BC recently won the first Fila World Grappling Championships in Turkey, and will be fighting for the Bantamweight Title at Cage Combat Oct 6 in San Mateo.
Have you been introduced to Darren Uyenoyama yet? He exploded back unto the scene in 2004 at Grappler’s Quest, where as an unknown quantity he came in and won a very tough advanced division. I recall Marc Laimon being so impressed that he came up to me afterwards with a “who the heck is that?” type look. “BC”, as he’s more commonly known, has actually been around for awhile and he’s not only an accomplished brown belt and champion grappler, but has also rounded out his game for MMA. This weekend he has the chance to fight for the bantamweight title in Cage Combat at the San Mateo fairgrounds (www.cagecombatfighting.com).
With his diverse background and strong work ethic, BC has the potential to go very far in whatever combat sport he decides to pursue. I sat down to interview my old friend (we go back a long way as teammates at the Ralph Gracie Academy) at Fight and Fitness in San Francisco as the sounds of thai kicks thumping against pads and bags hammered in the background. So let me introduce you to Darren “BC” Uyenoyama.
Gumby: The “BC” stands for Bone Crusher, how did you get that nickname?
Darren “BC” Uyenoyama: I had been training for about three months and I was with my partner Freddy and caught him with a bicep slicer and he decided not to tap and his arm broke (laughs).
OTM: Is the bicep slicer one of your favorite moves now?
BC: Ever since then I’ve tried to move away from that move. I like the “twister”, I’ve been hitting that in competition quite a bit, and I prefer calf slicers to bicep slicers.
OTM: Let’s get back to the beginning. When did you start training and what got you into martial arts?
BC: What got me into it was that a childhood friend of mine brought me into Ralph Gracie and I started training with Kurt Osiander. That was in, let me see, March of 1999 and I’ve just been hooked ever since.
OTM: So you started with Ralph Gracie in 1999, what were the “early days” like?
BC: The early days were great, I was fortunate to be around guys like Dave Camarillo, Cameron Earle, Kurt of course. There was Gumby and Scotty and all those guys and I got exposed to, I’m not sure how to say it, but the older group, I mean hardcore group that was there at the time. I started actually right after BJ Penn had left so I had missed that whole time. It installed a hard work ethic and made me have high expectations.
OTM: I remember the early days too when we used to compete a lot, and go to a lot of tournaments and you had a lot of success even back then. What was it like getting on the mat back in those days and what did it instill in you?
BC: Well, you know it was great and competing at such an early point; I think I did my first tournament in about three months and that’s just what I associated Jiu Jitsu with. Competing became very normal for me, it was part of what training consisted of. Having guys like Cameron tapping everyone, it put a lot of pressure on your self to perform very well too. You wanted to perform as well as the higher ended guys on the scene.
OTM: Despite your successes back in those days, you took a little time off not only from competition but from grappling in general.
BC: I was doing Jiu Jitsu up until about 2001 and I had a no gi tournament where I got taken down and I felt very vulnerable standing up. I followed in the footsteps of a lot of other Jiu Jitsu guys and started wrestling. I wrestled at Skyline which is a California JC. I heard BJ was wrestling at West Valley at the time so I figured hey, if it works for him I might as well try it myself. So I spent about two or three years just dedicated to pure wrestling. I figured that would be the only way I could truly understand pure takedowns and get better on my feet, and then I came back to Jiu Jitsu.
OTM: What did wrestling bring to your game?
BC: At Ralph’s we always had a really good top game, so getting better at takedowns helped me to push the top game a lot more. I wrestled at Skyline for two years, I was on the 2001/2002 team. I also got to work out at Stanford with Coach Klemm and learned more of an International style of wrestling, which gives me an advantage against collegiate wrestlers. I think it’s develop a better base and just made me more confident in both fighting and Jiu Jitsu, because if a guy is hitting on my legs I feel I can counter it and put me on the attack more because I’m pushing the attack more which is a big part of wrestling.
OTM: You also became heavily involved in Muay Thai and Fairtex around that time?
BC: That’s correct. It was around late 2001 after my first wrestling season when I walked into Fairtex in Daly City and that’s when I met Chris Cariaso, who’s my main training partner right now, and Alex Gong. Basically I wanted to start fighting MMA and I wanted to learn how to deal with getting punched in my face. So, they took care of that really quickly by punching me in my face daily, but the relationships just grew from there. I was at Fairtex until Alex passed away around ’04.
OTM: Alex had a big effect on you, didn’t he?
BC: Alex has been a big part of not only my martial arts life, but my life in general. He taught me to go after what I wanted and if the best training wasn’t available to then go after it. Through him I met a lot of great people, and those people are my trainers today. Bunkerd (Faphimai) Neungsiam (Samphursi), and Chris, and it’s helped me a lot.
OTM: After you made this journey through Jiu Jitsu, Wrestling and Muay Thai, you made a triumphant return to Jiu Jitsu. What made you decide to go back into the grappling circuit?
BC: I started teaching Jiu Jitsu again at Fight and Fitness and I figured it would be a good example to students to compete in a tournament and I decided to jump into Grappler’s Quest where I came across Ulysses Gomez and Sim Go. At the time I didn’t really know who they were but I had a good showing against them and word got out that I had beaten two really good guys and people became more interested in seeing me, so it spun into something bigger.
OTM: That culminated in some major wins just recently, including being part of the USA Grappling team that went over to Turkey for the FILA World Championships. Let’s talk about the road to Turkey first.
BC: Just getting to Turkey? I qualified at the Best of the West tournament, and competing against some good guys there. I won the US Trials in Las Vegas where I came up against Sim Go again. It had been awhile since we had competed last and he had won the North American ADCC trials. He by far has been the toughest opponent I’ve had and he brings out the best in me because he’s so good.
Going to Turkey we had a one week training camp at No Limits in LA, then we flew out with our coaches to Antalya. The competition there was really good. I was shocked to see that the competitors from the UK and France were really, really good. They are using all the same half guard techniques we are using over here, looking for the same Darce chokes that we use. I met a guy who’s now a good friend of mine Matt Sanchez in the finals and I ended up winning 10-5.
OTM: Now with all of the skills you have under your belt you are moving forward with a career in Mixed Martial Arts. How’s your career been so far?
BC: Right now I’m just 2-0, I’ve had fights against two really good opponents….
OTM: That first fight was in Japan was it not?
BC: Yeah, it was in Japan in 2002 where I fought in Deep 5th Impact against Rambaa Somdet. He was a well established Muay Thai fighter and had actually beat (Takumi) Yano, who was a high level Japanese grappler at the time, so it was a pretty tough fight.
OTM: Your next match is a title fight coming up on October 6 at Cage Combat in San Mateo.
BC: Yeah, I’m going to be facing Rolando Velasco who is a really good fighter. I believe he’s had two TKO wins and another decision win over another really good Jiu Jitsu fighter. All I know about him is that he wrestled for Modesto Junior College and he has pretty good ground and pound and I hear he’s pretty scrappy on his feet. I’m pretty confident on the ground, so we’ll just see where it goes from there.
OTM: With your diverse background what is your main preparation for an MMA fight?
BC: My main preparation is mainly my standup. Actually I can’t say that, every day we do two hours of stand up, basically boxing and Muay Thai for two hours, and we mix it all together with boxing and wrestling and jiu jitsu. I’d I train about six hours a day with about two hours devoted to each aspect with boxing, jiu jitsu and wrestling.
OTM: What do you do when you’re not training six hours a day?
BC: When I’m not training? Thanks to Cartel Bodyboards and No Friends, they provide me with body boards and wet suits so I’m usually out surfing when I’m not training. Other than that I’m spending time with my kids, either taking them to and from school and doing the whole family thing.
OTM: How old are your kids now?
BC: My son Sean is nine, my daughter Keiko is four.
OTM: Do they have any interest in following in Dad’s footsteps in martial arts?
BC: I don’t know, my daughter is a scrapper and my son is really into school right now, but he takes judo classes, so maybe.
OTM: Any sponsors to thank or shout outs to make:
BC: I’d like to thank OntheMat of course, Shoyoroll, Budovideos. I’d like to thank Cartel, No Friends, Triumph United and Clinch Fight Gear.
OTM: I guess that wraps things up. Good luck to you Saturday at Cage Combat.
BC: Thanks and hopefully I’ll see you guys there.