John Smith, the greatest wrestler in the history of the United States of America, recently attended his first Brazilian jiu jitsu class. This past Wednesday (July 2, 2014) the Oklahoma State legend stopped by Edge Hoboken and sat in on a session taught by current World Series of Fighting middleweight champion, David Branch. In the photo below, you can see Smith in the orange hat standing against the wall in the background.
Additionally, we have a photo of Smith hanging from some rings like a boss while speaking to the Esposito brothers, Dave and Zack. Dave is an instructor at Edge Hoboken, and Zack (in the orange shorts, twitter handle @zack_espo) is one of Smith's assistants at Oklahoma State University.
The guys at Edge even taped a brief conversation between Smith and Branch, which appears below.
For those who are unfamiliar with John Smith, he won four freestyle wrestling World Championships and two Olympic gold medals, all in a row, from 1987-1992. This means that he is the only American wrestler to win gold medals at two non-boycotted Olympics, and he claims more world championships than any of his countrymen (Lee Kemp and Bruce Baumgartner have three).
On the NCAA level Smith won two individual national championships for Oklahoma State University. Soon after retiring from international wrestling, he became the head coach for OSU, and remains so to this day. In his capacity as head coach for his alma mater, he has lead the Cowboys, history's most decorated college wrestling team, to five national championships. During his coaching career he has also mentored a myriad of future MMA standouts, including Daniel Cormier, Mo Lawal, Jake Rosholt, Jared Rosholt, Johny Hendricks, Shane Roller, Steve Mocco and Randy Couture.
For a glimpse of some of Smith's brilliance on the mat, we've provided a highlight video below. The video, which just strings together various takedowns, doesn't quite capture what made Smith so amazing, but the Metzger at about a minute in is one of the greatest things ever.
Smith's attendance at a single BJJ class might not seem like a big deal, but a decade ago he likely would not have even been curious. This is yet another example of how the sport of MMA is leading to some fascinating cross pollination between the world's grappling arts.