The UFC has also regularly been using Marc for jiu-jitsu demonstrations during their live pay-per-view broadcasts and during media day demonstrations in Las Vegas.
It is said that if one looks into the eyes of a cobra, you will quickly become incapacitated and forced to succumb to its will even if you are a larger would-be predator. It is also said, that the King Cobra only feeds on other snakes including poisonous ones. It could just be sheer coincidence, but this all makes too much sense when one thinks of the Cobra Kai Academy’s head instructor Marc Laimon and his illustrious jiu-jitsu career. Not only is he a very decorated and accomplished grappler in his own right, but he has helped produce some of the top competitors in sport jiu-jitsu, submission grappling, and mixed martial arts. Names such as Sean Spangler, Jason “MayheM” Miller, The Bieri Brothers, Joe “Daddy” Stevenson, Kendall “Da Spyder” Grove, Roy “Big Country” Nelson, Frank Mir, Jay Hieron, Jeff Glover, Sonny Nohara, Ulysses “Useless” Gomez, Simspon “The Bear Tamer” Go, Jason Moon, and many other top competitors in the sport have benefited from the jiu-jitsu tutelage of “The American Ronin” Marc Laimon. He has become so well respected and sought out that the UFC has used him as their resident jiu-jitsu guru on seasons 1, 2, and 4 of their hit reality series, The Ultimate Fighter. Other than producing the winners of both season 2 and season 3 (Stevenson and Grove), through the show Marc has also developed strong relationships with season 1 winners Forrest Griffin and Diego Sanchez, who regularly train with Marc at Cobra Kai along with many other top level fighters (Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman, Tony DeSouza, Jake Shields, Kenny Florian, Ricco Rodriguez, Tyson Griffin, Drew Fickett, Frank Trigg, Joe Lauzon, etc.) to help hone their jiu-jitsu skills prior to their up-coming fights in the octagon. The UFC has also regularly been using Marc for jiu-jitsu demonstrations during their live pay-per-view broadcasts and during media day demonstrations in Las Vegas.
Bevois: Marc, the word on the street is you had straight A’s in college and gave up a very promising career in chiropractics as a student at the University of Wisconsin at Waukesha to pursue your jiu-jitsu career at the Gracie Academy in Torrance, California. So I have to ask you, what prompted you to make such a drastic and influential move in your life?
Marc: Back then, the medical field was up in the air, college tuition was a lot, and I wasn’t sure if I’d even like my job after all those years of school. Training and teaching jiu-jitsu is something I enjoy and it is a lot more fun and gratifying to me, than working a 9 to 5. It’s important for everyone to find and do something that they enjoy for a living.
Bevois: Marc, you are one of the most decorated American jiu-jitsu players in the country. Can you give us a brief history of your jiu-jitsu background?
Marc: I was born and raised in Wisconsin and moved to California to learn jiu-jitsu after seeing how effective it was in the early days of the UFC. I started training at the Gracie Torrance Academy on January 22, 1996 and quickly became one of the better guys. I got my blue belt from Royce Gracie in three weeks. I then attended the ‘96 Pan Ams and saw jiu-jitsu I had never seen before, which included Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro tapping out Robin Gracie in the brown belt division. It was truly jiu-jitsu that intrigued me that I wanted to learn. However, Rorion Gracie said we weren’t advanced enough to learn these new techniques. When in reality, it was just a cop out on his part, because he simply didn’t know the techniques that Shaolin and some of the others had been using. I left Royce and Rorion in less than a year and joined the Beverly Hills Jiu-Jitsu Club. It was there where Ethan Millius taught me how to teach myself. I studied live competition footage of Robson, Shaolin, and Leo Santos and loved the jiu-jitsu used by Nova União. I ended up moving to Hawaii to train and teach with Nova União full time, where I ended up winning the Pan Ams as a purple belt in 1999. After a year I moved to Las Vegas to continue training and teaching at Nova União, while learning how to wrestle with Tito Ortiz. I saw wrestling as an important aspect of jiu-jitsu that is usually ignored by a lot of jiu-jitsu players. Learning how to wrestle and obtaining higher level training partners in Las Vegas was a great way to help prepare myself for the ADCC qualifier in 2001. In 2000 to get ready for the ADCC trials, I participated in the first Grappler’s Quest West, where I beat Chris Brennan, Dean Lister, and Jeff Monson to win their first ever 8-man super tournament. At the 2001 ADCC trials, I was a brown belt and ended up wrist-locking black belt Ricardo Pires in 19 seconds in the finals to win the 2001 ADCC qualifier, while I was still suffering the side-effects of a brown recluse spider bite on my leg. Since then I’ve competed and won a lot of events, which include the Desert Quest 8-man tournament, a NeverTap super fight against Fabio Nascimento, and a Grappler’s Quest super fight against Ryron Gracie, while focusing on my main objective and priority, which is training my students and running my academy.
Bevois: Other than your main Cobra Kai Academy in Las Vegas, Nevada, you also have training associations and students in Indonesia, Guam, Canada, and California. Do you have any plans on establishing training associations or giving seminars in other parts of the world?
Marc: I possibly will one day, but I don’t want the “pure water” of Laimon jiu-jitsu to be diluted for the sake of making a quick buck. I want to take the time to make sure that the instructors are qualified and represent Cobra Kai jiu-jitsu properly.
Bevois: You have recently brought in Paragon Jiu-Jitsu black belt Jeff Glover to teach at Cobra Kai. What are some of Jeff's qualities that make him such a great addition?
Marc: He's very well accomplished on the grappling circuit, having competed in just about every major national and international competition. He excels at taking the back, landing triangles, and he has a great half-guard. Jiu-Jitsu is also very specific to different body types. My smaller students are able to relate better to some of the things that Jeff does, due to physical similarities. Jeff and I have a good relationship, me being a 200 lb. black belt and Jeff a 140 lb. black belt. It’s a great way to exchange knowledge, learn, and train with each other. More importantly my students have a much more diverse wealth of jiu-jitsu knowledge at their disposal on a daily basis and it’s my job to provide them with the best possible training out there.
Bevois: Former world champion kickboxer and K-1 trainer Ken Hahn is currently your full-time Muay Thai instructor at Cobra Kai. Who are some of the other guys you have brought in to teach Mixed Martial Arts, Boxing, and Wrestling?
Marc: MMA star and Ultimate Fighter 2 winner Joe “Daddy” Stevenson along with Troy “Rude Boy” Mandaloniz, who is an MMA fighter and certified Rumble on the Rock referee, teach my Mixed Martial Arts classes, Bryan Clemens who’s a former professional boxer and sparring partner of Wayne McCullough (’92 Barcelona Olympics silver medalist) teaches my boxing classes, and Jason Townsend who wrestled at Cal State-Fullerton and has been wrestling for over a quarter century teaches my wrestling classes.
Bevois: Other than your own students, who are some of your favorite grapplers to watch compete?
Marc: Jeff Glover, Bill Cooper, Marcelo Garcia, Rafael Lovato Jr., Andre Galvão, Saulo Ribeiro, Xande Ribeiro, Shaolin Ribeiro, Leozinho Viera, Rick Macauley, Tony DeSouza, B.J. Penn, Ronaldo Jacare, and Roger Gracie.
Bevois: What about your favorite MMA fighters?
Marc: B.J. Penn, Georges St-Pierre, Matt Lindland, and Jeremy Horn.
Bevois: Your former training partner B.J. Penn from Nova União just lost a close fight to one of your co-coaches Matt Hughes from TUF 2 at UFC 63. How do you think a third and deciding rubber-match would go?
Marc: Anything can happen in a fight. They are two of the best 170 pounders in the world. B.J. has the tools to win, but so does Matt. Their first two fights were two of the most exciting fights in the UFC history and I can’t wait to see the third!
Bevois: I understand you’ve recently taken some time off the competition mats to heal a back injury. What is the extent of the injury?
Marc: Two herniated discs: the L4 and L5 vertebrae both have degenerative discs, as well as 4 mm and 7 mm displacements respectively. As soon as it heals, I’ll be back competing.
Bevois: You have wins over Chris Brennan (PRIDE/UFC/KOTC veteran), Jeff Monson (2x ADCC champion/UFC’s #1 heavyweight contender), Ricardo Pires (2x Pan Ams champion), Christophe Leninger (Judo black belt/UFC veteran), Edwin DeWees (UFC veteran/TUF veteran), Fabio Nascimento (black belt who has a submission win over Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza), Ryron Gracie (the future of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu), and Dean Lister (ADCC absolute champion/UFC veteran). Personally I'd love to see you face Roger Gracie at an up-coming L.A. Sub X. Would you jump at that opportunity if it came your way?
Marc: Absolutely. He’s one of the best in the world right now and I think that would be a very challenging match.
Bevois: In reality you’re a very low key, funny guy, that isn’t really into going out and partying every weekend like a lot of the high-level guys involved in jiu-jitsu and MMA. However, you’re possibly one of the most misunderstood guys in the sport for being so brutally honest. Why do you think so many people freak out when you speak the truth?
Marc: A lot of people can’t handle the truth or they just don’t want to hear it, because they want to believe that some things in jiu-jitsu are “sacred”. People should be aware of the facts that are right in front of them, think for themselves, and not walk through life as mindless automatons.
Bevois: You are definitely a man of conviction and aren’t afraid to make yourself heard, especially at jiu-jitsu tournaments when it comes to poor officiating. What propels you to be so vocal and animated towards the so-called “jiu-jitsu police”, where most people in the sport are afraid to voice their opinions?
Marc: I just want a level playing field in this sport regarding a competitor’s race, color, and creed. It shouldn’t matter if your last name is Laimon, Gracie, or anything else. Favoritism and biases among referees and promoters needs to stop if we plan on being recognized on the international level to someday be included in the Olympics. If I see something wrong, I’m going to argue it until I’m blue in the face. Silent consent is when you let someone take advantage of you.
Bevois: Mica Cipili has recently questioned your credentials, as a reason why he won’t face you. What started all of this?
Marc: Students from rival schools sometimes like to talk smack amongst them selves, which could have fed into this. As for my credentials, they speak for them self. The funny thing is I’ve only seen Mica compete once and he ended up getting choked out by a Judo black belt. That’s honestly the first time I’ve ever seen or heard of a Judo black belt tapping out a Jiu-Jitsu black belt. If anyone missed this, the footage is available on OTM’s fight database. You can also watch footage from my matches on OTM and draw your own conclusions.
Bevois: Many of your students have also made a name for themselves worldwide in the UFC, Grappler's Quest, Pan Americans, and many other top level competitions. Who should we be keeping an eye on in the near future?
Marc: Fernando Armenta, Billy Ho, Brian Savaleo, Simpson Go, Sonny Nohara, Ulysses Gomez, Adrian Ramirez, and Mike Belz.
Bevois: I hear you’re also a black belt gamer. What are some of the games you’re playing right now?
Marc: Street Fighter: Hyper Fighting, Saints Row, Dead Rising, Prey, Fear, and Counter Strike. I’m also looking forward to getting Gears of War and Rainbow Six: Vegas, as well as the new PlayStation 3 and the new Nintendo Wii.
Bevois: A vintage Street Fighter 2 arcade game has just been added to the Cobra Kai facility. Who is your main competition in the school?
Marc: B.J. Baldwin, Brian Savaleo, Jason “Jack Sheppard” Manuel, Chris Vincent, and David “Mandingo Gringo” Bollea before Uly put him into early retirement!
Bevois: What kind of music do you listen to while you train?
Marc: All kinds of music. Reggae, Rage Against The Machine, Hip-Hop, Reservoir Dogs, Morphine, 80’s music, the V for Vendetta sound track, whatever I’m in the mood for.
Bevois: The butterfly guard has become a staple technique among most of your students in competition, what are some of the reasons you emphasize using it?
Marc: It’s a great way to disrupt your opponents base and because it's easier to get back to your feet. It gives you a lot more options in both sport jiu-jitsu and MMA. The closed guard is like a good sword, it’s lethal and it’s good to have in a battle, but you have to evolve and start using guns when you end up in a war. The butterfly guard is like a good gun. Shaolin Ribeiro is one of the best at using it in sport jiu-jitsu and Maurice Smith was one of the first to effectively use it in MMA when he fought Mark Coleman back in ’97 at UFC 14.
Bevois: How do you continue to elevate and improve your game?
Marc: It’s a never ending process. I learn from everyone including my white belts. You can learn from anything, but one of my favorite tools is watching live competition videos. I also like bringing in other world-class grapplers, such as Rafael Lovato Jr., Robert Drysdale, Randy Couture, and Robson Moura to host training seminars at my academy.
Bevois: You have attained a tremendous wealth of jiu-jitsu knowledge by watching jiu-jitsu tapes and you also teach your students how to watch jiu-jitsu tapes effectively. What are some of the things that you’ll be emphasizing to your students in your tape watching classes, which I hear you will be adding to the Cobra Kai curriculum?
Marc: You have to be realistic with yourself. Watch guys similar to you (flexibility, strength, size, movement, etc.). Find a guy you like, so you want to watch it. Then find as much footage on him as you can and organize the tapes chronologically. This way you can pick up trends in their game, so you know what he's doing. Then practice what you saw, in your training, and then watch it again. There is constant readjusting, so you end up creating your own jiu-jitsu. It’s easy to spout off techniques, but there’s nothing better than creating your own jiu-jitsu. Seeking knowledge and learning it on your own. Understanding jiu-jitsu and not reciting it and instinctively learning how to deal with different pressures. You also need to become familiar with the Rewind, Fast Forward, and Slow Motion buttons. Watching tape is an active activity, not a passive one.
Bevois: Speaking of watching tapes, your jiu-jitsu classic No-Gi Remix that came out on VHS a few years ago has now been re-released and digitally remastered on DVD by OnTheMat.com. For those that haven’t seen it yet, could you give us a quick description for what one can expect to see?
Marc: The No-Gi Remix features live competition footage from the Pro Ams of Grappling and the Grappler's Quest West. I’ve edited most of the content to eliminate the stalling, as a way of separating the wheat from the chaff. What you get is ultra-potent techniques (submissions, sweeps, takedowns, guard passes, etc.) being used in real time that will act as subliminal messages, which will stick with those who take the time to dissect what they are seeing and use it while training. Some of the fighter’s included are myself, as well as Anthony Hamlett, Dean Lister, Garth Taylor, Jeff Monson, Leozinho Viera, Matt Serra, Rhadi Ferguson, Rodrigo Comprido, Royler Gracie, Saulo Ribeiro, Scott Bieri, Shawn Williams, Shaolin Ribeiro, Sean Spangler, Terere, and Tony DeSouza. There’s also some extra footage from Cobra Kai.
Bevois: Is there anything else you’d like to add before we wrap this up?
Marc: Thanks to all of my students that train all the time. They're the ones that make themselves better by showing up to class each day. I also want to thank all of my fans for supporting me.