I talk to Chris Brennan who is an MMA Hall of Famer, fighting in Pride, UFC, Shooto, Cage Rage and King Of The Cage veteran, and a 3-time No-Gi world champion and ADCC veteran. But perhaps it might not be well known that he started the first No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu school in America back in 1998 after leaving the Gracie Academy. We discuss what the Gracie Academy and the change to No-Gi were like and how he learned to train his students while competing in MMA.
We also discuss how he has taken those lessons and passed them on to his sons to help their MMA & grappling careers. Also, he shares some stories of backstage shenanigans with the Pride referees and the time that Genki Sudo came to town and competed in the Westside Submission Grappling tournament, one of the most viewed Jiu-Jitsu highlight videos around.
LISTEN TO THE CHRIS BRENNAN INTERVIEW HERE:
Chris Brennan Interview – Podcast Transcript
Sonny Brown: Chris, how are you doing there, mate?
Chris Brennan: Awesome, man. Thank you very much. How are you?
Sonny: I’m doing well. Thanks so much for joining me, and it is an honor to have such a veteran of both Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and MMA to be able to talk to.
Chris: Thank you.
Sonny: I mean, competing in all the top organizations, UFC, PRIDE, Shooto, Cage Rage, King of the Cage where you were the championship, and fighting the best guys in those organizations as well. Along with competing in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the No-Gi Black Belt World Championships, then what I really want to get into is the creation of your own gym, which was the first No-Gi Grappling School in America.
I actually didn’t know that initially. I might assume that many others, when they think No-Gi Grappling in America, they go to Eddie Bravo. We have a mutual friend in Dennis Kelly who lived and trained with you. He let me know, and I was fascinated to learn that. I just want to go back to the start with you, with you’re obviously watching UFC 1 while you are bouncing, I do believe, with Kimo and Todd Medina, earlier with Siver as well. That would, I guess, led you to the Gracie School. What was it like that first day going in there? How did that experience unfold?
Chris: It was cool. I actually went to another guy first, trained with Ken Gabrielson in his garage. Then I found Royce. I didn’t know Royce was in the area. I just watched the first UFC and didn’t know he was in the area. Find out he was in the area and I went directly there, kind of wanted to go to the stores at the time. I train there for a little bit. I actually sold my car, packed for double bags and flew to Brazil. I had 10,000, I expected to stay for a month, month and half, whatever, take as many privates as I could and train I need.
Well, one US dollar was seven riyal at the time. I basically had 70,000. I stayed for a year and took lots and lots of privates, trained everyday, multiple times a day. I got good, but when I came home, it’s when I really got to the following year kind of everything I learned over that year, I’d learn so much, and it was kind of overloaded and took notes and videos and lots of stuff. Then I brought a friend back with me who came back just short time after I did and stayed and I trained with him in my garage in California for a year, year and a half. That was kind of the real growth spot for me. I went back to the Gracie Academy and trained.
I was a blue belt at the Gracie Academy. They taught at a very– you want me to jump in to the Gracie Academy thing already or not yet?
Sonny: Yes, sure.
Chris: There’s a lot to talk about.
Sonny: When you went to Brazil, you hadn’t gone to the Gracie Academy yet?
Chris: I had gone there for a short time, and I really wanted to fight. My goal was to fight. I already got the vibe from Rorian and at the time that Royce was the going to be the only fighter in the building. I liked Royce. Me and him vibed really well from the very beginning. I was one of the guys with balls in the class that will be like, “Who hit you the hardest? Who has the toughest fight?” I had all the questions that no one wanted to asked him. It was cool.
I was there for a short time, and then I went to Brazil. I trained at Alliance, which was master jiu-jitsu at the time, Jacare, Romero Cavalcanti. I train at his gym. Man, Leo Vieira was a brown belt, Comprido was a purple belt, Ricardo Vieira was a yellow belt. Fabio Gurgel was there still in Rio. I hadn’t gone to Sao Paulo yet, which is where Marcelo started with him. It was way before everything. I just had an awesome, awesome experience. Me and Leo Vieira were like everyday trained together. My buddy, Roger Brooke, who is the guy that I brought back with, and he was a brown belt. I just had a lot of really cool experiences down there.
Sonny: Going back from spending that you’re in the Brazil, heading back to the USA, then I guess going back to the Gracie Academy, what were the differences in how jiu-jitsu was being taught to the students at the time?
Chris: Oh, so super different. The Gracie’s taught– they would teach you one way for a certain amount of time. For example, they would teach you how to pass the guard by putting your hand on the bicep on one side and reaching your hand between the legs on the other, and then stacking them and passing. There was no such thing as a triangle yet because they hadn’t taught you that. You’re doing that for months, and then you move on to the intermediate class and you don’t want to pass that way anymore because the triangle, you did do it like this.
Basically just created six months of bad habits, now I have to break. I love teaching anything. I used to teach my brothers how to tie their shoes, how to ride a bike. I enjoyed teaching. As someone who enjoyed teaching, right off the bat I’m like, “This is wrong. You shouldn’t have to teach anything and then unteach it to teach it a different way.” That’s what they did. It was just some money-making long process thing. After a little bit, it got exposed. I left the Gracie Academy, to go back just a little bit. I’m training there. I’m going through the instructor program. Me and Marc Laimon lived in a hotel room together. We lived in the days in, and we took all the furniture out, mat at the living room and just trained there everyday, but we were also in the instructor program at the academy. We’re paying 600 bucks a month to be in this program where we have to be there basically 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM with a break in the middle, and clean the toilet, clean the showers, clean the mats, assisting all the classes.
It was good. It was good for me because I have been coming from a kind of a very undisciplined background. I was a jackass as a kid. It was good for me discipline-wise, for sure. The problem was we weren’t getting the reciprocation. They weren’t teaching us the way we should have been getting taught.
My goal from day one was to fight. I saw the UFC, I want to fight. I went to learn jiu-jitsu to fight. I end up getting a fight with Pat Miletich. I had a couple of small fights in between, but I end up getting booked to fight Pat Miletich in Battlecade Extreme Fighting. That was a John Freddy’s baby. That end up folding, and the fight didn’t happen, and then Monte Cox, his past manager, hit me up and said, “Hey, would you like to fight Pat in our event, extreme challenge.” I said, “Yes. Absolutely.” I get booked to fight with Pat, and Rorian calls me in his office one day and says, “Hey, I heard you have a fight coming up,” and I said, “Yes.” He goes, “Yes, you can’t fight and be out of here,” and I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Well, is our name on anything? Is our name on? Are they advertising you as a fighter out of here? ” I was like, “No.” He said, “Do they know you train here?” I said, “I’m pretty sure they do. I mean, I’m really the only person that fights or that wants to fight, and out of the gym, so I’m sure they know where I train, but that’s all.” He says, “I need to see a copy of the contract.” I was like, “Man, I don’t even have a contract.” Back then, it was a small organization. He may have sent me a paper one day to sign, but at that point, I hadn’t had it yet.
He’s concerned that they’re building me up as a Gracie Jiu Jitsu fighter. Well, long story short, I come back to him and I was like, “Listen, I don’t have this. They’re not building me as this, but I’m going to fight. That’s my goal in the first place. We can do challenge matches here in the gym for you, but I can’t make money fighting out there for myself,” and his answer was basically no. Me, Mark Layman, Lola Anderson, Ethan Milliyes, and I believe my friend, Richard Bressler also came, and then a guy, Abvi. Abvi is a Jewish guy, who’s got a shitload of money, and he was training at the Gracie Academy. He said, “Let’s go open a gym together,” and I was like,” Seriously?”
We literally left the Gracie Academy and drove to Beverly Hills, and he found a building and we opened Beverly Hills Jiu Jitsu. Where my motivation came is on the way out the door, I’m having a conversation with a guy named Sam Ranch, who was the manager of the Gracie Academy, and he said, “What are you going to do?” I said, “Well, at some point, I’m going to open up a gym.” He goes, ” [laughs] Chris Brennan Jiu Jitsu, fuck Me. Who’s going to come?” I said, “Well, we’ll find out.”
When I left there, man, that was all I ever needed. I needed somebody to tell me I couldn’t do it, so that I could. That was the end of it for me. I didn’t put a Gi on, from blue belt on. I only trained at Beverly Hills for a little while, and then I bounced around Hicks and had a guy down the Regal where my parents lived, named Mark Ecker and Dave Comma. They were both phenomenal, and I trained with them off and on. Then finally I started teaching out of my garage because at the time, I was a good blue belt, and I was teaching No-Gi, which is what I wanted to do, and I really studied the last few months that I was at the Gracie Academy. I really studied how they taught, and they taught really well. They taught their techniques, their details very well. They just didn’t teach you a lot.
It was hard, but I got a lot of it– how the attention to detail down really well. Rorian was a good teacher. He’s an attorney, so he speaks really well. [chuckles]. I ended up teaching out of my garage, and I grew to 30 or 40 students. I opened a gym, and I got my first fight in UFC. I fought in UFC– actually, sorry. I got my first fight in UFC, training out of my garage.
Chris: Then I fought in the UFC. I took the money that I got and came home and opened my gym. That gym lasted about eight or nine months, and it closed because I was way ahead of the time. I didn’t have Joe Rogan on TV talking about me [laughs] and my jiu-jistsu. I went back to my garage, built up to about 60 students, moved into another building, and from that point, it’s just been phenomenal since beginning of ’98.
Sonny: Yes, an amazing time around that time with so much going on. When you have started teaching the students coming through the door at your new place, obviously you said the attention to detail as a way of– at Gracie Academy, that they were very good at. Was there any other things that you could see the benefit in, or just things that they were doing that you really liked in terms of potentially student retention, business-wise, things like that, of how they were running things?
Chris: I mean, they obviously killed it business-wise. They had a ton of students at the time. Royce was fighting in UFC. Everyone wanted to be the skinny guy that was beating all the big guys in the UFC. That was basically their business card. That’s why they used Royce in the first place. As far as student retention goes, in my opinion, it worked for a little while, just having it– it was the most effective style, but then you have guys like Machado right down the road who are teaching and producing better guys.
Then Rorian brought in Kaiki, and Kaiki was an awesome teacher, and he was showing all the good stuff, and Rorian would literally come in and tell him he couldn’t show that, and he would get basically lectured for showing that. Shortly after the time, we all left. He left and started doing his own thing. They ended up– and I don’t know how the Gracies got talked into this because they had to have known how they were teaching, but they did Machado versus Gracie school tournament, and the Gracies got their asses kicked, the students of the Gracie Academy got their kicked.
There were a handful of good guys. You’re going to get good at jiu-jitsu if you train jiu-jitsu, but there were much higher percentage of high-level grappler at the Machado gym at that time. Then Kaiki did the same thing. When Kaiki left, a lot of the high level students left with him.
Sonny: Do you think it was then the drip fading of techniques that they were doing to potentially keep people interested or keep them always wanting to see what the next one might be, as opposed to-
Sonny: -I assume then the Machados, were just showing all the latest stuff, maybe, for lack of a better term, or just showing more things? Do you think that that’s what was causing the difference there?
Chris: Yes, I mean, at the time, I don’t know what there was, it was the latest or the whatever. There wasn’t a lot of evolution for a handful of years, to be honest, and there really didn’t need to be evolution to us because they’ve been doing it so long, there was already so much to show us. They were just doing it at such a slow pace that it really started to hinder people, and people wanted to compete. They didn’t even like you to compete outside the gym. You could only do in-house tournaments, and I can tell you why, [laughs] because they weren’t going to do very good.
Yes, I mean, teaching slow is one thing that are holding back techniques and giving it one way and then having to change it to another way and things like that, that’s not good, and I don’t think it’s good for business either. I don’t know that they’ve changed that ever. Hopefully they did. I opened my gym and I was– I didn’t have a coach. I didn’t watch instructionals. I knew I didn’t want to put the Gi on, and I knew no one else was training Jiu jitsu without the Gi full time. Teaching the full-time. I literally got my students, Jeremy Williams, Tracy [unintelligible 00:18:14], Eric Victor, and I trained these guys as good and as fast as I possibly could to create training partners for myself, and to get them– I showed everything at the highest level that I knew at the time, and this continued to evolve that way and evolve that way and evolve that way, and continued to get better and better.
My style, in my opinion, got to be so good because it was basically trial by error. Trial by fire. I would train it, I would fight, and what worked, I would keep and develop more, and what didn’t, I wouldn’t. I ended up with some losses because of it, but I also ended up with some really high quality– really good wins and with really cool submissions and in, I think in 21 wins, I got 19 submissions, and 18 of them in the first round.
Sonny: Pretty good.
Chris: Yes. It showed my style. That’s what I wanted to do. I found out what worked, what didn’t by actually trying it in the cage.
Sonny: Well, that’s it. There’s no substitute for getting that real experience and putting it all on the line. I imagine, though, there must have been a lot of push back when you said you were going to do No Gi and do a No Gi only school. The common one that we still hear today is that training in the Gi makes you know Gi better, but that’s– I mean, I say we still hear it today, but it’s pretty much been disproven now over time with the No Gi guys.
Sonny: What was that like, the scrutiny on you from the community for taking the Gi off?
Chris: I was blackballed for a long time. No one wanted to promote me. No one wanted to let me train there unless I train the Gi. I wasn’t doing jiu-jitsu, but I’m beating guys. I’m like, “Okay. I am sure you would like to take the credit for my win by submission using jiu-jitsu even though you don’t want to call it jiu-jitsu.” I was a blue belt for four years, but I was hitting helicopter armbars on Fabiano Iha in Marc Ruas’s garage as a blue belt, but no one was going to be the guy to promote me unless I put the Gi on. That’s where Franjinha came in and helped me out. He was somebody that I met in Brazil who ended up being back in the United States with Paragon. From that point on, he’s promoted me. He’s put all the stripes and stuff on my black belt and everything.
For the longest time, I couldn’t get anything promotion-wise. Literally maybe four years ago, three years ago, my kids are competing in a tournament, and they’re destroying other kids. This dude, Alex Martin, who has a gym here in Dallas says, “Man, they’re so technical. Who teaches them jiu-jitsu?” I looked at him and I was like, “What?” He goes, “Who teaches jiu-jitsu at your gym?” I said, “I do.” He goes, “You train Gi?” I said, “No.” He goes, “Yes, who trains the Gi?” I said, “They’ve never put a Gi on before.” He said, “How did they get so technical?” I said, “Because it’s a myth, bro. You don’t have to put the Gi on to get good at jiu-jitsu.” He was just like, “Huh.” I think he was just trying to pump me by saying it. I knew he knew I didn’t train Gi. I knew he knew I was the coach.
I never, never got the credit for anything. My third World’s, I’m in the finals of World’s a third year. I got a guy, Paulo Guillobel, who’s a fifth-degree from Saulo, and he’s in the finals. I had won the first two years, and he shows up to finals day and he says, “Hey, man, thanks for showing up.” I go, “What?” He goes, “Thanks for showing up.” I was like, “What do you mean?” He goes, “I wasn’t sure if you’d be here.” I was like, “Why wouldn’t I be here? I won the last two years in a row?” [chuckles] He goes, “You know. Yes. I don’t know. Thanks.” I beat him, and he’s standing there at the podium. He goes, “Man, I really underestimated you. I didn’t think you’re that good.” I said, “I didn’t underestimate you. I knew you were good. That’s why I was prepared.”
Three years in a row, won every match but one by submission. It doesn’t matter. 21 subs or 19 subs in MMA just never got the credit for– I didn’t blow it up. I didn’t try to promote it too crazy. I just wanted to promote my gym and train and build good guys. That’s what I did. I wasn’t butt hurt about it. I do speak up sometimes when they talk about Eddie being the first. He definitely wasn’t that. I tried to get a match with him, to be honest, right after his last match with Royler. It was declined, but I think I approached it too aggressively.
Eddie’s good. He’s very good. He’s very good at his stuff. Stylistically, I am a terrible matchup for him. The way I pass. His go-to position from the bottom, is my go-to position to kill people from the top. I just wanted it, so I message Ralek who was matchmaking for Metamoris. I said, “Hey. Set up a match with me and Eddie.” I said, “Promote it as the original no-Gi guy versus the guy that gets credit for being the original no-Gi guy.” I said, “If I don’t tap him in five minutes, he can have whatever it is you’re going to pay me. You don’t even have to tell me what that is, but whatever my purse is, he can have it if I don’t catch in five minutes.” He was so excited. He goes, “I’ll get back to you.” He comes back to me, he goes, “Yes. He’s not going to compete anymore, he said.” I was like, “Man, I probably shouldn’t have approached it like that.”
I don’t dislike Eddie. He’s a nice guy. He’s respectful to me. He talks, at least as far as I know, highly of me. He commentated on a lot of my fights and talked highly of me. He’s got my name on his board in his gym that has submissions and positions and stuff. He’s got something on there called the Brennan mount, which is a tricky little mount that I do. It’s nothing against him. Also, now in the position we’re in, he has way more to lose than I do. If we compete, he beats me, everyone’s like, “Okay. Cool. Whatever.” If I beat him, what I’ve been saying is true. I get it. It is what it is.
Sonny: He obviously went through a lot of the same criticisms that you went through for doing no-Gi. Particularly the idea of the myth that you have to train in the Gi if you want to get technical. I was wondering if maybe you could expand on that just a little bit, of why you think that is a myth, and how, if someone’s thinking it still is the case, how they can look at it technically to dispel it.
Chris: I think it started, obviously with, jiu-jitsu in Brazil was all Gi. Then there was the Luta Livre guys. They were doing some sort of jiu-jitsu, submission wrestling without the Gi on, but they were more strikers with some submissions. They had such a rivalry going that jiu-jitsu was the winner. Every time they fought those guys, they took the Gi off to fight them.
In my opinion, whatever you’re training in, you’re creating habits. Every single time you do something, you’re creating habits. If 50% even, and the Gi guys train more than 50% Gi, but even at 50% of the time you’re holding my sleeve and my lapel and my pants, and then you go to train with me without it, that stuff’s not there anymore. There you are, basically like the passing the guard with the hand on the bicep thing. You now have to switch over to something else.
Right away, in my opinion, when I first took it off was, how can you get to the 10,000-hour rule if you’re doing the three different ways, two different ways. I wanted all no-Gi. I wanted to drill, and drill, and drill, and drill, and drill one way. If I could be tight, if I can find handles and be tight without the Gi on, how much tighter would it be if I put the Gi on? Then it would be tighter. If you train in the Gi all the time, and you have the handles, and you have the sleeves, and you have all those things that made it tight, and now we took the Gi off, you just lost everything that was creating your friction and your tightness. That’s why when you saw Eddie’s guys trying to fight in the UFC and stuff, they were trying to wear leggings and knee sleeves and all of that to create that tension.
My goal, always, was to create all that tension, and that weight, and that friction without that. With my grips, and with my handles, and with my positioning. That’s what I created and developed over that time. I think because that was what they came up doing forever, that was their moneymaker when they came here. The stripes cost now, the belt cost now. The Gi is their money-maker. You take off the Gi, it’s a different ballgame.
Renzo was at my grand opening. I’ve been friends with Renzo for probably, I guess almost 20 years, 20-something years. He says something about my Gi classes. I said, “I don’t have Gi classes.” He goes, “What?” I was like, “Yes, I don’t have Gi classes.” He goes, “None? Zero?” I said, “No.” He goes, “Man, I do $9,000 a month in laundry for Gi’s.” I said, “Look, I get it. I get that there’s another market for money there, but my market from day one has been no-Gi. I haven’t put a Gi on since blue belt. For a couple of pictures, I have, but that’s all. I get that I could make more money, but for me, it’s not about that. It’s about the principle of what I’m teaching, why I’m teaching it.”
If you want to compete in a Gi, for sure you need to train in a Gi. We’re not competing in a Gi. We’re competing in no-Gi, we’re fighting. We’re doing jiu-jitsu now at a level where now, had I spent my whole career competing in no-Gi jiu-jitsu matches only and not fighting, I’d probably been a huge name in jiu-jitsu, but I spent my time fighting instead because that’s what I really wanted to do.
I retired in 2013, and everyone’s like, “You’re going to start doing jiu-jitsu now?” I was like, “I don’t know. We’ll see.” My kids were competing at a tournament in Houston, and I was like, “Yes, I will do it with you.” I went down there and I did it. Then two months later, I did another one. Everyone’s like, ” You should do the Worlds in November,” or December, whatever it was. I was like, “Oh, my God. Well, okay.” I went down there.
I hadn’t trained, until that year, with a lot of high-level guys, but I traveled around Texas at training and some gyms before I started competing. I was handling everyone with my go-to stuff that I knew in my gym. I was having a harder time catching my blue belts with it than black belts at other places because they knew it. They knew what I was doing, but I got to the new people that I hadn’t trained with before. Not just catch it, catch it, catch them, catch them, and then I went to the new breed tournament, I won.
I went to the Austin open and I won, tapped everyone. Went to World’s my first-year, tap, tap, tap through to the finals and won, I was like, “Whoa.” The next year I went to Pan Ams in New York. Tapped everybody there and won. Came back a week later, went to California, did Worlds again, won all the way through there again with submissions. The following year, Pan Ams again, then I went back to California again and tapped everybody except for the last guy, who was very good, but beat him, and saw just how can you critique it and it’s not like I’m doing fancy rubber guard stuff. It’s not like I was tapping everyone with leg locks. I was beating them straight up with guard passing conversion, guillotines.
That was my bread and butter, and it kind of shot a few people up. The highlight was my first year at Worlds. In the finals, I won with the flying armbar, and like a jumping flying armbar. As soon as I stood up, Eddie, and like seven other dudes that were pretty good name guys, were literally standing right there watching. That could have been more satisfying. I didn’t ever have to repeat again after that.
Sonny: Got to be happy with that. Got to be happy.
Chris: Yes, I was happy. I was happy.
Sonny: Then one thing you did mention, there was the power of creating habits, and how intentionally or unintentionally you end up creating habits no matter what you’re doing. I guess then you talked about creating your own training partners to train with out of your students, and building up their habits. Just want to just ask them, how do you or how were you approaching that to train up those training partners, and then maybe has that changed over time?
Chris: The first year, I was doing it because, number one, no one was letting me come to their gym, because of my rebel to the No-Gi, or to the Gi. I had a handful of guys who were my very good friends, and I just started teaching them. My gym was small at the time, my garage was small at the time, and just started giving the good stuff, man, and rolling nonstop. I have a video of me and Jeremy Williams, who was my first black belt, and there’s a clock in the background. It starts at midnight, and at 2:30 AM, we end rolling. We roll for two and a half hours, starting at midnight at my gym. We’re just there rolling.
We just trained so much, and to start out, I was way better than them, and it just helped them elevate a lot faster. It pushed me a little bit, but that’s also where, in my career, it hindered me. I didn’t go away to other camps with higher level guys to train with. I was always the best guy in my camp. Unless, like, I had Pete Spratt as a striking coach, and that was awesome, but as far as jiu-jitsu and everything went, I was the best guy. It would take two or three times, four times through a round-robin of all my guys before I started getting beat, before I started getting dead. It wasn’t as effective as it should have been, but at the same time, I couldn’t afford to go away. I had a gym, had a wife of kids. It just didn’t work out that way, but that is also why I bring people in for Lucas, and I take him to train with people, so he’s not that that best guy in the room.
It’s not comfortable. We didn’t do it for a while, so when I first started doing it, he didn’t want to do it. I was like, “Why?” “Well, I can tell you why. Being the best guy in here, you’re going to come across a guy who starts to put it on you in the cage, and you’ll never been there before, and that’s not good.” I’ve got him trained with some really good guys, and I can tell you this, he’s on the highest level right now, with the best guys.
Sonny: Yes, and he’s doing quite well in Bella tour at the moment. That’s something I want to ask you about now, is how, especially with creating habits, and especially with jiu-jitsu habits translating over into MMA. It seems like a lot has changed in the last 10, 15 years, at least, of just with even submissions from people in the guard. Just not happening very often.
Chris: Of course.
Sonny: How do you then look at training kiu-jitsu for MMA in this day and age?
Chris: Fortunately, I didn’t wrestle. I started wrestling throughout my career when I had a couple of losses to Pat Miletich by decision because y’all wrestle me. My kids started wrestling in the beginning of high school. They both have very good wrestling. That is, in my opinion, the key to MMA, whether you want to be a striker or a jiu-jitsu guy, you need to know how to wrestle, and they both can wrestle.
If they’re put on their back, like if Lucas gets put on his back, he’ll get, depending on, let’s say, it happens in a fight, we got a plan, but let’s say it happens in a fight and there is two or three minutes left in the round, he’s got 30 seconds to try and submit him that he can’t, it’s time to get up, time to get on top.
He’s super dangerous on his back, he gives me so many problems from his back, but I know it’s MMA, I know it’s very difficult. Sleeping or getting up, get in the back, whatever, is important. If there’s 30 seconds left, let’s get up. If there’s a minute left, let’s get up. If there’s two, two and a half minutes left, I’m going to give him 30 seconds to try and set up a submission. Otherwise, after that, it’s time to get up, because in MMA, if you’re on your back, you’re losing, unless you’re throwing up multiple close subs and being very active, and he’s not, then he could probably win a little bit, but otherwise you’re losing in the judges eyes being on bottom. As good as his jiu-jitsu is on his back, the goal will be to get up if he ends up there.
There’s lots of ways to get up. However, he would get up to get back on top, not really to get back to the feet, unless he just end up on the ground with a monster that was a surprise to us or something. If you watch MMA now, MMA is the same fight. Every single fight is the same fight, and it’s two guys striking really well. Some guys strike really well, some guys don’t. Somebody gets a takedown, the other guy gets back up. No one’s really working to submit anybody. That’s why you’re not seeing a lot of submissions. At the same time, there’s only a handful of high-level jiu-jitsu guys in MMA, in my opinion.
If you watch the jiu-jitsu in general, I’m not pointing anybody out because they’re Jacaré, Demian Maia, Joe Lauzon, there’s a handful of– Jim Miller. There’s some really good guys. Cerrone is even underestimated on the ground. For the most part, their jiu-jitsu sucks in MMA. People don’t train it. I think you have to have a specialty, and then get everything else as good as you can. If wrestling is your specialty, or jiu-jitsu is your specialty, that is going to shine because as a striker, as a grappler, for example, you got three or four feet to worry about, close that distance. Then if you’re light-years ahead of him on the ground, that’s it for him. You see guys that cannot get up, and they cannot get up when they have a good guy on top of them. They have everything to worry about after that.
My goal with him is to change the game back a little bit to how it was, but at a much, much higher level. I can’t even explain to you his jiu-jtsu in MMA. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen any of his fights, but his jiu-jitsu and wrestling combo in MMA is now making his striking better, because people worry about the take-downs, so he’s landing good strikes, then get to take-down. He is just a grinder, tons of strikes, tons of elbows, nonstop passing, knee-riding passing, hovering, and it’s just really hard to put him in a bad position. We train it like that. We train it.
If he’s going to lose a position, it’s going to be to the next best position, is going to be right back to the other one again. Putting him on his back is going to be really, really difficult. Keeping him there would be even more difficult. I want to continue to see him use a lot of jiu-jitsu, and maybe get some more people that ended up falling back that route. Otherwise, MMA is for sure its own style. It is guys training Jiu-Jitsu, kickboxing, and boxing, and wrestling all at the same time and mastering nothing. They’re good everywhere but they’re not great anywhere. If someone is great somewhere and you’re able to take them there, you’re going to beat them there.
He is a good, good wrestle. He’s great at Jiu-Jitsu. His striking is– I don’t like to keep talking about striking because I want to surprise somebody. He is going to get a knockout. I just don’t want them to fall in love with the knockout when he gets it. When he gets a knockout, we’re going to go backstage and shoot doubles.
Sonny: I hear you.
Chris: Just because, man, you know guys like Jorge Gurgel, even Demian Maia for a while. Those guys fall in love with their striking, and wrestlers fall in love with their strikings. They have power, but that’s where you end up getting losses. The goal with him, man, is to run to 10 and 0, and then start challenging for the top five guys, for the belt in Bellator and get there without losses.
That’s obviously the goal for everybody, but this is a realistic goal about how we’re approaching it, not rushing it and just fighting smart. For a while, you’re listening to the commentators say, “Oh, I want to see him do this. I want to see that.” We don’t give a shit what you want to see. We want to win the fight.
Chris: The goal is to win. He’s very mentally strong and stays very patient. He’s dedicated like literally nobody I’ve ever seen. He has a whiteboard in his bedroom the size of a sixty-five-inch TV that looks like the algorithm and goodwill hunting, but it’s the breakdown of his fight camp. He does it every camp. He was a really smart kid before he started fighting. He wasn’t a fighter, never been in a fight before, just taking a different approach to it. It’s difficult to beat. It’s going to be difficult to beat.
Sonny: When you started teaching him Jiu-Jitsu, had you already started wrestling, or where did that fall in line? Did you always teach Jiu-Jitsu in the mind of it, it’s going to be MMA applicable?
Chris: Yes. I always thought Jiu-Jitsu was fairly MMA. My passing is perfect for it. Anytime on the bottom, there’s not a lot of reaching under the leg. There’s not a lot of stuff that leave you open to getting hit. There was always that MMA in the background, but legit Jiu-Jitsu is not what you would now call MMA Jiu-Jitsu, for sure. It was definitely more you could compete with it or fight with it. That’s how mine was, my whole career, too.
My kids, Luke, for example, was just a quiet nerdy book, animals, art kid. Tyler was racing motocross. He was real athletic. They were about to go into 7th and 8th grade. I said, “I’m going to have you guys start training.” I had just opened my gym in Texas. I said, “I’m going to have you guys start training just for self-defense reasons”, because both of them are super sweet kids, and had anybody ever picked on them, they would have never fought back, for sure would not have fought back.
I started training them. Maybe a month, two months in, there was a tournament coming up, a NAGA tournament. Tyler wanted to do it, and Lucas was not interested at all. We went and Tyler won. On the way home, Luke said, “When’s the next tournament?” I said, “I’m not sure. Why? “Because I’ll do it.” I was like, “Okay, cool”.
He had what would be probably a fifty-fifty first year of winning and losing. He was bigger than Tyler. He was competing against good kids. He’s competing against kids that are training way longer. Tyler took to it. Tyler has nine Jiu-Jitsu losses out of 290 something wins. He’s redeemed, I think, all but two of them because we never saw those guys again. He was just a savage.
Luke had a good amount in his first year. Then, by the second year, he just worked so hard and was an athletic and worked himself into being athletic. By the third year, he won the kids’ world championships in California, and so did Tyler. He just got better and better and better. Luke didn’t start wrestling until his freshman year in high school. Tyler, as an eighth-grader, got to show up to the high school practices sometimes and train with them, but he didn’t get to actually wrestle till his freshman year.
That was it. They didn’t start till freshman year in high school. Their work ethic was second to none. The wrestling coach also– we walked in to the orientation and the rest of the coach made eye contact with me and saw them and he goes, “Man, I heard you guys moved to Frisco, but we weren’t sure what school you were going to go to. We’re so excited.” Again, they are the hardest-working guys in the room. Now, Tyler’s wrestling Division I. His coach tells me he’s the hardest working guy in the room. It’s just the work ethic we created while training Jiu-Jitsu and started them in wrestling.
Sonny: Sounds like a pretty good combination and a good way of looking at things you’ve got there. I guess when you are training them and training guys at your own gym, I wonder what the role then of creativity is in your teaching process and training process because I’m thinking, for a guy to go out on their own, go against the grain, you probably would be more open to new ideas and experimentation, and trying things like that in the training room. Would that be a fair assumption to make?
Chris: Yes. I’m open to anything, but I also have a passing system, a guillotine system. I love leg locks as well. I learned my leg locks from the Sambo guy. One of my students took a handful of privates from Gordon and from, I believe, Gary when they were here and showed me something. When he showed me that, I was like, “Oh, awesome.” At that night, I hit it three times on people. From that point on, I use it, Lucas uses it, and stuff like that.
I’m definitely open to learning anything and love to learn, but I’ve mastered what I do. I’m a one side– I don’t even drill both sides. I drill one side and I’m 99% on every side. I’m on the left-arm Kimura and armbar guy. I’m a right leg outside hook, left leg inside hook. I pass to both sides. I guillotine on my left arm. Everything’s one side, and the other side is probably fucking 40%.
The side I’m good, I’ve put in so many hours and so many drills, doing it live as well so many times that, like I said, when I went to Worlds, I tapped everybody in all three tournaments with the same submission, give or take one guillotine, but all from the same position, my home base position. It’s just something that I’ve drilled so much that’s real hard to stop. If I get to it, then typically, I get to it.
Both of my kids were even more open than me. I don’t know if it’s because Luke’s super artsy, but he’s like mind completely open and does some crazy stuff. Watching him and Tyler roll together hurts my brain because the different positions and stuff that they get into and stuff that they try, and are able to recover from if it doesn’t work. It’s pretty awesome. Everyone’s pretty open.
Sonny: Yes. I guess even just being able to learn those things from other people and students and having them work on things as well, go back to what you’re describing at the Gracie Academy, is possibly the exact opposite, right?
Chris: Yes, for sure, the opposite. If I try to walk in the gym and say, “Hey, boys, I saw this. Check this. Let me show you.” Probably laugh at me.
Sonny: Also, you mentioned the benefit of competition in being able to go out and test yourself against other people, and using that as the testing ground to get new ideas and bring new things back in to change habits. There’s a particular competition that I have to ask you about, which is the 2001 Westside Submission Grappling Tournament when Genki Sudo came to town. There’s a video online that I must have watched about 1,000 or more times of Genki Sudo-
Chris: The highlight?
Sonny: Yes, the highlight video. I’ve got the whole thing. I’d love to see it. It has to be one of my favorites of all time. It’s one of those ones that I’d show people, “Hey, this is this is how cool this can be.” You were the referee in that tournament. In the video, obviously, it was at your place. Can you describe what’s the back story there? What happened? What went down that day?
Chris: I used to hold a tournament in my gym, Westside Submission Tournament. I’ll hold it every few months. We give away either free pizza and drinks or I’d get like a ten-foot subway sandwich and cut it and give away free food to the competitors. We had Roy Nelson, we had Herb Dean, we had Dean Lister. A lot of really good guys, Romie Aram, Javi Vazquez. Really good guys, come in and do the tournament. Unfortunately, a lot of times they weren’t there at the same time. They weren’t there at the same tournament.
That day Genki walked in and I didn’t know who he was at the time. He had a couple of guys with him, I think some sort of publicity guy or journalist guy or something, I don’t know. I don’t even know why he was in the US and why he’s at my gym or how he found out about it, I don’t know. But he doesn’t walk in my gym in Lake Forest, California. I was like, “Oh, this guy looks like he’s going to be good in flying triangle.” He went with my guy first and he flying triangles the next three guys, and he flying triangle the next three guys in a row.
I was like, “Shit, man, if we just saw those first three, you probably wouldn’t get flying triangle.” You might’ve got beat by something else, but probably wouldn’t get flight triangle. He hits those. Then he’s dancing around one kid’s guard and hops over his guard to a mounted triangle, and then hits that rolling cap pressure. As you can see me in the video, I was just laughing when he hits that cap. I was like, “Oh my God, that was crazy”.
He had seven matches and just ran through seven guys. Then he’s tired, sits down, Javi Vazquez walks in the door and he was going to do the absolute. I was like, “Oh, man.” I offered 500 bucks to the winner of both of them, back then that was a lot of money in the Jiu-Jitsu bet. I said to Genki and he goes, “No”, he was tired. He was exhausted. He didn’t want to go and Javi was fresh. I got it and I was like, “Okay, hopefully, you come back another time”.
That match didn’t get to happen. It would have been pretty exciting because Javi was very good, and would have definitely been the highest level guy that day that Genki would have gone against. How cool just to have that video of him showing up a super nice guy, smoked everybody, and then just grabbed his piece of pizza and left [laughs]. That was mind-blowing.
Sonny: That is incredible. It matches what I picked up, what I thought it was going on, which is, “Yes, why is Genki Sudo here?”
Chris: Yes, I was thinking the same that you are.
Sonny: “What is going on?” Because he’s such a creative grappler himself. That it’s just incredible to watch. It just didn’t seem like it was like “What is going on?” [laughs] Did you ever see him again after that day in America?
Chris: I saw him in Japan but I never saw him in America again. I don’t know what he was doing there.
Chris: The cool thing about it was not only is he creative, he wasn’t afraid to go for it. I’m creative but all my stuff has like a 99% exit strategy where I’m right back to a good spot. He would just throw with things. It was amazing to watch that day. Pretty cool.
Sonny: I definitely jumped on a few training partners going for that flying triangle over the seated guard a few times after watching that video, and failing spectacularly. That’s incredible. I guess, also with speaking over in Japan, taking your note brand of Nogi Jiu-Jitsu going over into pride shooter and things over there, was there any considerations for your Jiu-Jitsu, like any of those criticisms of Nogi? Did you experience that over there or was it just all forgotten and left behind in America?
Chris: No criticism at all over there. They’re all very cool. My first– well, I’d say go to Pride first. I don’t know if I went to Pride– was it Rampage first when he fought Sakuraba or if I fought Gomi first? I forget. But my first trip for me fighting was Gomi. I hit some really nice submissions, really nice takedowns, really nice. He hadn’t been taken down in a fight yet, and I took him out four times, had a couple of Kimuras locked up. That was early on in my Kimura game attack system, whatever.
I had him in so many things. They loved it. It was a very high pace fight, close, close decision. Then my first fight in Pride, I hit two subs on the same guy. I armbar him.
Sonny: Yes, I wanted to talk to you about that.
Chris: The second half of that fight was so much more exciting. I was mad at the time but glad it happened now because it actually worked. I got to work my home base position, which I just started then, which is why I kill everyone from now. But that was a whole dramatic scene, but I got to show some fancy Jiu-Jitsu there as well. That was cool. Rolling Kimura from the single leg.
Sonny: That was Eiji- I’ll probably butcher the pronunciation.
Chris: Eiji Mitsuoka.
Sonny: You got it. Tapped him with an armbar, and then it was confusion where the ref hops up, says he didn’t tap. You guys, after the break, you guys have to go again. What was going on there? Is it one of those Japanese refereeing stories that you might hear?
Chris: It started long before that [laughs]. Let me go back to the short time before that. I was supposed to fight Joe Stevenson in the UFC right after he won The Ultimate Fighter. They asked me to fight him and I had wanted to fight him but they’d come to me offering me 3,000 to show, 3000 to win. I just, a couple of years earlier, beat him handily in less than two minutes. I was like, “Man, I’m not fighting three to three. It’s not worth it to me”.
Then I asked what he was getting, he was getting 10 to 10. I was like, “No. No way.” Like, “Oh, he’s the winner of the show. He wants you to be his first fight in UFC.” I’m like, “I’m not doing it for three to three.” At the time, I needed money but I didn’t need it like that, so it wasn’t a big deal to me. They came back and offered me four and four. Joe started talking trash, even the first time, and that’s what got him put to sleep the first time.
I ended up saying yes, and they said, “Okay, we’ll set a contract.” Well, 30 days later– actually, I didn’t hear from them. 30 days later, the Gracie hit me up to fight in the Gracie Fighting Championships and they were offered me 20,000 flat. It was 36 days before the UFC. I said, “Yes, I’ll take that fight.” I take that fight. Joe Silva calls me and says, “Hey, what are you doing? You can’t take that fight.” I said, “Why?” He goes, “Your contract-” “But what are you saying? I never got a contract.” He said, “You never got our contract back” I was like, “Because you never sent me a contract”.
We got a big argument. Long story short, they tell me, I can’t take the other fight. I said, “You’re going to have to pay me more than four and four if you don’t want me to take that fight. They’re paying me 20 grand. I need 20 grand.” I said no. The next day, Dana calls me and he says, “Chris, drop out of that fight. You can’t take that fight.” I said, “Listen, Dana, you guys are paying me shit money, and they’re paying me good money. I need to fight.” “We’ll put you on the poster, blah, blah, blah.” I said, “It doesn’t matter, whatever”.
Then he says, “Listen, drop out that fight or you’re banned from the UFC for life.” I was like, “What?” At that point, they had given me tickets to the UFC a couple of times when I was in town in Vegas and that weekend was my anniversary. My wife and I are in Vegas and I said, “I’ll tell you what. Give me tickets to the fights this weekend and I’ll do it.” He goes, I can’t really-” and I hung up the phone. That was the end of it. I leave to go big bear to get ready for the fight that Gracies had offered me. The next day on the underground forum, Dana White posts, “Chris Brennan is a fucking pussy.” By the time I got to it, it was 20 pages long but everyone was bashing Dana. “You’re the CEO of this company. How are you going to talk like this about one of your guys? Blah, blah, blah”.
For the most part, it was ripping him. A couple of people call me a pussy probably but whatever. I’m dying and I’m like, “Oh my God.” I get through my fight. I win. I go to the UFC, another UFC to watch. As I’m there, I’m walking through the pool area at Mandalay and I hear Chris, Chris Brennan. I looked back and it’s [unintelligible 00:59:49] from pride. Well, I ended up verbally agreeing to my pride contract after UFC. Couldn’t have gotten any better than that. I tell them yes, that I would like to fight for them, and they said, “Okay, we’ll get back to you”.
I go home and that is on Sunday. On Monday, they call me and said, “Hey, do you want to fight in our next show?” I said, “Yes, when is it?” “Like Monday?” Well, it was on a Monday, I don’t know why. I was like, “What?” I had two days of training and then I’m on a flight to Japan and not in shape, I wasn’t ready to fight and I show up in the weight class, was 183 pounds. That’s what the middleweight was at that time. There was no 161 weight class yet at pride. I show up, I make my cut, I get to 183. I weigh in and they come to me and they said, “Hey, he’s a little bit smaller. I’m going to need you to lose a couple more pounds.” I was like, “Oh, okay, what do you need?””It’s 181”.
I went and I cut two more pounds. I make 181, and they told me again that, “We need you to make 180 pounds, you lose another pound.” I’m like, “Man”, I wasn’t in shape. It’s already hard cutting this, so I go and I cut that pound. I come back again and the third time they’re like, “Hey, he’s 76, I need you to make 79, make 79, they’ll take the fight.” I’m like, “What do you mean they’ll take the fight? You guys offered me this fight because of him.” My brother says, “Listen, if you want him to lose that next pound, we’re going to need some compensation from you”, and they said, “Oh, okay. Do you want crystal with the fight?” Me and my brother looked at each other like, “What?” I was like, “No, no, we’ll take care of that”, and that’s how I ended up signing a four-five deal with Brian.
I walked away and I’m elbowing him like, “Dude, I knew that shit happened over here.” I was tripping out so hard and now I’m like, “Man, they’re just going to screw me and the others. I really got to get in and get out.” I got to get this done, can’t let it go to the judges. I go in and I armbar this guy, he screams, taps, and the ref grabs me all at the same time. I let go, I stand and walk away, I turn around and they’re saying they didn’t tap like, “Oh my God, this is it. This is how they’re going to do it.” I’m not in shape. I had fought for a minute and a half and I was already tired, and then fortunately they took like a five or six-minute break while all the referees were discussing it and they came back, “You’re going to fight again.” I was like, “Oh my God”.
Then I thought, for sure, I wasn’t going to win at that point, no matter what I do, they’re not going to let this happen, so I ended up breaking a shoulder on the same side. I hit him with the whole takedown single leg to the Kimura, to the roll. All of it was just so perfect and it was flashy, it was fancy. Didn’t even mean to be, but it just was and I hit him with a gray Kimura at the end, it literally towards to your shoulder and I lead into him and I said, “You should have admitted your tap the first time”, and I walked off.
Then I was irritated and I want to talk trash when they interviewed me but I calmed down by that time I was like, “No, it was my fault. I shouldn’t have let go, I should have waited for the referee.” Even though I did wait, the referee did break us up, and I just took the blame for it and moved on because I knew I wanted to come back and fight some more and whatnot. That was a crazy, crazy, crazy night man.
Sonny: Yes, that whole thing it’s like a scene from a movie or something, the backstage.
Chris: I wish I had that all on video. It was fantastic.
Sonny: It’s amazing. I guess just focusing then on your use of Kimuras, or at least the instructional, the king of the Kimuras. It’s obviously like it really got a bump in people’s minds, now people call it the Kimura trap and things like that. Danaher is obviously very heavy on the Kimuras. What’s your thoughts on that? Always you must be like, “I knew so all along”, right?
Chris: For sure. It’s a grip that you can submit people with. You can turn in armbars, you can take the back, you can sweep, you can do so much with it, and in a Nogi situation, it’s a good grip, fifth-round sweaty. It’s going to be your best go-to to control an arm. I have a grip when I grab it, it puts a bicep slicer feeling on your arm the entire time and I get guys tapping early to stuff that I’m doing just because the grip stays on so tight.
It’s always been all the way back in the end of 1999 to 2000. I was doing it all the time. 2001, I hit it. I don’t know what year I fought Gomi in, but at that point in time, I was hitting on everybody in training. I had on Domi, I didn’t finish it, but literally, my point of my career, was the development of my style, my game, and I got better training on the best guys and then trying in the gym and getting better and trial and error, what did I do wrong in the fight? I made a huge mistake in the Gomi fight that I pet [unintelligible 01:05:35] when I’m teaching now on this one sweep, but it ended up with him inside control on me on this role because my knee wasn’t on his belly. It was the tiniest thing that made a giant difference in the position, right at that point.
It’s something that I’ve spent. If a guy spent a couple of years getting good at something, it’s something I spent 15 years getting good at. I spent 15 years or more working the guillotine into the Kimura because they both play right next to each other. If I miss one, the other’s there and then adding Lakes. In the last five years, I’ve just been a passing, passing, passing, passing. I love my knees slides and low passes, and some of the stuff that Gordon’s doing now. But even the stuff that he does, if Gordon was under Gordon and he tried to pass that way, he’d leg lock him. My leg stable and everything, the way I do it is always been legs safe even before legs became a thing. I didn’t have to make a lot of adjustments in the last four or five years when legs became really big to my passing system to knock it leg locked.
Sonny: Then you mentioned in the Kimura as the grip, do you think that that was your early adoption of Nogi that led you down that path? Or was it already [crosstalk].
Chris: Yes, for sure.
Chris: What happened was, one day at the Gracie Academy, and I knew I already didn’t want to train GI, I didn’t want to compete GI, but one day in the Gracie Academy, there were a couple of guys that were in the GI that were better than me, a couple of purple belts and a couple of brown belts. At the time I was blue and had, I don’t know, two stripes. They could beat me in the GI, I could give everyone a hard match, but they could beat me in the GI.One day a hoist came down, said, “Everybody take off your GI off. We’re going to go open hand strikes and go live.” I just beat them out of everyone, but not just striking them, my Jiu-Jitsu was just naturally really good without the GI on. I had my sweeps, I had my take-downs, my guard passing, like all of it just naturally came to me that day. I went and sat back down, I was like, “Holy crap.” I’ve been doing Nogi on the side, me and Layman in the hotel room. We had guys like Lucio DeAngelis, Little H who’s in fights in Bellator and wasn’t LFA. A lot of really good guys from Brazil, Mauricio Zingano was like one of my best friends and he would train in our hotel room with us all the time, and we always train Nogi. When it came time to do with those guys, they had barely done any and that’s what I had been spending my time trying to do the most, and it just really showed. At that point I was like, “Yes, that’s the key for me. I’m done with this shit”.
Sonny: Then I guess just to wrap things up with hindsight now, looking back at that moment deciding to go Nogi, probably being outcast from the mainstream Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu scene at the time and then now Gordon Ryan just the other day saying on Joe Rogan Show that he thinks Nogi is obviously going to be the only thing that people are going to be watching people competing in the future. What advice would you give yourself or what lessons would you take back up from that whole journey?
Chris: Well, here’s an example of how serious I was about it. The Roger Brooklyn guy, my friend, who I brought from Brazil, he was a brown belt indeed, and he was going to open my gym with me. He was going to partner with me. He was going to be the Jiu-Jitsu coach to start with. As soon as I told him it was going to be Nogi, he didn’t want any part of it. Then I was like, “Man, this is what I want to do, come on.” I’m putting the money up, I’m doing all this and he just did not want to do it. For himself at the time, he was probably right, because he would have never gotten his black bells, not for a long time anyway. He would’ve got black bell too.
I get why he didn’t do it, he had trained all the way through brown belt as it was and whatever, but I was so early on that I just knew. Next-generation, it’s perfect now because of my kids, they’re obviously the next generation but my goal at the time was next generation was going to be the next generation of Jiu-Jitsu. They said that when I was fighting in the UFC that night against Pat Miletich . “He’s going to open up a school called The Next Generation. He wants to create the next generation of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu guys”, and that’s what I wanted to do. I want to have the next generation of Jiu-Jitsu and that be Nogi. That was why I named my gym what I named it, It just so happens to be now that my kids actually are the next generation. It works again but originally I was going Nogi no matter what. As a blue belt, when he said he wasn’t going to be involved with like, “well, I guess I’m open to the gym as a blue belt”.
Sonny: I guess it was just that, that’s firm belief within yourself looking at what you wanted to do in fighting and just staying true to that path. Even as you mentioned earlier, Renzo saying he was doing $9,000 worth of gay laundry a month. Am I correct that you even went the route of starting the first Nogi brand with Nogi?
Chris: Yes. A buddy of mine, Jeremy, we started that clothing company, Dan, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Hitman Fight Gear, but Hitman Fight Gear used to sponsor me and I told him I wanted to start a clothing company but I wanted to be more sporty, not as black and skulls and everything as Hitman was. He had just gotten 300 pairs of blue shorts that were really cool but they were blue and it didn’t buy with his thing. I spent I think 1,200 bucks, bought those shorts and then just started Nogi. Then I got my buddy Jeremy who’s an artist and he started creating logos and we just grew it from there. Then later sold it to Budo videos, down the line.
Sonny: Incredible. So many really were starting that next-generation even ahead of the curve really in a lot of what you were doing in grappling and now passing that onto your kids.
Chris: Like I said earlier, I didn’t come– when I first started, I wasn’t coming from a really good place. I had nothing. I didn’t have money. I’m glad that I had to do it the way I did it and grind and work hard and fail and work hard and fail, because it helped develop me as a person. I dropped out of high school as a freshman in high school and didn’t go back. It really helped me develop into a person and into a businessman and then into a hard worker. The downs for me was always– I was never deterred. I never thought I wasn’t going to make it. No matter how many times it didn’t work, I never thought I wasn’t going to make it. Just help me stay determined to get to where I’m at.
Now my kids have it almost too easy. For sure, they’ve never done without, and that was a hard thing for me when Luke decided he was going to fight. It was like, okay, we’re going to turn everything up in training and see how that goes because he had never been in a fight before. He was a sweet kid, never been an argument before. He just is so good at the sport. His second opponent was a shit talker. He was a mad dog. Wouldn’t shake his hand at the press conference and was just being a dick. He had never dealt with that even in real life. I’m like, “Hey, just laugh”.
“Whatever he does, don’t even worry about it. Because tomorrow, he still has to fight you. Even though he’s acting stupid, he still has to fight you. It’s not going to help him fight you any better.” Now, he’s old. He’s 20, almost 21. He’s different. It’s definitely got a mean, mean way about him now in the cage, but I was curious. At the beginning, I was like, “Okay, you want to fight? You’re fighting from a very, very different place than I was fighting from, for sure”.
Sonny: I think I know what you’re talking about. Where I’m from we have a saying that someone’s got to get a bit of mongrel in them and they got to switch on, turn that in to have that little bit of fight in them.
Chris: It tells.
Sonny: Well, Chris, it has been an amazing interview for me to have the opportunity to have this conversation. Such a rich history that you’ve got in the sport that it has been a pleasure to chat with you about. I’m wondering if people want to get in touch with you, want to get in contact, anything like that. Why they should go about it or anything you’d like to plug?
Chris: I’m on Facebook. My Facebook is full but they can follow me or go to my athlete page and follow it. Instagram. It’s @Chris_Brennan_3x_champ. I’m super accessible. Someone wants to message me, question me, whatever, feel free to hit me up at any time. Otherwise, Next-Generation MMA is my gym. I’ve got two here in Texas. One in Colorado, one in California, two in Ireland, two in England, two in Norway, and one in Australia.
Sonny: That’s I guess from humble beginnings going worldwide.
Chris: Yes, sir. I’ve been lucky and fortunate.
Sonny: I’m fortunate to have had this chance to speak to you today, Chris. Really, really appreciate it.
Chris: Thank you very much. I appreciate the interview.
Sonny: Do it again in the future sometime.
Chris: Sure. Anytime.
Sonny: Awesome, Chris. Thanks so much. Cheers.
Chris: Thank you. Bye-bye.