After years of blood, sweat and submission holds on his opponents a Port Elizabeth grappler and mixed martial artist has become the first person in the Eastern Cape to earn his black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Owner and trainer at Port Elizabeth Submission Fighting Academy Chris Bright, 41, has been grappling for the past 17 years and received his black belt in December from internationally renowned British Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) trainer Nic Gregoriades, who literally wrote the book on BJJ – The Black Belt Blueprint.
Despite his successful mixed martial arts career of 27 wins and only three losses, and his hand being raised as the winner in countless grappling competitions, Bright said getting his black belt was still very exciting.
“It was never really about the belts for me, all I wanted to do was improve my skills on the mat. But when I reached my purple belt I started to think ahead and realised a black belt was within reach,” said the soft-spoken Bright.
A BJJ novice will start out with a white belt and progress to blue, then purple, followed by brown and finally reach black belt.
“I could have received my black belt sooner, but I wanted a credible trainer, like Nic, to grade me.
“Nic trained under, arguably, the world’s best BJJ grappler, Roger Gracie, and the lineage of your belt, looking back at who trained the trainers, is probably just as important as getting the belt,” said Bright
While he still competes professionally, and is preparing to fight at a mixed martial arts event in Cyprus, Bright’s time is mostly spent training the next generation of fighters at his gym.
“I am still the same person I was when I wore my brown belt, but people’s perceptions of me have definitely changed and this could attract more people to training with us.”
One of Bright’s students, Cameron Pritchard, 25, who recently started his professional mixed martial arts career, said despite his mentor’s achievements Bright always remained humble.
“I have always known Chris was at black belt level, but now he actually has the colour to prove it. But nothing has changed, his achievements just inspire me to up my game.” said Pritchard.