Roll, is a love letter to the Southern California Jiu-Jitsu scene. Ironically, it was crafted from the UK-centric production company, Eat Films, and English filmmaker Dan Lewis. Their UK roots may make the filmmakers seem as outsiders, interlopers to the So-Cal Jiu-Jitsu scene, but it’s clear that their heritage and lineage is sourced from this very epicenter of Jiu-Jitsu. They approach the So-Cal scene with an almost fanboyish wide-eyed adoration, but it’s this very same approach that grants them access to core auxiliary participants of the blooming early 90’s Jiu-Jitsu scene.
And who can blame them? These were the early garage days of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, where a BJJ black belt was considered a no holds barred street fighting god who could destroy every man in the room in any gym in the country. This was a rare time period where Brazilian Jiu-Jistu was still atomic warfare in a martial arts landscape which was still in the stone age.
The film gathers a broad range of So-Cal Jiu-Jitsu compatriots to help flesh out the history of Jiu-Jitsu in Southern California. Old school grapplers like Richard Bressler, Ethan Milius, Scott Nelson (OTM founder), and even Dirty Dozen legend Chris Hauter share their experiences. With the aid of archive footage and interviews, they paint the setting of early 90’s BJJ scene. A time that consisted of 30-minute private sessions in garages with clandestine groups of practitioners who had to be in the know, just to know about the art.
And these core contributors lay it all out bold, blunt, and with pride. From the Gracie Challenge bouts down to Rorion’s borderline thuggish dojo storming PR campaign, these veterans explain their implicit roles in the domination and maturation of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu on the landscape of an early 90’s California leading to the debut of UFC 1. It’s an amazing insight into a time period that most people were never aware of let alone got to live.
From there, the film moves on to the next phase of BJJ’s growth. Once the Gracie’s broke ground with The Ultimate Fighting Challenge they unleashed a demand for Jiu-Jitsu that they alone could not accommodate. Almost immediately, Brazilian BJJ champions migrated to California to establish roots in the burgeoning Jiu-Jitsu scene. Jokes are made, that the women and the waves are what brought the Brazilians, but sheer economic survival was reason enough. Saulo & Xande Ribiero anchor this leg of the film, sharing how they started their Jiu-Jitsu University school in the mid-west before realizing that they belonged in Southern California.
With the waters tested, more Brazilians kept flooding in to meet the seemingly bottomless demand for high-level Jiu-Jitsu training. With them, they brought elite competition and even the tournaments saw the financial value of hosting their major events in Southern California. JT Torres and Marcus Almeida make an appearance sharing their view on the modern BJJ scene that emerged from these circumstances. And even Shoyoroll founder, Bear Quitugua, and Budo Videos founder, Budo Jake, make an appearance to talk about the commercialization of Jiu-Jitsu and even Jiu-Jitsu apparel.
The film gives an expansive overview, but it’s not to say that the documentary is without its faults. Ultimately the core mechanics of the piece relies heavily on talking head interviews, gym footage, and roadside art montages of the California coast. And it’s a beautiful combination demonstrating Dan Lewis’ mastery of the short form documentary format as he applies it to this full-length film treatment. In its length, though, the connecting concepts between each component becomes tenuous and the structure almost monotonous as the short form approach is pushed to its limits. But the film seems to know this, even presenting a forward saying that the film was made during a 7 day trip from the UK to California. It almost feels as if the sheer size of the subject just couldn’t be contained under such a brief production schedule. Or maybe, it was intended to be a short film that just ended up busting out at the seems from all of the amazing stories they collected?
I say that it almost becomes monotonous, because it actually doesn’t. Despite these structural criticisms, a documentaries’ strength will ultimately lie in its subject matter. And the subject matter here is rich and entertaining. These are essential SoCal Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu stories cementing the foundation of what would grow into the Jiu-Jitsu that we live and breath today. No BJJ practitioner should live without witnessing this film, and most would revel in the anecdotal storytelling alone.
Sure, the speeches against modern sports Jiu-Jitsu can run a little long in the tooth but it’s still a message that needs to be respected and understood even at the core of any pure sports oriented grappler. The discussion itself though feels a little disconnected from heft of the earlier portion of the film and many times I found myself wishing for more stories with Chris Hauter. With more time and access you almost wish they would make a separate film about The Dirty Dozen just to exhume the stories behind the first twelve American black belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. But that’s a different film and the goal of Roll is much more expansive.
Ultimately, the thesis of the film is that Southern California is the current mecca of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The case is convincingly made and even if you disagree, the importance of the story is vital to the heritage of Jiu-Jitsu. The film does a great job of laying out a topical road map for those that are not familiar with the background story. We get to see a handful of key figures and hear their stories from their own mouths. From this overall encompassing take on the scene, you can already see how the culture is brimming and waiting with awesome stories to be told. But with their 7-day stay in the States, the filmmakers just began to scratch the surface. Here’s hoping for more.
“ROLL: Jiu-Jitsu in SoCal”, is currently being hosted for free on YouTube so definitely check it out. And if you like it be sure to donate back to Eat Films so that they can keep putting out amazing content about the Jiu-Jitsu scene.
Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz in the works for UFC 223
UFC 223 looks to add a variety of intriguing bouts. With Paul Felder vs. Al Iaquinta reportedly set for the unannounced UFC 223 card, the promotion looks to add a high stakes female flyweight match-up. According to MMANYTT.com, sources confirmed a bout between Felice Herrig and Karolina Kowalkiewicz, is in the works for the pay-per-view card.
Assuming the match-up does come to be, both women have much to gain from a victory. For Herrig, she currently sits on a four-fight win streak. A streak in which the strawweight contender defeated Kailin Curran, Alexa Grasso, Justine Kish, and Cortney Casey. The MMA veteran, Herrig, began fighting professionally in 2009. As of late, her issues with the marketing machine that is the UFC have intensified.
After demonstrating her technical prowess over Justine Kish at UFC Fight Night 122: Chiesa vs. Lee, Herrig put her emotions on display. She stated at the post-fight media scrum, “Sometimes, I feel like, I’m not young and beautiful enough for the UFC to want to promote me. And it’s sad because I’ve really worked so hard to be here and it’s hard to see these people who’ve not been through what I’ve been through. Who just got into the UFC at the right time. They’re getting all these opportunities and I see how hard I work to get here and it’s just like, it doesn’t matter. I just feel like, ‘I’m not pretty enough and I’m not getting any younger'”.
A frustrated Felice Herrig then spoke to MMAJunkie.com in December. She claimed, “Aside from (former UFC women’s strawweight champ) Joanna (Jedrzejczyk), I’m the only strawweight who’s gone on a four-fight winning streak. That’s a fact. At this point, I want to fight someone in the top 10. It doesn’t really make sense for me to keep fighting girls that are ranked below me. That’s the whole point. If I want to keep working my way up. I fight the most dangerous girls outside the top 10”. The #9 ranked women’s flyweight has a point. In her UFC career, she recorded one loss in six appearances. Yet, she has one co-main event booking, while fighters like Michelle Waterson, booked the main event in her second UFC bout. In Waterson’s third bout, she received a co-main event scheduling. Understandably, Felice Herrig is upset with her situation.
Later in her interview, Herrig brought up Kowalkiewicz as a potential next opponent. “For whatever reason, I really want to fight Karolina. I just think that would be an exciting fight… Stylistically, I really like that fight. She’s ranked above (me), and it may be a good gauge for me,” she stated. Right now, it looks like Herrig is close to getting what she wants.
Kowalkiewicz last fought in her native country of Poland on the UFC Fight Pass card, UFC Fight Night 118: Cowboy vs. Till, in October. The Polish star defeated Jody Esquibel, after losing consecutive contests to former UFC female strawweight champion, Joanna Jedrzejcyk and Claudia Gadelha, respectively.
A win for either makes a good case for the next or an eventual title challenger. Kowalkiewicz holds a victory over current division champion, Rose Namajunas. While a win for Herrig would further establish her impressive win streak and undoubtedly give her the boost in the rankings she deserves.
Douglas Lima found out about change to co-main event at Bellator 192 from the internet
Bellator 192 fight card has gone through a shake-up over the past week. Bellator president Scott Coker revealed last week that the scheduled welterweight title fight between Rory MacDonald and champion Douglas Lima will now be serving as the co-main event and the heavyweight matchup between Chael Sonnen and Rampage Jackson would instead take top billing. At the time no explanation was made for the change. Monday Douglas Lima was a guest on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani to discuss this change.
“I was little bummed, but it is what it is, it’s business you know. I was pretty excited you know? Being the main event, having Rampage fight as the co-main event, I was happy there. Then I was bummed out that they changed it back to the co-main event. It’s not going to change a thing for me, I’m just focusing on the fight.”
Lima has been notoriously looked over in the eyes of fight fans. A longtime member of Bellator and a two-time champion has not gotten the notice he deserves and hopes to get.
“I found out through the internet, nobody tells me anything, I didn’t know. the same thing happened in New York, I thought my fight would be before the two main events there, but it ended up being the first fight of the night on Pay-Per-View. Hopefully, it doesn’t take anything away from the fight, you know spotlight and stuff.”
Lima is looking to make all the naysayers take notice at Bellator 192 that takes place at The Forum in Inglewood, Califonia on January 20th.
“This is the fight I’ve been waiting for for a long time. To get my name out there, to get people to know who I am. I’ve been delivering a lot of good fights, fights fans like to watch but no attention yet. I’m hoping though that after a win over Rory this week it will really put my name out there and show all these welterweights out there that I am for real.”
Al Iaquinta vs. Paul Felder rescheduled for UFC 223 in April
MMA fans around the world wept in deep sorrow when Al Iaquinta withdrew from a bout scheduled for UFC 218 against Paul Felder. Weep no more, for Paul Felder faces Al Iaquinta at UFC 223. Rumblings behind the match-up, first reported by FloCombat.com, came Sunday night before MMAFighting.com confirmed the bout scheduled for unannounced pay-per-view card, later in the evening.
The original bout fell through due to a severe knee injury to Iaquinta. He spoke to BJ Penn Radio about the injury nearly a week before the December 2nd, PPV event in Detriot. The Long Island real estate agent claimed, “I tore my PCL and my MCL maybe three or four months ago… for me to really put in a full training camp and do what I need to do, I would’ve had to just focus on fighting and physical therapy… it was the kind of thing where all roads led to me not kind of taking a risk and fighting on December 2nd”.
Iaquinta went on to say, “I kind of accepted the fight, but I never signed a bout agreement… I was kind of told I had to give them an answer pretty quick. It was a fight I thought I really wanted. I thought it was a good stylistic match-up for me, so I accepted the fight, and then thinking about it over the course of a day, we realized it probably wasn’t a smart decision for my health, for everything”.
An outspoken lightweight, he is not the first of his kind. Al Iaquinta is no stranger to idly waiting on the sideline for the UFC to make a move. Contract disputes and other bad strokes of luck left the Serra-Longo with three octagon appearances since 2015. The feud between Iaquinta and the promotion comes as a surprise when looking at the credentials of the aforementioned fighter. With an octagon record of 8-2, he earned notoriety as one of the best lightweights in the world. During his time in the UFC, he defeated Kevin Lee, Ross Pearson, Joe Lauzon, Jorge Masvidal, and most recently Diego Sanchez.
His opponent, “The Irish Dragon”, Paul Felder, holds an impressive UFC record of his own. At 7-3, Felder defeated tough competition as well. His record notes wins over Daron Cruickshank, Jason Saggo, Stevie Ray, and Charles Oliveira. Even more impressive than his record, his knockout ratio. At this stage of his career, Felder knockouts 55% of his opponents (10 knockouts in 18 career pro bouts).
Like his opponent Iaquinta, Paul Felder has a separate career outside of fighting. As many should notice, Felder found a role as a color commentator with the promotion he fights for. Following the footsteps in a long line of fighters before him, Felder announced multiple events alongside another new addition to the UFC broadcast team, Brendan Fitzgerald.
PPV card, UFC 223 and its location are not official yet. Despite a lack of an announcement, the event takes place in Brooklyn, New York at the Barclays Centre, according to multiple reports. Currently, the card features no official bouts. Reports state Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (per Jim Edwards), and Evan Dunham vs. Mairbek Taisumov (per Farah Hannoun) are both in the works for UFC 223.
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