Saturday, March 3, 2007

Eddie Bravo is jiu-jitsu rocker - and UFC unofficial judge at major fights

COLUMBUS, Ohio (CP) - Jiu-jitsu instructor and black belt. Rock musician and producer. Unofficial judge on UFC telecasts.

Eddie Bravo is living the life.

The 36-year-old from Los Angeles is known to UFC fans as the man keeping unofficial score during pay-per-view events. He has also done play-by-play commentary for other mixed martial arts organizations in the past like King of the Cage.

As a jiu-jitsu fighter, he made his name in 2003 when he submitted the legendary Royler Gracie in Brazil at the prestigious Abu Dhabi submission wrestling championship. Gracie had previously never given up a point in competition, let alone been submitted.

Like Tom Cruise in Top Gun, Bravo became an instructor after his big score and now teaches out of Legends MMA Training Centre, a gym in Hollywood, Calif., fronted by legends Randy Couture and Bas Rutten.

But there is far more to Bravo.

"Martial arts and jiu-jitsu isn't really what I do," he explained in an interview at the weigh-in for Saturday night's UFC 68: The Uprising. "What I really do is produce music. That's my real passion, that's what I'm really good at. I started doing jiu-jitsu just to stay in shape so I wouldn't be a fat rock star on stage. But my jiu-jitsu blew up before my music."

He is producing two bands: a female alternative rock group called Temple of Mir ("It's kind if like Sarah McLachlan and Marilyn Manson collaborated") and a hip-hop remix version of the same songs called Compella and The Twister (imagine "if The Cure, Depeche Mode and Marilyn Manson put out a hip-hop record").

He expects both will have a CD out by the summer - and both will succeed. Excerpts of both are available on his MySpace page (

Bravo, who plays, produces and writes material for his bands, is also putting together his own label: The Twister Records.

"I'm definitely a musician first, music producer first whose hobby accidentally blew up and went through the roof. But that's just temporary. When it's all said and done, my jiu-jitsu's going to be a footnote," Bravo predicted.

"Just like nobody really knows that Rod Stewart is like this phenomenal soccer player and could have went pro. You find that out on like 'VH1 Behind The Music."'

Bravo has rock star looks and dreams to match. A sleeve of tattoos covers one arm, with the other also sporting a healthy selection of ink. There's also a striking spike-like earring. He exudes cool.

"Ultimately I plan on running music in LA," he says with all seriousness. "I plan on being a gigantic super-powerful record mogul."

Growing up in Orange Country, Bravo started out as a drummer but sold his drums and moved to Hollywood in 1991 when he was 20 to make his name as a musician, taking up guitar and other instruments.

He paid his dues, working at the Post Office and UPS, running a chain of cheque-cashing stores, delivering flowers and going door to door dyeing carpets. He also spent 10 years as a disc jockey at Bare Elegance, a strip club near the Los Angeles airport. The job sharpened his musical instincts, according to Bravo.

"I had to be on top of the latest music scene, the latest bands, the latest hits and matching them with all these girls," he explained. "Because strippers are very, very, very picky about their music. They're going to get on stage and get naked? It's got to be really good music."

He quit that job in 2003. leaving with "some crazy memories."

The Gracie win that year "changed everything." He had made his name in the sport of jiu-jitsu and could use it as an instructor.

"The nine to five thing is over for me," he says happily. "I love that."

And now, he says, his two talents are working hand-in-hand.

"The crazy thing is the jiu-jitsu is getting my music heard," he said. "My jiu-jitsu totally surpassed my music career, but now people are listening to my music. My music is catching up to my jiu-jitsu. So it's all like intertwined now. I'm like this jiu-jitsu rocker. It's kind of crazy. I love it."

Bravo is more than one win, however.

He has written two books on jiu-jitsu and has a third on the way. He also has one DVD out, with two more planned.

He has his own guard - the rubber guard - and a signature guillotine-like finishing move called The Twister that he transported from wrestling to jiu-jitsu.

Bravo, who started in the sport in 1994 and studied under Jean Jacques Machado, also has his own style of jiu-jitsu, dubbed 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu, which is designed for use in mixed martial arts.

Asked to name his favourite jiu-jitsu fighters, he cites Japan's Shinya Aoki and American Dean Lister.

And while Bravo is a big dreamer, he is rooted to reality. He has not forgotten how after beating Gracie, he lost the fight that followed - against Leo Viera.

"It's like winning the Super Bowl, you're popping champagne backstage. You're crying and you're overjoyed. And then there telling you you've got another football game to play before you can celebrate. My head was not right."

He is not surprised by the growth of MMA, seeing it as the perfect showcase for determining the alpha male

"It's our natural instinct to watch fight. We want to watch fights. It's how we sort out the dominant male. We find out who the dominant male is and we follow them. It's part of our instincts, our caveman genes. . . . Who's the most dominant male on the planet? The guy who can kick the most ass."

Despite his jiu-jitsu success as a 145-pounder, the compact Bravo never opted for MMA, which he sees as a triathlon of sports with its striking, grappling and jiu-jitsu.

"These fighters are like Olympic athletes. They're training all day. And when they're not training, they're sleeping and recovering. No time for anything else. They barely have time for their family and friends. That's not my lifestyle."

But he is looking to set up a rematch with Gracie, looking to dismiss any talk that the first win was a fluke.

Bravo teaches six classes a week, covering all levels. These days he uses jiu-jitsu (and lifting weights) to stay in shape. "The rest of my time is for music - and fun time."

That includes working for the UFC. He started his role as unofficial TV judge at UFC 43 in April 2003 and has been a fixture ever since.

Usually he arrives Friday morning, catches the production meeting and takes in the weigh-in. "Friday night, we have fun. And then Saturday, it's showtime."

Bravo follows the same basic rules as the real judges, but has his own way or tracking who is the busier fighter - the one with the most effective striking, grappling, aggression and Octagon control.

"I have my own little system where anything significant that happens in the round I keep track of it. A connecting right hand, a left hook, a takedown, a passing of the guard, a mount, a little ground-and-pound action, a flurry here, a knee there. I keep track of everything."

Bravo acknowledges he pays special attention to who closes the round stronger. But he is also aware the three real judges sit ringside.

"Their scoring counts. Mine doesn't. I'm just like the on-air opinion."

But friend and UFC commentator Joe Rogan says Bravo is good at what he does.

"Often times he's right on the money," he said.

Bravo says most fights are easy to score, but there are exceptions like the Forrest Griffin-Tito Ortiz bout. The most difficult ones, he says, come when a fighter barely wins the first two rounds and then the other guy dominates the third. The early success usual nets the win, even if it was less than spectacular. "Those are the ones that are hard to swallow."

For that reason, Bravo would like to see changes to the "10-point must" boxing scoring system, when the winner of the round gets 10 points, and the loser nine or less. It works for boxing because there are 12 rounds, evening out any scoring bumps, as opposed to three or five (for championship bouts) in the UFC.

That minor complaint aside, Bravo is relishing all that he does.

"My life is 100 per cent fun," he says. "I am not complaining. It's awesome.

"Working for the UFC, even though I do have a real small part, it's fantastic. ...," he adds. "It's like landing a role on Seinfeld, if it were still on the air. And being like a new neighbour down the hall that pops up every now and then. How cool would that be?"


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