You never know what you are going to get when you sit down with the ever entertaining Kurt “Batman” Pellegrino. JiuJitsuMania sat down with the man who’s insane grappling and BJJ record makes him one of the UFC’s most decorated BJJ / Grapplers.
Kurt, please share with us your grappling and BJJ career records and accomplishments.
I have almost 300 BJJ and grappling wins with 4 losses. I was promoted to Black Belt in 2005. I am a multiple time winner of NAGA and Grapplers Quest World titles. I was invited to compete in the 2007 Abu Dhabi World Championships, where I placed 6th out of 16 competitors.
Who was your most memorable match with?
Marcelo Garcia in 2007 Abu Dhabi.
Your grappling and Jiu Jitsu record speaks for itself. What advice could you give to those who want to compete?
Find a great BJJ instructor and team. Train for at least a year before you enter any tournaments and never give up trying even if you lose. Some of your best lessons will come out of losses.
You have been wrestling, grappling and fighting for a long time. How have you seen the sport evolve? What is different about it today as compared to 10 years ago?
My first fight was in 2000 and it was bare knuckle, no gloves at all. So that says a lot in itself. I have seen the sport grow so much. When I first started competing in BJJ and then eventually fighting MMA, people hardly knew anything about the sport and today you would be hard pressed to find a person who doesn’t know about the mixed martial arts. The sport has evolved to a whole new level thanks to the many pioneers of MMA that have brought it into the public eye.
You have fought 12 times in the UFC and have ended more than 60% of your career MMA fights with submissions. How important is Jiu Jitsu to a mixed martial artist?
I believe to be a successful MMA fighter you have to be well rounded in all of the martial arts. Jiu Jitsu is a huge part of any fighter’s game. Offense and defense are equally important and I am always trying to improve my BJJ because once you can become too comfortable or stagnant with your game, it stops working on people. I always have to be learning something new to keep me motivated and give me an edge.
What can you share with the fans in regards to Jiu Jitsu in the cage versus Jiu Jitsu in a Tournament?
In the cage you have to worry about so many other factors like getting punched or kicked in the face. That’s why you have to have a well rounded game to compete in the cage at the highest level. BJJ on its own, will not make you successful in the cage. Tournament jiu jitsu is fun to me. Its all about grappling and it’s a chess game that I love to play. Unfortunately, most MMA fans don’t understand the ground game enough and end up booing the fight stays down too long. But I love it when you have two BJJ guys on the ground. I think it’s awesome to watch all the technique.
You have a very successful school in Belmar New Jersey. Please tell JiuJitsuMania about it.
I opened my academy in Belmar a little over 2 years ago and its been great. We are a mixed martial arts academy and we offer Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, muay thai kickboxing, cardio kickboxing, submission grappling, wrestling, and cross fit programs. We welcome adults and kids. I currently have about 250 students and I am in the process of expanding our facility from 4000 sq ft to 8000 sq ft. The construction should be done mid-May. My new academy will be complete with men’s and women’s locker rooms, 1000 sq ft of heavy bag area, a 26 ft cage, a kickboxing area, a grappling area, over 5000sq ft of mat space, a pro shop and spectator viewing areas. So, I’m really excited for it all to be complete. The academy is my future. This is what will be around when I am done competing. I look forward to the days that I can commit myself 150% to my students and my academy. Until then, I have an amazing staff of instructors who help me run all my programs and a really hard working general manager who works his butt off for me and the academy. I couldn’t do it without them.
We also hear that you have a successful fight team. Who are some of your rising stars that we should keep a look-out for?
My fight team is always evolving. This is another aspect I look forward to spending more time on once my competition days are over. Unfortunately, I feel like I never am there enough for these guys. Even though I am there every night with them I always feel like I can be making them bette,r but my own training gets in the way. I have fighters who have competed in the UFC, The Ultimate Fighter show on Spike, Bellator, Strikeforce, M-1 Global, Cage Fury, and Ring of Combat. I am really proud of all the guys for working so hard and making it to these prestigious shows and they always come to fight no matter what. My 155 pounder, Justin Haskins just won the lightweight title for Ring of Combat. I have TUF veteran Jeff Lentz fighting on MTV2 for Bellator in May. Other up and comers include Dave Church, Lester Caslow, George Sullivan, Steve Deangelis, Steve Barnett, Tom Gallicchio, Mervin Rodriguez and I have a 130 lb amateur Anthony Craparo who will be a force once he gets going – he’s so young and eager to learn and work hard.
How is it being a Head Coach as well as a UFC fighter?
I’ts difficult to say the least. Like I said before, its hard to commit all of myself to the team especially when I am in the middle of a training camp and traveling. I mean, I think it’s beneficial for my guys to have me as I am always learning new things and I have learned to be a great game planner from my coaches which I think is crucial when in my guy’s corners. I bring over 10 years of fighting experience to the team, but I just wish I had more one-on-one time for each of them.
Who were the most influential people in your life as a fighter?
There weren’t many people who influenced me to actually be a fighter, actually quite the opposite. The need to compete and the yearning to win was the reason I turned to competing and fighting. Getting my hand raised was the biggest high for me and influenced me greatly. As I continued my fighting career and evolved as a fighter thru a few twists and turns, there were a few people who taught me many things inside and outside the cage that influenced my life as a fighter. Specifically, Kenny and Keith Florian taught me so much in such a short amount of time. Most importantly they taught me about game planning and to be smart in training and in a fight. I now know you can’t only just be a tough guy inside the cage, you need to be smart and always be thinking. They taught me that the quality training is better than the quantity of training and that really helped me in the latter part of my fighting career. Aside from being a great friend, Kenny taught me a lot and I get to pass that on to my fighters.