Image by Ben Duffy/Sherdog.com
It’s that time of year again folks. While most Americans sit around stuffing their faces with turkey, dressing and mashed potatoes and relaxing from a tryptophan overdose, the staff at Sherdog.com has assembled their 2022 All-Turkey team. In the past, mixed martial arts has provided us with some questionable characters, and this year was no exception. The newest group of offenders — or members — provided perhaps the most diverse criminal record to date.
From its beginnings in the early 1990s with Shooto, Pancrase, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship to the style-vs-style gym wars of no-holds-barred Brazilian fighting, the sport we now call mixed martial arts has to go even further back In a way, it was all about demonstrating what works and doesn’t work in a “real” fight. The first dozen UFC events were packed with practitioners of “American Ninjutsu,” “Pit Fighting,” “Jo Son Do,” and “Scientifically Aggressive Fighting Technology of America,” to name a few. Most of them lost in humiliating ways and perished in the shadows of history along with their invented combat systems. Decades after MMA weeded out most of its self-proclaimed ninjas, however, there’s still no shortage of oafs and snake oil salespeople looking to market themselves as keepers of deadly and esoteric martial arts knowledge, as a 30-second sweep of YouTube readily attests. These peddlers still mingle with the professional fighting world on a fairly regular basis, and when they do, the reasons are usually obvious. Sometimes there is a personal connection with a well-known fighter; In other cases, the charlatan in question is already famous. Think of ’90s action movie star Steven Seagal—in fairness a legitimate aikido master—hanging out with elite fighters Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida in the 2010s, showing up in their training footage and even their fights in the UFC.
Fast forward to 2022 and the rise of Dale Brown, the provider of a self-defense system he dubbed Detroit Urban Survival Training, or DUST for short. (SAFTA founder Lew Hicks would have been proud…or would have lamented.) Brown’s clownish personality and obviously dangerous videos demonstrating techniques for disarming a weapon carrier in hand-to-hand combat wouldn’t have stood out from the crowd except that he was beginning to draw attention to himself draw from well-known MMA fighters and trainers. The most notable was Joaquin Buckley, one of the fastest rising stars of the COVID-19 era and author of perhaps the biggest knockout in mixed martial arts history.
While legitimate self-defense instructors and MMA and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructors called Brown on social media or made remote video responses, “New Mansa” filmed himself entering Brown’s “Threat Management Center” and stated that he “wanted to meet this guy and see if that s— is real, see if that s— is real.” The answer appeared to be yes, as Brown immediately appeared in Buckley’s training videos, accompanied him in public, and was part of his entourage during the Fight week at UFC Fight Night 201 on February 19th.
The DUST guru, with his tactical vest full of prop guns, who followed Buckley around Las Vegas looked goofy, but wasn’t particularly weird or dumber than Seagal, who hung out with Silva and Machida a few years earlier, except for one key difference. Silva and Machida were having a great time, collecting photo ops with an aging movie star and letting him brag about teaching “The Dragon” the front kick he used to KO Randy Couture, but they were obviously caught up in the joke ; and one thought—or hoped—that Seagal was, too. In contrast, Brown and Buckley were so serious that it appeared Buckley had actually taken fighting tips from the man, and Brown seemed dead serious about his role. Fans and media began to wonder, if not worry.
Any doubts about Buckley’s true intentions were shattered on fight night. After earning a well-deserved split decision win over Abdul Razak Alhassan, Buckley grabbed the mic for his post-fight interview, wrapped his arm around Brown and graciously thanked him for helping market the fight. Buckley’s smile and the dejected expression on Brown’s face told a whole story. Many of us were curious, but Brown was the last to find out.
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