My journey started when I was 10 years old, so please bear with me because it's a quarter of a century to cover. I grew up in Clovis California and it just so happened, I was surrounded by the greatest wrestling program in the history of California. However it did not come easy. My first your wrestling, I lost every single match except my very last match of the season. How hard it was and how it was something that did not come natural to me was actually the thing that motivated me to continue wrestling. After my first and successful season, I decided to dedicate myself to wrestling. The dedication paid off, as I realize a combination of hard work, dedication, good coaching, good workout partners, and a believe in yourself made winning and winning tournaments a reality. By the time I was 14 I was winning more than 90% of all my matches and I was really developing mentally, physically, and emotionally. Even though I do not consider this an accomplishment today, I won the junior highs state championships at 102 pounds when I was 14. The reason why it was important to me when I was 13, I set a goal to become a state champion. In the following year, I would learn Olympic weightlifting from my dad, (former Olympic lifter w/CA record still) learn about diet and nutrition, and also experiment with running. Combining all three together with wrestling every day is wet I attributed to me at obtaining my goal. I experienced success all through high school, but with high school wrestling, I took dedication to another level. I decided I was going to be a high school state champion. I have all the tools, I have the right coaches; I was coached by Stephen Tirapelle, Who ended up being the most successful high school coach in California history. As well as two assistant coaches that had put more time into me than anybody can fathom. Anthony Camacho & Chad Snopp coached me in high school and junior college. I also had some of the best workout partners; Pacifico Garcia, Alex Tirapelle, & Casey Olson.
My senior year in 1999 was going well, I was ranked third in the state and first in the central section. Also, I had compiled a record of 20–1 with my only lost coming out of the weight above me. Needless to say, this was my year. At the Doc Buchanan Invitational, I suffered a season ending injury to my knee. My dreams of being a state champion in high school were crushed. I was very depressed and also experienced a great deal of identity issues, as I was having trouble understanding myself without wrestling.
While I was in bed recovering from surgery, my mom brought me home a video from Blockbuster called "UFC 4". Even though I had heard about the Ultimate Fighting Championships, it didn't really interest me at that time, and to be honest I enjoyed boxing more. However, when I watch this one it change my life forever. What I saw was a skinny Brazilian named Royce Gracie technically demolish all of his opponents leading up into the finals. The Man he was facing was a 260 pound wrestler named Dan Severan. Being a Wrestler myself, I picked Dan to win because more than likely he would be on top and had at least an 80 pound weight advantage. After 17 minutes of being on his back, Gracie was able to make Severn tap out, which I didn't understand or was possible. I called my brother over, and put him in the same technique I saw Gracie do to Severn, except I was in a brace from my butt to my ankle. To my surprise my brother tapped and when I asked him why, he told me he was getting put to sleep. I realized instantly that the skinny Brazilian just choked this huge wrestler off his back with his legs. I was Completely blown away!!! I hopped up to my feet, picked up the phone book, looked up Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, & called my first instructor Phill Snavely. Our initial phone conversation lasted about three hours and I was explaining how much my mind just got blown by what I just saw. He said "that's just a triangle choke, there's like 1 million moves like that." I told him that I would be in to see him the second my knee was better.
September 14, 1999 was my first day of jiu jitsu. It was life-changing to say the least. At the end of my first day, which I practiced for 4 1/2 hours, I was in my car and I knew that I was going to be doing this for a very long time. I don't know how to explain this, but I imagine if jiu jitsu was a spirit. I made a deal with jiu jitsu which was made out loud, so I actually said it; "if I could learn this incredible martial art and everything it had the offer, then one day I would give it all back." At the time of writing this, I have been practicing jiu jitsu for over 16 years and it gave me way more than I was aware even existed.
I would spend the next three years (1999-2002) training anywhere from 2-4 times per day at Impact Martial Arts in Fresno California, under the guidance of Phil Snavely, even when we didn't have practice... I loved it! I learned very fast and I also decided to continue my wrestling career as well. I progressed to the rank of Blue Belt after one year and three months of training. I had also competed in about a half dozen tournaments, all of which I won mostly by submission. At the same time, I would finally get what I had worked so hard for, I claimed a State Wrestling Championship title, along with my team at Fresno City College in 2001. In May 2002, I received my Associate Degree with a GPA of 3.5 and also much to my surprise, I was awarded Male Athlete of the Year for Fresno city College, which is based off of both athletic and academic performance. My wrestling record and junior-college was 48–7. The most significant part of wrestling in college, was that my emotions were much more calm and I completely attributed that to Jiu Jitsu. It was changing my wrestling for good and it was a completely different discipline. After junior college and winning a state championship, I realized that with wrestling, I had a ticket out of Fresno… And I took it.
In July 2002, at the age of 21, I moved to Southern California to finish my education and my wrestling career at Cal State Fullerton. While at the very beginning of the wrestling season, one day a teammate Risto Martinnen, said that Chris Brennan was looking for a wrestling instructor. This was perfect, because I had already competed in 2 of his tournaments while I was living in Fresno. So, I already knew him, and he knew of me as well. That same Saturday, he just happened to be hosting another tournament. I decided to enter and then ask if I could be his wrestling instructor. I had eight matches that lasted a total of 10 1/2 minutes with eight submissions, that's when I joined the Next Generation family.
Chris Brennan would be the man that REALLY made me understand the intricacies of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. On top of having one of the best Americans train me in Jiu Jitsu, I was also incredibly fortunate enough to have some of the best workout partners in the entire country. Next Generation was a family, and I felt like I was at home. In fact, I actually lived in the gym, swept and mopped every day, and was still attending and wrestling full time at CSUF. When I was a Purple belt under Chris, my teamate, training partner, and eventually the man that I would receive my black belt from, Rick Estrada started Subfighter.com. It was a BJJ based technique site that had news, videos, interviews, and forums and was also the #3 most hit BJJ/MMA website in the entire world... Yes bigger than the UFC and Sherdog at that time. I was a huge part of the site, as I taught a lot of the Jiu Jitsu and Wrestling techniques that were posted. We would also do interviews and talk about philosophies and training. It had such a huge following, that we eventually created a forum section called "Ask the Pro's", in which I answered questions daily from people all around the world. Being a part of Subfighter.com was my introduction to the online BJJ/MMA world, which was a great experience in which I received many compliments on my techniques.
While at Next Generation, I progressed faster than I had thought possible. Chris was the best Jiu Jitsu instructor I've ever had and elevated me to a level that very few will ever achieve. Under his guidance, I received my purple and brown belts, was regularly competing in tournaments, Mma Fights, teaching the students, coaching the fighters and grappling team, teaching private lessons, and basically immersing myself in everything that chris taught. Looking back on it, even though I was with Chris for only three years, he taught me most of my jiu Jitsu and I credit most of my philosophies to him. Under Chris' guidance, I also fought professionally in MMA, it really guided and crafted my Jiu Jitsu into a combative art. I feel that fighting to me was more for me to perfect what I teach and to better understand the art of Jiu Jitsu.
At the height of me competing for Next Generation, I was fortunate enough to be invited to compete in ADCC 2005 as a brown belt, the first time that it had ever been in the United States. I lost in the first round to Jeff Glover on points, however I realized that I had reached an elite level and this is where I belong. It didn't serve much purpose for me to enter the regular tournament circuit anymore. After ADCC, I competed mostly in super fights, which gave me a great deal of exposure and notoriety. I was teaching regularly and was the #1 contender in King of the Cage. At the end of 2005, Chris move to Texas and I would start training under his very first black belt, Jeremy Williams at Apex Jiu Jitsu.
It felt very natural to continue learning under the man who had trained the most under Chris Brennan. Jeremy was an incredible individual, and would go out of his way for you. Jeremy really taught me what it was to transcend what you know in martial arts into every day life. Meaning, what you learn through Jiu Jitsu isn't just meant for combat. It is to better and purify all aspects of your life. While I was with Jeremy, I improved my skills in all areas, including striking. I would regularly compete in super fights, only against black belts, as well as fight in Japan. Jeremy was a great coach and mentor and utilized the same teachings and philosophies that Chris Brennan had.