The world of MMA has growing exponentially over the last few years and the U.A.E has had it’s a glimpse and a taste of this sport. The UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) was once held in Abu Dhabi for UFC 112. The UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation hosts tournaments around the country and world, promoting the principle. This gives everyone an opportunity to showcase their talents on the world stage. Naturally, I had to go out in search for a man or woman who represented the ideals and ethos that the mixed martial arts discipline brings and I luckily found an all American Black Belt Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, who moved to the Emirates about 3 years ago to pursue and continue his passion for this martial art and has ended up coaching at legendary academy; Team Nogueira. Over the last 10 years, he’s been able to learn and absorb knowledge from the world’s finest fighters and we delved into his past history and his current thoughts on the martial art. Please, sit back, relax and enjoy the exhilarating journey of the modest, the insightful: Mister Eric Ramsey.
In the beginning it was just me and buddies watching the UFC, grabbing old martial arts magazines and seeing the few little things about Jiu-Jitsu. That’s when I fell in love with the sport and started training in early 2003, there might have been a few ‘introduction to Jiu-Jitsu by Royce Gracie’ but other than that it was fun.
I didn’t do anything fitness related [before I chose to take up Jiu-Jitsu]. I was a punk rock kid with my parents trying to get me in basketball and football but I wasn’t into it. I was a chunky kid but none of those sports interested me. My brother had done some shotokan karate; he’s about 15 years older than me. Towards the end of high school my brother took me to a boxing gym and I was there for a couple weeks before I broke my foot but that’s what ignited my interest in martial arts. Some guys who were older than me invited me to watch UFC. One of them had done Jiu-Jitsu for about 6 months. We got some mats and started rolling; did whatever we could do from the books that we had.
A friend of a friend came down from an hour away that had a year’s training and destroyed all of us. For a young kid like me at 17,18,19, I was determined to get better. He said he trained with this Brazilian dude up in Dayton Ohio, I live in Cincinnati. This place is 45 minutes north of us and told us to come out there and train. Turns out the Brazilian guy was called Jorge Gurgel. So 4-5 buddies starting driving up there a couple days a week because we wanted to learn MMA, no care for gi or belts we just wanted to learn. We did this for about a year, 2 days a week. I love finding something I excel at and just focus on that. Jiu-Jitsu was something that came naturally to me and I pursued it. Eventually they called me up on Saturdays to do MMA sparring. There was no technique talk, it was guys just getting ready to fight and this is where I met and started training with Rich Franklin (this is just before he made it to the UFC). I remember training with him before he fought Ken Shamrock. Rich was someone I always looked up to, his work ethic and everything is fantastic. In my first competition, I lost my first match. Each time I went to more tournaments my record got better and seeing that progression brought me back each time. This made me start focusing my nutrition and I was surrounded by guys who were on point with their nutrition and diet so I had to eat like that in order for me to improve.
History In the Making
When I went to university, I started out as a history major; my dad was a huge history buff. It was one of the very few things I had an interest in. I wasn’t one of those people who knew what they wanted to be going into university like a lawyer or doctor. My mom was a lawyer, but it wasn’t the path I wanted to take. My brothers were in the army and that wasn’t a path I wanted to take either. I hadn’t found that path till I found Jiu-Jitsu. I remember a conversation I had with my mom about all my tests and qualifications. She asked what I wanted to do with this. Be a teacher or research? The answer was neither of those. I wanted to lift things and roll around on mats. Her reply was that if that’s what I was passionate about then I needed to find some way to make those two things mix.
There was a degree called Health Promotion: Exercise & Fitness education degree. There was some other health related fields that I could get into like sports training and physiotherapy but I wouldn’t have been able to work at the same time. For me I had to work, I had to have a job. For most of these degrees it was very difficult to have a job because of the practical hours or work with sports teams and training. I was able to balance the degree and training. The best thing was that I was able to benefit my Jiu-Jitsu more by becoming more knowledgeable about fitness and nutrition. I graduated by the end of 2006, I did an internship with doctor in kinesiology who ran strength and conditioning for youth sports. I spent 3 months working with the youth sports teams and did some personal training. I had to use concepts that you would typically use with sports teams and your everyday population. Now I had graduated from university and my internship too. My internship supervisor offered me a job as a personal trainer working with the general population. I really wanted to work with athletes and train them because that’s what I was passionate about. At this point, I had received my purple belt and then Jorge offered me a job to teach a Jiu-Jitsu fundamentals class and I had the opportunity to teach kids Jiu-Jitsu. It wasn’t a lot of money but it was an opportunity to learn and teach coaching. This was in 2007. At this time, Dustin Hazelett signed for the UFC. He asked me to train him on his strength and conditioning, which gave me a chance to test out a lot of ideas that I wanted to implement. He was one of those guys who focused on BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) but had never done any strength or conditioning. It was refreshing to see Dustin be open to new concepts that were foreign to him and MMA like the use of kettle bells. We used a lot of those. MMA was a new sport and a lot of these ideas were new to that world and it was slowly being implemented. Being in Ohio, I got a chance to learn from a lot of strength and conditioning coaches around this time because the MMA community was so small.
At this point I had my brown belt in BJJ and I wanted to expand my knowledge in strength and conditioning so I did the USA weightlifting sports performance coach certification course in 2012. I wanted to make sure that I was constantly pursuing something. Later that year, I was persuaded by a colleague to pursue a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer Certificate. One of my friends and colleague who was coaching a fitness kickboxing at the same gym I was coaching Jiu-Jitsu said ‘man, I want to do a CrossFit gym, get your certification and let’s do it together.’ I was surprised, it was something new for me to pursue and I’d been doing the CrossFit.com workouts already with a couple guys at the gym. Eventually, one of the kickboxing coaches and I started a CrossFit box in association with the MMA gym we were both coaching at. This gave me a chance to add to my knowledge base.
I was shocked with the amount of exposure Eric has been subjected to. From coaching UFC fighter’s to starting his own CrossFit box, the man has accomplished what many dream of in either sport. This is all before he’s even stepped foot in to the Emirates. Who knew a history major would turn in to a coach.
You Can Win With Kids
When I moved here, it had been close to 10 years since I started coaching and teaching.
I started at Team Nogueira almost 2 years ago now. They already had a great programme in place and I think I was able to add a little bit of my own touch to it. I come from a different background and I appreciated the opportunity to work with Team Nogueira and head coach Rafael Haubert.
While at Team Nogueira, I got a chance to work with and learn from Ryan Bow, a legend in Japanese MMA. He was a former Shooto lightweight champion back in Japan and trained with some very high level Japanese fighters. Ryan helped to develop this ranking system in MMA. In other martial arts like BJJ, you had a belt system. This helps kids and other beginners to know where they stand and gauge a further in the sport. For me, It was amazing to see someone of his caliber and knowledge teaching here in Dubai.
We teach a lot of kids and we hold a martial arts summer camp for 8 weeks. We see lots of kids who are very excited to learn something new each class. A lot of times you’ll have academies with one coach and the same concept is applied for years but with Team Nogueira we have a number of coaches where we’re able to implement a number of different concepts and always evolve. People have trained all over the world and we bring that knowledge back into one place.
I’ve had a lot of opportunities in Dubai to learn from so many great individuals; Roger Gracie, Davi Ramos, Lucas Lepri and many other great guests that have come in and trained with us at Team Nogueira. It’s a great opportunity for local BJJ and MMA to grow in Dubai. Fitness as we know is just getting bigger and bigger. With Jiu-Jistu, I can see a lot more room for continued growth and one of the things we’re trying to focus on is MMA and BJJ for kids. We are teaching them structure and discipline and giving them an outlet for their energy. It’s great to see a lot more Emirati’s getting involved in the sport.
Ultimately, kids are the future. Starting them as young as 6 years old, will hopefully be the ones who become serious MMA athletes or coaches. These are the guys who’ll be ones we see in 10 years time on the grand stage. I mean, I changed from being a History major to Health Education major. Getting into Jiu-Jitsu when I was 18, completely changed my mindset and what I wanted to do in the future. Something as simple as that can completely change your path. I think I might have been a history teacher in Ohio if I hadn’t started Jiu-Jitsu. I’ve had friends who’ve quit because of work or other circumstances changed where they couldn’t train. Once I got over my initial struggles as a beginner and got my blue belt, is when I didn’t look back at all. I’m more into development of coaching in MMA and Jiu-Jitsu. Even though, I’ve taken certifications in CrossFit and Olympic Weightlifting, I’ve always wanted to stick with BJJ and MMA and hope to continue to grow, teach and leave my mark on people here in the Emirates through my teaching at Team Nogueira.
After two hours of conversation, it was clear how far Eric has come and progressed in his career. From the long nights staying up watching MMA till 3 in the morning, rolling with his friends to moving to Dubai, joining Team Nogueira to teach his craft. He dabbled with CrossFit and Olympic weight lifting so the man is clearly dedicated and gifted in different elements. Eric is a humble guy. Even during our conversation, he was very calm and passionate but never spoke without reason. A dedicated practitioner and one who will continue to lay a mark in Dubai. If you want to follow more of his journey and what he’s up to at Team Nogueira then just follow his socials below.