I received my BJJ black belt in June 2010 from Robert Drysdale; people a lot smarter than me about the sport’s history estimate there were fewer than 3,000 BJJ black belts walking the planet at the time.
I was fortunate in 2016 to give a TEDx talk on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (a speech titled “Building a Better World With Brazilian Jiu Jitsu,” where I was joined on stage by one of my students, Analynn Molina, and UFC women’s champion Miesha Tate.
Over the past 32 years I have dabbled in Muay Thai and boxing, with a much deeper immersion in MMA, BJJ and wrestling training.
I’ve lost hundreds of times in training sessions, and dozens of losses in live competition. But I competed as often as I could, more than 300 matches in all, and here’s a list of some highlights:
- Gold medals at three IBJJF Masters No-Gi World Championships (2007, 2009, 2012)
- Bronze medal at the 2008 IBJJF No-Gi World Championships (adult division, brown belt);
- Bronze medal at the 2010 IBJJF Gi World Championships (adult division, brown belt);
- Silver medal at the 2009 IBJJF No-Gi American Nationals (adult division, brown belt);
- Ranked No.1 BJJ black belt in the world (36+ years, featherweight) by IBJJF in 2013;
- Recruited to be a Division I college wrestler by the University of Maryland in 1992;
- For the 1990 season, posted a record of 34 wins, 4 losses and placed 3rd at the Maryland State High School Wrestling Championships (the same state that produced Olympic gold medalist freestyle wrestlers Kyle Snyder and Helen Maroulis).
I began training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in 2001 under Prof. Pedro Sauer, earning his blue belt from the world-renowned instructor. A year later, I relocated to Las Vegas for work and began studying with Amilcar Cipili (a black belt under Rigan Machado at the time). I eventually started training with Robert Drysdale and was awarded my black belt in June 2010 after placing third at the IBJJF Gi World Championships in the adult division at 38 years old.
I’m proud that, although I possessed an incredible will to win, I never used a steroid, PED nor Human Growth Hormone in my life. I honored the rules of fair competition and never looked for a short-cut.
Over the past 16 years, I have personally trained and sparred with dozens of the biggest names in the Ultimate Fighting Championship and the Jiu Jitsu scene. Training partners have included: Andre Galvao, Leo Vieira, Robert Drysdale, Nick Diaz, Michelle Nicolini, Gabi Garcia, Ryan Hall, burgeoning BJJ superstars Tammi and Mikey Musumeci; world champions Lucas Leite, Eduardo Telles, Fernando Margarida, Gilbert “Durinho” Burns and Rodrigo “Comprido” Medeiros; Olympics bronze medalist Alexis Vila (wrestling), UFC champions Anthony Pettis, Miesha Tate and T.J. Dillashaw; UFC No. 1 contenders Joseph Benavidez and Gray Maynard, World Extreme Cagefighting champion and MMA pioneer Miguel Torres, Martin Kampmann, Tyson Griffin, four-time black belt world champion Fredson Paixao, Ricky Lundell, Dave Camarillo, Walter Vital and many others.
An incomplete list of my high school wrestling achievements:
- Earned a varsity letter all four years of high school;
- Gilman Classic Wrestling Tournament (Junior Varsity) — 3rd place;
- 1989 Loch Raven Invitational Wrestling Tournament (Varsity) — 1st place (beat a future Maryland state champ in the finals);
- 1989 Overlea Wrestling Tournament — 1st place (beat the state’s No. 2-ranked wrestler in the finals);
- 1989 Baltimore County Wrestling tournament — 4th place;
- Maryland Regional II Wrestling tournament — 4th place;
- 1990 Loch Raven Invitational Wrestling Tournament — 1st place (broke my right hand a week earlier, removed the cast and won three matches that day — beating the No. 2-ranked wrestler in the state in the tournament finals)
- 1990 Baltimore County Wrestling Tournament — 1st place (defeated the two-time defending county champion in the finals);
- Maryland Regional II Wrestling Tournament — 1st place (defeated the defending regional champion in the semi-finals, scored two takedowns in the last 30 seconds to beat the state’s No. 5-ranked wrestler in the finals)
- 1990 Maryland State High School Wrestling Championships — 3rd place
Team Captain of Varsity Wrestling Teams 1988, 1989, 1990
High School Wrestling Highlights: Defeated three Maryland state champions (Kevin Caudell, Brian Siatkowski and Troy Charney);
Defeated the Maryland state runner-up, Russian-born Lem Simanovsky, five different times.
Frank attended the University of Maryland, practiced with the college’s Division I wrestling program, but his wrestling career was cut short by a major surgery that left a thick 27-inch scar down his right leg.
Jiu Jitsu Journey
(Nearly 30 years old, I began training BJJ under Prof. Pedro Sauer in Salt Lake City, Utah)
- Pedro Sauer In-House Tournament — 1st place
- King of the Hill tournament (Torrance, Calif.) — bronze medal (*I was a white belt competing vs. blue belts, fought five matches that day)
*Frank joined Pedro Sauer and personally attended the private 90th Birthday celebration of GrandMaster Helio Gracie at the Gracie Jiu Jitsu Academy in Torrance, Calif.
- IBJJF Pan No-gi tournament — 1st place (blue belt, Masters 1 division)
- 2006 IBJJF Pan Gi Tournament — 3rd place (blue belt, Masters 1 division; won my first two matches before withdrawing from the competition due to severe dehydration)
- Grappler’s Quest: Lost 4-3 to eventual champion (Intermediate division)
- 2006 IBJJF American Nationals Gi, masters division — Gold medal
- NAGA (North American Grappling Association) — 1st place (Expert Division, Gi)
- NAGA — 2nd place no-gi (expert division)
- Grappler’s Quest intermediate division competitor — submitted in first round by eventual champion
- 2007 IBJJF No-Gi World Championships, Masters 1 — Gold medal
- 2008 Grappler’s Quest expert division — 2nd place (lost in overtime, Adult division)
- 2008 IBJJF No-Gi Worlds adult division — bronze medal (lost via kneebar submission to Gui Mendes)
- 2008 IBJJF Pans Gi, masters 1 — lost first-round on points to eventual champ (Masters 1)
- 2009 IBJJF Pans Gi, masters 1 — Silver medal
- 2009 IBJJF American Nationals No-Gi Tournament, adult division — Silver medal (Score was tied 6-6 but lost via one advantage to the division’s champion Denny Prokopos, who afterwards became the first person to receive a 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu black belt from Eddie Bravo and placed third at the IBJJF No-Gi Worlds black belt division)
- 2009 IBJJF No-Gi World Championships, masters 1 — Gold medal
- 2010 IBJJF Pans Gi, masters 1 — bronze medal
- 2010 IBJJF Gi Worlds adult division — bronze medal
*June 2010 — awarded black belt by Robert Drysdale
- 2012 Abu Dhabi World Pro Trials adult division — 3rd place (lost 6-0 to eventual champion Caio Terra)
- 2012 NAGA no-gi expert division, Adults — 1st place
- 2012 IBJJF Pan Gi masters 1 — Silver medal
- 2012 IBJJF No-Gi World Championships (Masters 2 division) — Gold Medal
- 2013 NAGA no-gi expert division, Adults — 1st place
- 2013 IBJJF Pans Masters 1 Division — bronze
- 2013 IBJJF World Championships Gi — competitor, lost first-round on points 10-0 to Checkmat’s Gabriel Moraes, who went on to win his third world championship)
- 2013 UFC Intl Fight Week Grappler’s Quest expert, adult division — 4th place
- 2014 IBJJF Pans Gi masters 3 — lost first-round (shoulder dislocation)
- 2013 IBJJF No-Gi Worlds masters 2 division — bronze medal (0-0, lost ref’s decision to eventual champ)
- 2015 IBJJF American Nationals No-Gi (masters 3 division) — Gold medal
- 2015 IBJJF American Nationals Gi (masters division) — (winning first match but shoulder dislocated)
- 2015 IBJJF No-Gi Worlds (masters 3) — Silver medal