Andrew “Goatfury” Smith: the mAn, the Legend. Aside from being a very accomplished competitor in his own right, Andrew, in conjunction with Mike Moses (www.evolveacademy.com), is working hard to take the East Coast grappling scene to the next level. Andrew “Goatfury” Smith: the mAn, the Legend. Aside from being a very accomplished competitor in his own right, Andrew, in conjunction with Mike Moses (www.evolveacademy.com), is working hard to take the East Coast grappling scene to the next level. Over the past year, the former East Coast Grappling Championships have built a reputation for putting on professionally-run shows with top-tier talent not only in their professional divisions, but the regular tournaments, as well. Past events have featured top-level American fighters (both male and female) such as Chris Moriarty, Marcos “Yemaso” Torregrosa, Amie Turton, and Kizma Button, as well as top international talent like Wilson Reis (BTT, Mundial champion) and now, Vinicius “Pezao” Magalhaes (Gracie Humaita, Mundial Champion). With what appears to be major things on the horizon for both The East Coast Grappling Championships, as well as its promoter, OTM has gone to the source for some inside information on what the future holds:
OTM: Andrew Smith…what’s going on, mAn?Andrew: Howdy…actually, what’s going on is that I’m at a Panera Bread right now (because they have free WiFi) and some jerk is gobbling up all the bandwidth, apparently. I’m here because there’s free WiFi, and my connection suuuucks.
OTM: That’ll happen…have you considered using a goathook to solve the problem?Andrew: Yes, actually…but nobody in here has pulled closed guard on me…yet (although the girl who took my order was sort of making eyes).
OTM: Speaking of goats, dude, what’s up with the nickname? Seriously. Where the hell did that come from?Andrew: Long and incredibly boring story… let’s just say the name stuck (also, let’s just say Dungeons and Dragons played a role. ’nuff said)OTM: Baaaaaahhhhh…give me your lunch money, nerd. And by that, I mean, “goats can’t wear the Helm of Doom, and my level 20 magic missile is going to kick your ass as a result.” Oh, God…
OTM: What got you interested in the promotional end of grappling competition?
Andrew: Haha, I ask myself that every Friday before a tournament. Basically, I saw that there was a need for more grappling tournaments in the Southeast… I had helped run numerous smaller shows, as well as becoming increasingly involved with Grapplers Quest over the years. I also competed more from 1998 through 2004 than anyone I know of. After helping run a few tournaments, I knew that with the right help, we could do an awesome job of running a tournament circuit and fill in a desperate need for tournaments…. looking around the country, I see a need for way more grappling tournaments than are out there.
OTM: How do you feel your career as a well-known/high-level competitor has benefited your transition to the promotional side of grappling?
Andrew: Well…obviously, the experience is invaluable. By seeing everything from wrestling to judo to jiu-jitsu, from back-yard grass-roots to the ADCC to the CBJJ Mundials to the Liberty Bell (judo), I kind of “have my finger on the pulse” of the grappling scene, so to speak. Being “well-known” (read as: “post-whoring on NHBGear”) on the web has helped me easily establish contacts all over the country, so that has also been a huge help.
OTM: No doubt. I personally know that, from a competitor’s perspective, it’s certainly helpful to have someone who still shares your perspective on competition running the show.
OTM: You were, until recently, co-promoting the East Coast Grappling Championships, but that tournament recently underwent a name change to ‘US Grappling.’ Can you give us some insight as to why, as well as to any meaning behind the new name?
Andrew: Absolutely. Actually, we were running tournaments in conjunction with nighttime MMA/Muay Thai shows sanctioned by the WKA (World Kickboxing Association), such as the Combat Sports Challenge. We decided to adopt the name “WKA Grappling.” This moniker would work for the short-term, but for one thing, the WKA name is kind of limiting for a grappling circuit… and kind of a misnomer, really. A “kickboxing” organization should not govern or oversee a “grappling” circuit (although the WKA is actually bigger than just kickboxing…. but there is a lot of value in a name). For another thing, we (U.S. Grappling) are planning grappling-only shows (not in conjunction with nighttime MMA shows).
Now…why the name “U.S. Grappling?” I remember about five years ago being at a “U.S. Grappling” show. This event was run in part by Joe Priole–I’m sure many experienced grapplers will remember this circuit. There were some amazing superfight divisions and some very good tournaments run under that name in the New Jersey area. Joe Priole played an active role in not only promoting, but also in running these tournaments.
Many will also recall that Joe passed away on September 21st, 2005 of non-Hodgkins lymphoma (if you visit www.USgrappling.US, you can read a bunch more about this stuff). Not to mention, it’s a great name for our circuit.
That may be the longest question I have ever seen in an interview, but it all needs to be said.
OTM: Can you give us some information on your upcoming tournaments? What have you got for competitors in the near future?
Andrew: Absolutely. Our first show as U.S. Grappling will be our Midwest Championships, held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I’m excited to do this event for several reasons, not the least of which is that we’ll be running our daytime event in conjunction with kickboxing legend Duke Roufus’s nighttime MMA and kickboxing show. This is a great opportunity to showcase jiu-jitsu and grappling to fans who might not otherwise be exposed to it in the near future. It’s also a great opportunity for pre-registered competitors (ahem) to see some great fights for free during the night show.
This event features some sick talent in the pro divisions, as well as the dozens of children’s, teens’, women’s, men’s, and masters’ divisions. The 205-and-under pro ($1000, sponsored by NHBGear.com) features ADCC Trials champ Chris Moriarty, ADCC Trials finalist (and East Coast Grappling champ) Rick Macauley, “Pezao” (CBJJ world champ), and lots more…the 160-and-under pro features, um, you (Ryan Hall, 3x consecutive Grapplers Quest advanced champ, 2x East Coast Grappling champ), Henry Matamoros, and several others.
After that, we’ve got the U.S. Grappling Junior Nationals, which we hope will be the largest children’s and teens’ jiu-jitsu/grappling tournament ever. This event will be held in Richmond, VA on March 24th. We will have children and teens superfights, which to the best of my knowledge, is unprecedented. We’ll be releasing a lot more info on that soon at www.USgrappling.US…stay tuned.
OTM: Where do you see US Grappling going in 2007 and beyond? What do you hope to see come of the new promotion?
Andrew: For 2007, we’re just focusing on establishing a national tournament circuit. We’ve done great with the mid-Atlantic region, and we have every intention of continuing to provide great tournaments there again.
Beyond that, I’d like to see U.S. Grappling, along with every other well-run tournament circuit continue to take the sport of BJJ and submission grappling to the next level of public perception. The popularity of MMA in the US over the last five years has skyrocketed, and grappling has certainly benefited from that…. but the potential for jiu-jitsu and submission grappling popularity hasn’t even been touched… we’ve seen only a small fraction of what we’re going to see in the next five years. Our two sports are incredibly fun and can be great fun to watch as well, provided the spectators are “in the know.” This can only be accomplished through exposure to the sports, and that can only happen with lots and lots of well-run tournaments and lots and lots of good jiu-jitsu schools.
OTM: How do you feel about FILA getting involved with submission wrestling?
Andrew: FILA’s interest in becoming involved with submission grappling is only logical. Submission grappling has been a MUCH faster growing sport than wrestling over the last ten years or so. It’s not that wrestling hasn’t continued to grow, but jiu-jitsu and submission grappling has absolutely exploded…. it’s the closest your average Joe can come to MMA without getting punched in the face, and MMA is (as I’ve said ad nauseum) growing at an incredible rate from a fan base standpoint.
Now…is FILA’s involvement a good thing for the sport? That remains to be seen, and I hope to play some role in making sure that however large their role is, it’s positive for the growth of jiu-jitsu. If their intention is to govern all submission grappling events in the U.S. in order to help “grappling” become an Olympic sport, it’s going to be a very tough sell for the current successful promoters… on the other hand, how much more successful can their events be if the sport becomes as popular worldwide as, say, judo, or even wrestling? If “grappling” is a P.E. option at colleges, and high schools across the country offer grappling teams the way schools have wrestling teams now… the sky’s the limit.
Although it’s true that FILA is a major international governing body for wrestling, another very important thing for us to consider is something very simple: submission grappling is not wrestling. Should a judo organization govern Brazilian jiu-jitsu? Should a wrestling organization govern submission grappling? It’s very important to weigh the pros and cons of FILA’s involvement with us. Will rules be set to favor wrestlers? What other changes will be made to our present system of rules? Will the sport (or more importantly, the ART) be watered down? These are very important things to consider before plunging in with open arms.
OTM: The group in charge of spearheading the unification effort consists of some familiar names such as Renzo Gracie and Sheikh Tahnoun (vice president of the Abu Dhabi Combat Club/World Submission Championships), as well as a number of newcomers to the sport. How do you feel about the choice of representatives?
Andrew: Basically, this goes back to my point about whether submission grappling should be under the umbrella of “wrestling.” Is submission grappling wrestling? I say no. The “unknown” members of this board seem to be from a wrestling background, and I do think from a purely organizational aspect, it’s a good thing to examine the way wrestling has been organized… but from the standpoint that a committee for a governing body should represent a good balance of what the organization itself represents, the choices don’t make much sense… and they don’t necessarily instill trust.
It’s almost like an organization to govern mixed martial arts run ONLY by jiu-jitsu figureheads.
OTM: Well, that’s about all I’ve got. I don’t really know how to end these things yet. Uh, thanks for your time…may the Force be with you?
Andrew: I want to thank all of the volunteers and staff- running a great tournament really takes an army. I can’t say that enough. I do some good things, but I’m only a piece of the puzzle. Our sponsors, especially NHBGear.com, have been incredibly supportive of us consistently. I’m really looking forward to continuing our relationship with Gumby and Scotty with Onthemat.com – they’ve been very cool with me already for a long time. Stay tuned with USGrappling.us for more shameless self-promotion!
OTM: That was as shameless as you made it out to be. Congratulations…you bastard.
Andrew: How’s that herpes coming along?
OTM: Damn, if I had herpes for real, that would have totally shut me down. But seriously, thanks for your time, and good luck in the future!
Andrew: Thanks. And a shameless plug for you, too: “Hi, my name is Ryan Hall. I do not have herpes. Ladies?”Great pickup line, IMO.
OTM: Oh, God…this interview is OVER. But seriously…does that one work for you?