It stands to reason that few fighters in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex carry with them the level of consensus respect that Joe “Jitsu” Christopher enjoys. In a sport filled with egos and pretentious blustering, Christopher’s name seems to never be uttered in a negative light or condescending tone. Consider such a fact to be an illustration of the humble persona Christopher radiates, or perhaps, the reason for Christopher’s sterling reputation lies in his reverence and respect for mixed martial arts. In an era where fighters pride themselves on their business acumen first and fighting technique second, Christopher is a throwback to an age when a fighter respected and honed his physical tools out of a desire to be the best, not just the richest.
With a professional record of 10-3, Christopher is rapidly gaining notoriety as one of the sports fastest rising prospects. With wins over some of the toughest competition this region has to offer, as well as a dominating performance on the Bellator card that took place in Dallas this past spring, Christopher’s stock has never been higher. In fact, Bellator is reported to have interest in featuring Christopher again on another one of their shows when their third season begins later this month.
To watch Christopher in the cage is to see a fighter supremely confident in his abilities. Under the expert tutelage of North Texas MMA’s respected Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Tery Corkran, Christopher has rapidly flourished as a jiu-jitsu practitioner.
“I wrestled in high school and I just needed something that would keep me in good shape,” Christopher explains on how he initially found mixed martial arts. “I was getting tired of twisting my ankle in basketball, and triathlons just got too boring. I started doing jiu-jitsu in 2002 under coach [Tery Corkran]. I did it under some other people before that but I didn’t have a real structured sort of thing until I met Tery. I started doing MMA the following year; I sort of just fell into it. “
Quickly enamored with the technical nuances of jiu-jitsu, it wasn’t long before Christopher's talent allowed him to flourish in the martial art. Currently a brown belt, Christopher hones his technique while molding aspiring practitioners as an instructor at North Texas MMA in Flower Mound. In speaking with Christopher it is clearly evident that his passion is in teaching and he freely admits that fighting is a method to become a better instructor.
“The whole reason I’m fighting professional is to be the best possible teacher in the future,” explains Christopher. “It’s definitely a good circle from where you learn the more you teach, and the more you teach the more you learn. The better you do both of [those things] the better you fight.”
Christopher’s cerebral approach to the art of fighting is often displayed in the cage. While some fighters wear their emotion on their sleeve, or manufacture seething rage to get motivated in the course of action, Christopher seems almost methodical in the way he breaks down an opponent. While such a trait may seem to be a benefit, Christopher sees it another way.
“I think some guys think that to fight to the best of their ability they have to turn on this emotional rage,” explains Christopher. “I’ve had the opportunity to fight guys like that and it’s interesting to see the dichotomy between the two types. I think you see too that the rage causes them to freeze up a bit when really good technique hits them. My strength is also my greatest weakness in that I really don’t go into the cage angry.”
Christopher soon clarifies, “Well, what I meant to say is that maybe if I was able to keep that strength but manipulate the emotional power that some people get, then just maybe I would be 13-0.”
This Friday night, Christopher will again enter the cage as he headlines the Steele Cage MMA card taking place at the Dr Pepper Arena in Frisco, Texas. Standing across the cage from him will be Joey Gorczynski. The fight will be a rematch of a 2009 battle at Freestyle Cage Fighting 29 where Gorczynski battled through some near-submissions to land a guillotine choke that forced Christopher to tap. The bitter taste of defeat can be felt in hearing Christopher speak of the loss. As he explains it, mentally, he was simply not in the fight.
“Oh yeah, I had a lot of mental breakdowns, a lot of technique failures, bad training leading up to it,” Christopher concedes. “Being mentally in the wrong place, bad training leading up to the fight, yeah I had a laundry list of thing that went wrong in that fight. I review it on a regular basis and watch that fight over and over again.”
Christopher continues, “I’m a lot stronger fighter this time. The last time I was just doing something that for me was just going out and doing something I was good at. This time, I’m going out with a purpose. Well, with a sense of purpose, we all have a purpose, right?”
Purpose, motivation, the internal drive within a fighter varies depending on who you ask. Ask a hundred different fighters the reason for lacing up their gloves and I guarantee you will get a hundred different answers. Christopher is no different in this respect, though, it should be noted his answer takes on a more zen like quality.
“I get asked that question a lot,” Christopher reflects. “The truth is I don’t think [fighting] is that dangerous. Like Joey said some dumb shit, like this is the days of gladiators, he must have been watching Spartacus recently or something. We’re not out there with swords of guns. If you came to my house, you might get a .44 shoved in your face, that’s dangerous. But, getting punched in the face is not the same thing.”
Christopher seems poised on the precipice of bigger things. For all the accolades and respect within the MMA circles here in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, one gets the sense that it will not be long before we see Christopher plying his craft under the bright lights of some of the more predominant promotions in the game. It’s the reason why people purchase tickets to see Christopher fight, why he is headlining one of the biggest cards to hit the North Texas not affiliated with the UFC, and why sponsors (IDS, New Whey Protein, Jaco Clothing, Cage Fighter just to name a few) are putting up their hard-earned money in support and advertisement. The latter is of special importance given the costs associated with being a full time fighter.
But while MMA is decidedly a one-on-one sport, Christopher is quick to point out the merits of his training and managerial team. It’s a unique bond, one that borders on family. Christopher attributes much of his success in the sport to his tight-knit circle of trusted confidants.
“My management team, U Plus Management, Pierre Bertran. I don’t know if I would be fighting professionally if I didn’t have a team behind me,” explains Christopher. “The truth is, when you step into the cage, you’re by yourself, but there are a whole lot of people on your team getting you there. So, Terry Corker is my head coach, Coach [John Lawson] is my boxing coach, and Pierre, and I also have a personal trainer named Adam Clark. So those four men work together to make sure that when I’m standing in the cage I look and act like I do. They each bring very different personalities to the table which is maybe why people say I’m so calm, because they have already gone through everything beforehand.”
(Photo © Edward Garza/NorthTexasFisticuffs.com)