Robert Drysdale: It’s fun to be a beginner again (Interview)

Robert Drysdale: It’s fun to be a beginner again (Interview)


At the age of 30, Robert Drysdale is one of the most decorated Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners on the planet, with victories in virtually every major grappling competition. In addition to his personal achievements, Drysdale is a also a highly-regarded coach, sharing his knowledge with fighters such as Frank Mir, Dan Hardy, Forrest Griffin, Miguel Torres, and others.

Drysdale currently prepares for his fourth professional MMA bout, against Isaac Villanueva, at July 13th Legacy Fighting Championship event in Houston, Texas. Drysdale (3-0 in MMA) plans to make another step towards top-tier MMA competition, with sights on mirroring his success in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

We had an opportunity to interview Robert Drysdale, who shared thoughts about competing in Mixed Martial Arts, the evolution of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and Frank Mir‘s chances against Cain Velasquez at UFC 146. photographer Scott Hirano traveled to Drysdale Jiu-Jitsu gym in Las Vegas, Nevada, for the following photo report from one of Robert Drysdale’s pro classes. Full gallery of Scott’s photos from Drysdale Jiu-Jitsu will be posted soon on

Feel free to follow Robert Drysdale on Twitter @RobertDrysdale, and Scott Hirano @ScottHirano. To learn more about Robert Drysdale, make sure to check out Bobby Razak’s documentary at the bottom of the page.

It was recently announced that you signed a three-fight deal with Legacy Fighting Championship, but there’s no official fight announcement yet. Could you give an update on where things currently stand and when you are fighting next?

The fight was originally scheduled for May, but I had to pull out due to a slow-healing injury. So now it has been rescheduled for early July. I’m really looking forward to fight for LFC.

You have defeated Mike Nickels in your most recent MMA bout. In light of the fact that Nickels is a two-time UFC veteran, do you feel like you’re step by step moving into the big leagues of MMA competition?

Absolutely, I feel like I’m slowly moving up the ranks. In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I competed as a white belt, as a blue, purple, brown and then black. I look at MMA the exact same way. It’s one step at a time.

What kind of adjustments you had to make for MMA competition, especially in the striking dimension of the sport?

In the JJ aspect there were definitely some adjustments. But as far as striking went, I had to learn it all from nothing. It is fun to be a beginner again and learn a new skill. I love it.

What are the biggest differences between coaching BJJ and competing in Mixed Martial Arts in terms of mindset?

I think it’s mostly technical and strategical differences. I don’t see too many differences when it comes to the mindset. Mindset is always to have a clear and confident mind. Being mentally sharp to pull the trigger when the time comes.

What are your key values as a coach? What do you expect from your students, both pro and amateur?

I think I break it down for them well. I can watch someone grapple and immediately tell their strengths and weaknesses. As far as expectations, only that they show up to class, listen, respect and work hard. That’s all.

You trained so many professional fighters, is there someone you consider as your “personal project”? Someone who managed to greatly improve over the years (or maybe months) of training with you?

I think Frank Mir, John Alessio and Martin Kampmann are the ones who learned the most. There are a lot of guys in here and they are all learning. But I can definitely see a big improvement in their evolution.

After his victory over Minotauro Nogueira, do you think Frank Mir is currently the best Heavyweight submission artist on the planet? What is your personal prediction for the fight with Cain Velasquez?

It’s difficult to claim who’s “the best” but Frank is certainly amongst the best heavyweights in the history of the sport. As far as his fight with Cain, that will be one of Frank’s biggest challenges yet. Cain is a strong wrestler that knows how to strike. I believe Frank has the advantage on the ground and in stand up. Cain has the wrestling edge. I have my money on Frank, but regardless of who wins, the fans can expect a great fight.

Do you think today people understand BJJ more than they used to, for example – five or six years ago?

Definitely yes, BJJ has come a long way and it part of the overall fighting culture. That wasn’t true just a few years ago. Everything from the UFC to video games and the growth of BJJ in its own right has contributed to the better understading people have of the ground game.

Former Chute Boxe BJJ coach Cristiano Marcello currently competes at TUF 15. As someone who was featured as BJJ coach at TUF 8, did you ever consider trying your luck at TUF as well?

That was my original plan when I first moved here. But after being a coach of one of the seasons I changed my mind. I don’t think I can be away from family and friends for so long. It’s harder than it looks. Plus, they haven’t had my weight class in a while.

What’s currently the most important thing in your life, and what are your personal goals for 2012?

The goal has always been the same and is the most important thing to me, as it always has been. To be the best I can be, that is, to reach my maximum potential as a fighter.

I would also like to thank Hayabusa fight gear, and invite fans to check out my website and follow me on twitter @robertdrysdale.

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  • japanegro23

    Great interview. I wish Robert well in his MMA career.

  • sankaku jime

    This guy is awesome!!! he(among others) definitively drives jiu jitsu to another level . people like these brings new stuff to the game and allows the evolution of combat arts. All the best to them!!!!!

  • JoeFaceHood

    Amen to that. In the first pic he looks big compared to Mir….had to look it up 6’3″ – 205. Big dude….almost Bones Jones height.

  • Entity

    I hope his striking evolves well. Its tough seeing a guy so gifted at BJJ get KO’s going in. No-one will want to go to the ground with him most likely 8P

  • KeithFarrell

    Drysdale is seriously one of the most elite in the world when it comes to teaching MMA grappling.

  • KeithFarrell

    I think we do have a potential great LHW in Drysdale, I hope his striking comes along at a good pace as his grappling is obviously already at the highest level.
    It would’ve been cool to see Drysdale in Strikeforce and fight Roger Gracie if Gracie didn’t move down to MW.

    Good luck to Drysdale, cool guy.

  • KeithFarrell

    You basically summed up Roger Gracie’s last fight

  • grandslam

    Let’s wait and watch. And yes, good luck Drysdale.

  • Mike Perryman

    Jake Shields is a classic example of this in a bjj expert.Sometimes they are so talented in one area of the game, that It becomes more difficult for them to evolve other areas of their game.
    Jake trains with some of the best strikers in the business, and he still can’t punch his way out of a wet paper sack!

  • Mike Perryman

    And the same is true for talented strikers for the most part. Guys like Daley and Hardy are prime examples of this. They are dangers in the standup; but put them on their backs, and they sweat worse than a lady of the night at the Sunday morning church services!

  • Sebg

    Watched the video – looks like Roger didn’t do the 2009 Superfight at ADCC and Drysdale lost to Jacare.

  • Entity

    Is it just me or is the main page jacked up?

  • mma15johnny

    It’s jacked up I can’t see anything else but this one

  • Entity

    Jakes awesome but his coordination sucks! Look at his foot work. His balance isnt anywhere near many others fighting. Thats why hes been around Nick for years and cant strike a match.

  • Entity

    lol before it was fixed I was hoppin around through my profile haha

  • Mike Perryman

    I’m also a fan of Shields. But he could stand for some shine in the standup department. It’s about the only hole in his game.

  • Mike Perryman

    I did the same thing last night before giving up and calling it quits.

  • KeithFarrell

    Sh9ields won his last fight due to striking

  • KeithFarrell

    He could improve his transition game to, he has had problems getting the fight to the ground in his last bouts.