successful he was able to open two other companies, also with great success.

    At the time Mario worked for his father alongside his brother, each with different roles at the company. So when I got there I was treated to nice dinners, and way better living conditions than I was used to (WAY BETTER).

    Yet despite having some very nice things, Mario has always been super humble and very much down to earth. Pretty much the complete opposite of a snobby person you’d expect.

    During that first trip I spent 2 weeks training with Mario and his small team of dedicated students which numbers maybe 10 to 12 tops. Even though it was a small group we still got in some solid workouts and I had a blast.

    A side benefit to this training was greatly improved cardio and endurance. This was due to the high altitude in Mexico City. I’ll talk more about this later but When I returned to Philly I was easily in the best shape of my life.

    That was my first trip and over the years I’ve gone back to visit Mario and each and every time I showed up I saw progress being made with BJJ and Mixed Martial Arts.

    The amount of students training in Brazilian “Gracie” Jiu-Jitsu and MMA grew more and more with each of my visits. This wasn’t by accident mind you.

    This growth is truly a testament to Mario and all his hard work, effort and networking he’s done over the past 20 years. He’s the driving force behind BJJ and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in Mexico.

    I hadn’t been to Mexico in 8 years prior to last week’s trip and I figured Mario’s academy and the BJJ scene as a whole had grown. Well Let me assure you, grown isn’t the right word to use in this situation, exploded is a better one.

    I can honestly say that from my first trip in 2000 to now BJJ/MMA in Mexico has really come full circle, that and then some.

    I call Mario Delgato the “spine” of modern day Mexican MMA. Mario’s the first Mexican to attend the rank of 2nd Black Belt. That and earned under the watchful eye of the Legendary Renzo Gracie.

    He now works for the UFC as an analyst for Latin American. He’s also been a coach on the Ultimate Fighter Show. All this while still running his main academy and over 20 affiliate schools throughout Mexico.

    His academy went from 12 students to now hundreds of them with 9 black belts in house black belts promoted by Mario just in his Polanco location alone.

    His students have also done well in competition, having won high level events and fights in BJJ, Kickboxing and MMA.

    Without Mario Delgado, I guarantee you Mexican MMA wouldn’t be where it is today, not even close. My hats off to you brother, what an amazing job you’ve done and I hope you’re enjoying all the success you’re having.

    My stories from last week’s trip

    I got there on Sunday and pretty much just hung out. I got caught up with the latest news and whatnot and than called it a night.

    After a good nights rest (i was dead tired the night before) I did some guest teaching on Monday at Mario’s main academy in an area of Mexico City called “Polanco”.

    Mario wanted me to show some outside-the-box techniques, something I’m sort of known for. I said no problem, let’s do some turtle guard bottom techniques cause it doesn’t get more outside the box than that.

    I taught the Peterson Roll, the Buvaisar Sweep and the Kendall Roll. The students picked it up right away which was super cool. Afterwords the students did some rolling and I got to train with a few white belts that got passed up for a partner.

    I’ve got to admit, even though this was just light rolling with white belts, I had to take my time and go slow because I kid you not, training in high altitude is no joke. It’s like trying to breathe through a straw.

    I challenge anyone who doesn’t believe me to give it a try. You’ll find out right away the high elevation does make a significant difference. Just ask Cain about his last fight….

    BJJ in mexico
    This is a group pic of the gang after class on Monday night in Polanco.

    After training we went out and caught a late night showing for Batman v Superman. I won’t spoil it for anyone but I wasn’t a huge fan of this movie. Batman was definitely the highlight of that flick.

    On Tuesday I came in and taught another GI class, this time with the focus being on takedowns, specifically Wrestling takedowns. I showed 3 techniques to help finish the head inside single leg.

    We worked on running the pipe, both with the head in and head outside, lifting the leg high while avoiding the closed guard pull and ended with cutting off to the double leg from the head outside position (aka high c).

    After a quick drink it was on to rolling. This time I worked out with a few of the girls, including one very good brown belt. Rolling with them was fun and let me tell you, these female students are not only skills but also some of the hardest working students I’ve ever come across anywhere in the world.

    I’d come in and I’d always see them working on something. They’d drill, roll, test new skills or do some type of strength and conditioning workout. After seeing the work ethic these 5-6 girls I started to feel like a lazy turd! It was truly inspiring to watch.

    mexican female bjj training
    These are some of the girls i’m telling you about. My god they train super hard!

    We finished training and got some sushi with Mario’s wife Luciana. Real quick Let me hook her up with a shout out and background story.

    Luciana is Brazilian and met Mario while working in Mexico 8 years ago. They fell in love right away and have been side by side since.

    Luciana like Mario speaks Spanish, Portuguese and english. They have a daughter together named Valentina and within the next 4 weeks, will welcome a baby boy who they plan to name Luciano.

    For the record, Luciano is awesome! She took care of me when I got sick (read on) and I’m so thankful for her help. Mario is indeed a very lucky man to have her by his side.

    On Wednesday I got a chance to be a rare guest instructor for their kids class. This class was made up mostly of boys, ranging in age from 4 to about 13.

    The funny thing about teaching this class is that even though my Spanish is minimal at best (most of the time I needed a translator to help me teach), the kids got what I was saying and I learned that a big smile and lots of energy translates just fine for a 7 year old, with or without Spanish skills 🙂

    We worked on takedowns skills like the snap down, double leg and sprawling. Wrestling isn’t something the kids are used to learning so it was nice to help out with some new helpful skills.

    During the last 10 minutes of class I introduced the kids to the Ivey League way of playing dodgeball, and like I knew it would be, turned out to be the highlight of the class with the kids going crazy having fun avoiding getting hit and throwing the balls.

    kids martial arts classes
    Group picture of the kids and I along with a few others following a great class.

    Don’t drink the water, this is true and here’s why!

    After I finished working with the kids and chatting with parents I went back to Mario’s house to take a shower. After I cleaned up the plan was to head back to teach later that night…BUT…I started to feel sick.

    It’s one of those things where you can just tell things aren’t right with your system, do you know what I mean? I felt weak, with body aches and a loss of appetite. I just knew this wasn’t going to end well.

    Sure enough, I spent the next 2 days in bed, unable to move aside from bathroom visits. I was Sick as holy heck from what turned out to be a good dose of food poisoning which I got from…yup, drinking the water and eating lots of spicy stuff my east coast tummy wasn’t used to.

    So from Thursday till I left Saturday morning my routine consisted of throwing up (both ends i’ll add), laying in bed and consuming a record amount of pedialyte.

    It’s a miracle I was able to make it on the plane and fly back home, that’s how sick I was. So, the bullet point of that story is this: Bottled water is key and baby step your way into authentic Mexican cuisine.

    Mario forewarned me not to go crazy with the food because others have gotten sick the same way. But you know, me being me, I didn’t listen to him and just ate and drank what I felt like. Boy did I pay the price…lesson learned, lesson very much learned 🙁

    mario delgado mexican mma
    Pictured here is Mario Delgado and Danny Ives at his academy in Mexico City

    Renzo Gracie Mexico rocks and you should go visit!

    That’s my tale of training in Mexico. If I hadn’t gotten sick I sure I could’ve told a longer story. But whatever it’s fine, at the end of the day I had a super fantastic time munis you know, the food poisoning thing.

    I highly recommend Mario’s academy to anyone visiting the area. It’s truly world class and filled with a bunch of amazing people.

    Next time I go down there I plan to take some Ivey League MMA students with me. If you’d like to get in on that by all means let me know.

    Information for Renzo Gracie Mexico can be found below. Definitely check them out!

    Renzo Gracie Mexico
    Address: A Esquina, Av Ejército Nacional,
    Polanco, Granada, 11550 Miguel Hialgo, D.F., Mexico
    Phone:+52 55 5250 7884


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