Interview with Rich De Los Reyes
Opening of Gracie Barra Aiea and Dedicated Life as a Martial Artist
Now that it has been a year since he first arrived on the island, Rich De Los Reyes is no longer the new kid in town. It is rare to see a high ranking martial arts practitioner step out of their base school and find success in a new environment so flawlessly, but De Los Reyes has accomplish as much and more during his relatively short tenure on Oahu.
De Los Reyes moved from Connecticut to the island of Oahu last February with no particular plan and question mark as to whether he wanted to continue to peruse a career in the martial arts. Those in the industry know surviving as a professional is no easy feat, and even more difficult on a small island. A year later De Los Reyes, a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt, is opening a brand new school in Aiea under Gracie Barra.
For numerous years De Los Reyes owned and operated his own martial arts and fitness gym in Connecticut and for the last year he has been serving as a lead instructor along side Aldo “Caveirinha” Januario at Gracie Barra University in Honolulu.
“I know what it takes to run a successful gym,” said De Los Reyes. “Most people are so concerned with street cred, that they forget it takes money to run a martial arts gym. Yeah, what professor Caveirinha does is out of the passion and love for the art, but
[Gracie] Barra has a solid team to make the school grow. That understanding of team work between the staff, Caveirinha, and I is what separates us from the rest. The skill, knowledge and experience balanced with the opportunity to grow: We’re unstoppable.”
Upon first arriving on the island De Los Reyes tried to familiarize himself with the marital arts climate of Oahu. He is appreciative of all the opportunities he was given to train with some of the best on the island before accepting the position with Gracie Barra.
“There were a number of reasons,” said De Los Reyes, “The first, on island, Gracie Barra wasn’t known as a competitive school. Off island we’re a terror on the mats. We have a rich lineage stemming from Renato Sobral, George Saint Pierre and Carlos Gracie Junior, all of which followed the same curriculum and game plan or success that we share with our students. The second reason was to train with Professor Caveirihna. He is known worldwide as a great competitor as well as a world renowned coach. We have many friends in common from the mainland in American Top Team, Carson Gracie Team, Brazilian Top Team, Novo Uniao and many more. He came to mind with great credentials and experience. Another reason was the attitude of the students. Gracie Barra offers the skill and work ethic of a fight team, but the support and patience of a family. This offers room to grown and appreciate the arts as a fighter and as a student. There’s no ego on the mat. Whether you’re a seasoned fighter or a novice beginner, everyone treats you with the utmost respect.”
As a professional fighter in both MMA and Muay Thai amongst his other stand-up credentials, De Los Reyes has more than just ground skills to share with the Hawaii martial arts community.
“I spent many years training Muay Thai and MMA,” said De Los Reyes. “I had the honor of living in Thailand with Neungsiam Fairtex ant the Bang Plee Fairtex camp. For the past eight years I trained with Kru Mark Dellagrotte and Sit Yod Tong in Summerville, Massacusetts. Fourteen years of my life was spent with Mestre Marco Delima and Luigi Mondelli of American Top Team. It’s been a long road and I do intend on sharing my knowledge, but not under the Barra name. We want to stay open to the public and non-political so we decided to keep the MMA and Muay Thai under my name and in private classes. I’ve coached Muay Thain and MMA classes with a number of fighters on the island including current champs Bryanna Fissori and Douglas Hiu as well as a few up and comers such as Harvey Karas, Melika Souza and Kevin Shaw. This allows student from various teams from all around the island to come and train and not feel like they are stepping on uneven ground.”
Combat sports have always been a part of life for De Los Reyes, who began training in Muay Thai and boxing with his father at before he had even started kindergarten. His coaching career began before he was old enough to drive a car.
“As far back as I could remember, I’ve always been involved in martial arts,” said De Los Reyes. “When I was 14 I started helping out as an assistant in the kids kick boxing classes. I think this is really important to students who are going to be there for the long haul. It allows them to start breaking down the techniques and experiencing the art from another perspective. I started with adults in 1999 as a blue belt in jiu jitsu. At this time I already had a black belt in Judo and a high school wrestling background so the ground concept came natural. After competing numerous times and training around the world, I decided to open my first gym in 2005 and since then, became a full-time coach specializing in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai Boxing.”
In 2005 I met Peter Pinto of Sit Yod Tong who now trains Dana White, Forest Griffin, and many other UFC fighters in LA. Later in 2005 I started training under Kru Mark Dellagrotte doing Camp training with him for about 4weeks 3 times a year and also continuing to work with Kru Peter Pinto in CT. I received the title of “Kru”(or Coach) from Kru Mark Dellagrotte in 2006 and Apideh Sit Hirun of Fairtex camp in 2004 and have accumulated a record of 4-1 record in Thailand 6-4 record in US. In 2006 I won the USKBA World Tournament in Muay Thai. I finished off my Muay Thai career as a top contender for the 140lb WKA, USKBA and WMTA title. I just felt I’ve accomplished what I was set out to do in the competitive aspect of the art and wanted to move forward. Later that year I opened my first gym known as The Mango Tree Fitness Center and another in 2009 opened as Champions’ Gym.
In Sept of 2008 I made my legal professional debut in the WFL and showcased a good variety of all the arts I trained and earned a 2nd round win via guillotine choke. April 22, 2010 I was featured on Bellator 15 with a 2nd round rear naked choke victory over Brylan Van Artsdalen. In March of 2011 I moved to Hawaii with the intent to start a professional life away from fighting and away from martial arts. Just for a change. I couldn’t do it. I trained at different schools around the island never really settling down for a few months. Finally, I met up with Kevin from HMC and made myself at home. They welcomed me in and I immediately took a fight against Hawaii’s best 135er, Russell Doane, a great person and a great fighter. As a newbie to the camp and island, I suffered my first MMA loss. Lol, for those who saw it, it was a solid loss too.”
As an outsider coming in to the mixed martial arts community in Hawaii, De Los Reyes, who also has a law degree giving him a strong knowledge base of business and regulations, offers a unique perspective on the island fight scene.
“There is so much potential for the fighters on this island,” said De Los Reyes. “Many children grow up in the arts in school and at home. I see that the island, still after thousands of years, breeds warriors. This island pumps out naturally warring people ready for combat. Unfortunately, there’s a local mentality that’s keeps us from reaching our goals. Many local voices wish to keep sanctioning out of the MMA scene to keep complexity to a minimum. Many oppose the upcoming regulations on mixed martial arts due to its medical and safety requirements. Some claim this will bring about more “underground” events. I think much is true in the short term, but how long do you think professional level fighters are going to go about trying to build a career without competing on a legitimate venue without Sherdog recognition? Sherdog is a gate keeper for fighters wishing to get onto premier events. Videos, pictures, dvds mean less and less sense to high paying, premier promotions demand to see professional experience. They look for the professional experience which is reflected in sanctioned, legitimate fights, not glorified street fights with ticket sales and MMA gloves.
“An Oahu fighter can be 20-0 in the underground arena and still mean nothing to a UFC matchmaker. If a matchmaker was to suddenly down grad the standards, he downgrades the level of professionalism for the whole show. Furthermore, why would any competitor wish to fight an excessive amount of times, risk their body and future in the sport, and not have anything off island to show. Without sanctioning, young, local talent is going to waste and Oahu is not getting the recognition it so rightfully deserve. This island breeds warriors, hard soul people. The politics are a pain in the ass but not worth holding back a whole generation of combative sport athletes who earned the right for their talents to be seen.”
“Success for a martial artists competitor…Sacrifice for what you love. Understand that this knowledge takes a balance between passion and violence to really absorb it completely. The passion to learn and the violence to carry it out if need be. As for a martial artists coach…sacrifice for what you love, let go of ego and never stop learning.”- Rich De Los Reyes