Hi Dojo readers,
As some of you know, two weekends ago I was able to go to New York for a benefit seminar with UFC Middleweight champion Chris Weidman that took place at Renzo Gracie Academy. I was able to make it thanks to the generosity of a few friends and Dojo supporters and I’m so very thankful!
Me and my jiujitsu instructor, Derek “TC” Richardson, made the trip back to Renzo’s (this is the 3rd time I’ve gone with him to train at what we, being the Charlotte Renzo affiliate school, refer to as “the Mothership”) and it was amazing, as it always is.
The seminar was on Sunday afternoon. We flew up separately (I could only stay for the weekend) on Saturday and met at LaGuardia. My flight got in earlier than TC’s, so I set up an impromptu art studio in the foodcourt and spent time working on a portrait of BJJ pioneer Oswaldo Fadda for my series of martial arts legends portraits while I waited for his flight to arrive…
Once his flight arrived, TC and I met up and headed into the city. We didn’t know if Renzo would be in town or not, but it turned out that he was in Las Vegas that weekend filming the next season of The Ultimate Fighter, which Frankie Edgar (who trains under him and Ricardo Almeida) is coaching. We were bummed that we wouldn’t get to hang out with him this time, but nonetheless we were excited to be back in the Big Apple.
After hopping on a bus, then the subway, we arrived at Penn Hotel where we were staying. It’s literally right across the street from Madison Square Garden…and less than 2 blocks away from the academy (which meant no more daily mile-long round trips on foot to train! Woo hoo!). We unpacked our bags and then headed over to Mooncake to grab dinner. Mooncake is a non-negotiable if you travel to Renzo Gracie Academy with Derek Richardson!
On our way to eat, we walked past RGA and saw that our friend Zed was teaching a women’s self-defense class (now that RGA has windows opened on the ground floor you can actually find it from the street and even see inside as to what’s going on. It’s no longer the MMA equivalent of a speakeasy!). We popped in to say hi to Zed and then it was on to dinner. Then, back to the hotel for bed.
The morning of the seminar we found out that two floors above us on the 18th floor there was not only a church service going on in one of the hotel’s conference rooms…but also an old-school Karate/Kung-Fu tournament going on in the room beside it. We stopped by to look around, reminisce about our days as kids competing in such tournaments with crazy sized trophies, and snap a couple of quick pics (featuring TC doing the “fighter fist” of course!) before heading out…
(I think the girl’s earrings, on the far right, double as kung-fu weapontry!)
We grabbed brunch over at a little cafe on the way (where I had some amazing pancakes…and where the bathroom was so dirty that TC actually went back to our hotel room rather than use it! haha!) and then walked the single block over to RGA to meet up with my friend Kristen Brown who was in charge of the whole thing. Kristen is the founder of Live To Fight, Inc., a nonprofit organization that seeks to help those in the MMA community who are facing things like cancer with their medical expenses and support. Kristen is a breast cancer survivor who also battled Hodgkin’s disease. I met her via the UG when I was helping raise awareness for #FranksFight. The last benefit seminar that had taken place at Renzo’s was the #FranksFight seminar, in fact, and I hadn’t been able to make it up there for that one. But it was amazing and ended up raising thousands for Frank and his wife Wendy. As you know, Dojo readers, Frank passed away a few weeks ago after a prolonged battle with testicular cancer, so he and Wendy were definitely on my mind all weekend. I even took a few copies of the special Topps sketch card I had drawn and sent to Frank just before he died to give to any UG members I might meet at the seminar who wanted one.
We got to RGA about an hour and a half before the seminar started in order to help Kristen set up. I had brought prints of the portrait I donated to Live To Fight of Chris Weidman (the original that he signed was being raffled off at the seminar) and we set up the table with the merchandise…
After a few minutes, Chris (who in addition to being the man who KO’d the greatest fighter in UFC history is also on the board for LTF) showed up and he, Kristen and filmmaker Bobby Razak went over logistics for the afternoon. Razak and the Digitsu crew were filming the event to support LTF through DVD sales of the seminar which will be released soon.
Meanwhile, me and fellow UG member (“member” is too soft a word…perhaps “legend” is more fitting) Jeff Nader continued to get people registered, t-shirted and waivered.
It was humbling being in the presence of such MMA greatness, to say the least. 😉
After everything was set up and everyone had arrived, I went and changed into my SWEET Disciple Dojo rashguard (which you should TOTALLY buy!), and stepped out onto the famous blue mat to begin the seminar…
The teachers for the seminar would be Chris Weidman, UFC Lightweight contender Jim Miller (whose brother and fellow UFC fighter Dan Miller was also there), and the grappling Yoda himself, John Danaher.
There would also be a surprise guest…who wasn’t too keen on all this no-gi stuff, and would have some words for Mr. Weidman before the day was over!
Click HERE for part 2!