Chris ‘the Westside Strangler’ Brennan (19-13-1) is a fighter that’s been around the sport a long time. One of the first fighters to discard of the gi and focus on no-gi grappling, Chris has a distinguished career in promotions such as the UFC, Pride and Cage Rage.
FO: Chris, I believe you’ll be fighting again soon?
Chris: Hopefully, I did have a fight but it fell through, so I don’t have one right now; in fact I’ve had three fights fall through, one in Sweden, one in Holland and one in Canada. I’ve always had a hard time keeping fights in smaller promotions; I didn’t have a problem in Pride and the UFC.
A lot of guys don’t want to fight me on a smaller show, which I don’t really understand, if they win it’s great for their career, but if they lose it’s not bad, as it’s beneficial to have fought a good level of competition. I really want to get back to the UFC, and to do that I need wins.
FO: Will you still be fighting at 155lbs?
Chris: Actually, no, I’ll be fighting back at 170lbs. My brother, who’s my manager, and I looked at my record and it was far better at 170lbs. I always walked round big for 155, and it’s hard for me to hover around that weight, as I may need to take fights on short notice it takes a lot of effort.
FO: We haven’t seen you fight for a while, did you stop?
Chris: I haven’t fought for nineteen months due to injury. I suffered a rib injury back in 2005 in my grappling match with Marcello Garcia, in my last fight I aggravated it. I’ve been doing other things, such as strength and conditioning training for motocross riders.
I actually haven’t felt this rejuvenated in my training for years now, I have the fire back like when I started in the sport. I fought a few times injured to make a dollar, and that really wasn’t the smartest thing, so I took the time out to heal.
FO: Your recent DVD instructionals have been very well received. How did you come to specialize in the Kimura and five and ten fingered guillotines?
Chris: Well when I took off the gi and was doing no-gi jujitsu I had to find a way to slow things down, the gi is great for that. The grips I started to use were for that reason. I already loved the guillotine, hence my nickname, and that and the Kimura really play off each other well.
If I roll I go between the two, if I roll with good guys I fight defensively, and if I roll with someone whose not so good I go on the attack. If I get the figure of four grip I will catch you.
FO: How did you get started in MMA?
Chris: My first teacher was Ken Gabrielson, a Relson Gracie black belt, and I trained with him for one year. There were some good guys training there like Kimo Leopoldo and Todd Medina after UFC 1. Kimo got in the UFC at UFC 3 and Todd at UFC 5.
It took me longer, I wanted to get in but I was too light, so when the lightweight tournament came along that was my opportunity.
After that I was training at the Gracie Academy and went to Brazil to train.
FO: Where did you train in Brazil?
Chris: I was training with Jacare who runs Alliance. He had a whole crew of great guys, the guys back then were amazing, every night the place was packed with black belts, brown belts and purple belts.
FO: You mentioned Kimo Leopoldo, I believed you worked together before he got in the UFC?
Chris: that’s right, we were working at a bar as bouncers with Todd Medina as well. We saw the first UFC, and at the time we were in hundreds of street fights, we suddenly realized we could fight, get paid for it and not get arrested. Kimo had zero training at the time but was very athletic.
One thing people don’t know is there was a guy called Randy Ziegler who Kimo paid to go and take privates from Rickson, and Randy would then come back and teach Kimo what he learnt. At the UFC there was almost a huge fight in the lobby when Rickson saw Randy with Kimo and realized what had been happening.
Kimo did things in that fight he shouldn’t have known how to do at that time, and that’s because of that.
FO: Rumor has it that you will be preparing for your next fight with Renzo Gracie.
Chris: How did you find that out? That’s right, the plan is when I get a fight I’ll go and train with Renzo. Renzo and I go way back to Brazil, when he reffed my first MMA fight there, and we’ve been good friends since. When I signed up on twitter, he tweeted me ‘I heart your ten finger guillotine DVD’.
That was great and really meant a lot to me, Renzo saying that. He’s my favorite Gracie as far as fighting goes, he’s fought anyone, anytime, across weight classes as well; I really respect him.
FO: Your Next Generation schools are spread around the world, how did that happen?
Chris: Well my school in California was amazing, it was a huge facility with cages, guys like Jason Tan from Ireland and England would come over and stay for months, as I had a live in facility, and then go back.
Next Generation then started in Liverpool, Dublin and I have it in Canada and the US as well. I do want to expand, but the thing is I have to be very choosey, as I have to keep the level of instruction high.
FO: You’ve been involved in training Motocross riders was that a sport you have been involved in as long as MMA?
Chris: I used to race quads and always used to follow Motocross; I’d never raced or ridden though. I was a fan of two guys, Jeremy McGrath and Rick Johnson, interestingly they were also fans of MMA. They saw that I was a fan of theirs from my website, and called me up.
I went and rode with them and they came and learnt MMA. They introduced me to Sebastian Tortelli, a rider from France, and for the last few years of his career I did his strength and conditioning training.
Right from when I started fighting I trained a lot in that area and was known for having good strength and conditioning, my team was also known for the same thing and I started doing that on the side. I also started training kids, and one kid I trained won thirty-four national titles in one year. The skill set crossed over, and it’s way less painful training those guys.
FO: As someone who’s been around MMA a long time, are their fighters you enjoy watching?
Chris: Definitely, I’m a huge GSP fan. It’s not just that he’s a good boxer, has good jujitsu and wrestling, his physical attributes make him good as well as his hard work ethic. I’m a big fan of his, I’d love to fight him, it would be a tough fight, but that’s the fight I’d love.
I also really like Shogun, I watched him back over at Pride, and he’s great to watch.
FO: So how did you end up moving from California to Dallas?
I was training my standup with Pete Spratt. He’s a great standup coach, and I used to fly him in. we would come out here and I loved it. I sold my house in California and could have bought two here with the money. The funny thing is I moved here to train with Pete and then he moved away to San Antonio.
I’m in the process of opening a big school, with a real big cage, and will be producing a lot of fighters. My brothers are running the school in California and they’re fighting themselves.
My youngest brother actually has his first fight soon, and they’re all really good. I’m flying to the UK in April for a seminar, and since the DVDs came out I’ve been doing seminars pretty much every weekend and have been really busy.