Lenon Returns for Respect 2
As far as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the Midwest is concerned, St. Louis has an impressive roster of battle-tested black belts.
But when it comes to competition, Ezra Lenon is the current kingfish of this deep pond.
Lenon's lengthy list of accomplishments include; two-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club invitee and participant, which is considered the crme de la crme of the world's best BJJ players and a 2015 win over Jeff Glover to get into the Five Grappling eight-man tournament in August. Earlier in his career, Lenon made his name internationally with a victory over top-ranked grappler Pablo Popovitch (a former ADCC champion) 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.
It has been a notable 2015 for Lenon and he returns to action this Saturday at Respect 2 at the Moto Museum in downtown St. Louis.
Just who Lenon will face remains a mystery. During the day on Saturday, a four-man black belt tournament will take place at the Fuji St. Louis Fall Classic with the winner getting a crack at Lenon later that evening as part of the star-studded Respect 2 card.
Blase is likely not the correct term to describe Lenon's approach to Saturday but he has been far from manic about it.
"I don't know who is in the tournament and I haven't even tried to find out," Lenon said. "I won't be going to the (Fall Classic), I have a class that needs covered but I'm sure I'll find out through text. I think it's a cool concept. It switches things up. I can't really game plan so I'm just happy to compete."
Lenon started 2015 when he took part in the first Respect in February against Jaoa Faria, a late replacement for Kit Dale. Lenon and Faria gave the crowd a taste of world class jiu jitsu as Lenons guard work led to several scrambles that heightened the energy in the crowd. Lenon got the win after a long but thrilling match.
"That was a different experience," Lenon said. "Being on the elevated stage, with the lights shining on you and one match at a time, there were a little more nerves."
Respect 1 was supposed to be the kickoff for a jam-packed competition calendar but things slowed down for Lenon until early August. That was when he got a call on a Tuesday to face Glover in a elimination bout to enter that weekends Five Grappling eight man tournament. With his ADCC invite in his back pocket, Lenon was already in competition mode for the tournament, which was three weeks after the Five Grappling event.
Against Glover, Lenon secured an early takedown, kept heavy on top and tried to pass guard en route to a 2-0 victory.
"I knew of Jeff Glover ever since I was a white belt," Lenon said. "He likes to goof around and catch you off guard so I wanted to be in his face right from the beginning."
Lenon ended up losing 6-1 to Lucas Rocha in the first round of the tournament.
"It was fun and exciting," Lenon said. "It's all about testing yourself. I needed to stay aggressive."
A few weeks later, Lenon was in Sao Paulo, Brazil for the 2015 ADCC's where he was knocked out of the first round by Neiman Gracie via knee bar.
"Again, I wasn't aggressive enough," Lenon said. "It was a good learning experience."
The August barnburners had Lenon coming back to St. Louis with thoughts of adjustment.
"I had to step aside," Lenon said. "I was focusing on the wrong details during training. I was trying too many things. I knew the mistakes that I made I could fix in training."
All the attention he's gained in 2015 has been a plus. A recent sponsorship with Gameness has proved dividends and high profile victories, like that over Glover, inch him up the BJJ food chain.
"It's helps when it comes to getting on more cards and getting your name out there," Lenon said. "The more big names you can compete against helps you acquire a name in the sport. It's starting to grow some."
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.
To read more about Respect 2, check our preview.
Watch Respect co-promoter JW Wright breakdown the card click here
To find out more about Respect Professional Jiu-Jitsu or find out how to watch live visit: http://respectjiujitsu.com
Black belt matches
Gianni Grippo vs Jeff Curran
Megaton Dias vs Chris Haueter
Jena Bishop vs Karen Antunes
Ezra Lennon vs Fuji Tournament Winner
Queiroz Suyan vs Jared Weiner
Kyle Watson vs Roli Delgado
Shawn Woods vs Omar French
Mark Commean vs Mark Vives
Mike Harris vs Nick Sanders
Color belt matches:
Nick Schrock John Gutta
Jon Perrine vs Josh Litteton
Deryck Ripley vs Brian Stuebner
Josh McKinney vs Zach Freeman
Clay Mayfield vs Kirk Huff
Lyanne Perez vs Laura Uyeda
Alexis Andrade vs Nicholle Stoller
Saturday, October 17th
The Moto Museum, St. Louis, MO
Photo courtesy of Karl Lund and his sponsor John Beal Roofing