Jon Olav Einemo: Norway’s Asgardian Warrior Returns

The summer of 2011 could be dubbed "The Return of Asgard" for many reasons. The first and most obvious reason being the long-awaited release of Marvel’s blockbuster movie ‘Thor’. The film, which begins in Tønsberg, Norway in 965 A.D., shows the Asgardian warriors defeating the Frost Giants to bring peace to the all realms. This popular Norse mythology can also relate to the Norwegian MMA scene this summer, as one of Norway’s favorite sons returns to MMA action for the first time since November 2006.

This man would be Jon Olav Einemo, the Norwegian Grappling Dynamo. Well, even if that catchy rhyming nickname doesn’t grab your attention, perhaps his credentials will, as he prepares to make his return to MMA on the grandest of all stages, the main card of a UFC pay-per-view event this Saturday night at UFC 131 – Dos Santos vs. Carwin in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Einemo hails from a land of mythological Norse gods and legendary Viking warriors and not surprisingly he himself is a giant both in size and fighting acumen. The 6-foot, 6-inch heavyweight has spent the past decade carving out his own legacy at the highest level of grappling. In 2001, he was invited by Sheik Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al Nahyan to participate in the prestigious ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. In his first match, he would shock the grappling world by defeating the legendary Rigan Machado to make it to the quart-finals. Here he would go on to defeat Rolles Gracie, the son of famed jiu-jitsu pioneer Rolls Gracie, before bowing out in the semi-finals to Alexandre "Cacareco" Ferreire.

Einemo would next be seen at the 2002 World Championship of Jiu-Jitsu (Mundials), after he decided to travel to Brazil, the birthplace of jiu-jitsu, to compete at the highest level of gi competition. He was only a blue belt at the time and competed as such, making waves in the Blue Belt Absolute division, where he submitted 5 of his 6 opponents en route to winning the gold medal.

One year later, Einemo would return to Brazil, after being invited to take part in the 2003 ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship. He would face four opponents in the Under 99 kg weight class. In the first round, he would submit American wrestler (and eventual UFC star) Brandon Vera via armbar from the guard. In the second round, he took down and submitted Australian grappler Larry Papadopoulos via rear naked choke.

Those two wins set the stage for his most famous victory to date. His third match would be a semi-final contest against grappling demi-god Roger Gracie. The match went to overtime, but Einemo was able to secure two points and the victory, which was highlighted with a standing back mount. In the finals, Einemo would get a rematch with Cacareco, the same man who had defeated him in 2001. This time the story would have a different ending, as Einemo went on to defeat Cacareco. Towards the end of a match, that Cacareco appeared intent on stalling his way through, Einemo took his opponent’s back, when Cacareco went for a guard pass. After securing the back, Einemo ended the match via rear naked choke to become an ADCC Submission Wrestling World Champion. In doing so, he also became the only man to have everto defeated the multiple-time Jiu-Jitsu champion Roger Gracie in an ADCC tournament and that achivevement still stands to this day.

Einemo would again make an impressive showing at the 2005 ADCC tournament with all things considered. Six weeks before the competition, he had tore parts of his chest muscle and was not able to train. This was the first time the tournament was held in the United States and he was still able to defeat Rick Macauley and Vitor Vianna before losing a rubber match with Cacareco in the semi-final. Einemo would return to the next edition of the biennial ADCC tournament in 2007, where he would lose a Super Fight rematch with Roger Gracie on points.

Einemo, now a black belt in jiu-jitsu under Marcelo "Yogui" Santiago, has set his sights and attention back to his MMA career. After all he has accomplished in grappling and jiu-jitsu, one can easily overlook his MMA accolades. After making his professional MMA debut in 2000, Einemo found difficulty finding willing opposition in Scandinavia after laying waste to his first two opponents inside of one round, while fighting in his neighboring country of Finland.

The following year, after participating in his first ADCC tournament and battling through some nagging injuries, Einemo would sign with Shooto. There he would continue on his path of destruction over the next two years by disposing of his next three opponents inside of the Shooto organization, while still needing less than one round to do it. More impressively, he was able to finish the first five men he faced in MMA via submission or TKO. This caught the attention of PRIDE Fighting Championships, while PRIDE was reaching the peak of its greatness in early 2006. Einemo would sign with PRIDE and make his debut for the organization against fellow ADCC star Fabricio Werdum. Werdum, who has since won the Over 99 kg weight class in the 2007 and 2009 editions of the ADCC World Submission Wrestling Championships, managed to outpoint Einemo for a decision win during their fight at PRIDE 31 – Unbreakable in February 2006.

Einemo would promptly rebound from the lone loss of his MMA career, later the same year, with a quick first round armbar victory over fellow PRIDE veteran James Thompson in the Dutch MMA promotion 2H2H – Pride & Honor. The long 4 1/2 year lay off since that win over Thompson was due in part to foot surgery and a bacteria infection that the Norwegian has had to battle through. Einemo also hails from a country that despite its storied Viking warrior past and fabled Norse mythological folklore, does not allow MMA or any combat sport, where a competitor has the intention of knocking out their opponent. Since there is no grassroots MMA scene in Norway, it is difficult for native veterans and up-and-coming Norwegian fighters to gain sponsors to train and travel for fights.

Now, as in the this summer’s hit movie "Thor", Einemo seeks to return to the land that has been out of his reach for far too long. As Thor looked to prove himself worthy as the next king of Asgard, Einemo looks to ascend back up the ranks of the heavyweight MMA rankings. Einemo has been training in Thailand and Holland in preparation for his return, alongside the likes of Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem. The timing also appears to be right following on the heels of his longtime friend, teammate, and fellow Norwegian countryman Joachim "Hellboy" Hansen’s recent victory over Mitsuhiro Ishida at the first DREAM show of the year, just a mere 10 days ago. Einemo will now look to double that Norwegian success as he looks to send EliteXC, World Victory Road, and Bellator veteran Dave "Pee-Wee" Herman to Valhalla on Saturday night, as both men make their promotional debut for the UFC on the main card of UFC 131.

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