Well, this is coincidental.
If you haven’t read my interview with Fighting in Plain Sight director Edward Doty yet, what the hell, brah? Also, I’d recommend that you check it out, if only to learn a little more about the fascinating story of Rafiel Torre, the former MMA reporter/”fighter” turned convicted murderer. You see, back in the early aughts, Rafiel liked to pass himself off as a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt and former Navy SEAL who retired with an unblemished fight record of 17-0. It wasn’t until he unretired in 2001 and put on a work at King of the Cage 7 that his history of deception began to reveal itself. Rafiel Torre wasn’t a Black Belt, he wasn’t a former Navy SEAL, hell, Rafiel Torre wasn’t even his real name (although I suppose it wouldn’t have been as easy to sell himself as a native Brazilian with a name like Ralph Bartel).
In any case, I threw the article together last night, and what pops up on the front page of the reddit MMA page this morning? Only a story about a notorious Jiu-Jitsu fraud and phony war hero being uncovered running a BJJ McDojo in Cortland, New York (a mere hour’s drive from my hometown). His name is David Lang, and his similarities to Torre don’t end at the false military and martial arts credentials. No, like Torre, Lang also claimed/claims to have been born in Brazil and moved to the US at a young age. Lang even fabricated a Brazilian cousin *named* Rafael in an attempt to add credence to his claims, for Christ’s sake.
But we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves. Let us first begin to understand how Lang was exposed as a fraud in the first place (via the Police Gazette, who uncovered his most recent scam):
Lang originally came to widespread attention in December 2010, when he became the subject of investigation in a thread on the UnderGround Forum at MixedMartialArts.com. At the time, Lang was presenting himself to students as a black belt under Wallid Ismail. Mr. Ismail is a truly legendary figure in the sports of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and vale tudo fighting. And although he was an unfamiliar name to Lang’s students in Ithaca, NY, when word began to leak out on the internet that somebody was claiming a black belt through Ismail in a remote, upstate New York college town, people in the know got immediately suspicious.
As the thread developed, a member of the MMA UnderGround in Rio de Janeiro quickly tracked down Mr. Ismail. The clearly fuming Mr. Ismail issued a prompt video statement denouncing Lang as a fraud who he had never met in his entire life, let alone trained and promoted up to black belt.
In addition to claiming the phony credentials through Mr. Ismail, Lang was also presenting himself to students and other members of the Ithaca business public as a person who had grown up in Brazil with an American mother from Brooklyn. Lang told students he had first moved to the United States at age 19, already a BJJ brown belt, and that he had enlisted in the United States Army and served two tours of duty in Afghanistan with the 101st Infantry Division.
Every one of these claims was quickly discredited, as Lang was unable to provide any evidence to show he had done any actual BJJ training in his life, aside from watching YouTube videos and then imitating what he had seen to other people who also lacked any real BJJ training. Lang was quickly found to be an American-born citizen who had been home schooled by his Christian fundamentalist mother in McGraw, NY. It was established that he in fact had no military background whatsoever.
Are you ready to punch a hole in your laptop? Because we HAVEN’T EVEN GOTTEN TO THE STORY YET. No, after being exposed as a liar in Ithaca, NY, Lang simply relocated to Cortland, NY and began a fierce letter-writing campaign to “restore” his “credibility.” A letter-writing campaign that would eventually lead him to become prison pen-pals with Hermes fucking Franca:
Through his association with Hermes Franca, Lang brought Hermes’ nephew Lucca Franca to the United States under the promise of managing the younger Franca and getting him MMA fights in the U.S. Lang also used his new association with the Francas to make a connection with Carlos David Oliveira, another well-known Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who runs a school in Richmond, VA.
Lang used the recommendation of Lucca Franca to meet Oliveira and then approach him with a business opportunity to run an affiliate school of Oliveira’s Team Evolution in Cortland. This school was established by renting space at the Northeast Martial Arts Institute on Owego Street in Cortland. Lang even arranged to have Oliveira send one of his black belts, Paulo Izaias, to live in Cortland and teach at the school for several months to further create the appearance of authenticity for himself.
“I have known Lucca since he was a kid,” Oliveira told this writer when interviewed on the phone on January 13. “He said Lang was a great guy, was going to get him fights. Later he went home. He was mad because he said he never got any fights and it was too cold.”
In March 2013 Oliveira actually did give Lang a “courtesy” promotion to a second stripe black belt. Lang has been proudly displaying the certificate of this as a sign of his legitimacy on his various social media sites.
And to think, if Lang had spent half as much time actually training as he did attempting to add credibility to the facade he had created, he might be an actual Black Belt by now. But I suppose that’s why I’m stuck here thinking while he’s out there doing.
Oliveira has since renounced any association with Lang via a statement on his Facebook page, but as of the Gazette’s writeup, Lang is still operating under false pretenses in the Cortland area, so if you have any information on his whereabouts, feel free to pass it along to us, the Gazette, your local authorities, etc. It’s rather apparent that someone needs to stop this before Lang’s story ends in the same fashion as Torre’s, with the death of an innocent person, because like Doty told us about Torre, “…you can only manipulate the truth about your identity for so long before it starts eating away at your moral center” and it’s safe to say that Lang’s moral center has long since rotted away.
You can read the first part of the Gazette’s upcoming three part series devoted to Lang, which includes a hilarious story in which Lang attempted to email a prominent UGer from “Brazil” in Google translated-Portuguese to prove his credentials, here.
Finally, here is a video of Lang “rolling” with one of his students that was recently obtained by the Gazette. We should remind you that that the man in white is claiming to be a BJJ Black Belt.
I dunno, seems pretty legit to me. Whaddya think, Nelson?