Midland Reporter-Telegram http://www.mywesttexas.com/sports/article_ea68137e-7487-5b6a-a562-cae0b666cad4.html
Maybe the last sport West Texas is known for is mixed martial arts.
But KC Windham and Jackson Burcham, who co-own West Texas MMA, would like to change that. And to do so, they've enlisted the help of seven-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion Rodrigo "Comprido" Medeiros.
For the remainder of this week, Medeiros, a Jiu-Jitsu black belt from Brazil, will be at West Texas MMA working with the mixed martial arts school's students as a group of them prepare to compete in the North American Grappling Association's World Jiu-Jitsu Championship in Dallas on Saturday and Sunday.
Medeiros' presence at the club isn't anything new, though. After all, his teachings laid the foundation for West Texas MMA.
"He's pretty much our coach," Windham said. "It's a continuing education. You never really stop learning. So he comes in, shows us new techniques and how to fix what we're messing up on."
Windham, Burcham and West Texas MMA trainer Jaime Lara made the trip to Brazil in 2004, seeking to learn Jiu-Jitsu. They had read several articles about the group Medeiros trained with and asked those guys to mentor them in the martial art.
"We wanted to get it from the source. You want to go to where the best is," Windham said. "These guys are the best. We went down to their camp and explained we don't have instructors and we wanted them to be our teachers. They said 'OK. But you have to keep up your end of the bargain.'"
Their end of the bargain is the continued learning of Jiu-Jitsu. To do that, Windham goes to Chicago, where Medeiros now has his main training center, at least three times a year and also makes a trip to Brazil for a month every year.
Also, it's what inspired Windham and Burcham to open West Texas MMA. The club had humble beginnings with a mere three to five guys training together in a barn around four years ago.
Now, there are more than 80 men, women, boys and girls of all ages who train at West Texas MMA, which is now located on Illinois St. and attendance is only growing as the sport becomes more and more popular.
"We've moved four times," noted Windham, who won his first world championship in July. "We've outgrown each place we go and we're in the process of outgrowing this place right now. It started out as a club. We just wanted to have guys to roll with and people wanted to keep taking classes. We just love Jiu-Jitsu. We love the art."
Their commitment to the craft is what gets Medeiros in their gym.
"We developed a friendship," Medeiros said. "They decided to open a gym and I keep backing and supporting them. Everyone has been doing good in competitions and are improving in their technique a lot. So I come every year to help teach."
Medeiros began training in Jiu-Jitsu at the age of 17 in 1993. He earned his black belt, signifying he could start teaching the art, in 1999 after winning the world championships as a brown belt.
Meideiros has seen the sport grow from being relatively unknown to becoming a worldwide phenomenon.
"I've seen a lot of things happen with the development of the sport," Medeiros said. "MMA has been developing well together with Jiu-Jitsu. Jiu-Jitsu gyms are popping up all over the place now."
Since moving to Chicago, Medeiros has begun training some of the bigger names in MMA, including Demian Maia, and perhaps the sport's most famous competitor, former Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar.
"It's an easy deal," Medeiros said with a laugh. "He's someone who learns a lot with an open mind. He's a professional. He know he has to do what we ask him to do to improve and that's what he does. I've seen a lot of improvement with him in every single fight."
For this week, Medeiros is preparing to be a competitor instead of just a coach. The seven-time world champion will lead Team Brasa, which will include around 20 fighters from West Texas MMA, into the NAGA world championships.
This group will team with fighters from Mario Queiroga's Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu team in Austin to complete Team Brasa.
"With all the guys from West Texas and the ones from Austin, we think we have a good shot at being one of the top teams," Medeiros said.