Lenon Locked in for Respect 1
As the song goes, "Ain't no change in the weather, ain't not changes in me."
Respect 1, the first of its kind for St. Louis is a professional jiu-jitsu showcase. The event kicks off on Saturday at the Kent Auto Museum in Chesterfield.
One of St. Louis' top practitioners of the martial art, Ezra Lenon, was originally slated to face Kit Dale. Dale, the colorful and popular Australian black belt, withdrew and in stepped Joao Faria.
"About three weeks ago I had an idea that it would happen," Lenon said. "I was looking forward to it. It will probably be the only time I would get the chance (to face Dale.) But I still get to compete and I have been training hard as planned.
Lenon made his name internationally with a victory over top-ranked grappler Pablo Popovitch at the Pan-Am's in New York. Some of Ezra's other accomplishments include: Pan-Am Best Of The Best Absolute Gi Champion, 4-time Arnold Grappling Championship Advanced Division No-Gi Winner & Absolute winner.
Lenon started training in 2006 with his older brother Zack, who was a blue belt at time. They moved to Columbia because of the American Top Team gym had the only black belts in the area. Lenon trained under Kiko France and stayed there until it closed and he moved to St Louis to teach at Finney's MMA. In February of 2011 Lenon and his brother both got their black belts from France.
According to BJJHeroes.com, Faria is a Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt with a lot of experience in Nogi as well. The Flavio Behring black belt has won several important competitions such as the Pan American and the World Nogi Championships.
In preparation for Respect 1, Lenon incorporated drilling, drilling and more drilling and ratcheted up the cardio sessions.
"I decided to sharpen my game instead of working on a certain pass," Lenon said. "My training was just more organized whereas I'm usually just freestyling."
The 28-year-old scaled back his film study completely. For previous tournaments or matches he would click away constantly looking for nuances or tells. But that made him something he's not part of his BJJ DNA, passive.
"Instead of attacking, I would be on defense," he said. "I quit watching and studying and just focusing on my game."
Saturday's match will be seven minutes long at around 190-pounds. Points will be scored with no advantages, and if the score is even at the end, it will be a draw.
Lenon last competed in November at a 5 Grappling event in Miami.
"I took a break from IBJJF and worked on and changed my game," Lenon said. "Five Grappling is a new organization that I like. They offer money so that's an easier pick."
Lenon has built a sturdy BJJ program at Finney's MMA. He teaches there five days a week with an ever-growing population of kids and adults students. Saturday will mark just the third time Lenon has competed in St. Louis.
"Having people I know there does not effect things either way," Lenon said.
Respect 1 is the starting line of what hopes to be a busy 2015.
"I want to hit worlds and the Chicago Open," Lenon said. "There are a few 5's tournaments. It's going to be a busy second half. Once June gets here it looks a like a tournament once a month."
More and more tournaments are opening up the purse strings for competitors like Lenon, which is long over due.
The rise of Metamoris has gave birth to Respect and other jiu-jitsu/grappling showcases where the athletes can come away with more than just a medal around their neck and victory in their heart.
"There is not a lot of money out there for jiu-jistu," Lenon said. "That is why were lose some to MMA. (MMA) is where they can make some money but there is not always that big pay day. It's starting to happen more and more."
The Respect 1 lineup:
Black Belt Matches:
JW Wright vs Renato Tavares
Ezra Lenon vs Joao Faria
Kyle Watson vs Piet Wilhelm
Shawn Hammonds vs Nick Sanders
Roli Delgado vs Jason Bircher
Mark Vives vs Shawn Woods
Mark Commean vs Mike Cimm
Mike Harris vs Jeff Serafin
Brown Belt Matches:
Brian Stuebner vs Josh Litteton
Nick Schrock vs Ilya Bodnya
Purple Belt Matches:
Jon Perrine vs Zach Freeman
Clay Mayfield vs Chadd Vogt
Joey Walters vs Kirk Huff
Drew Hill vs Vince Eazelle
Blue Belt Match:
Teddy Lopez vs Andrew Wiltse
Photo courtesy of IBJJF.org