Frisco’s Own MMA Hall of Famer
Frisco’s Own MMA Hall of Famer
Former UFC Title Contender and MMA Hall of Famer, Chris Brennan, joins Hustle and Pro to talk about his career, his business, and his kids following in his footsteps. We learn about The Westside Strangler nickname, and how Brennan got inspired by watching a UFC fight, then went on to train under the man that inspired him.
This proud papa is also a Frisco business owner — oh, and a 4-stripe black belt in Jiu-Jitsu, too.
Enjoy this episode and other episodes of Hustle and Pro in our archives.
[00:24] Quick hits with Chris Brennan
[01:52] Traditional sports turned UFC
[03:23] Chris’ all-in MMA journey
[11:39] Chris’ sons carry the torch
[13:55] Next Generation MMA worldwide
Resources within this episode:
- Chris Brennan: Instagram | Twitter
- Next Generation MMA: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter
- UFC: Website
- Kelly Walker: Bio | Instagram @kelly_walkertexas | Twitter: @kelly_walker_TX
Connect with Lifestyle Frisco:
Welcome to Hustle & Pro, Season 2, talking sports and Frisco from youth to pro. Now here’s your host, Kelly Walker.
Welcome to today’s episode of Hustle & Pro. We have MMA Hall of Famer and former UFC title contender with us today. Chris Brennan, welcome and thanks for joining me. Thank you very much. Thanks for having me. This is going to be a fun topic. I haven’t talked MMA before on this show, so this is gonna be great. All right. So just to start, I want to know a couple little quick things about you. In general, who’s your favorite athlete?
Favorite athlete? Um, probably Georges St-Pierre. He’s, uh, he’s one’a multi-time MMA World Champion, UFC World Champion; phenomenal athlete. Michael Jordan also was, I was always a, not even a basketball fan, but always a Michael Jordan fan.
It’s funny how you can be both, right? Because there’s so much more to Jordan than just, just the basketball, the legend, right?
His abilities were, you know, incredible.
For sure. So I have this funny thing going on where I ask my guests what their favorite sports movie is just ’cause I’m curious. So what’s yours?
Um, so honestly I’m pretty, pretty emotional person, so I love watching sports movies, the stories behind them. Um, Invincible, uh, with Mark Wahlberg is a football movie. Loved it. Um, there’s a lot of, um- Remember The Titans, you know, I’ve, I’ve tons of really good, uh, sports movies that I like to watch. And, and again, they’re not even sports that I play or played, but just the- I know what goes into being a professional athlete. So watching that, you know, watching, uh, the development and the emotional side of it’s pretty, uh, it’s pretty cool.
It’s like the story, the challenges, the journey, right? Less, sometimes less about the actual sport. ‘Cause, ’cause the sport inside the movie itself is usually not correct anyways. So it’s like if you’re sometimes when you’re really into the sport, you like it less because you notice all the inconsistencies. But, all right. So I read that you played traditional group sports as a kid, but then you, you obviously lean towards more individual sports. So, so why is that? Tell me about that.
Um, I just feel like when you lose it’s on you, when you win, it’s pretty much on you. I mean, you have coaches and stuff as well, but, um, there’s no one else to blame. Like, you know, I played baseball for a few years. I played soccer. Um, and that might’ve been it at a young age. And then I got into gymnastics and surfing and bodybuilding and motocross and fighting. All of those are single person sports and they’re not team sports. And I think it was just felt like you work harder and don’t have to rely on anybody else.
Yeah. So you’re from California. Yep. So when you’re growing up, talking about these things, obviously the, the surfing part was not a Frisco, Texas, uh, activity. Right. So those things, when you said like gymnastics, when you started transitioning those things sound like strength-based things also. Is that something that, because you’re not going individually- you’re not going and playing golf. You, you seem to lean towards these physical core strength, like types of activities.
Yeah, it was definitely athletic. Um, I was little, but, but I was athletic growing up. I was also an adrenaline junkie. Liked to do, you know, a lot of the- well, I won’t jump out of an airplane, but other than that, I, I like to do the, you know, the extreme sports.
That’s where you draw the line: jumping out of an airplane.
For sure. I almost did once, but decided not to.
So I heard or read also that you were inspired by watching, um, specifically UFC, uh, and I don’t want to say his name wrong, so I’ll let you, um, and you kind of jumped in and then started actually like training with this person that you watched and were inspired by. What, what, what happened?
Royce Gracie. So the Gracie family brought the UFC here. They brought you Jiu-Jitsu to the United States and, um, they created the UFC to show Jiu-Jitsu versus other martial arts and how dominant it was. And this guy was 175 pounds fighting in the UFC that had no weight classes. And he was beating monsters, like, giant guys. And at the time I was bouncing at a, at a club, working security at a bar and saw this guy fighting, you know, getting paid, beating big guys. And so instantly the next day I started training and within probably the first six months I was training at his gym.
Wow. That’s a pretty intense path to take.
Yeah. It got more intense as it went on. I, I ended up a couple of years later selling my car and moving to Brazil for a year and living on the mat in Brazil at a gym for a year straight and just trained full-time.
So you were all in quick. Yep. Wow. And so you go and train full-time in Brazil. And so at this point, like, are you working the traditional like belt achievements or like, did you start at at nothing or had you already had some kind of sense of like-
I was a bit of a troublemaker. I’d been, I’ve gotten a lot of fights growing up and then a Jiu-Jitsu like changed my life completely. It’s a, it’s a humbling sport. It’s something that will take the cocky arrogant guy and humble them and then take the very quiet, you know, neat guy and raise their confidence level, kinda level everybody out. And so I did go through the belt, the belt system and everything. Um, but I started with- experience-wise, no, no experience.
And you were a black belt in seven years. Not just a black belt, a special kind of black belt?
Um, I mean, to be honest, a Jiu-Jitsu, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, black belt is a special kind of black belt. It’s a, it’s something that doesn’t typically happen fast. Um, and it takes a lot of work and a lot of competition, a lot of proving your, your, um, you know, your style, your sport. And so-
Ten years is the average amount of time it takes, I hear. Right. And you did seven.
I did seven. I think both of my sons did seven as well. Yes. The day before yesterday, I gave out my fastest black belt ever, which was four and a half years who was actually a Frisco PD guy who’s been with me for four and a half years. He’s just an animal. Yeah. He’s an animal.
Wow. You can give him a shout out if you want to name, if you want to call him out.
Yeah, his name’s Colton Roelofs, phenomenal athlete and a great, great police department or a police officer here. When you said special black belt, I’m assuming you were talking about no gi and that is so I took my gi off, which is the traditional martial arts kimono, and did not train in it anymore and kind of broke the seal of people that was- that was kind of frowned upon because that was the traditional way. And then I moved on as the first American to do that and continued to grow that sport in the United States.
Oh, wow. You trailblazed that path because it’s a little more common now, right? The no gi style.
Oh yeah. It’s uh, all the stuff that I was trying to say before everyone’s saying now. It’s like, “Oh yeah, surprise.”
Yeah. And so the no gi versus the gi like, it literally means not wearing that traditional dress and there’s different things that come into play there, like grips and different holds and different moves. So when you say you were the first one, did you kind of invent some of the different tactics when you’re not wearing the Gi?
For sure. Especially as far as my style goes, like my goal was to fight in the UFC and, and you can’t wear that in the UFC. Um, you could in the first couple, and then you weren’t allowed to, and so basically training in it was creating all of these habits of grabbing things that are typically not going to be there when you take it off. Right. So I right away took it off and started training without it and creating new grips, new, handles, new ways to stay tight to somebody and get submissions on them when it’s, you know, sweaty, late in the fifth round when someone’s sliding out of something usually the gi will hold you and stop that. And so I had to-
It’s like a little barrier sometimes too, for sure. Wow. So I didn’t realize that you were the first in that aspect. Okay. So that might, that might lead into this. Can we talk about some of these nicknames? Um, well I know that one of your accolades is three-time King of The Cage World Champion. So you have to explain a little bit of what King of The Cage actually means and The Westside Strangler.
So King of The Cage is an organization. It’s basically like the UFC. Um, it was a, a feeder into the UFC at the time. And, um, they were big in, in California and that’s where I was from. So I was fighting there all the time and I was a three-time World Champion there. And then the name, the Westside Strangler came- it’s actually one of my friend’s. We were in, I think we were in Mississippi and some fights were, were happening. And then there was a confrontation outside of the cage and we were going over to the hotel. And one of the guys that was like a large group of guys, and one of the guys’ nicknames was the Eastside Assassin. And my, my best friend at the time he goes, “Oh my God.” He goes, “I can’t wait to see this.” And he goes, “it’s going to be the Eastside Assassin versus the Westside Strangler,” because I used to choke everybody.
Is that what, yeah, I was going to say. It’s gotta be a hold, right?
I had a really good guillotine choke, um, which is like a front headlock choke. And so, you know, he nicknamed me the Westside Strangler and that stuck forever.
On the spot like that. That’s hilarious. So, yeah. So, I mean, that seems to kind of be out there following you around. Do you like that nickname?
Oh yeah. That’s been since probably 2000, maybe right around 2000, maybe a little before, 2000, ’99. And the other one, I think that I get as the King of The Kimura, which is, it’s a submission that I do the most and it’s a, it’s called a kimura. I’ve done it to a lot of people. I have videos on it on, on breaking it down the technique and whatnot.
Okay. So yeah, you mentioned like that nickname maybe came in in the, in 1999. So you were competitive from like ’94 to 2009, but then kept like, that’s not where you stopped. You actually kept competing in pretty big matches and things all the way up into 2015. Is that right?
So in 2000 I got, what was the last one? You said 2009. I moved to, I’d moved to Texas in 2006 and fought a few more times. And then I was doing- training some motorcross kids doing strength conditioning, and I didn’t open a gym here. I was injured. I had a rib injury. And so I was out for a couple years. And then, um, my kids started training when I opened my gym here. So I wanted to fight two more times. I think I fought in 2012, uh, twice so that my kids could see me fight live ’cause they had just started training. They’d never seen me if I live only on TV and at the time it would like we would rewind it and show them afterwards to make sure everything went okay. Right.
Shelter them from, you know, for sure,
For sure. They saw me train and stuff, but they had just never seen a live fight. So
It’s probably different the intensity of everything. Yeah.
And so they were in seventh and eighth grade and I wanted to fight a couple more times so they could see. So in 2012 I fought twice so they could see me fight live. And then I retired, people were asking me if I was going to do Jiu-Jitsu tournaments because I hadn’t done them in a long time. And so then in 2013, ’14, ’15, I won the no gi World Championships in California.
Sounds like Round 2. You like you retired, came back and then kept winning the totally different really style and format.
Yes. Yes. In format, yes. There’s no striking, but in all of my fights, I have 19 submission wins and 18 first-round submission wins. So I was winning with Jiu-Jitsu the whole, my whole career, um, I had one decision and one knockout, the rest was all submissions. So-
Let me get that straight. You were winning with Jiu-Jitsu in a MMA ring. Correct. Okay. Or UFC. UFC is a brand of- a brand name. Okay. Right.
MMA is the sport and yes, I was winning with submissions, which is Jiu-Jitsu inside the cage. Uh, my goal was to not get hit, to get you to the ground and submit you. And that, you know,
That’s a good plan.
My kid is a wizard at it right now. He’s four now as a professional.
Well, I want to ask you about that. So, so this is in the family. Yes. So what are your, what are your kids have going on then?
Oh, you know, I wasn’t even sure that they would start to train. And then when I opened my gym here, my youngest boy’s really athletic and my oldest boy who’s now the professional was not athletic at all. And so I wanted them to start before junior high, just for self-defense reasons, you know? And, and so they started training and the athletic one instantly wanted to compete and he did, and he won his first one. And then the, my son Lucas, who was not athletic, didn’t want to compete. And then on the way home from the one that his brother won, he said, when’s the next one? So I told him, he said, I’ll do it. And then he started competing and it really like, he was a, a soft little, you know, books, animals, zoo, uh, computers. Not a fighter. Not at all, not, not, not physically, you know, gifted. He was a little squishy, but skinny. And now, you know, he’s a two times Jiu-Jitsu World Champion. He was three and 0 as an amateur. He’s four and 0 right now as a pro in Bellator. And he’s just found his groove and it’s changed him like dramatically in, uh, he’s more outspoken, you know, it’s just a different kid.
He came into his own, he found something. What age did that happen? You’re saying junior high, but what age did you see the change happen?
Um, they, they picked it up faster than anybody. They were, they were both. Naturally. Yeah. And by, by their second year, we were competing against kids around Texas that had been doing it their whole lives and, and beating them. Um, then we started traveling all over the place. Like we went to London and Lucas won the British Nationals there. We went all over the United States, competing. Tyler, my youngest one, was a gifted phenom. He’s, I think he’s 300-and-something and eight as a, as a Jiu-Jitsu competitor and redeemed, you know, all of them but I think one or two that we never saw the guys again, but he’s wrestling now, Division 1 in college. He’s a two-time Texas State Wrestling Champion and a one-time runner up. And, uh, when he’s done in school, he may or may not fight. I’m not sure, but he’ll definitely compete at a, at a very high level in Jiu-Jitsu, no gi Jiu-Jitsu, which is paying well now. So yeah, they- I had no idea that they were both getting the take off with it, but they did.
And you mentioned your gym, so you opened the gym in the middle of all that competition. This wasn’t something like you retired and go open a gym, right? I mean, did you open the gym and get that second career and everything started while you were still in the middle of competing?
Super early on. My first UFC fight I opened it the following month. I took the winnings from the UFC fight, came home and opened my first gym. Inexperienced. I opened a no gi gym. And at that time, no one even knew what it was.
So I know your Frisco gym is Next Generation MMA. Is that the name of it from Day 1 or has it had evolution?
It was Next Generation Jiu-Jitsu because MMA wasn’t the word yet. It was called NHB, No Holds Barred. And I wanted to stay away from that because it was, you know, it sounded violent and sounded, and it was trying to get regular students. So I opened and within six months closed. End up in my garage, grew to 60 students in my garage, and then moved into a bigger building and from that point on, and that was, that was in March of ’98. And I’ve been in business ever since.
Wow. And is it just a one location here in Frisco or you have others?
Multiple. I’ve got one in California, two in Texas, one in Denver and then two in Ireland, two in England, two in Norway and one in Australia. Wow. Expanded.
That’s a lot of reach. Yeah. You’re reaching a lot of students.
I had a lot of guys coming to me to train from, from overseas and they would stay with me for a few months at a time and train. And they started bringing me back there for seminars. And then we just went into it.
Yeah, like, why not? Let’s make plant, plant something there. Especially if you’ve made the contacts that we’re coming here to train with you. Let them, let them take care of your brand over there. If they can do the things, they know how you do the things. Well, I love that you’re a proud papa. That’s awesome. Um, and listening to you talk about, about them is great. So you kept saying, I guess it was Lucas that you kept describing as he’s not an athlete. Right. And he’s now the, the, the reigning champ and all these titles. Right? So do you think you can put the athlete in somebody?
I, if you asked me before him, I would’ve said, no. I think you’re born with athletic ability and you are, but you, you typically have the really good athletes that don’t work as hard because they’re so gifted. And then you have the kids who aren’t gifted, who worked their butt off to become athletic that’s him, but he’s done it to a level you would never know that he was not athletic to begin with. Um, he’s the hardworking, athletic or hardworking kid that wasn’t athletic and he’s very athletic now. Tyler is the hardworking athletic kid. So he’s that the exception and that’s, those are the tough, tough ones to beat.
It’s amazing though. How, like you said, you could have all the talent already. If you don’t have the will or the drive, or want to go do it, it’s not going to be gone. It’s not going to happen. Right. Like you see that how important that piece of it is, especially in sports like this too. I’m sure. But how, if you don’t have the drive to put yourself out there or in your gym, every, probably early mornings, late nights, whatever y’all do, it’s not going to happen.
Yeah, it’s, that’s where it separates. And from Division 1 to professional sports, professional sports to Olympic athletes, you know, there’s that difference is at that point, everyone’s a gifted athlete who’s working hard, you know, and, and that’s that little bit extra. And, uh, so Lucas has had a harder time, you know, he lost some matches in, in Jiu-Jitsu and in wrestling because he started early right into the competition and wasn’t athletic yet.
And was facing kids who, like you said, had already had-
For sure. It takes a lot of adversity and overcame it and just became, like I said, he’s undefeated.
What age group is Lucas? Like, or I doubt he’s age group anymore.
So he fought his first fight the week before his senior year started against a 30-year old guy and beat him in the, in the 3rd round. He fought a week before his senior year ended against another 33-year old guy and beat him. And then he fought one more time before turning pro. Uh, everyone he’s fought has been in their thirties. And he was 17. Uh, Texas is the only state that allows it at 17 with notary from the parents. And now he’s 20.
So it’s not done by age, obviously. It’s done by weight class and like pro status, the status that you have.
Yeah. In mixed martial arts as an MMA, as in Jiu-Jitsu, age, weight, skill level, all of it’s broken down. Same, same, uh, in wrestling, outside of high school. Um, but as a fighter, there’s no, there’s no age. No, there’s just weight class. And, uh, not even a skill level. You’re just basically fighting guys with a record around the same experience as you, as you go up, everyone he’s fought had more fights than him, but, uh, he’s capable.
I bet that gets in his head early on when you’re 17 fighting 30 something year old, then once you beat a few of them, it’s probably getting in the other way around. It’s getting in their head when they go, “Oh wait, yeah, this sounds easy. But then this kid is beating guys like me.”
Yeah. Oh for sure. At the beginning you were thinking, “Oh, I’m going to find a 17 year old kid. He’s not going to be strong. I’m going to, I’m going to beat him.” His first opponent walked in, holding a baby, carrying his or holding his wife’s hand, carrying a baby with a beard, right? Luke’s 17. And, and that’s kind of how it’s been the whole time. But as kids, him and Tyler were competing in the men’s division in Jiu-Jitsu when they were 14, 15 years old and beating them. So,
I mean, would that have happened if you weren’t there? I mean, I can’t imagine another scenario where kids that aren’t going to grow up in the gym like that with you, with someone, not even just somebody interested in the sport, but somebody who’s like high-level excelled in this sport to really guide them along.
It would’ve definitely been difficult. There, there are a couple of kids, but their families are also involved. They definitely have the upper hand and as a fighter, as a fighter. Yeah. And as a fighter, Lucas, I feel definitely has the upper hand because he’s got me coaching him. We live together. I manage him and I care about his career, you know, not, not as a manager would or, or an agent would, but as a dad would. Okay. So yeah. So I make sure that he’s, he has a very smooth path and no one’s going to knock him off of that. Right.
Yeah. I bet you guys are. You’re probably with them every step of the way then. Yep. Are you all traveling? Um, do you travel a lot? Obviously this stuff doesn’t all happen in Frisco, Texas. So are you guys mostly gone?
So, because he had just started with Bellator, they were fighting at WinStar. Um, so his first two fights were at WinStar and then COVID happened. And so now they’ve turned in- the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut ended up basically a bubble for us. So all of the fights are there. Now we get in a week early, get tested, get quarantined for a day, uh, get tested again. And then we’re training there, but we’re, everyone has their own gym. We all have our own gym with a bike, a sauna and a treadmill and mats. And we have our own rooms and we can’t really anywhere for the whole, the whole time we’re there.
Did MMA jump on that, figure that out early? I feel like I was seeing them move forward in sports faster than other big mainstream things that were waiting and sitting around for months, trying to figure out how to get athletes safe.
Yeah. There was two months that fights didn’t happen. And then they were the first. Ironically motocross is my, my second favorite sport and they were the second and just started having events without, without fans.
So, theory here. I don’t know. Not, not calling anybody, anybody, specifically divas. But do you think some of it is these big leagues have a lot of like player representatives and players that are just not willing to go out there and compete unless the, the scenario is perfectly right for them?
I think so. I think so. They’re getting paid regardless. Right? So it’s, if you can get paid millions and we’re not getting paid millions, so we want to fight, like we’re trying to fight because you get paid per fight, show up money and then win money. You know, it’s not just, you know, you don’t get a flat fee. So, uh, we’re, we’re trying to fight as often as possible because this is how most of the guys that fight make their living. Right. And they’re not on salaries, you know? So it’s, it’s very different than they’re the regular big sports, the big three or four sports. Right. Um, so yes, I think there’s definitely premadonnas in a lot of the sports that are, you know, guys that are sitting back.
Obviously not everybody, but it is different. It’s like you said, the individual piece of it, that’s where that comes into play too. All you need is Lucas to say, “let’s go.” Right. You don’t need 58 guys on a roster or something to all like, agree and sign for it. Like you just he’s if it’s him and he’s into it. Right. You can make it happen. Yeah. Yeah. That’s awesome. I love that part. Well, I learned a lot and I want to talk to you more because there’s so many things I know we didn’t even get to, um, all your, I didn’t get to brag on all your different titles and being in the hall of fame and all that good stuff. But, um, but thanks. Thanks for coming in. And um, I’m glad I got to meet you. We learned that we don’t live too far away from each other here in Frisco. And so, um, I hope people also go check out your gym, Next Generation MMA. It’s in Frisco, right? Yeah.
It’s right in the Stonebriar Mall parking lot on Gaylord and Preston, kind of on the corner next door to Platia and the vitamin shop.
All right. Very good. Well, thank you for your time. And thank you guys for listening to this episode of Hustle & Pro. Remember to subscribe and we’ll see you next time.