In this episode of The Sonny Brown Breakdown Podcast, I talk with Craig Jones. Craig Jones is an Australian grappler and Brazilian jiu-jitsu black promoted by Lachlan Giles while competing for the Absolute MMA Academy in the sport’s international circuit. An International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) World No-Gi Champion (2015 at in purple belt division) and a 2x ADCC Trials champion, Craig Jones turned many heads his way at the 2017 ADCC finals by submitting the tournament’s 88-kilogram #1 pick, Leandro Lo. Jones would later cement his status as one of the best grapplers of his generation by winning numerous prestigious events, including multiple belt titles in the Polaris Invitational promotion.
Starting with Australia, we end up moving to America to train with the John Danaher team. Join us on Craig’s journey to Puerto Rico. We discuss how his goals grew over time, how he teaches seminars and uses them to train and train other aspects of training with the DDS. We also discuss the importance of marketing as a professional grappler and earn a living from the sport at the highest levels where the line between sports and sports entertainment can change.
Craig Jones Interview Highlights:
[00:02:52] Why did Craig move to Puerto Rico?
[00:08:38] What was the big victory of Craig Jones?
[00:16:23] How had Craig decided to join the Danaher team?
[00:21:17] How does Danaher’s instruction system help in developing individual moves?
[00:24:40] How is Danaher’s systematic approach is different from other places?
- What are the key areas of growth?
[00:31:21] What is the benefit of professional food time?
[00:41:19] Why most people are unable to make money in wrestling?
[00:44:52] Self-belief and Self-confidence are necessary for sports and for making money.
[00:51:43] You learn things from watching!
[00:58:47] Craig’s ability to market himself…..
- What are the things involved in Craig’s success?
[01:04:28] How do you feel with pressure point techniques?
[01:07:30] What is the link between sports and sports entertainment?
[01:11:41] What is Craig’s goal?
- What type of gym does Craig want?
[01:14:40] Craig’s piece of advice for Youngsters…..
Craig Jones Quotes:
“Minimising individual expressions, allows the team to be much more efficient.”
“When there is no rest, you have to pace yourself; if you escape that expose, you are not going to survive in the training session.”
“Don’t compete to make money, compete to finish.”
“Your coach is good but you also have to be good enough to recognise the areas where he is not good.”
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Craig Jones – Podcast Transcript
Sonny Brown: Craig, how are you doing today, mate?
Craig Jones: Yes. Good, good. Up bright and early so we could coordinate this one, but I’m usually up early anyway, so it’s not too bad.
Sonny: Appreciate it. It’s late here, but I’m usually up late so it works out well. It’s a good time, because it’s nice and quiet here for recording. I guess up early over there as now you’re in Puerto Rico, which is probably a big change, coming from Australia, then you moved to New York or New Jersey, I think, and then now to Puerto Rico. What’s happened? What’s going on? It seems like a wild move for you guys there.
Craig: Yes, very strange move. Honestly, when I first heard about it– Gordon went on vacation to see Mo in Puerto Rico. I think they were talking about some business stuff. Previous to that, Me, Ethan, and Taza, Mo brought us out here, but probably 18 months ago. Gordon went out, came back, and then immediately started trying to convince John to pack up the whole team and move. I don’t think John would have been interested in doing it whatsoever, except for the fact that COVID was really killing Panza’s gym in New York, or the restrictions were killing the competition classes.
If you’re running a school and only local people can enter, and train, and stuff, and there’s limited numbers, then the competition guys, they’re not there paying. They’re not really supporting the business apart from advertising and stuff. I wouldn’t say there was tensions, but it was definitely difficult to train as we usually would. We’d have time-restricted classes. Again, we were only allowed in 15 minutes before. We had to be out of there 15 minutes after.
While the gym was actually closed during quarantine, it was fine because we could just sneak in through the back door and there won’t even really be guys that teach in private. But once they opened up the gym in limited numbers, then it became very, very difficult. That encouraged John to move back here. Then obviously, the guys make a lot of money off DVDs. To move to Puerto Rico, you actually only pay 4% taxes of everything you own. I believe even capital gains and stuff, it’s only 4%. I think the combination of those two things, and we have Mo out here. Mo has been living out here for a few years, so we had a safety net. It wasn’t a complete risk.
Those were really the main reasons, and everyone really wanted to get out. New York’s a great place to visit, but I don’t think it’s a good place to live at all, obviously. Unless you’re a millionaire living in Tribeca or something, or in a real comfortable neighborhood, it’s pretty horrible to live there. I’ve moved to Puerto Rico and I’ve got a three-bedroom right on the ocean, and it’s the same price per month as my studio apartment in Hoboken, which is four flights of stairs, a shit apartment. I’m pretty sure there were rats in there and stuff. A great change.
Sonny: [laughs] That makes sense then. It’s a bit of like a perfect storm of the crazy global conditions. Yes, the team in New York moves up and moves to Puerto Rico. Now, are you able to get in on that good tax break? Are those incentives there for an Australian overseas?
Craig: I’m still, unfortunately, awaiting my visa. I think, technically, I’m here illegally right now. It should process pretty soon, but I have to do a biometrics appointment. Obviously, you have to go in physically for that and with the US, COVID’s crazy so all the offices are shut down. I think I have to wait to get my social security number, and then I’m entitled to that. Compared to the Australian tax rate, 4% is going to be pretty damn nice.
Sonny: [laughs] The incentives are there for a reason, I guess. They want people there.
Craig: Yes, that’s for sure.
Sonny: That’s one move then that you’ve made recently, but obviously, going from Australia to New York to begin with would have been a big move. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m thinking way back, one of your original Instagram handles maybe was jiujitsutravels or something like that, way back in the day? Was that always your goal to use jiu-jitsu as a means to travel?
Craig: Yes, pretty much. My goals always just grew with what I felt I could accomplish at the time. I know that when I started jiu-jitsu it was like, “If I get good enough, I can open a school and not have to work a full-time job.” Then, in terms of competition goes, it was always like, “Could I be the best guy in the state, best guy in the country?” Then just kept raising those goals. It was pretty much the same thing. Actually, jiu-jitsu traveling was pretty much all I was doing. I would go into a camp somewhere.
I’ve trained basically everywhere, like Marcelo’s, Atos, Drysdale’s. I’ve visited everywhere basically doing mini-camps and then competing, but I had to change the Instagram name. It was after ADCC 2017 where I also had that breakout performance. I remember André Galvão came out to me and he goes, “Man, you got to change your Instagram name. No one can find you.” [laughs] That was what made me switch it over.
Sonny: You got to consider the branding. It makes sense. The branding you’ve going for now too, I guess, is something that’s probably another topic with the budgie smugglers and the #FuckCraigJones [laughs] who may all say that’s the end, maybe.
Craig: [laughs] Yes, they are kids.
Sonny: Yes, that’s a rabbit hole. [laughs] 2017 was definitely a breakout performance in terms of competition. I remember watching it, that match against Leandro Lo. We were with the team Australia, we’re new, but that was still a big victory that, obviously, would have opened up some doors. Then you won in the second round of that as well. Breakout performance, no doubt. Did that then opened more doors for you in America where you were accepted into places like Danaher’s, or how did that next step evolution then go from there?
Craig: That really just opened the door that, man, I didn’t have to teach regular classes to live off jiu-jitsu. It switched. I remember basically straight after that event, in my email, it was probably every grappler’s dream at the time. Sponsorship offers from every brand, it was flooded with people asking for seminar opportunities. Based on that alone, I just took the risk up then and pretty much stopped teaching at Absolute St. Kilda. I would teach when I was back in town, but over time I came, I was back in town less and less, just because all the opportunities were in the States.
I would just live off the road. I remember I made horrible decisions after ADCC 2017. Because I had made no money forever, I took every single seminar opportunity, and I still competed at the same time. I remember, I think I did 76 speaks or 77 seminars over the next 12 months. I just kept using the seminars to prepare for competition. We’d do the seminar and then I’d roll with everyone at the end. Terrible, terrible idea that was. That was obviously risk of injury, rolling in seminars. You can get injured.
Sonny: Yes, that’s definitely not as expected nowadays that the person will roll with everyone. You hear the stories more of that happening with the old school. Rickson would line everyone up and then run through everyone.
Craig: There’s a safe way to do it. I always tell people this. I’m always like, “What’s the thing everyone’s worried about at seminars?” If they do roll with everyone, the coach is always worried about getting submitted. I have this strategy that when I run, then go on, let him roll with everyone. If someone in the room submits me, I’ll let him submit me a couple more times. I’m always like, if they can go and say they submitted me, people are going to believe it one time, but maybe not two or three times. [laughs] They’ll think I gave it to him.
Sonny: That’s some high-level tips there. It’s like, “Fool me once, but twice, three times, ahh–” The fix was in.
Craig: That’s how you protect the ego when you’re tired of rolling.
Sonny: High-level ego protection. You would just wait. On those competing, you’re just going there, just rolling with whoever at the seminars, keep yourself fit, and prepare for competitions. Were you doing the seminars in just weekends only? That’s more than one seminar a week then that you did that?
Craig: Yes. I would do them whenever. Obviously, sometimes it’s hard to get seminars during the week, but I think some parts of America, they find it so hard to get people to come there to do seminars anyway, that they will take weekday seminars. I remember even in the UK, the UK was really good. I feel like those guys in Europe are real desperate to get people out to seminars.
I remember when I competed against Matheus Diniz in GrappleFest, I think I did 18 seminars in 19 days. The day off I had was the competition. Basically, two and a half weeks straight just seminar, seminar, seminar. That’s not a good idea either, because I also feel like the quality of the seminar deteriorates as you’re just getting exhausted. Obviously, you would know it sounds like a dream to teach seminars, but it is exhausting. You need to keep your energy up in between, I think.
Sonny: Yes. That’s probably a good idea then, though, too, the lessons that you learned from doing that many seminars in the time. One of the coaches back here, Justin, he was giving me advice of it’s good to do things like that and you actually batch your mistakes. You can learn a lot from them at the same time. You’ve done that year of just hardcore seminars teaching. What would you think of the details then to deliver a good seminar and the things to avoid then? What are you on the lookout for? Also, will you teach the same thing every time or will you mix it up?
Craig: I’ll try to. I remember Braulio told me about this. It really does work well. You might do a limited run of seminars. You don’t necessarily need to advertise it, but just teach the same thing every seminar. It doesn’t have to be a whole year. I feel like I tried to do a seminar in like a tour, almost. I did have a proper tour recently, but I try to feel like I’ll teach this sequence of techniques for the tour and, really, by the end of that tour, I’ve heard all the questions people need to ask about the move when you teach it.
By the end of it, it’s just a well-polished technique. Now basically, every time I teach it, I get less questions because I’ve taken into account the questions of previous seminars. For me, it’s really less is more. What’s funny is I almost consider it like a comedian that either has to win over the audience or the audience is there for them. Do you know what I mean? Like if you’re a Joe Rogan and you go, he’s already won over his audience. These days as my jiu-jitsu notoriety increase, people come to the seminar just to see me.
I felt like, say, around ’86 to 2017 when I was just taking off, they were there to see the technique. Now, almost have a higher level of scrutiny, and they would care more about the quality of the technique, which is super strange because these days, I feel like people just want to come say hello, hang out, get a photo. I try to adapt the seminar to that, and I feel like less technique, more focused technique, and then lots of time for Q&A at the end. Lots of time for stories and stuff. It’s definitely changed over time, what I think people expect out of me.
Sonny: It’s a good point, because I’ve even felt that myself sometimes when looking at seminars that I want to go to. An example might be Kurt Osiander who was planning when he was coming out here, and of course Legend’s been around forever, but really I want to go there. I don’t really care what he’s going to show, what he’s going to teach, I want to hear his funny stories. I want to go get a photo with him, still in the middle fingers.
I catch myself thinking that in my head before I book like, “Actually, why am I going to do these seminars?” It’s got to be interesting on the other side, when you’re putting it on to be able to navigate that change in people’s expectations, where maybe they want to go there and they want to see the #FuckCraigJones rashy on. [laughs]
Craig: That will be the merchandise and stuff. That’s how I’ve planned to stay relevant when I get old, at least the entertainment value.
Sonny: [laughs] That’s it. You spend all that time then doing those seminars. Tell me about how you ended up falling in with the Danaher crew. I guess you’re definitely part of their team now. Started off as rivals, but they had seemed to be pretty accepting of allowing their rivals to come train. How did that happen that you decided that that’s the place to be?
Craig: It’s if you can’t beat them, join them.
Craig: It was basically after me and Gordon’s second match. We had our match at ADCC 2017, and then we had another match at EBI 2017, the Absolute, so obviously, into this armbar, I still count that as a victory, because he should’ve tapped, but a week after that we trained, which was funny because we had our first match, we had our second match, and then exactly a week after the second match, we both had Kasai and I had the Murilo Santana rematch, and he had the Yuri Simões match. Then at this side, there are four or five different locker rooms at this particular venue they had, and it just so happened they put me and me by myself in the locker room with Danaher and all his guys.
There was Danaher guys in the undercut, the whole Renzo crew, basically. I remember just walking into the locker room after they took me there, and I walk in to the whole team that I competed against the previous weekend. I still remember Danaher being like, “Oh, you’re in this locker room with us?” [chuckles] I would say it was awkward for a second, but then it was really fun. I think at the time, actually, Marc Grayson, a local Sydney guy had flown out to be in my corner for the event.
That was definitely useful and stuff in terms of warming up, but I also got to see how the DDS guys warm up, and hear John telling stories and stuff like that in the back. I remember at the time, Gordon refused to admit his arm was injured. He was like, “No, it’s fine.” He’s moving around. It had a huge amount of swelling under here, the following week, It took until I actually joined the team for him to admit how bad it was, and he couldn’t train for three weeks or something afterwards.
That’s what started the relationship, and I remember they said, “If you’re still in New York, you should come in to train.” From there on, I really just started showing up with more regularity, which is strange because from being part of the team now, it’s very strict about who can and who can’t come, in terms of who could join the team or not. There’s been a lot of high-level grapplers out of us to join the team and they’ve turned them down just based on weight divisions and stuff like that.
I think I had an in into the team just because Danaher is from New Zealand and he loves people from that part of the world. He really appreciates– Anytime an Australian visits Renzo’s, typically, if John hears the accent, very, very welcoming. I think that might’ve been the in for me to get in there, because looking back, we really had no formal conversation about joining the team. I just kept showing up whenever I had spare time in America.
Sonny: [laughs] The old George Costanza method of just show up until everyone assumes that you’re on board, right?
Craig: Exactly, [laughs] exactly. I’m trying to remember how often I showed up. For two or three mini-camps, and then I showed up for, I think, three months for the Palhares match. Then I kept showing up for longer and longer. I think it went from a week to three months to six months, and then officially moved to New York in March. I actually moved to New York March 1st, and then the COVID lockdowns hit basically a week later.
It’s a strange time to move to New York. I really chose to join the team, because I figured I would go to wherever I get beaten up the worst. Going in there, basically, my skill set was a knockoff of what they were doing. To go see it at the source, I still remember getting beaten out by Jason Rau, Nick Ronan. I thought I’d go in there and just get beaten up by Gary and Gordon, but being beaten up by the low-level guys really showed me the holes I had in my game, and that’s why I stuck it out.
Sonny: I’ve heard lots of great things about Jason Rau, that he’s flown under the radar a bit and maybe getting out there a bit more. You bring up a good point of then how your game, like you said yourself that you felt your game was a bit of an imitation of theirs as you walk into there. Did you go in there with the intent of then, “I’m just going to soak up everything that Danaher can give me. I’m just going to start adopting their system as much as possible and just fall under his instruction style”? How much room is there left for you to develop your own individual styles within there, or your individual moves, or individual expression of that?
Craig: That’s a real good question. From what I understand about the team, for the most part, guys will have minor variations in style but everyone really does the same underlying systems. Everyone’s very, very similar, almost robot-like. The best time to see is if you see John run the guys through a warm-up before a competition. John’s telling them exactly what moves to hit. It’s almost very, very robotic. Sometimes, the guys will add on to the system with their own variations, which is good because of Gary and Gordon. It’s probably like the Yin and Yang, the complete opposite style. Gordon’s like minimum risk, maximum efficiency, Gary’s like maximum risk, you know what I mean?
Craig: Impossible to pin, impossible to hang on to. Obviously, their style has diverged but, really, the underlying systems and stuff are all the same. For me, it’s just minor tweaks, but for the most part, everyone’s doing the same thing. That’s why I think the team is so good. It’s because, say we look at a team like Atos, say we look at Kaynan Duarte and Lucas Barbosa, I couldn’t think of two things those guys do the same.
When they compete, although they’re part of a team to prepare, it’s individuals facing other individuals. Whereas what I can feel with Danaher’s group is everyone has the same system. Whenever one of us goes out and loses, provided we did the system and the system failed, then the whole team can adapt. For the most part, though, it’s like one of us will fail, I will mess up some part of it and get beaten in that sense, but I see it as a whole team actually working together to face other individuals. Because we have the same style, we can see where it fails and where it needs to be improved.
Sonny: I get exactly what you mean, where even that by minimizing the individual expression, it allows you to make any adaptations across the whole team much more efficient. Nowadays, it looks like a joke where everything is a system. Everyone’s putting out a system, it doesn’t matter what it is, it’s got to be a system. Look, I’ll be guilty of that at some point, and I think it’s just the way it is. For you coming in there just like how you were training before in Australia, moving over there, all the other places you’ve seen, how different or how obvious is that systematic approach that Danaher’s got?
Craig: It’s so different, the way we train and everything because say, for example, every training session, we’ll always do a minimum of an hour of technique. If you watched a Danaher DVD or you go to a seminar, he might teach one move over three hours. In the gym, it’s going to be like he’d teach a sequence very quick, we’ll practice it, and then he will add in other parts of that technique.
In that sense, it’s very, very similar to the way most people teach classes, but it’s the competition guys all doing it. What I see in other gyms is the coaches will teach these elaborate techniques and teaching to the up-and-coming guys, but it feels like as guys get more and more advanced, they amount of drilling they do decreases. Whereas, we would never do a session without that. We wouldn’t even do a session pre-competition day without practicing specific techniques. We hit that and then we always do positional sparring.
Every time, we always go mount, turtle, closed guard, and then we might do start on a single leg, we might do start in cross ashi with the double leg control, maybe 50/50, but we always do those positions. That’s what I think a lot of high-level teams don’t do, because what they do , say you do IBJJF. The match is won or lost in guard, passing, and sweeping. When they do their sparring, it’s always like they might do first-point throw or something, but very rarely, these guys work bad positions. That’s obviously why they’re so scared to do an EBI-ranked, because they never worked bad positions.
Almost the same, I remember preparing for EBI, I spent very little time doing the bad positions. I was like, “If I get to overtime, I’m probably going to lose, so let me just prepare to win this thing in regulation,” because regulation is where you get paid anyway. We always do both positions around. That’s where I was let down entering the team for the first time, because I didn’t have a great amount of escapes, I didn’t have great total escapes, even close guard was really a neglected position.
When a visitor comes into the team, they might be good at jiu-jitsu, but are they good at the whole package? If we take a visitor and we put him in mount, total closed guard, and we don’t even do any rest in between those rounds. When there’s no rest, you have to pace yourself. If you use to escape them with explosiveness, you’re just not going to survive the training session. That’s where I was really let down because coming as one of the better guys in the gym, you just very rarely get put in bad positions.
When I was training mostly with Absolute St. Kilda, obviously, Lachlan Giles would be tough, there’d be other tough guys in the gym. I would spend very little time if ever on the mount. Then, you’d get put in mount in the training room with these elite-level guys, and you can’t escape. The other thing they do really, really well is everyone always says this. Don’t finish a submission, you don’t need to crank a submission in the training room, but for the most part, people do. That means that guys are afraid to work their late stage defense.
Whereas, say Danaher, no one’s allowed to finish an armbar. You’re allowed to extend an arm, but you’re not allowed to apply any hip pressure to the arm. What that builds is your ability to anytime you get put in an armbar, you don’t just tap when the arm gets extended, you get to give the hitchhiker a shot, you try to sit up, you try to use movement to clear it. That way, we build those reactions.
We also build the reaction without fear, because Gordon was showing me about armbar escapes is, if I’m really tense and you break the grip and I’m resisting, you’ll find my wrist every single time. If you know the grip is going to break and you relax and you throw the wrist, it’s very hard for the guy finishing the armbar to secure the wrist and get a finish. We train those late stages every weekend. I haven’t encountered any other team really do that. Those could be the key areas where I feel the most growth for me.
Sonny: I really am interested in the idea of him not allowing people to finish armbars, because I really enjoy late stage escaping armbars, hitchhiker, reverse hitchhiker, that type. I love the look on people’s faces when they think they got me dead to rights, and I can get out of there. I’ve taught those moves to white belts and people, and I can say that they like, “Oh, I’m never going to try that.” It’s a hard thing to actually get them to build confidence. We can put them in situational things with the arm extended, but I know that it’s still– For them to actually get the confidence to try it, it’s going to take a lot, but you’re saying that no one’s tapping to armbars there, or no one’s finishing them. Is that–?
Craig: Yes, we just do not. There’s never any arm injuries because you have that faith that if it’s extended, they’re not going to break out. It’s just everyone knows the philosophy. If you can’t make a guy submit and control them without applying breaking pressure, you don’t know how to really finish the submission, but we just take that to heart. Everyone’s heard that, how many people actually do it? You know what I mean? Typically, what I see is people will extend an arm in the gym. They look at the guy to tap, the guy that’s going to tap, they apply hip pressure.
Whereas really, if you can hold it for three seconds, you can break the arm. That’s where we have these elaborate foot positions to prevent these escapes. Whereas like John says, to us, “The chances of you breaking someone’s arm at the highest level without certain feet positions eliminating movement are pretty slim.” You know what I mean? At the very high-level, guys are going to take a few pups. That just allows us to train those gray areas. Just things that you know, but they’re just so hard to implement in the training room.
Sonny: I guess that’s something too, when you’ve got a group of professionals training full time that you can, it’s easier to implement that in in some ways. I know that they could be like with the part-time as they want to come in on a Wednesday night and get a tap in. The catch and release might not suit them. That could be their little victory in the moment. That’s probably, I guess, a benefit of the full-time, it’s very clear that you guys are there to make money, and this is going to be a better way to do that. Yes, I really liked that. Is there any other positions that they’ll do the same kind of thing for?
Craig: I’m trying to think. Nothing as black and white, but basically just to control them so they cannot move before really even in putting that submission position into a dangerous area. I think that’s where the guys’ risk-taking confidence comes from, because say, for example, you know your mount escape is terrible. You’re going to have a conservative game because you’re going to be like, “If I miss this sweep attempt that may pass, they’re going to a win.” For us, the training with all these bad positions, bad areas, we have more confidence in our escapes, which means we have more confidence in taking risks during a match.
That’s why I think of like the guy Gary told him. He can take all these risks because his submission defenses are like 10 out of 10. He’s almost impossible to pin and hold down. That’s why I think Gary’s style is so exciting. It’s not that his style is exciting. It’s that his submission defense and he can’t be pinned is so tight that his confident to take all these risks during the match, because he has less to lose than the average competitor from taking those risks. I think that’s built in the training room, the way we trained.
Sonny: How much then do you find is tailored due to the emergence of sub-only rule sets and maybe a shift away from the IBJJF rule sets that’s allowed that to happen? You put out a– I thought it was a funny video of taking shots at some of the IBJJF, but I saw some other people posting, they were quite not happy with it.
Craig: The Brazilians weren’t happy, because I said the secret from Brazil. They were like, “You should have just said the secrets of you jiu-jitsu.”
Sonny: Do you ever see yourself going back to the IBJJF, or if they’re bringing in leg locks or something, is that– or is it just going to be for the professional grappling? You’ve got a great setup with Submission Underground at scenes. Is that just going to dictate how what’s going on in the training room?
Craig: Yes, I’ve definitely done. I don’t think I’m going to do IBJJF events. It’s great they’ve added heel hooks, but where I think they let down is the way points are scored. It’d say a takedown is getting your opponent’s butt to the floor. I’m like, “Well, you should really have to pin them.” If we cut that scramble short and say that this is the point-scoring position, then we’re missing out on this whole range of things that can occur where the person is committing weight to you to try to pin you, which opens up other things.
Whereas if they just have to put your butt to the floor, again, you cut that scramble so short. I think that there are certain areas that IBJJF rules set is still a big letdown. We train every day for ADCC rules, but if we have a competition with other rules coming up, then we just make the adjustment. Really, it’s not a huge adjustment for me to go from ADCC style training to Submission Underground style training, because I just have to add in the overtime.
For the most part, whether there’s points or not, I’m going to have a very similar style, but again, IBJJF, the way the point scoring is done, I think it’s too big a change to go from preventing yourself being pinned to preventing your butt touching the floor. I don’t think I’ll jump in there. Maybe if I can keep getting the silver medals, I’ll do No-Gi Masters World.
Sonny: [laughs] That’s a backup plan?
Sonny: [laughs] With Submission Underground then too, the biggest thing that I’ve heard people complain is that five-minute time limit. I think everyone wants to see a bit longer on the board. Are you doing just strict five-minute rounds in preparation for that? How do you tailor yourself to those time limits?
Craig: All right. Here’s another thing that I didn’t say about the training room, is that, say, we would probably do six rounds, but we don’t have a timer on the board. John calls time whenever he deems fit. I think that’s so important in the training room, because although it’s good to know, to see the time and play to the time, that’s a skill set that’s very easily adapted. That’s a mindset change. As long as you’re mentally calm out there, you’ll be able to adapt to the score board.
What I notice is, say you do six rounds, probably the last 30, 20 seconds, the guys will look at the clock and I’ll deem whether they can do any more jiu-jitsu. That adds up over time. Whereas for us, we don’t see, we don’t know when the round is going to end. That means we have to do jiu-jitsu the entire round every round in the training room. For us, it could even be up to 30 seconds to a minute. I know a lot of guys, if they get a good position and they stay center a minute, they’re just like, “Oh, I’m just going to hang out. I’m going to hang out here the rest of the round, maybe shoot some reckless sub off at the end.
For us, we do jiu-jitsu the whole round. For Submission Underground, we just add in an extra round. Let’s say, we’ll actually go for five minutes on the board. John will say, “You’ve got to use the most aggressive style possible. Just chase this guy down for five minutes.’ I hate the fact that it’s five. It should be at least 10. I think the submission-only set, it’s got to be 10 minutes. I would be much more happy if Submission Underground just did Fight 2 Win stop. It’s 10 minutes, whoever was more aggressive gets the victory. I prefer that to EBI, especially EBI with five minutes. EBI with a five-minute round is basically an overtime for them.
Sonny: The last two, you’ve got to finish in that five minutes, so that’s good, but yes, when there’s too many, go to overtime. I still think EBI is probably the best way to finish that or to set, to get that submission finish. I probably think it still works better in that tournament format where you have to have someone moving through. Yes, I think we’d all prefer 10 minutes if you can. You seem to have some sway there, right? You have Submission Undergrounds, it seems like that’s your sport now?
Craig: Not enough sway. I haven’t really got a clear understanding of why they don’t do it. It’s something about the UFC boss saying, “We want this many matches and we want in this amount of time. This is your time allocated.” Which, to me, doesn’t really make sense either because it’s not a TV show. Really, the event can go over. That’s the only good thing about Submission Underground though, it’s like Quintet. It was a quick event. It’s like two hours to see everything. Whereas some events, like I remember Kasai went for five hours. Like Fight 2 Win, I don’t know if anyone would ever watch an entire Fight 2 Win, because they last for hours.
Yes, there’s something strange there where I think it’s that they don’t want to take away EBI overtime. They don’t want to lose overtime to add in another five minutes. I was trying to convince them to do something crazy, whereas Giles suddenly decides, he’s like, “If the first five minutes sucks, the match is over,” but if they’re having a good match, he’s like, “Yes, we’ll extend it.” There’s got to be some holes like that. If it’s a boring match, you guys are out of here. You know what I mean?
Sonny: I reckon you could convince him doing like the Caesar says thumbs up or thumbs down, just like cut the child in his little bunker.
Craig: He would love that.
Sonny: I think that could be a sell on there.
Craig: I want penalties. I tried to convince him. I said, “Guys, we got to do five minutes right. Here’s how it works. If someone’s inactive and they get a penalty, they lose an overtime round,” to incentivize action.
Sonny: I would be for that, because from what I’m watching with wrestling, especially like folk style wrestling, they give penalty so quick for inactivity. It like what Quintet was doing as well where they even stood up from mount for inactivity, which is crazy in any other jiu-jitsu tournament, but Quintet can get away with it. I think that it works, right? It’s like you better go for the finish. Otherwise, you could get screwed up pretty quick.
Craig: Really, there’s like a spectrum of sports to sports entertainment. I feel like Submission Underground lies very close to sports entertainment rather than sports. They should have a lot of leeway to play with the rules. For me, if the fans are paying to see the events, we should go out there and try to finish the other guy. That’s where a lot of guys are let down today, and that’s why I think a lot of guys don’t make any money in jiu-jitsu, is because they’re so concerned about winning and winning by any means necessary, that it’s really almost such a selfish pursuit, and the fans don’t care.
If you ask people out there, “Who are your favorite grapplers?” It’s really got nothing to do with accomplishments, it’s got to do with how they compete. It’s not so much putting on a show. If you compete as I think you should to punish your opponent, it will be exciting, and you will be rewarded financially with sponsorships, and seminars, DVDs. If you never finished any opponent, no one’s ever going to buy your instruction. I don’t think you should just compete to make money. I’m saying if you compete properly, you will, as a byproduct of that, make money.
I think it’s true. If you look at the last ADCC, who made the biggest impact? Lachlan Giles. He got third. Lachlan has lost first round in his weight division, three events in a row. He’s made more money out off his instructional than guys that have won multiple times. If you compete, again, as I think you should, to go out and dominate and finish rather than play the rules, you will be rewarded. I think the fans will show how much they appreciate you basically with their wallets.
Sonny: It’s a good point. I am thinking that I haven’t seen anyone release an instructional of a system for winning by an advantage, but maybe that’s a gap in the market, I don’t know. [laughs]
Craig: It’s just funny. It’s such a strange thing to say. MMA fighters, I feel like those guys more or less fight for money rather than to be a complete martial artist, but they also pursue to finish, because it does get them paid. I feel like grappling could be a bigger sport if guys had a similar approach. You don’t even need to go crazy with your self-marketing and stuff. Some people’s matches like Roberto Jimenez, his matches speak for themselves. That guy, he’s going to go out, he’s going to push forward, and he’s going to attack his opponents no matter who they are, no matter how big they are. I think he gets rewarded for that with how many people were going to tune in to watch him compete.
Sonny: It’s a very interesting change in mindset, I think, for your leading professional grapplers who are putting up money for bet matches and things of that nature. We even had one of your friends, Isaac Mitchell, out here in Australia who’s a purple belt but he was offering $1,000 just to try and get any black belt takers to get matches. Difficult, no one wants to do it because even though it’s money, it’s going to be a damn hard roll. It’s a different mentality too from that old school of you get your ranking, climb your way up, and do it that way, whereas he knows he wants to make money doing this sport and that’s the way to do it.
Craig: It’s a confidence thing though because say, for example, I spoke to Henry Cejudo about this. It all comes down to self-belief. Cejudo said to me he’s never trained harder than when he started the Triple C and started talking smack to people. It’s the same with Gordon. I feel like people only see the side of things where if an athlete talks shit, people are going to pay attention to him, because either they’ll support him or they’ll want him to lose.
People think that the athlete does that specifically to make more money. Say, for example, if you talk shit about your opponent, you are going to train harder because, now, you have more to lose. Say if Isaac or someone does a bet match, as far as I know, I don’t think Isaac’s spoken too much shit but if you a bet match, people see that self-confidence, but for the athlete themselves, now they’ve got to back it up, not just financially.
They’re putting off this image that they have, this confidence that they can get it done. Now, you’d better train hard because you’re going to lose money and lose face. It’s a way to guarantee that you’re going to show up in the training room. I know that motivates Gordon, I feel like Gordon would quit the sport if everyone was just nice to him. He wouldn’t have the motivation to show up, but he’s more motivated by proving people wrong. He makes these statements that he’s going to have to eat if he loses, and because he has to eat it, now he better get training, and he better get training very, very hot.
Sonny: That’s interesting. What is it that does make him then so different from from everyone else it seems? Is it his mentality?
Craig: I think so. I think it’s the self-belief, but it’s also– He’s got enough self-belief to think he can do it different. He’s confident enough in himself that he think he can play the game different and win. Whereas some people might have enough self-belief that they can emulate other styles and try to do them better, Gordon’s got enough confidence to think he can technically do things different, do things better. He can play the game better based on that self-belief, technically. That’s the thing with him, there’s no shortcuts. He is obviously huge and jacked, but he’s as technical as he is physically imposing. Obviously, so you’ve got the physique, you’ve got the technical ability, and you’ve also got the self-belief. It’s just the perfect storm now.
Sonny: Yes, no doubt. If you’ve got all those, you’re in good measure. The other thing too is then falling under Danaher. I can’t remember who it was, maybe it was Chael Sonnen saying that he’s probably the first person with a full-time coach, whereas Danaher is Gordon Ryan’s coach, and he is a professional athlete in that manner. Do you think that holds true? John, is he your full-time coach in the same way or is that just between those guys?
Craig: No, for sure because it’s almost like it gives you a myth to believing, because John can’t roll, and he never competed. Probably around the time he really competed was when he had some crazy injuries. He’s had his hip replaced and his knee replaced. We have this guy that is obviously very well-read in all martial arts aspects like in judo, in wrestling, he’s as a historian in all these techniques, but we have this guy on the sidelines who watches us every single day and adapts the next day’s class or the post-training discussion to the shortcomings of a current training session or what we did well.
The next day, we’ve got a guy that watched basically every single round adapt the class on the flyer to us. We take everything he says as gospel because, say your coach is good, but you’re also good enough to recognize areas based on rolling with him where he is not as good. Now immediately, that coach role, sad to say, has been tarnished a little bit, because he can see his shortcomings in the training session, whereas we have this myth, because he can’t roll, and we have the confidence in every technique he teaches. We see the success of the techniques. Obviously, GSP initially, but then Gordon and stuff, Gordon and Gary and stuff.
Really, it’s like you have this myth to believe in. Like Taza said it to me, Taza’s like, “You give up the problem solving yourself to this other guy to have complete confidence in.” He is a full-time coach, which no one else has. I’m sure André Galvão , I’ve trained with him, is an excellent coach, but he’s an athlete himself. Being an athlete,
you have to be selfish.
Sonny: That’s fascinating. The idea, then, of that myth from him not rolling. That is definitely one of the things that would separate Jujitsu from, say, your traditional martial arts would be the instructors on the mat every day rolling with people. I know that there would be a lot of people who would, if you told them that you’re instructor didn’t roll, obviously not mentioning that it’s John Danaher and one of the tops of one of the most successful teams, it would be a red flag warning sign to not go near that gym.
In a way that the traditional martial arts did use it as a myth to then enforce, or allow, them to pass on suboptimal techniques, shall we say. Bushido [laughs] might be the other way to put it. That’s how you get no-touch KOs or something like that. Where no one can ever try it on the coach. It builds that myth down a bad path. In this case, you’re getting the results in competition. It’s a myth that’s allowed you to succeed.
Craig: Yes. Also, just think about it like, say even you, personally, when you watch competition footage, or you watch people training, you learn things from watching them. Whereas John has probably one of the best training rooms in the world to watch, train, six rounds a day, every day. He can see trends. He can see things that happen in the training room that we’re all doing or all not doing, and obviously adapt on the fly. It’s like he has that raw footage to watch and analyze every single day.
Whereas again, other coaches have the ability to do it, but if you’re training yourself, your energy levels to pursue it aren’t going to be as great as someone who just gets to watch it every day. What’s mind-blowing to me is he can demonstrate every technique perfectly.
Obviously, every now and then he can only do things on a certain side because of his injuries. I’ve never seen him drill these techniques, but he teaches them, and shows the move perfectly. I’m like, “Some of these techniques are things that he’s just visualized in his head. Then show in the training room,” which is mind-blowing to me. If I think of something and try to teach it, I really have to have put some practice into it.
Sonny: [chuckles] Yes. I was just thinking now, has he ever invited you back to his house? Have you seen what goes on? Or, is that all just left to the mythical side of John Danaher?
Craig: I think that it’s changed. It’s changed over time. I think, traditionally, no one ever went to his place. I think that the first guys to go to his house were the BJJ Fanatics guys, Zenga and Bernardo. They did an interview there. It was an interview in his new apartment after getting the BJJ Fanatics money, versus, I don’t know if anyone went into his old one. I heard a story about Henzo trying to follow him home and actually see inside his apartment and stuff. [laughs] Again, I don’t know what’s true and what’s not true.
I remember John told us a story where he got kicked out of an apartment because a guy was playing loud music. The neighbors were angry and John choked him unconscious. John’s got some crazy stories about that. The best stories are probably when he first moved to New York and New York was a bit of a crazy place. These days he’s different. I know the guys have been around to his house. He talks about bringing us around for a barbecue and stuff. I think John, today, is very different to John, even 5, 10 years ago.
Sonny: Sure. That brings up something, then, with the myth. Him moving to Puerto Rico and he has put the pictures up of him in the long sleeve, long pants. Is that man going to start rocking? Can you make him a rash vest, singlet, or something? Can you get him into a pair of budgie smugglers? Is that the goal?
Craig: He keeps the same look, but he’s changed the New Balance to Crocs. I was trying to find someone to pay to paint his crocs into New Balance style. I haven’t found it yet. It’s the same image. Just got a fanny pack full of cash and knives.
Sonny: [laughs] It’s the name of a rap song, I’m sure. Probably the last thing, touching on John, I wanted to discuss, one is probably, do you still read all his Instagram posts? Is that recommended? Is that part of a team? You got to read all the posts? [laughs]
Craig: I don’t read them too often. Obviously, I read the ones he tags me or puts a picture of me and stuff. Yes, I think they’re just good little snippets, you know what I mean? I think even someone has turned them into a book. A physical book.
Sonny: Yes. I saw that too. [laughs] The other is his insistence on Japanese names. Especially as an Australian, one of my goals, I’m like, “Oh, I want to learn a new language. I want to become fluent in Danaher. I want to get all my Ashis and my Kata Gatames, I want to get it down this year.” I start using that in the training room. Of course, everyone starts busting my chops. Giving me slack like, “Oh, look. Aren’t you getting fancy standing over there with your names.” How have you taken that?
Craig: Right. Well, when I filmed my last instruction, luckily I had Placido there, which I think is fluent in Danaher. I’m picking it up. Picking up some parts of it. I think it’s funny just because people misinterpret why John does these things. People will be like, “Oh, he’s shining us down hard and stuff. Then when you get to know him, he’s actually just a crazy respectful historian.
Whereas the average person might try to honor the past to look smarter. John, obviously, doesn’t give a fuck how he looks. With what he wears, he’s not trying to appear any way other than what he is. When he honors the past moves, he’s just given respect to Japan. Quite often, when a move already has a name in Japan, he just up and gives it that name.
Say, when we’ve come up with new position recently, he will give it a Western name. He would call it S1 or S2 or something like that. I think he takes a lot of slack. People think he’s trying to appear a certain way. Again, if you look at how he dresses and stuff, he just doesn’t give a fuck of what people think of him.
Sonny: [laughs] No doubt. No arguments with me on that.
Craig: He’ll just fight about it.
Sonny: The thing I would think though, with his insistence on the Japanese names, is-is there any passive-aggressiveness to Brazil, in not using anything in Portuguese names? He’s skipping that going straight back to Japan.
Craig: Maybe, but I think it’s funny. Say this whole thing with now all the Brazilian slack. I remember, I was just training with Gabriel Checco. He was bringing up about American Jujitsu. How much they hate it. He’s like, “They’ve just stolen it from Brazil.” I’m like, “Well, you guys stole it from Japan.” You know what I mean?
Craig: If we go back far enough, everyone’s stealing everything.
Sonny: That’s it. The history, I find fascinating, myself. It has revolutionized how people are training, and competing, and earning money in the sport, as well. That side of things, it’s undeniable that he’s put out the most comprehensive system, in terms that is an actual proper system of anyone, really. You’re putting out your own instructionals and everything like that.
You even put out– I saw a joke one, “Just stuff I stole from John and Gordon,” or something. Done up in a mock BJJ Fanatic style. How do you, then, find the ability to market yourself, and your own system, and learn? Take what he’s given you and then learn and adapt, to be able to put something out?
Craig: Well say, for example, I had a lot of success with the first heel hook instructional I put out. At the time, John hadn’t released anything. Obviously, Lachlan’s Leg Lock One came a couple of years later, after his ADCC success. When I joined the DBS– because not everyone on the team does make instructionals, I knew, perhaps, I wouldn’t be allowed to make an instructional. I knew that I would cut my earning potential, but I wanted to learn from who I consider the best grapplers in the world today.
I wanted to learn their stuff so bad, I was willing to forego the financial dollars of making instructionals. Really, after I hit ADCC 2017, I probably could have just done an Eddie Bravo, and just lived off that moment. I really wanted to ensure that I wasn’t– I’m not saying that Eddie’s was a fluke, but a lot of people thought I had a fluke of a weekend.
I really wanted to, first, prove that it wasn’t. I would also just get better. I was willing to sacrifice the money of instructionals to join the team. Again, it is a lot of their techniques, really, that they’ve innovated. Obviously, it sounds silly to say their techniques. Again, I guess they’re the popularizer of a lot of these techniques.
Craig: I was willing to sacrifice that. Then again, after joining the team and still being successful and stuff, John encouraged me to still work with BJJ Fanatics and make instructions. Again, it’s going to be a merge of things that I do and the addition of what they do.
Really, I might have certain techniques down, because of obviously the variations of triangles. I wasn’t, obviously, fluent in all of those variations. After training with the team I was. Although it says my name on it, really, a lot of the DVDs will cover similar stuff. Just slightly different interpretations.
Sonny: Yes, okay. It is still your stamp on it. In terms of making BJJ Fanatics, I got to ask. One of the most interesting ones that you were involved in was the filming of Kazushi Sakuraba’s DVDs. I’m a big Sakuraba fan, talking about John Danaher being a mythical creature. For me, that’s Sakuraba where his in-ring accomplishments are just incredible.
I guess technically, though, I think he’s in a weird spot where he’s certainly not out there saying that this is the most up-to-date stuff. His YouTube channel is all just jokes, pretty much [chuckles]. He’s just entertaining. Just take me through your takeaway, what that experience was like. How it came about and what you enjoyed.
Craig: I’m trying to remember how it came about. I think me and Zenga, from Fanatics, are pretty close. We’ve talked in the past about who would be cool to get on there. I remember we were joking even about doing an instructional with Karelin. Having me as the new kid to get thrown around. Every technique. We would talk about how big of fans we were of Sakuraba. Then I remember him saying, “Oh, if I get the deal done, I’ll bring you. We’ll put you in the instructional.”
Then, really the focus was we’ll put me and Barnardo in there. Some people teach very shallow techniques, but when you ask them questions, the level of technique expands. We were really under the idea that if me and Bernardo were in there, and we’ll have it as if Sakuraba was teaching us a private lesson. Stakuraba, when he teaches the technique, it’s 30 seconds long. Then me and Bernardo would try to expand to give the audience the full scope of the technique.
It was very strange. A lot of strange techniques. During the pressure point techniques, when he would show the technique, I’d be like, “Oh, can you show it on Bernardo?” I wanted to see Bernardo suffer in pain.
Craig: Some aspects of it became a bit of a joke. Really just hanging around Sakuraba was very interesting. He’s a very strange guy. He doesn’t speak English very well, so we had to use this translator. It was just stuff. I remember asking him about why he started MMA. He just said he was a professional wrestler, and other wrestlers started fighting, and asked him if he would fight. He’s like, “I didn’t want to be a pussy.” I said, “Yes, I would fight.”
That’s literally how his career started. He’s like, “If they asked me, I wasn’t going to be a pussy and back down. I decided to do it.” Then, it was just Sakuraba telling us about how he overcame fear. He would tell us that whenever he was scared of an opponent, he would just run to the ring faster.
He’d want it to be over with quicker. He’s like, “If I’m scared of an opponent, I’m going to rush to the ring. Then, as soon as the bell goes, I’m going to rush for them.” He’s like, “To overcome the fear. I just need to run at the problem.” A brave guy. A crazy guy, with what he was able to achieve.
Sonny: Crazy. Even saying that he had fear. Obviously, he’s human, of course. The challenges that he did accomplish are just mind-boggling. That’s an insight. With the pressure point techniques, I think part of him, it does seem that he is trolling people 50% of the time, right?
Sonny: Do you ever feel that he’s just putting one over you guys at all?
Craig: It’s hard to say where the joke comes in. I think certain pressure points– it’s like if you were to tickle someone. They’re going to be ticklish, unless it’s actually a life and death situation. Then they’re probably not going to notice that stuff as much. When he applies pressure, it almost feels like it’s a tickling type of pressure. Whereas, in the relaxed environment, I’m going to react.
If it’s in a roll, like I say, if it’s in a competition, someone sticks their elbow into your leg to open your close guard, you’re not going to notice it in competition. In the training room, it’s going to bother you. Sakuraba, though, very funny guy. I’m not allowed to release this video, but he obviously smokes a lot of cigarettes. I remember him trying to explain to me with a packet of Marlboro Reds, as if that was the risk, how he broke Henzo’s elbow.
He’s got a packet of cigarettes and he’s trying to explain the grips on a packet of cigarettes. I remember when I was asking him a lot of questions about his lifestyle as a athlete. I was like, “Did you smoke throughout your career?” He’s like, “Yes, but no more than eight cigarettes a day.” Then he would drink a lot throughout his career. He would tell me the track and field athletes in Japan are the only ones that don’t smoke or drink. He’s like, “It’s only those cardio athletes that don’t do it.” He also was drunk.
Get this, before Quintet, the first one he was going to compete in– and he’s 50-years-old, the scramble guys that went out to him, the Polaris guys, Team Polaris, went out to have dinner with him the night before Quintet. He always drinks. They said, “Oh, do you want to have a drink?” He’s like, “No, not tonight.” They were like, “Is that because you’re competing tomorrow.” He’s like, “No, I’m hung over from yesterday.”
Craig: He said he drunk throughout his whole career, though. He would be smoking in the back locker room. He’s like, “I don’t care.”
Sonny: That’s the crazy thing. We’re talking about being professional athletes, professional grapplers these days, it doesn’t make sense how he was able to do what he did. Compete 90 minutes, then compete another 15 against– 90 against Royce and then come out again, competing another 15 against Igor Vovchanchyn. That doesn’t make sense how that’s even possible, for someone who’s smoking and drinking.
Craig: Those were the glory days in MMA. Now, although you have personalities, everyone’s an athlete. Back then people were just fucking crazy. You know what I mean? [chuckles]
Sonny: Yes. Is that something that you see with the professional grappling? We’re talking about Submission Underground and the link between sports and sports entertainment. Is that something that you see a potential with going forward? Again, you’ve got the leopard print. Is that something that you’re trying to focus on?
Craig: Yes, just to have better marketing. Probably the first proper influence I had in Jujitsu– a lot of Australians, in terms of competition in Jujitsu, was Kit Dale. Kit was able to use humor to almost transcend Jujitsu. He made funny clips and stuff that people outside of Jujitsu found entertaining. I just saw Kit being able to differentiate himself from the rest of the Jujitsu athletes. He actually got a lot of fans for it. I think that’s what makes Australians almost special in the sport.
You’ll see Gary and Gordon, they’ll make a lot of fun, a lot of jokes about other people and stuff, but I feel like the American sense of humor is less self-deprecating and resilient. I don’t know enough about the language to understand the humor at all, but to me, it seems like it’s a very serious, a little flat. We’ll have a fist fight if there’s any jokes.
I see that pervasive in the sport. I just want to keep it lighthearted. I can make jokes about other people. I think if I still make fun of myself a lot of the time. To me, it’s indirectly marketing myself. I’m just trying to take the piss of the sport. To me, it’s very serious. I’m like, “At the end of the day, we’re just wrestling other dudes.” We’re not performing a surgery here. What is to be taken serious in this sport? It’s just a game.
Sonny: Yes. I think taking the piss is something that is an Australian trait, that we do understand the merit of it. Where, when I’m doing it myself, taking the piss out of people, it’s like, “Hey, forgive me. That’s how I was raised. That’s what we do.” Even personally, with my friends, if they didn’t take the piss out of me, I’d probably start to get worried that they’re talking about me behind my back, you know? [chuckles]
Craig: Exactly. It’s funny because the egos in competition Jujitsu are affected by the egos guys develop just learning the line of scope. I always find there’s a transformation, especially when it’s your scope. Even when you see people that get given a teaching role, they get that little bit of power. It starts to make them a little strange. I remember there was a Scottish guy. I can’t remember his last name, Dan. I did a seminar, too, with him
Craig: straight after ADCC 2017. He was telling me this thing he does with his students. He goes, “No one will laugh more at your jokes than around grading time.” What he does is he’ll go up in front of his class and he would just say a terrible joke from time to time. If people laugh, he’ll be like, “What are you laughing at? This shit isn’t funny. Stop kissing my ass.” He’s like, “You guys, that’s how I keep myself in check in front of my own students. They’ll boost the ego too much.”
Sonny: Yes. That could work. Also sounds like it’s the trick of leading them into the setup, as well. Do you see yourself, then, ever opening up your own place, or doing anything like that? Or, is that just too far off?
Craig: No, for sure. I’ll be 30 this year. Obviously, it’s going to be worse every year. I already feel slightly more injuries, slightly more time to recover with things. I need, maybe, a few more days off. Especially because I’m the oldest guy on the team. When I’m training with guys like Nicky. Nicky Ryan’s, I think, 19. Nicky Rod’s 23. Pretty young guys. I do see myself moving back to Australia to open a team.
The goal is that I want to make enough money off instructionals and competing, that when I do open a team, I’ll open a team just for my own enjoyment. I don’t have to run it. I don’t have to make this huge money-making gym. I want a gym that is going to help local Aussies and stuff, just through the experiences I’ve had, the connections I have made. To help grow Australian Jujitsu. Again, not from a, “I want to make as much money. I’m going to have the biggest school ever.”
I don’t want to open a business like that. I feel like you have to put up with a lot, in that sense. A guy comes in and he’s a bit of a dick. You want to be like, “We can change this guy for the better.” When you think about the bottom line too much, I feel like sometimes you have to put up with certain students. Whereas, Danaher puts up with nothing.
There’s no bullshit. This is how it is. I don’t want to be an authoritarian. At the same time, I want to have the gym run a certain way to maximize people’s growth and stuff. Not be too concerned with the profit margins of the gym. I feel like it’ll be a better environment for me, and the guys. Rather than thinking of the big business model.
Sonny: Yes, I think that is probably a luxury to be able to do that. Not to have to worry about that. On the flip side, I would say is that if we do believe that there is the benefit in people doing Jujitsu, then it’s we want to be able to get as many people to do it as possible, as well. Of course, that’s a balancing act then, of which side you’re going to come down on. I think, obviously, if you’re a professional, there’s pretty clear of which way you need to be looking at.
Craig: I’ll probably do it like John’s style. You’ve got a gym within a gym. John teaches classes that everyone’s welcome to, but it’s clearly tailored towards the upper echelon. Also, the gym has other instructors that are going to tailor the classes to a different demographic. That way it can still benefit everyone.
The people that want to reap those specific rewards can do so. That’s what I think about Henzo was special, was crazy. It would be a Monday morning class, with 100 people in there, at 7:00 AM. It was meant to be 7:00 AM, but it would start at 7:45.
Sonny: What would your advice be, then, for Australians? Maybe you’ve got a younger Australian listening to this who wants to follow in the Craig Jones footsteps. How do they go about doing it? In terms of their development, their learning, with not maybe having that access directly to go overseas? Especially not at the moment.
What kind of learning tips would you give people to accelerate them? Hey, I know you put out a recent video breakdown as well. The breakdowns could be the way as well. What would you say is a good way to go about things?
Craig: I would just say to compete in everything, and aggressively chase everything. Take every match. I see guys get a tiny bit of success, maybe they’ll get on an international show, they might not even win on an International Superfight, then they’ll come back to Australia and be like, “I won’t take that match. I won’t do that tournament.” They’re like, “I feel like I’m above that now.”
Even people in America, even Americans I’ll see, they’ll be worried about taking what they deem a match below their level. To me, I’m like, “It’s all amateur until it’s on BJJ Heroes.” No one cares about who beat me before ADCC 2017. The only person that cared was me. If someone today were to brag about beating me prior to then, they look a bit silly. It’s like, “Oh, well that’s different.” They divide my career into two points. Before and after that point.
I would say for all the up-and-comers, do as much as you can. Get as much experience as you can, to be better prepared for when you do have that moment. The assumption would be that if you do all the preparation and training properly, make the sacrifices, if you stick in it long enough, you will have that moment.
Don’t protect what you don’t already have yet. I see that the biggest detriment with competitors, even some of my friends in Australia will be like, “No, I won’t compete against them.” I’m like, “All right. If you’re better than them, go out and show that you’re better than them. That’s marketing in and of itself.” I think people are scared to lose what only they think they have.
Sonny: Especially with the nature of video on the internet nowadays. You want nothing better than to get a submission on video that you can show people, I guess.
Craig: Exactly. A good guy for doing this is– do you know Robert Degle?
Craig: Degle, by all accounts, I hope he doesn’t take offense to this, but he hasn’t won anything major. He has beaten good guys. I would say a guy like that is someone to watch. Degle’s always competing. He’s always analyzing his footage. He’s always putting it out there on the internet. He’s always marketing himself in a way to show off how technical he is. I think a lot of people got to learn from a guy like that’s marketing model. Degle sells instructional products and does well. He’s marketed himself in a certain way.
Obviously, he did have the attachment to the Henzo crew and the Danaher crew, but I would look at a guy like that for inspiration. It always keeps coming back to money, but for you to survive in this sport, you have to make money. It’s going to be better if you can make money and just train. Rather than teach and train.
To me, obviously, you work a full-time job, or you work a part-time job chasing Jujitsu goals. If there’s a certain point where someone wants you to teach classes, now all your money is made within Jujitsu. Maybe you even hit a point where you just have to teach a few privates. Once you make enough money, that’s when you can really start selfishly focusing on competition goals. It’s always coming back to money, but you need it to–
Sonny: I think that’s a good area to have been focusing in with you. It is, I guess, probably where your mind is at the moment, of how you can do this sport professionally. It’s been great to get that kind of insight into it. Yes, Robert, a great example. I have spoken to him before. He got a submission over Sean O’Malley. That went gangbusters. Sean’s doing well in the UFC. He’s got his name. He only got those opportunities for entering in all these tournaments.
Finishing off one last question, because when this one happened, I talked about it with everyone, which was your match with Vinny Magalhães, where you contorted his leg into strange angles. It snapped and did all sorts of nasty things. At the time, everyone– that was all we were talking about. I just want to get what happened?
How did things end up at that point? Where you’ve got someone’s leg, literally bent around in the other direction. You’re having a chat with them in a cage, somewhere in America, “Is your leg all right, mate?” What was going on?
Craig: That’s the flip side of what I was talking about with Gordon Ryan and talking shit, and having confidence to back it up. Where Vinny’s marketed himself as basically unbreakable. If you’re going to market yourself that way and you get put in a breaking point, you’re probably going to have to let it break. I would be careful the angle at which you try to sell.
Craig: Vinny’s, I guess, a Brazilian with a good sense of humor. For me, I saw him making those jokes, and it is a joke really. Obviously, he knows he can be broken. It was just the angle. It was the corner he backed himself into. It was a strange setup for the match. I believe it was the only sporting event on in the entire world. Chael Sonnen was the only one brave enough to actually do anything, in terms of sport during the outbreak.
During the early days, when people didn’t really understand how dangerous it was or how dangerous it could be. Yes, we did this event in a barn about an hour outside of Portland. Obviously, Chael’s from Oregon. We were out in the Oregon country, at a random location we weren’t allowed to give out. At a hotel they told us not to announce to anyone. Vinny was down to do it. Me and Vinny both felt bad, because we had a tag team debacle, which was I was sick.
I was trying not to compete and make Nicky Rod do everything. Vinny played a real weird game, where he didn’t engage Nicky Rod. Then Kyle Boehm won in overtime and then everyone hated it. Obviously, even us as competitors, we thought it was silly. I tried to give Chael the money back after the event. I’m like, “I didn’t do anything, man. Take the money back.” Then Chael wanted me and Vinny to compete.
We were like, “Yes, we’ll do it. We’ll jump back in to try to make amends,” because Chael is a really good guy. That’s how the match setup happened. We both probably were unprepared, because of the COVID circumstances. We jumped in anyway to make amends. What happened with that previous show, again, Vinny was talking a little shit before the match. He was like, “He’s not going to submit me. He’s definitely not going to leglock me.” I know Gary and Gordon, both, had been in some heel hooks.
I think Gary’s were probably worse. I know Vinny’s leg was popping, Gary told me, during that match. The only doubt I had before the match was like, “Maybe this guy really is this flexible.” Then you have to talk yourself down. You’re like, “Everyone’s leg can break.” I was really confident, just for me to see how it would break. Given the flexibility of his knee and ankle ligaments, it just so happened to be his fibula that snapped. I think his fibula snapped and his entire ankle disconnected from the base of the leg.
He had no panic reaction. No reaction. The first time it broke, I didn’t know it broke. I heard a pop. Then we looked at each other and he didn’t react. I gave him props. I gave him a fist bump. I was like “Damn, you are that flexible.” Then leading up to the second time I grabbed it, he was like, “I think you broke my leg.” I was looking at it, and it was messed up.
I was even confused what to do at the moment. Really, I should have just stood up, and he would have had to walk on it. He didn’t really understand what to do. We continued the match and I went straight back for the same leg.
Sonny: What else are you going to do, I guess? That’s [laughs] the name of the sport.
Craig: After I ripped on it a second time, he started asking the ref, “How much time’s left?” You don’t know in Underground. I remember thinking, goddamn, this guy’s crazy. He just wants it to be over and go to overtime. Try and win it in overtime. Actually, he told me afterward, he was asking the ref because he wanted to survive the fight. Then retire before overtime. He’s not smart. He’s crazy.
Sonny: You understand a good way to wrap it up, where you do have to be careful with the shit talk or the marketing angle that you might put yourself in. When the leglocks don’t work. [chuckles] Well, they do.
Craig: Be careful what you say before a match.
Sonny: Yes, and I think that’s probably an interesting place to wrap things up. Craig, I really appreciate you giving me your time. I know you’ve had a busy year competing, which is pretty incredible, considering all those restrictions that have been going on around, that you have been able. I think, for sure you’re the most active out of the Danaher group.
Craig: I think so. I’m not necessarily by their choice. I just got lucky that, obviously, Chael Sonnen’s Chael Sonnen. He just doesn’t give a fuck what’s happening.
Sonny: Yes. A great year. You’ve got the new DVD out, if anyone wants to get in touch with you, what’s the best way that they can go about doing that?
Craig: Probably Instagram, just CraigJonesBJJ. That’s the way to see what I’m up to. It’s mostly jokes, but you’ll see some Jujitsu on there. [chuckles]
Sonny: Is there any more breakdowns in the pipeline for the YouTube channel?
Craig: Oh, I’ve got to get back into it. More than you, I’m apt to do a lot more video editing stuff. Obviously, just with the move, getting everything ready. Yes, I’m going to be trying to put up as many breakdowns. Trying to sneak out some of the devious secrets in those videos. The secrets.
Sonny: [laughs] There you go. Look, mate, thanks so much. I better run. I’m actually going to be training tomorrow morning with one of your old coaches Tiago Ferrero.
Craig: Oh, cool, yes.
Sonny: He lets us know when he used to know the small Craig Jones.
Craig: Oh, when he used to take us out drinking together.
Sonny: I’ll bring that one up. [laughs] He corrupted the man.
Craig: Definitely. [chuckles]
Sonny: All right, man. I really appreciate it. Have a great day.
Craig: You too, man. Catch you.
Sonny: Thank you.
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