IFL's Number One Locksmith
© Marc Wickert
31 Aug 2006
photos © IFL
Bryan Vetell's neighbors
might have wondered what he was up to, lurking in the shadows outside his
house. But there really was a plausible explanation for his behavior:
"I've just come home from training, and I'm standing outside my
house, because I get better reception on my cell phone out here,"
says the 265-pound IFL star, during his interview with knucklepit... but decisions in MMA? To be
one-hundred-percent honest, I haven't had MMA fights go for long. However,
what I haven't met yet is that strong upper level of competition, which is
definitely what is about to happen now."
Not that anybody would consider interrupting this jovial giant of a man,
who at a young age was tying people up with arm bars and locks, when most
other kids were still learning to tie their shoelaces.
"I've been wrestling since I was five years old. My mum signed me up
for classes at the YMCA when I was a kid - I don't know why, but she did.
And I took to it. My dad had died when I was really young, and I guess Mum
wanted me to have some sort of male thing going on. I had a family of
women around me, and my mum maybe wanted to toughen me up a little
Bryan was later attracted by the reality of MMA and decided to broaden his
fighting skills. "At the time, I used to watch what I thought was
real - the old UWF shoot wrestling thing from Japan. And I thought their
submissions were awesome. I tried to do what I could from the TV, and then
I saw the UFC and thought, 'Hey, this is how a real fight goes.' That was
" In '95, I played around on the wrestling mats, and when I was
nineteen, I hooked up with the Russians down at Brighton Beach. They
started teaching me a style of Sambo which was modified for MMA. I didn't
really do anything competitive from that, and I went back to college and
put my training on the wayside - just going through the motions.
"Then about three years ago, I got the competitive bug again. I can't
even say why. I tried to avoid it and not do it for a while. You know, I
really did try to say, 'No. I don't watch UFC or PRIDE anymore.' But
before I knew it, I was sucked back in. And before I knew it I was
training out of Queens with a good group of guys who really helped me get
my stand-up and basic Jiu Jitsu down."
Let loose on the amateur circuit, Bryan started cleaning up the
competition in record time: Norm Shack at 1:18, Tommy Falco 1:55, and
Simon Manning in 34 seconds. It was soon time for Vetell to focus on the
"A year ago, my guys in Queens said I was surpassing them, and it was
time for me to move on. My coach was a great coach, but as a training
partner, the gap was getting too wide. Of course it didn't help any that
he was 200 pounds and I weighed 300."
Today, Bryan is rated #1 by the American Sambo Association for the 96+ kg
division. And he regards his sambo skills to be better than his jiu jitsu
abilities, because of his natural explosive power, and his desire to get
the job done quickly is more suited to sambo.
"I would probably do better at sambo matches than at jiu jitsu
competition - just because of the takedown aspect of it. You can score so
quickly with the takedowns in sambo, and you only have so much time on the
ground. After a year of training with Renzo, maybe it would be a little
different, but that was always my strong suit - the throws, takedowns, and
gaining position rather than the slow, methodical work that a lot of these
jiu jitsu guys will do on the ground."
Bryan, what is Thaisport?
"That's the brand of the merchandise I wear which is owned by my
stand-up coach, Dave Martucci, whom I do my Muay Thai with. I do some of
my stand-up at Renzo's as well, but my boxing, my kickboxing, and
definitely my stuff that's mixed with MMA - kicks to takedowns, all the
set-ups and stuff - he's pretty much exclusively my MMA coach. But he also
has a gear line, so whenever I fight as an individual, I wear his clothing
range, because he's been pretty good to me."
Do you have a strong stand-up
game as well as ground fighting?
"I'd like to think so. My stand-up game is primarily centered on my
takedown game. But, if things go wrong, I have a stand-up game - my Thai
At The Last Man Standing
Tournament in May, 2005, you defeated Norm Shack and then Tommy Falco by
key locks. You also defeated Simon Manning by key lock at Rumble in
Rahway. Would it be fair to say that's one of your favorite submissions?
"It's definitely where I wind up, and it's definitely something that,
when I'm in position, I can get. It is my bread and butter as a
submission. I don't know if I'd actually call it my favorite: There are
much more beautiful ones, there are much more technical ones. But it just
happens to be where I want to go."
Your bout with Tommy Falco
lasted less than two minutes before you submitted him with that hold. Then
Tommy withdrew from his bout with Norm Shack. You must have latched on a
pretty damaging key lock to put him out of the tournament.
"Actually, I think it was his ribs from one of my takedowns. I don't
know for sure, but I heard it was from one of the takedowns that he
sustained an injury."
Do you use wrestling takedowns
to set up the key locks?
"Primarily, my Greco moves - my upper-body throws. They're what
usually put me in control or put me into that position."
Have you ever won a fight by
"I've won BJJ matches by decision. I've been against some really good
grapplers and won 2- 0, and 4-0.
IFL has your MMA record as
"Yes, that's my pro MMA record. I had my first pro fight in June
against Chris Clark. It was a good first fight and it definitely got rid
of some of my concerns about walking into a pro fight - worrying about a
crowd who doesn't know you and all these other things."
How did you win that one?
"Guess," laughs the big man.
You're with Renzo
Gracie's Pitbulls. How did it go down when you defeated Norm Shack from
I'd love to submit him in thirty, but
to be a realist here... "
"I wasn't affiliated with Renzo's gym just then. I was on the verge
of leaving the school in Queens and going over to Renzo."
What's it like training with
"He is certainly a motivator. You're working with somebody who's so
established in the sport, that it's hard to slack or give yourself any
leeway when you have this guy who's been in the sport for what.thirty
something years? And he continues to compete and continues to do well.
It's hard to say to yourself, 'I've done enough today.' You know that
that's his life, and you have somebody like him around you, you just want
to do your best to show you're a part of that team - for real."
Is it well-rounded training that
you get from Renzo?
"From Renzo himself? I work out at the academy, and my training will
be in the afternoons - just because I work at night (as a bouncer), and I
work out in the afternoons with several different guys. My training is
particularly well rounded, especially because they know my weaknesses, and
they know what I need to work on."
Will your fight against Patrick
Barrentine on September 30, at Combat in the Cage III, be your second pro
"My fight against Ben Rothwell will be my second pro fight. That's
What do you expect from your
fight with Ben?
"I expect a win, but I know he's tough. I know he has a lot of
experience and that his stand-up game is his bread and butter. His idea is
going to be to come out and drop the overhand right, and maybe land some
kicks, and keep me at bay with his hands.
"I expect a tough fight. I'd rather not. I'd rather win it in two
seconds, but more than likely I think it's going to go the distance. I'd
love to knock him out in two seconds
And you're prepared to go the
"Oh, yes. My cardio is unreal right now. I can do the three
4-minutes, no problem. I'm not going to get tired. That's not going to
And Ben's going to want to keep
"Ben's going to want to keep it standing and knock my head off. And
I'm ready for him."
Bryan, is there anything you'd
like to add?
"Yeah, hello to the fans. I appreciate their support, and I'll
continue to do my best for them.
"And I want this thing to take off for the fans and for the athletes.
I want the people to know me, know the teams, and for them to know every
athlete from each team. I think this is the next step in the evolution of
the sport, as a whole...
to actually have a professional league.
"The single fights, where guys are just running around like maniacs,
trying to get fights...
I think this is the way to make it happen, where
guys have a stable income, and for it to produce the best athletes."
"It's thaisportgear.com. And thank you to Carlos Cline and Rob
Bryan Vetell's stats:
Nickname: Little Boy
MMA record: 1-0-0
Date of birth: 26 July '77
Birthplace: New York City
Home: Jamaica, New York
Coach: Renzo Gracie
For more on Bryan Vetell: www.myspace.com/bryanvetell
For more on IFL: www.ifl.tv.
to feature stories