Celebrities: They Grapple Just Like Us!

What do grapplers have in common with the rich and famous? Maybe cauliflower ear!

The gossip magazine Us Weekly has a feature titled “Stars: They’re Just Like Us,” which shows candid photos of celebrities engaging in day-to-day activities like grocery shopping or drinking coffee. (I plead the fifth as to how I know about said feature.)

My favorite example of this, not actually from Us Weekly, is a picture from October 2010 of Glenn Danzig, of the heavy metal band Danzig, emerging from a pet store carrying a box of kitty litter, among other things, and wearing a petulant look, long hair, and his own band’s t-shirt.

Did you know some celebrities are just like grapplers? ARE grapplers, in fact?

The rich and famous are not impervious to the siren song of the mat, and indeed, you can find traces of Brazilian Jiu-Jtsu culture and technique in multiple recent movies and television shows. Here are just a few famous grapplers, in no particular order, based some on research and things I’ve heard here and there. See if you can add to the list in the comments section!

  • In one of the Lord of the Rings movies, Gollum takes somebody’s back with a quickness—hooks and everything!—while trying to recover the Ring.
  • Renzo Gracie-black belt and director Guy Ritchie has incorporated grappling moves into both Sherlock Holmes movies. In the more recent one, grappling fans can watch Robert Downey, Jr., slap a triangle on Jude Law while they are on a moving train. (I hope this image replaces in your mind the one of Stephen Fry’s ample nakedness, also prominent in the movie. I love Stephen Fry, but I love him in at least some underpants.)
  • Playwright David Mamet (who was a purple belt at the time) paid homage to the sport with his 2008 movie Red Belt. (I didn’t like the film myself. Glengarry Glen Ross was more compelling, perhaps because it was more shouty.)
  • Chuck Norris earned his black belt from the Machado brothers, who appear from time to time in Walker, Texas Ranger. (Chuck Norris doesn’t always fight on the ground, but when he does, he prefers Jiu-Jitsu.)
  • Ed O’Neill is a black belt under the late, great Helio Gracie, in addition to being Married with Children. (Haw haw—that was funny. Take my word for it.)
  • Rikki Rockett, drummer for the 80s hair metal band Poison, is a black belt under Renato Magno. I wonder how he wears his hair while he rolls.
  • The legendary Rickson Gracie appears in the 2008 version of The Incredible Hulk as an Aikido instructor, giving Edward Norton breathing lessons.
  • Sean Patrick Flanery of Powder and The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles fame is a black belt.
  • As of 2008, “fast and furious” Paul Walker is, according to Wikipedia, a brown belt under Ricardo “Franjinha” Miller.
  • Mark-Paul GosselaarMaynard James Keenan of Tool is at least a purple belt and has been known to incorporate grappling moves into the band’s stage shows.
  • Mark-Paul Gosselaar, “Zach Morris” from Saved by the Bell and one marcher in the seemingly endless parade of hot cops on NYPD Blue, was training in recent years at Big John McCarthy’s Ultimate Training Academy. (I know because I saw him there once.)
  • Jonathan Lipnicki, the kid from Jerry Maguire, now a bit more grown up, apparently competed in an International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) tournament in a recent year. I heard he didn’t advance very far in his bracket, but good on him for stepping up. I wonder how much his brain weighs now.

So there you have a partial list. And these are just the people who train! This list doesn’t include the vast number of celebrities who are big fans of the Ultimate Fighting Championship; perhaps that’s a topic for another article.

Do you know of any celebrity grapplers? Do share! Post in the comments below.

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