Braulio Estima gives interviews after the cancellation of the grappling superfight with Nick Diaz. Photo by Esther Lin of MMA Fighting.
Ultimately, Nick Diaz was the one who chose to walk out of the Long Beach Convention Center without grappling with Braulio Estima, but it was the people around him that put him in a position where that seemed like a good idea. This topic has generated an astounding amount of commentary on Nick Diaz's past, present and future in combat sports, yet this might actually be the single best example of the weird echo chamber of mixed martial arts media and how that can be toxic to a fighter.
Several people close to Cesar Gracie and Nick Diaz started a furor that grew beyond corralling or facts and ended up derailing the Nick Diaz/Braulio Estima Superfight at the Long Beach Spring Open. Chief among those taking up the cause against Braulio Estima and heightening the drama were two members of the MMA media, Layzie the Savage and Zeus.
Over at Middle Easy, Layzie has built a genuine and strong relationship with several members of Cesar Gracie's Gracie Fighter team - the Diaz brothers being prominent among them. This has led to Layzie doing work directly for the Diaz brothers and at other times working as a "video journalist" for the irreverently-themed combat sports site run by Zeus.
Layzie has the strong relationship he does with the Diaz brothers because he lives in the same region of northern California, has similar outlooks on areas of life, gets along well with them and their friends, usually has a good camera handy, a passable hand with video editing and is often vocally supporting the same things they do. With him, the line between media and friend or fan is very blurred.
And that is a part of why things went wrong Friday and Saturday.
Continued after the jump...
The above Tweet by Cesar Gracie was sent to his cousin, Renzo Gracie, and Luca Atalla, the founder of Gracie Magazine, at 2:57 pm ET. Renzo and Luca are prominent among the organizers of the World Jiu Jitsu Expo, as well as the series of Superfights being made at the Long Beach Spring Open. Renzo's reply was clearly delivered in a joking manner "Cesar don't give me a problem before I land I miss you cousin", and Luca tagged in with "@RenzoGracieBJJ @cesargraciebjj and don't pass the problem to us haha @lucaatalla tweeting here :)".
Cesar closed the public conversation with "@RenzoGracieBJJ @graciemag_br Renzo and Luca teaming up against me. This sucks. Lol". The tone of the conversation seems to be light-hearted and Renzo cracked further jokes about making Braulio run until the contracted upon weight was reached. The Twitter talk ceased at that point and undoubtedly, many phone calls and texts were being sent to various organizers, promoters, fighters and friends or media members.
At 11:37 on Friday night, Middle Easy took up the story and tweeted that Braulio Estima was 9 pounds overweight, while adding a bit of snarky commentary. Layzie tweeted twenty three minutes later, "If I were @NickDiaz209, I'd make @BraulioEstima kick rocks and try to make a name of someone else. 9lbs over weight is ridiculous." In a prescient moment, Dr. Ann Maria DeMars (the judo world champion and mother of Ronda Rousey) tweeted the following to the Middle Easy account:
The long-standing International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) tradition is to weigh in the day of the competition or even just before reaching the mats. Several other grappling competitions allow weigh-ins the day before or the day of, but the Superfight tradition in this particular competition usually does not require much of a weigh-in, if one is done at all. The fighters are of such high level that anything less than fifteen to twenty pounds is apparently forgiven. None of the other athletes involved in the other Superfights (Kyra Gracie/Alexis Davis, Caio Terra/Jeff Glover, Rafael Lovato Jr./Lucas Leite, Victor Estima/Kron Gracie) were required to make a certain weight for their battles. In an unusual move, Braulio and Nick had signed contracts to perform in this grappling match and Nick publicly promised to donate all of his purse to St. Jude's Children's Hospital. Part of that contract apparently stipulated a weight both fighters had to make at some unknown-to-this-writer time prior to the grappling match.
Just what that contracted upon weight was or when it was supposed to be reached is a topic of contention. There is much talk that Braulio signed a contract that said "85 kg" (187 lbs) and it was to be done on the day of the match. There is more talk that Braulio had to hit 185 lbs or 180 lbs. Which weight Braulio contractually had to hit remains to be seen, but is actually irrelevant at this point. What matters is that Braulio weighed in at 189 lbs on Friday evening and after some talking between the teams of the two opponents, Braulio ended up making weight at 180 lbs Saturday morning. The Estima weigh-in was witnessed by several people - including Lana Stefanac, a very successful BJJ black belt grappler and one time MMA fighter in the female heavyweight division and member of the Gracie Fighter team. Video of this weigh-in was taken by Stuart Cooper, a British film-maker who has been working with Braulio for some weeks and will arrive later this week. Stefanac supposedly alerted Cesar Gracie of the weight and the fight appeared to be on as scheduled.
The standard weight divisions for the IBJJF are roughly every 13 or 14 lbs from 126 lbs onwards up to 221 lbs. There is a middleweight division set at 181.0 lbs (one lb above the weight which Braulio and Diaz weighed in at). To the best of this writer's knowledge, Braulio has not missed weight for a competition he has entered and has been surprisingly open about the injuries he has had over the years - including being briefly paralyzed by a neck injury sustained during MMA training. Braulio underwent surgery in 2010 and returned to submission grappling in 2011. Diaz has been overweight exactly once in his MMA career, against Muhsin Corbbrey for a catchweight bout at 168 lbs. Nick had a famously rough time making the various lightweight division limits and his move to welterweight saw a revitalization of his career as he settled into the more natural weight class for his frame and mass.
As a long time competitor, Nick is familiar with the IBJJF-style weight divisions of submission grappling and has competed in past tournaments and superfights in and out of the gi. His long Superfight with Lucas Leite (Part 1, Part 2) two and a half years ago at the 2009 Gracie Open was a statement of how good Nick's defensive jiu jitsu actually is. Leite at the time was an elite competitor, but has grown now into a consistent title threat in the middleweight division. He actually stepped in to grapple Rafael Lovato Jr. when an injury sidelined Kayron Gracie.
It is worth noting that essentially none of the grapplers in any of the superfights was grappling someone exactly the same weight as themselves. Lovato Jr. mostly grapples in the light heavyweight division (one above Leite). Caio Terra gave up somewhere between ten and twenty pounds to Jeff Glover. Victor Estima is slightly larger than Kron Gracie (who is not 5'10" as the rookie commentating team mistakenly said on-air). Kyra and Alexis were visibly different in size as well. However, none of the matches were between metaphorical Davids and Goliaths and jiu jitsu weight divisions allow for as much variance as 15 pounds between the lightest and the heaviest competitors allowed within the division. The weight issue should not have been the show-stopper it was made out to be by some - but Layzie the Savage of Middle Easy took it and ran with it straight to the UnderGround forum. An extended tweet made by Layzie at 12:40 am of May 12th was used as the start to a long thread in which Layzie made clear his fuzzy hybrid role as a Diaz supporter/MMA personality:
It's an opinion.
I'm not sure what Estima is making but the money is unimportant. It's very minimal compared to what Nick makes for fighting so it's the principal of the fact that Nick has been training and dieting and Braulio has been eating and not dieting and expecting to come in 20-30 pounds heavier and without the energy sap of having to cut weight. That's some BS
[...]Nick, himself, would never in a million years speak out about feeling that way.
He would just 'fight'... because that's what Nick Diaz does... He just 'fights'... Whoever, wherever, whenever...
and people know that...
As a friend and as a fan, I think he's being taken advantage of.
I can see where you are coming from, but that's just my opinion.
Hopefully I'm wrong, and there's some reasonable excuse.
After proof of Braulio making weight was posted, Layzie disappeared from that UnderGround thread.
Further complicating things is the weird dynamic that the Diaz brothers have on social media. A number of supposedly fake Twitters, Facebook and YouTube accounts have been created and they emulate the real Nick and Nathan so much that the Twitter account alone has 27,000+ followers and the Facebook account 50,000+ likes. Nick has 50,000 followers on his real Twitter and Nathan has over 100,000 on his real Twitter account. The fake accounts have taken to saying the following:
Promoter fails to donate the money to charity as agreed. (shady) Promoter changes rules for weigh ins to accommodate fellow Brazilian
Match ain't happening
Needless to say, this sent the online discussion in a whole new tizzy because the news that the fake accounts are fake has not gotten to everyone and not everyone who talks about these things verifies the source as being valid. The name of the promoter remains unknown to this writer at present, but tweets from Cesar and Renzo are illuminating.
The above Portuguese given by Cesar translates roughly to "I believe Nick will have a great fight. P.S. I will see Braulio make weight before the fight, 175 or 180, you decide the rules."
The involvement of Renzo in this leads this writer to believe that the supposedly revoked charity donation is a complete fabrication. Renzo is a fighter and a trainer who enjoys making money, but he has made his reputation as a very honest person. It would be hard to believe that Renzo would not step in to make the donation himself or find a way to make it work before letting the match fall apart.
At the venue itself, Layzie was with Ronda Rousey for most of the day. He says publicly that he had little to no contact with Nick at this time and that is generally believable. Layzie was in the media scrum when Braulio was giving interviews and asking pointed, although biased questions about the weird saga. In that scrum, Braulio said in response to the question of who from Gracie Fighters witnessed his weigh-in "Lana, Lana" in his Brazilian accent. Layzie misheard this as "Ronda" and shouted "Ronda Rousey?" Braulio unfortunately said "Yes," due either to the clamor of the scrum or through his own hearing mistakes/inattention (something I am very familiar with being both deaf and from a bilingual household).
Zeus and Layzie then went on to make this piece over on Middle Easy. A video featuring Ronda Rousey saying that she never saw Braulio weigh in that day and that he "obviously is a liar" is prominent in that piece.
Oddly enough, this Ronda video is the single most commendable thing Layzie has done in recent memory. Although he misheard "Lana" as "Ronda", the hustle he displayed in getting Ronda to comment and to get the video up is exactly the kind of aggressive fact-checking that "old" journalism is based on. That the scoop was based on a mistake only obviates its validity - not its quality or delivery. The rant Ronda goes on is a great one and would have been entirely newsworthy if it hadn't been based upon a mistake of hearing.
The problem lies in the delivery of the Middle Easy piece and further coverage beyond the video - as the piece strongly intimates that Braulio is lying regarding the weigh-in happenings and that the drama surrounding the whole saga organically made its way over to the UnderGround forum:
The info spread on The Underground, fanboys created their hyper-complex conspiracy theories, then the morning after the debacle, Braulio Estima posted on his Facebook that he made weight, and that became verified fact.
Shortly after Nick Diaz pulled off a no-show to his highly anticipated fight against Braulio Estima, LayzieTheSavage did some investigative reporting, fact-checked his sources and found evidence that Braulio Estima is not exactly telling the truth regarding making the agreed upon weight of 180 lbs to compete against Nick Diaz.
An update was made to the piece that states that they are following up with Lana Stefanac regarding the weigh-in details and Layzie has tweeted an apology for mixing up the two. However, those updates do little to blunt the impact of Middle Easy's tweet regarding the piece, "We're pretty certain Braulio Estima never made weight in his match with Nick Diaz, and here's why...".
This type of toxic misinformation was and is being thrown about with little regard or patience for facts or official confirmation. The resulting clash of narratives has made quite a few people - including high profile athletes and trainers - come out of this debacle with metaphorical egg on their faces. Renzo is now facing a barrage of Tweets, texts and e-mails from people asking about Junior, the shady promoter. That promoter is probably under a landslide of electronic media right now asking for refunds for the stream - despite four successful Superfights that would get top billing at most other submission grappling events. Ronda Rousey attended one event and answered truthfully to one question, only to end up opening a can of worms. Eddie Bravo put up a highly inflammatory pro-Nick/anti-Braulio statement on the Underground forum - but retracted and edited his comment once he found out that Braulio had indeed made weight.
There is a distorted echo chamber of sorts in MMA and sussing out who is telling the truth and who is blowing smoke or hustling for their own agenda can be a chore best assigned to managers, agents and/or trusted friends. For Nick Diaz, the trust in those around him failed him on Friday and Saturday in an admittedly less high-profile manner than his UFC 137 shenanigans or the positive drug test following the Carlos Condit title fight at UFC 143. He chose to walk away and the pre-match ludicrousness of Cesar, Layzie, Zeus, the fake Diaz brothers account and the thousands of fans on the UG, Facebook, Twitter and more probably made it seem like a rational decision based in passable logic. The lion's share of the blame should be upon Nick, but it should also go towards the weird role that media members now play in many camps across the world. They are not simply friends, fans, personalities or professionals, but hybrids that establish relationships with fighters that shade more towards the parasitical than the symbiotic and somehow, a few parlay this into Internet fame and perhaps full-time paying jobs. Peter King has made a spectacular career out of this with his cud-chewing ruminations on football and baseball and it has partly ruined the mainstream discussions of the sports.
In what sane MMA world is a friend and a fan like Layzie tweeting journalistic-sounding things like this, while simultaneously serving as the official videographer/editor/designated news leaker for the entire Gracie Fighter team? Furthermore, we see Layzie acting as an impromptu PR person in telling us that Nick Diaz will "pay the donation to St. Jude's out of pocket".
In the end, we should take the advice of Dr. DeMars, Ronda's mother,
Update: Layzie has written a statement regarding the coverage debacle on Twitter/TwitLonger. It will be quoted below in full, and spaces put in to make it slightly easier to read:
I'd like to apologize to @BraulioEstima for this misunderstanding and my accusations. I do have terrible hearing but I wasn't the only person that thought he had said "Ronda." Someone next to me said, "Rousey."
So I asked Estima, "Ronda Rousey saw you weigh in?"
So I apologize also for bringing Ronda Rousey into the picture. I would never intentionally start a rumor about anyone or drag someone into a situation just to try and make someone else look better or worse...
Everything that I said or posted was in reference to what I was being told by the GracieFighter camp, and apparently, they were just as misinformed as I was.
This being the reason for my questions during the media scrum about the weigh in situation, stemming from an unorganized promotion and the lack of communication between all parties involved, including myself.
As far as my support for the Cesar Gracie Camp goes...
I've always said that I'm not a reporter, just a videographer trying to bring you cool stuff to watch.
I'll always be a fan, and not just of the Gracie Camp, but of all fighters and this sport.
I try to get as much information for you guys during times when information is impossible to get,
but it's only comes back to bite me in the ass,
so I've decided to take a step back, and let things run their own course.
Which includes NOT covering Nick's NSAC hearing next week, or anything else involving his career.
I also ask that you please refrain from holding a grudge against anyone at MiddleEasy.com or the site itself.
They we're only posting what I was relaying to them.
I wish everyone involved the best of luck in their future endeavors and I apologize again to Braulio Estima for any inconvenience I may have caused you with the things I've posted or said.
Sincerely, Michael "LayzieTheSavage" Mardones