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Exclusive: MMA Fighter/Grappling Guru Robert Drysdale Talks Training, Fighting, Judging, and Body Hair

(Photo courtesy of Jason Norwood)

By Nathan “The12ozCurls” Smith

Robert Drysdale’s BJJ credentials include being a six-time World Jiu-Jitsu champion, ADCC Absolute Division Champion as well as winning over 90 BJJ tournament titles. He has a MMA record of 3-0 with all three victories coming by way of submission, showing his versatility in those fights by using a guillotine, an arm-bar and an arm triangle choke. Within the MMA community he is regarded as one of the best BJJ instructors with a virtual all-star list of hall of famers, former champs and current contenders to support the claim. Names like Randy Couture, Wanderlei Silva, Forrest Griffin, Martin Kampmann, and Evan Dunham have all excelled under the tutelage of Drysdale, just to name a few.  He was also brought in on TUF season 8 by Frank Mir (a black belt in BJJ himself) to help coach his team. Despite having enough trophies and medals to fill a dump truck while instructing some of the sport’s elite, Drysdale still trains/teaches at his BJJ academy in Las Vegas.

This past weekend, Robert Drysdale hosted a seminar at the World Jiu-Jitsu Expo in Long Beach, California, where he was kind enough to give CagePotato a few minutes of his time. You have trained the cream of the crop in MMA, both skill-wise and personality-wise. Do you have any personal favorites?

Robert Drysdale: There are a lot of guys that I really like but me and Frank [Mir] get along pretty well. John Alessio is a very good friend and then there is Danny DavisForrest [Griffin] is a trip and it’s always fun to have him in the gym. There are so many guys down at the gym that it is hard to name all of them but I get along with all my students.

CP: Are the stories true? Is Forrest really that hairy?

RD: (laughs) He tries to be as hairy as me but he is not winning that fight because I have better hair distribution.

CP: According to your Wikipedia page, you fought in Houston Texas last night. Apparently not everything is true on the internet. What happened?

RD: I was supposed to fight last night, man, but I had a knee injury a while ago and it has been slow to heal so the fight has been moved to July 13th. I have a three-fight deal with Legacy Fighting Championship and that will be the first one.

CP: Is the eventual goal to compete in the UFC?

RD: I guess the UFC is everyone’s end-game but I don’t think of it like that because that’s not the end. I just want to keep getting better. I think that working hard is really the key and everything else is just the consequence of your hard work.

CP:  You have said that a person can train in Jiu-Jitsu for their entire life and still not master it. That may be true, but since it is your area of expertise, how are you training in MMA to become a “complete” fighter.

RD: I always thought it was a mistake to neglect your ‘A’ game, which is what a lot of people do.  They think, ‘I am going to fight MMA now, so I am only going to work on my hands because my Jiu-Jitsu is good enough.’ A lot of people have told me, ‘Don’t work on your Jiu-Jitsu – just work on your hands.’ But most likely I am going to use my Jiu-Jitsu to win because it is my best weapon. So I want to make sure that my best weapon is always sharp. That being said, it is important to learn other elements of the game even if it’s not your field of expertise. You need to be comfortable enough in that game to be able to hang. That is why I have been putting a lot of time in with my striking to make sure I am comfortable to hang on my feet when I fight because I don’t want to be a one-dimensional fighter.

CP: So take me through an average week for you.

RD: My schedule right now, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I teach and train from 10:30 am until 12:30 pm. It’s a Jiu-Jitsu slash MMA class. So basically, small gloves, ground and pound, wall wrestling with submissions. In the afternoon, I’ll lift some heavy weights and mix in some conditioning and if I don’t do that then I will do a one hour Muay Thai session. After that I teach a class from 6:30 pm until 8:00 pm. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I spar from 11 am until 12:30, get some striking drills in as well and then at night I do some more sparring and hit some pads.

CP: You were brought in by Frank Mir during his season coaching on TUF. How do you juggle being a coach and a fighter?

RD: People probably refer to me more as a coach than as a fighter because I teach so many UFC fighters in Jiu-Jitsu at my gym. Being a full-time trainer is something I would focus on exclusively in the future. Right now I am a part-time coach because my focus is on my fighting career and that is what I put most of my energy into. Coaching is something I really enjoy and I think I am good at it but it is not a top priority right now.

CP: We have seen guys like Rashad Evans and Forrest Griffin go from combatants on TUF series to coaching on the show. Did the thought ever cross your mind to go from coaching on the show to being a competitor on the show as a way to fast-track you to the UFC?

RD: I have heard a lot of negative things about TUF from people that have been on it, but I guess I really shouldn’t talk about it. Let’s just say it’s probably not the best route for me.

CP: Like yourself, Ricardo Almeida is also here doing a seminar at the World Jiu-Jitsu Expo and he recently served as an official judge during the UFC on FOX 3 card.  What do you think of fighters/trainers operating in that capacity and would that be something you may be interested in down the road?

RD: I would much rather have professional fighters judging. The fact is, I don’t know who these judges are and I don’t want to disrespect them, but it sounds to me that they are either fans of the sport or people that have been around the right people for a long time. So they are like their buddies and then they get hooked up. Then there are others that are boxing experts who don’t necessarily know anything about MMA. I think that Ricardo Almeida being a judge is probably one of the best things to happen to this sport. As far as I am concerned, I think I am unbiased and would make a good judge. I am a reasonable guy and I have refereed Jiu-Jitsu matches before where the match ends in a draw and I have given the decision to the guy who is not my friend. I am that kind of guy.

CP: Where are you after the three-fight deal with Legacy Fighting Championship?

RD:  Hopefully with a 6-0 record, maybe get a couple more fights, and then talk with the UFC. Honestly, I don’t think that far ahead. It is hard enough to think one step ahead much less think 20 steps ahead. That is a little ambitious in my opinion. I live today. I live the now, and I try to be the best I can be right now. Everything unfolds and everything is a consequence of me making the right decisions in my life.

Learn more about Robert at, and follow him on twitter @RobertDrysdale.

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linzhancb- May 15, 2012 at 9:24 am
Kid Clam Curtains- May 14, 2012 at 1:44 pm
Good stuff 12oc. Drysdale could be an mma monster if he sticks with it.
The12ozCurls- May 14, 2012 at 7:05 pm
Thanks KCC - He was a super cool dude. Down to earth and humble considering what he has done in BJJ.