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Robert Drysdale: Heir apparent to the Las Vegas MMA training empire

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Brazilian jiu jitsu ace, Robert Drysdale discusses the migration of Xtreme Couture team members to his gym, the politics and over-commercialization of jiu jitsu, Lloyd Irvin and Vinny Magalhaes.

Photo credit Wiki Commons
Photo credit Wiki Commons

Las Vegas, considered the Mecca of mixed martial arts, has started to hit it's stride again as a 'go to' training destination again. With the MMA Syndicate, Las Vegas Combat Club and Robert Drysdale BJJ doing good work with their athletes, there is no shortage of available, top level training to be had.

There once was a time when fighters flocked to Xtreme Couture, which was well on it's way to becoming a supercamp. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the fighters started making their mass exodus to other camps. Names like Gray Maynard, Tyson Griffin, Mike Pyle and Phil Baroni were among the lost boys, and the list of runaways wasn't just limited to the athletes. Coaches, like the late Shawn Thompkins, Vinny Magalhaes, Robert Drysdale and Gil Martinez also sought greener pastures.

So, what went wrong at Randy Couture's fabled gym? I interviewed BJJ ace and former Xtreme Couture BJJ instructor, Robert Drysdale a few weeks ago, where he weighed in on what he feels the problems are. He also discussed his own gym's success, and what he thinks of the current jiu jitsu landscape. Here's what he had to say:

Growing Pains & Branching Out

It's very exciting, and it's certainly flattering that so many people are coming over to my gym for my instruction. It's something I enjoy, and I really don't see it as work. When I moved to Vegas, this was not my original plan. My original plan was to train, but people started asking me questions, and the next thing you know, I'm teaching, and now I've opened my own gym. I like it. I like to teach, and it certainly hasn't stopped me from training. I do what I love, so I'm certainly privileged to be able to do something that I love so much.

Our rapid growth is a bit of a concern as far as having enough space. We moved to this location a little over a year ago, and we've already outgrown the place. We need more space, without a doubt. I'm on a five year lease at my current location, so I've got to figure something out. I think we'll be able to work around it, though. It's something that is in the works.

I want to be able to offer more, a complete experience. I want to offer housing for the fighters, management, training, sponsor opportunities, from when they begin their careers as amateurs, all the way into the UFC. We have grand ideas, but it's still a work in progress. I don't like to rush things. I'm very patient in that sense, and I want the team to grow organically.

I didn't think we were going to be the best team in Vegas overnight, but I definitely think we're working in that direction. Very soon, I think we'll have one of the most powerful MMA teams in the world.

The Politics Of Jiu Jitsu

I'm not very political, even though I come from a jiu jitsu background. Everyone who trains jiu jitsu, knows how very political it can be. I grew so tired of it. It was so exhausting that I just flipped the other way. I'm not political at all. I tell my guys, 'You do what you've got to do. I'm here to help you if you need it, just let me know. If you've got to go somewhere else, I'm not going to stop you, and I'm not going to get mad at you. You do what's best for you.' That's my policy and it seems to work. We've never had a problem that way.

The Over-commercialization of Jiu Jitsu

My online tutorials are exclusive to the Drysdale affiliate members. I didn't open mine to the public like a lot of other people did. I wanted my instruction to be exclusive to the people that were under me. Mine are similar to the Gracie's, but I think they were targeting big numbers. I think that in the short term, there's a lot of money to be made, but I think in the long term, it's going to backfire. I just want to be able to give my best instruction to the people that are around me. I do have the system in place, but it's exclusive to the people directly affiliated with my gym.

I do think jiu jitsu gets a little over commercialized. It is a business, but it's not why we started training in the first place. That's not why I started training. I'm not going to be a hypocrite and say that I don't run a business, or that I'm not trying to make money. I'm not going to say that at all, but it's not at the top of the list. I make an effort for it not to be on top of the list. I think it's a consequence of being passionate about what you do. It's a privilege that I can do something that I love and make a living from it. I want to keep it like that. If I happen to make money, it's a side effect, but it's not the sole objective or the ultimate goal. It's a side effect of hard work.

Vinny Magalhaes

He's a very good friend and a great training partner. We've been in Vegas forever and we train together every now and then. You're not going to find a better training partner than him in Vegas, and you're also not going to find a better one than me, so we get together to help each other out.

I don't have an ego in the sense where I feel I'm the boss of everyone. If he's on the mat and he's got some input on a position, everyone will listen. I have him show moves, too. It's whatever works best for the gym, and Vinny is a great guy. We get along really well, and I think he's a big help in the gym. He's always teaching me something that will make a big difference in my game. I'm very happy to have him onboard.

Vinny Magalhaes vs Phil Davis

I think it's a tough fight for both of them. I think they're pretty evenly matched on the feet. Of course Phil Davis has the wrestling background which gives him the option to take the fight to the ground, but I don't know if he's going to want to go to the ground with Vinny. I know Vinny can take him down if he wants to. He's actually got really good takedowns. It's just not something he's always going for.

I have my money on Vinny. I don't think Phil can match him on the ground. Vinny's bottom game is exceptional, and I think he's most dangerous from there. On the feet it might be close, but if Phil wants to turn this into a wrestling match, he's going to end up finished.

Xtreme Couture

I think I was the first one, or at least one of the first ones to migrate away from Xtreme Couture. You know, I get along with Randy and it was cool, but I felt that I wasn't getting the instruction that I wanted when I first moved there. One of the reasons I moved to Vegas was Xtreme Couture, because I wanted to work with all the wrestlers. I figured if I could get my wrestling in good order, I'd be set in MMA.

I love Randy, don't get me wrong, but I was disappointed with the instruction. As far as people helping me, well, I was helping them a lot more than they were helping me. It didn't make any sense for me to stick around. I figured I'd just open my own place.

I'd still go to Xtreme Couture to spar, but after a while, the sparring at my place got better, so I quit going. I just do everything at my place now, and there ended up being a slow gravitation over to my place from there. It didn't happen over night, but pretty much all those guys I used to train with at Xtreme Couture are all training at my place now. There's good training here, and everyone seems to like it. It's very flattering, and it's something I take great pleasure in, being able to share some of my experience and my knowledge with these guys.

Lloyd Irvin

I know Lloyd. I won't say I know him well, but I've met him a few times. He's a very ambitious person. I actually wonder about him because he's so money oriented. I don't know what he was doing working in jiu jitsu and fighting. He should have been working on Wall Street.

I don't know what happened. I don't know details. I've heard all the rumors, and I've even seen this website that exposes him, but I don't know how much of it is true. If even a quarter of what I've seen and heard is true, that's really bad for him. Even if it somehow turned out to be lies, it still puts a taint on his life. People will always associate him with violence and rape.

I think some of it's true, but I don't how much or what parts. I definitely think there should be a police investigation into these matters. If he is guilty, he should have to pay for his crimes. It's a very sad situation, and it's a bad thing to have attached to the jiu jitsu community.

You can follow Robert via his Twitter account, @RobertDrysdale