Obviously Monday was great and accomplished so much. He was looked up to by so many, including Randy Couture, who was at OSU not long after Monday. But this isn't about Kenny Monday. It's about the guy he beat eleven years ago today.
John Lewis was influential as well. According to Sherdog he has a 3-4-3 MMA record, and a 1-1 mark in the UFC, so some might wonder how exactly he was influential. You see Lewis is a preeminent teacher of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He's been teaching and training fighters since he opened his gym J-Sect (now called Las Vegas Mixed Martial Arts) way back on June 1, 1995.
In late '96 Lewis began training a young Chuck Liddell to prepare him for the world of MMA. Liddell spoke highly of him in his book My Fighting Life, and he isn't the only great who's spent time with Lewis: Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz, Matt Lindland, Maurice Smith, B.J. Penn, Frank Trigg, and a host of others have worked with John.
Lewis was on the leading edge of the Jiu Jitsu revolution. Of course the Gracie's introduced it to the United States through the UFC in late 1993, and Lewis was right there with them, or at least hot on their heels. Not as publicly, but still. Now here's where it gets more interesting.
Not long after Lewis opened his gym, maybe six months or so, he was already making a name for himself and was approached by three guys at the Hard Rock. These three men were boxing fanatics, but had been keeping up with the new UFC. One of them approached Lewis, they were acquaintances, and asked if he and his friends could come learn Jiu Jitsu. John responded favorably and Dana White, Lorenzo Fertitta, and Frank Fertitta were soon rolling on the mats alongside Chuck Liddell at J-Sect.
They fell in love with the sport! They trained three or four times a week and couldn't get enough. Of course some five years later the Fertitta brothers and Dana White purchased the UFC when it was struggling in a serious way. Now the sport is growing like a weed and many proclaim it the next NASCAR.
It is interesting to think how much John Lewis has impacted mixed martial arts. He's worked with so many greats and in a round about way maybe even altered the sport's direction. What if he didn't happen to see White and the Fertitta's at the Hard Rock? What if they never made their way to his gym? Would they have become such big fans and recognized the sports, or the UFC's possibilities? Would they still have eventually purchased the UFC and taken it to what it is today? Or would it have gone away? Or would somebody else have come along and taken it in a different direction? A lot of interesting questions!
So as you see on 3/28/1997, eleven years ago today when wrestling great Kenny Monday and BJJ specialist John Lewis squared off at Extreme Fighting 4. They were both great in their own right. Monday had wowed us with his wrestling abilities, and Lewis, who was a great fighter as well, was in the process of making his mark on the sport through his teaching. If not for him, who knows, maybe you wouldn't be reading this because it never would have been written!
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