Grappling aficionados are no doubt aware of Robert Drysdale. Three-time IBJJF world champion. 2-time Brazilian national champion. ADCC Open Division champion.
Put simply, the man is a God when it comes to the submission game. Last night, he came to Houston for the first of a three-fight deal he signed with Legacy Fighting Championships.
Legacy has been around the area for a long time. Mick Maynard has promoted hundreds of fight cards ranging from the old amateur series all the way to the professional Legacy events he started a few years ago. He quickly gained a rep for putting on the best local events in Texas, and Dallas-based HDNet -- well, it's now called AXS, but I'll probably never stop calling it HDNet -- eventually came calling and started airing the promotion.
Maynard suddenly had bigger budgets to work with, which meant bigger names. Which meant guys like Robert Drysdale could sign with the little promotion that helped shepherd the careers of UFC prospects Andrew Craig and Daniel Pineda.
Oh, and speaking of prospects: there's a kid I want to tell you about. His name is Charlie Ontiveros. But we'll save that story for next week.
So last night, I make the trip down to the Houston Arena Theatre. If you've never heard of this arena, don't worry about it. If you live in Houston and have never heard of the Houston Arena Theatre, well, that's okay. I'd never heard of the place until Legacy began running fights there a few years back. It's mostly used for comedy events. And by comedy events I mean comedy events featuring comedians you haven't seen or heard from in at least 15 years.
So yeah, the arena was a total crapfest. But again, this was a chance to see Robert Drysdale. I was positive that everyone in the arena would be buzzing with excitement to see the man who might just be one of the greatest submission artists in the world as he continued his MMA career.
Boy, was I wrong.
Are some MMA fans idiots?
When Drysdale entered the arena for his co-main event bout against Ike Villanueva, the arena fell silent. Most of the bros in the latest and greatest in skull/angel/cross fashion decided to use the moment to grab some watered-down Bud Light and shots of the cheapest tequila this world has to offer in cheap plastic cups.
The ring announcer announced Drysdale's name, and -- outside of a few fans who obviously knew the sport outside of just wearing horrific t-shirts -- the crowd was silent. Villanueva -- the portly hometown hero fighting at light heavyweight when his actual frame dictates he should probably be at welterweight -- was cheered roundly.
I was flabbergasted. Nobody knew who Robert Drysdale was. This was a travesty.
Of course, Drysdale made up for that lack of respect by going all Drysdale on Ike, putting on him on the canvas within 30 seconds. From there, he fluidly transitioned to Villanueva's back, quickly locking in a body triangle and going for a rear-naked choke. Villanueva defended the choke admirably, so Drysdale calmly transitioned from the back into an armbar that scored him the submission win in under two minutes.
It was a beautiful performance from a true artist. Completely fluid, completely dominant and full of grace. And the fans in attendance had no idea what they'd just seen, or even who they'd just seen.
And that's a shame, because chances like the one they had last night -- to see an all-time legend of the martial arts, before he's been shoved down your throat by the bigwigs and before Tapout makes 47 shirts to honor him and before he rises in the UFC's light heavyweight ranks?
Well, those are rare chances, indeed.