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October 2016

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Jon with Team Royce Gracie in Japan

A trip down memory lane.

It was the year 2000 and we left Los Angeles for Japan to begin the final stages of Royce Gracie’s training camp for the Pride fight against Takada. This was an exciting time for me as you can imagine. I am 26 years young, traveling the world, training with the best fighting family and their martial art in the world and I was on Royce’s fight team.

There are so many stories I could share but this picture was cool because we were in a private training studio and it was media day. To my left is a gentleman named NoNo who helped Royce with some stand up work, then immediately to my right is Robin Gracie, Royler Gracie and Rolker Gracie. And of course sitting in front is Royce Gracie and the legendary Grandmaster Helio Gracie. If you take a look at the Gi I was wearing, it had Japanese writing on it. That’s because it was the opponent’s gi. That’s right, Royce and Takada were going to fight in their Gi’s and it was a historic moment for both MMA and PRIDE Fighting. Never before had both opponents done a true MMA match in the Gi.

The reason I was wearing the gi was because my body type most closely emulated Takada’s and Helio requested, I mean told me to wear the gi so that Royce could also get psychologically prepared by seeing the Japanese writing and in his head he could visualize grabbing Takada too. Yes I took many beatings but in that gi I took a lot. LOL.

Both Takada and Royce agreed to exchange their gi’s with one another so the other could get used to the stitching, the tensions, the sleeve length, lapel width and more. There is a lot of preparation that goes in to an MMA fight and this one felt like a different animal with all of the studying for both the fight and the wardrobe.

It was great time being on Royce’s fight team and on that particular night we came up with a draw but at the end of the day the life experiences I’ve had as a result of training with the legend and his father are priceless and memories that I will have for a lifetime.

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Ryan “Who Dat” Keenan becomes Professor Jonathan Burke’s FIRST Royce Gracie Jiu-Jitsu black belt

In November of 2014, 6 Levels Orlando youth head coach and professional fighter Ryan “Who Dat” Keenan was preparing for his upcoming fight in one of the larger organizations outside of the UFC. The event is called World Series of Fighting (WSOF) and it is full of extremely tough competitors and up and coming superstars. Ryan had been putting in massive amount of training, cutting weight, eating right, commuting to Gracie Tampa for additional fight camp assistance and just basically sacrificing everything as all great fighters have to do when entering in to battle.

After a long hard fought battle against a very formidable opponent, Ryan had submitted him with a rear naked choke (RNC) in the 2nd round. It was an extremely impressive victory to say the least.

So for a few months I had wanted to promote Ryan but every time I wanted to do it, I internally felt like there was a better moment to come that would be the perfect time to promote him for his life changing milestone. So those who know me, especially my wife, know that I am terrible at when I want to surprise people with something I’m excited about so keeping this a surprise was near impossible for me especially because I was so excited to give Ryan who had worked so hard for 9 years and for all of his fights this incredibly hard earned reward on his Gracie Jiu-Jitsu journey.

So I put his black belt in my backpack that I always bring to his fights when I corner. I asked one of the corner men to hold it up his jeans leg for me. Once Ryan won the fight I signaled for the belt. When the referee was holding his hand up to the thousands in the stadium and more on the streaming net including about 200 of his friends and family, I held up the belt behind him and slowly lowered it down in front of his face and pure raw emotion overcame us both.

It was one of my most special and favorite days in MY entire 24 years of teaching and training Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.

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Shaq & Nate Diaz Square Off

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