• DOB: February 13th, 1976
  • Nickname: The Boogeyman
  • Gym: Victory MMA 
  • Location: San Diego, California
  • Martial Arts Records: 25-15(BJJ) 13-7(MMA)
  • Notable Championships: 2x ADCC Champion, KOTC Middleweight Champion

Dean Lister’s early life

Dean Lister also known as “The Boogeyman” was born into a military family and would constantly move around during his childhood. Throughout his childhood, Lister would constantly move to different countries within Central and South America.

When he was 13, he was actually living in Panama during the US invasion in 1989. He was right in the middle of the combat during this time.

Unfortunately with his family constantly moving to a different place, this would make Lister’s childhood a bit difficult. Constantly being the new foreign kid that wasn’t a native Spanish speaker made Dean Lister a target for bullies.

After being bullied when he was 10, Dean Lister came across a magazine that had a story about Jiu Jitsu. He became very interested in training, but Jiu Jitsu schools weren’t as widely available when he was a kid.

Dean Lister would have to wait a little later in his life before he could learn Jiu Jitsu.

Dean Lister takes up wrestling & Sambo

At around the time Lister would enter high school, his parents decided to move back to the states. Settling in San Diego, California where Dean Lister was born, so he could attend high school at Hilltop High School.

At his new high school. Lister discovered that the school had a wrestling program and immediately joined. His wrestling coach was Jerry Matsumoto.

Along with being experienced in wrestling, Matsumoto was also a Sambo practitioner. Sometimes during wrestling practice, Coach Matsumoto would also show Sambo techniques.

Dean was finally able to learn grappling techniques and really became immersed in learning. His coach saw that he was really into grappling and would also begin teaching him Sambo.

During high school, Dean Lister would excel at both amateur wrestling and Sambo. He would win division titles in high school wrestling, while also becoming a national Sambo champion twice.

Dean Lister finally starts his BJJ training

Once The Boogeyman would graduate from high school in 1996, he would find a BJJ gym run by Fabio Santos. 8 years after discovering Jiu Jitsu, Lister had finally found a school to learn Jiu Jitsu at.

Even though he had finally found a Jiu Jitsu school to train at, this was a difficult time in Lister’s life. He was on his own and had to work multiple jobs to pay for college, as well as Jiu Jitsu classes.

But Dean Lister was determined to learn Jiu Jitsu and wouldn’t quit. His background in wrestling and Sambo helped him pick up Jiu Jitsu rather quickly.

As a lower belt, Dean Lister would spend his weekends going to Jiu Jitsu competitions throughout California.

Dean Lister becomes an MMA fighter

In 2000, Lister would make the transition to MMA. His instructor Fabio didn’t approve of his student becoming an MMA fighter, but Dean wanted to test his schools.

The Boogeyman would make his debut at KOTC 5 and won his first fight by kneebar. He would drop his 2nd fight, losing a close split decision, but Dean would bounce back.

Winning his next 5 fights, which included avenging his loss and winning the KOTC Middleweight Championship. Also defending his belt twice.

Dean Lister parts ways with Fabio Santos

In late 2003 after nearly 7 years of learning under Fabio Santos, Dean Lister would part ways with his professor. The separation stemmed from a philosophical difference the two had.

Dean felt that by fighting in MMA, he could use this as a path to earn his black belt. Santos was adamantly against this and would not promote Lister to black belt.

Dean Lister’s training partner, Jeffrey Higgs, who was also a black belt under Fabio Santos would give Dean his black belt. This angered Santos and both men were excommunicated from the gym.

Lister would only train No-Gi and MMA exclusively after the split. It would be years before he would put a Gi back on.

Dean Lister wins at ADCC 2003

Even though he had been excommunicated from Fabio Santos’ BJJ school, Lister had still qualified for ADCC 2003. This would be his second appearance at the tournament after his 2001 debut, where he went 1-1.

In the opening round of the 99 kg division, Lister would submit Ilir Lafiti by guillotine. But in his second match, he would lose by points to Xande Ribeiro.

Dean Lister came up short again and was about to go home before he was given an offer. One of the participants in the absolute division was injured and Lister was asked to fill it.

He jumped at his second chance and this time Dean would make the most of his opportunity. Lister came out on fire in the absolute division.

Hitting a kimura on Nate Marquardt in the opening round and then beating former champ Saulo Ribeiro by kneebar. Dean would have his toughest match against Marcio Cruz to get to the finals.

In the finals, he would hit a heel hook and shock the world. Becoming the 2003 ADCC Absolute Champion.

Dean Lister makes it to the UFC

After Dean won his first ADCC championship, he would turn his attention back to MMA. Unfortunately, he would lose his KOTC title to Jeremy Horn by decision

The Boogeyman would then sign with Pride Fighting Championship and would have 3 fights with the promotion. Losing a split decision to Amar Suloev, winning by triangle against Akira Shoji, and losing a decision to Ricardo Arona.

Lister would then get the call to fight in the UFC, where he would fight from 2006-2009. 

Dean would win his first two UFC fights before losing a decision to Nate Marquardt. He would then bounce back with two more wins before losing a decision to Yushin Okami and getting released

Dean Lister’s 2nd ADCC Title

After winning the ADCC Championship in 2003, most of Lister’s attention was on MMA. He won a super fight against Jean Machado in 2005, but had a bad performance at the 2009 ADCC tournament.

This bad performance would motivate Dean to come back better than ever at the next championship. When the 2011 tournament came around, Lister was at the top of his game.

Winning 3 of his 4 matches in the 99 kg division by leg lock. Including beating BJJ world champions Rodolfo Vieira and Joao Assis by heel hooks to win his 2nd ADCC title.

Dean Lister’s performance at ADCC 2013

Dean Lister came back to ADCC in 2013 to try and defend his title. He would have one of the best performances of his career at this event.

In the 99 kg division, Lister would submit his first 3 opponents with a heel hook. He would then lose in the finals in a rematch with Joao Assis.

Then in the absolute division, Dean Lister would get two more victories by heel hook. Earning an ADCC record for most heel hook finishes in a single tournament.

Lister also currently owns the record for most leg lock wins in ADCC history with 10.

Dean Lister inspires John Danaher

Renzo Gracie black belt and Jiu Jitsu mastermind John Danaher credits Dean Lister for inspiring him to learn leg locks. In the early 2000s, Matt Serra invited Dean to train with him at Renzo’s school in New York.

Danaher watched Lister use Sambo style achilles locks to submit everyone he rolled with. John, who at the time didn’t train leg locks passively talked to Dean about leg locks.

When he told Dean that he didn’t practice leg locks, Lister responded with one sentence. “Why would you ignore 50% of the human body?”

This sentence would change how Danaher thought about grappling. This one sentence would inspire Danaher to develop his famous leg lock system that took over Jiu Jitsu.

Dean Lister’s legacy

As a martial artist, Dean “The Boogeyman” Lister has done it all. He has won at the highest level of grappling, while also competing at the highest level of MMA.

Dean Lister is also credited as being one of the best grappling coaches in the world. Being the grappling coach for various fighters like Cro-Cop and Tito Ortiz.

But what is probably more important than all of those personal accomplishments is the influence Lister has had on Jiu Jitsu. Lister was one of the early competitors that were well versed in leg locks.

He helped inspire the surge in leg lock practitioners in modern BJJ. Dean Lister deserves all the credit in the world for the work he had done in grappling. Not only as a competitor, but his influence that changed the game.

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