A Question of Loyalty: An Assessment of the Mike Davila situation

Photo by: Blanca Marisa Garcia

On Saturday, July 16th 2016, EBI held its 7th installment, a fantastic event aired on UFC Fight Pass.

During the event, one of the semifinalists, Mike Davila, succumbed to the ultimate winner of the event, Eddie Cummings. At the conclusion of the match, Cummings’ coach, John Danaher refused to shake Davila’s hand.

Subsequently there have been posts made by both Danaher and Davila about this.

Essentially, the readers digest version is that Davila was invited to compete at the event and was told by his instructor and John Danaher that if he decided to compete at the event he would no longer be welcome at Bronx Martial Arts Academy and RGA.  He decided to compete anyways.

Here are two posts containing Mr. Danaher’s and Mr. Davila’s words on the matter:

Why John Danaher Refused to Shake Hands with Mike Davila at EBI

Mike Davila: ‘Never allow anyone to tell you your’e not good enough’

From reading about these two events, there are some thoughts I’d like to throw out there for discussion.

First off, my personal experience:

From day one, my current instructor has been crystal clear: if you are given an opportunity, take it. If you win, awesome; if you lose, at least you took your shot and maybe you got to learn from the opportunity. Maybe having taken the opportunity will open up other doors.

I am just a blue belt, but I have already had opportunities that many black belts haven’t had. My instructor encourages me to capitalize on these opportunities; and win, lose, or draw, he always supports me in my decisions as long as I conduct myself professionally and give it my all.

If I understand the situation correctly, Davila was able to posture himself in such a way to be invited to compete by Eddie Bravo. He didn’t skip any lines; he was simply given an offer that he wanted to accept.  From a brief chat with him, he believes he was invited to compete because of his results at the Finishers Submission Only tournament in which he submitted some EBI competitors.  He is also a purple belt no-gi world champion.  Why should a grown man defer opportunities?  Why did people to whom Davila was loyal tell him he’s not good enough to compete on a specific stage?

I don’t know Danaher, and have only interacted with Davila briefly through Facebook. From reading Danaher’s response to Davila, it would appear to me that either there are details being left out, or Danaher never believed in Davila to begin with.  Prior to his first EBI, who precisely had Eddie Cummings beaten?  Which tournaments had Cummings won?

To be clear, Eddie Cummings has put on phenomenal performances in the EBI arena, and he has clearly proven his worth to the competitive grappling scene in his thrilling performances. However, on the same token, Davila definitely showed that he belonged on that card by subbing Baret Yoshida and Joao Marinho.

During the competition, one of the competitors was injured and could not continue. What if Cummings had the misfortune of being injured and Davila had managed to win the competition?  Would Danaher have rescinded his condemnation of Davila?  What if Davila managed to unexpectedly catch Cummings?  Sometimes in competition people can be surprised. Anything is possible.

The situation shows me that, insofar as the information we have been presented, the issue wasn’t as much with Davila’s lack of loyalty as his lack of respect for the politics in jiu-jitsu and not “knowing his place.” He was told to toe the line and was punished when he opted not to. One could argue that those who turned their backs on him were as disloyal to him as he supposedly was to them.  Loyalty is a two way street.

From the information presented on social media, what do you, our readers, conclude from this protracted incident and the information that has been presented to the jiu-jitsu community?  Was Davila disloyal in choosing to force his long time instructor to kick him out by disobeying direct orders, or did he exercise his judgment as an adult, making a statement in his performance at the event?

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Emil Fischer is an active black belt competitor under Pablo Angel Castro III training at Strong Style Mixed Martial Arts and Training Center near Cleveland Ohio (www.strongstyle.com) and teaching at Ararat Martial Arts and FItness Center. For more information, other articles, and competition videos check out his athlete pages at www.facebook.com/emilfischerbjj www.twitter.com/Emil_Fischer and https://instagram.com/emilfischerbjj/. Emil is sponsored by Meerkatsu (www.Meerkatsu.com, discount code EmilKatsu), Eddy's On Coventry, North Coast Cryo (www.Northcoast-Cryo.com) NottaRookie, YM (www.cbdyoume.com discount code COOKIES), Defense Soap (www.defensesoap.com discount code COOKIES) Impact Mouthguards (www.impactmouthguards.com discount code EMILIMPACT), and North South Jiu Jitsu Underwear


  1. Factsssss loyalty is everything I’ll stand by my brotha. Tatted the Renzo logo on the arm thinking it was a family now I know it’s a cult cover up coming soon…politics don’t belong in the martial arts fanny pack man can keep his deathsquad…

  2. If you ever meet Danaher you will immediately see that the “Danaher death squad” is really the Danaher white squad. Danahwr has a clear agenda alo g deliberate racial lines. You tell me, do you really think the best grapplers in the north East would be exclusively white? No Braziloans, no Latinos, no blacks? Come guys its obvious whats going on here.

          • @Furyossmike that’s what I thought, so not “white”. I don’t think that Danaher is a racist, nor do I necessarily think he’s done anything wrong in this situation. I do think that there are plenty of incidents in the jiu jitsu community, this one included, in which loyalty may be misappropriated. If Danaher and Davila’s coach were truly loyal to Davila they would have been HAPPY that he go the invite.

    • This comment is easily the most entertaining. What do you have to say about ADCC trials champion and Danaher black belt Jason Lees and Danaher black belt competitor Shahim Garaffi

  3. it sounds like the author clearly didn’t read all of danahers post. There is a team culture and policy that Davila had to follow as part of the team training at rga under Danaher he didn’t want to follow that so he had to leave. It had nothing to do with danahers belief in him and everything to do with performance in training and competition. The best guys get the biggest competitions and that makes perfect sense if he wasn’t high enough up the pecking order.

    • From this comment it sounds like you didn’t read the entire post above…

      “If I understand the situation correctly, Davila was able to posture himself in such a way to be invited to compete by Eddie Bravo. He didn’t skip any lines; he was simply given an offer that he wanted to accept. From a brief chat with him, he believes he was invited to compete because of his results at the Finishers Submission Only tournament in which he submitted some EBI competitors. He is also a purple belt no gi world champion. Why should a grown man defer opportunities? Why did people to whom Davila was loyal tell him he’s not good enough to compete on a specific stage?”

      Davila didn’t throw his name in the mix, he was INVITED.

      • That doesn’t matter. Invited or not, if the policy at the gym – whether you personally agree with it as an outsider or not is irrelevant – is that only certain members chosen to represent the team at certain events are allowed to compete, and the rest must wait their turn or compete in lower level tournaments to bring up their ‘stock’, then it is what it is. Certainly you can (and Davila did) choose to ignore this, but then you deal with the fallout.

        It doesn’t speak to Davila not being a quality competitor, just that he doesn’t represent the very best at the gym, and that is who you want competing for you. Garry and Gordon and those guys competed at some slummy tournaments for a long time, as well as some more notable tournaments, before getting to EBI, Polaris, etc. Davila should have respected the structure. His loss to Eddie only solidified the position that he wasn’t ready. Not that he isn’t a great competitor, high level guy, just that he wasn’t the best.

        • Thats fine but the implication being made is that Davila took other people’s spot on the card, he didn’t take shit, he was OFFERED a spot and accepted it, it’s a nuanced but important difference.

        • His loss to Eddie? That could have been Garry, Gordon, or Renzo himself. One would have had to lose in that situation. That would make them not ready?

          He proved he was ready by making the semi finals submitting both opponents on the way.

  4. Wow… The race card, really?
    The race card followed by conjecture is the an immediate disqualification of any sense of rational conversation.

    You don’t like politics, don’t get involved in them. I’m not fan of RGA, but each team has its culture, and guidelines for competition. If you do not like them, do not be a part of that team.

    Did Davila break some rules? And step on some shoes? Yea, he probably did. Did Davila take some liberties, yea; he probably did. But on the flip side, did he have a reason to change the way and place that he trains? Yea, he probably did.

    So for some reason, people get butt hurt over it. I’ve been training BJJ since 96. Guess what? BJJ is still BJJ no matter what the younger kiddies think of their clicks, their clubs, their teams, whatever.

    The entire issue is use plain silly. And for some reason, some of you are seeking to make it a bigger issue than it really should be.

    • Using phrase “race card” is complete idiocy. The statement implies no one can ever be motivated by race, which is clearly not true. Great job silencing the opions and observations of others douche bag.

      Look at the facts. Danaher is white. Everyone on his famed team is white. NYC is the most racially diverse place in North America. Davilla is Hispanic. Bias is real whether concious or subconscious. I pullong the fact card. You have to go out of you way to design an all white team in a non white city then claim the successful non white on your team “has to wait his turn”, even when he has a proven track record which is more successful than than your previous contenders.

  5. I would love if the author could revisit Danaher’s comments on the matter because he clearly hasn’t read them thoroughly.

    Davila occupied one of only two spots available to Renzo Gracie competitors. There is a process for filling those spots, essentially: the best guys get them. Davila did not follow this process. He was asked to reconsider. He chose to leave the team instead. I hope his exhibition against Yoshida was worth throwing away those relationships. “Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not good enough” you don’t need anyone to tell you: being destroyed by Eddie in under two minutes proves the point better

    • So he was NOT invited to the tournament?

      That’s like if someone calls me up and offers me 50 dollars and I accept, and then someone else gets pissed at me because they weren’t offered those 50 dollars…

      • If your best friends super hot girlfriend invites you over to screw around behind his back, would you do it? Or should the mere fact that you got the invite sometimes not supersede the loyalty and the foundation of the relationship with your buddy? Similar here, while obviously a different situation used for emphasis.

        Davila was aware of the way the gym worked regarding competition, got his invite, and did what he wanted to do anyhow. Sure there’s an argument, on the surface, that he should be able to take any opportunity offered to him, but by that logic, I’d point you to my example above and say that a bit more thought should sometimes go into those decisions.

        • Do you not see a difference between banging my best friends girlfriend behind his back and accepting a spot in a tournament?

        • Here’s a better analogy:

          My best friend really likes this super hot chick but she’s not really interested in him. Instead she approaches me and asks me out. My best friend then turns around and says “I’m superior to you, you should have let me have her”.

          Only problem was she wasn’t interested in him, she was interested in me. Am I wrong in accepting her invitation? Moreover hasn’t my supposed best friend been a super big dick by trying to stop me from going out with her?

  6. I guess I can see both sides on this issue. At the end of the day though you should defer to your professor. If he says that it’s not your place to take the competition then you should respect that. On the other hand though he was still free to do what he wanted but should’ve given respect to those that trained him. It sounds to me like Davila was a little selfish and didn’t really care about what his professors had to say. At the end of the day I have to side with Danaher because he clearly states in his post that Davila jumped over more qualified students to take a limited spot against both his professors wishes and then jumped ship to another school and refused to give respect to his old school after doing so. It sounds to me like the OP is missing the point of Danaher’s post.

    • 1. Why was he told it wasn’t his “place” to begin with? Because he wasn’t “good enough”?
      2. Loyalty and respect are both two way streets. For whatever reason the guy was invited to compete at EBI, why should he decline the invitation?
      3. Davila didn’t jump over anyone, he was offered a spot at the tournament. EBI= Eddie Bravo INVITATIONAL, as in if you’re not invited you can’t show up. It’s not like there was a limited number of spots for RGA guys to sign up and Davila jumped the line and signed up. He was invited.
      4. He didn’t jump ship, he was kicked out for accepting a spot in EBI. What was he supposed to do, quit jiu jitsu?

      I got the point of Danaher’s post, this post is an analysis of both Danaher’s post and Davila’s subsequent post, meant to get people talking and thinking. Danaher felt that Davila should have blindly accepted what he was told, which may have some merit to it, but it’s also possible that it does not.

  7. Davila accepted Eddie Bravo invite and break Danaher rules. Danaher kick him out. Davila lost against Eddie. Danaher refuses to shake Davila hands. That’s it! At the end of the day they are all grown men that only have to deal with the ramifications of theirs choices.

  8. I find the subject of loyalty very difficult. Outside of everything everyone chats about publicly, there are those conversations that happen where you realize “huh?! Maybe morally we don’t align as much as I thought. But we both love Jiu Jitsu”. Which is often enough to overlook lots of things and continue with practice, but it sits there. When SHTF all these little nuances backdrop the bigger issue but never get talked about and people leave or get thrown out.
    This has just happened at a gym I attend and though the Jiu Jitsu is great, I cannot continue because the little things, often moral differences (sexism, racism, belief systems), keep adding up. And it’s nobody’s business, so individuals will likely make up stories about who’s loyal or not. Can’t be avoided. I believe there is more to this story and likely, things would have panned out this way anyway.
    I sometimes think the culture of loyalty that is spoken to within the Jiu Jitsu world puts people in a scenario where they stay in a shit one far too long. What do you guys think?

  9. Keep in mind that Eddie Bravo himself (who extended the invitation to Davila) has a personal history with “David versus Golliath” scenarios on a big stage having come to his national acclaim from submitting Royler Gracie in what remains one of the great “upsets” in grappling history. I suspect he has a soft spot for hard working athletes who aren’t a “star” yet but have great potential (like Davila). That being said – I know both Danaher and Davila and find both to be honorable and talented individuals who are loyal and dedicated to furthering competitive BJJ. I hope this doesn’t harm either of their reputations as both are good people with bright futures.

  10. So losing to Eddie SHOWS that Mike was not ready for that level of competition? Did I read that right? Well then, way to shit on João Marinho who is a heck of a grappler and Barrett Yoshida who is not only an elite grappler, has been on some incredible shows, is been around for a long time and is respected by everyone else. That’s not right, John Danaher comes accross as an asshole saying this, I don’t know him so I cannot say if he is one or not, but by saying stuff like that you certainly can be perceived as such. It could have been anyone losing to Cummings, he is that hot, he is in his rhythm, hitting all his positions, he is excellent, but there are guys who can crush him too as he isstatur. The belittling of any competitor should be beneath a man of Mr.Danaher’s intelligence and stature, even he must admit he sounds like a bag of douche-bags. I don’t think Mr.Danaher is racist, it just so happens that the most successful members of his competition team happen to be white, that doesn’t say nor mean anything regarding race if those are the guys who are excelling. Now about the pecking order; this is just stupid. I mean come on, who were Gary and Eddie before they actually got to big comps? Which elite grapplers did they beat before they got to compete in these comps and shows? And if I got invited why should I turn it down and pass it on to someone else who is already being successful on his own merit? Why should I not also try to put my name out there and showcase my talents skills set? Why should someone else be in control of my journey when I am busting my ass day in and day out? No one will ever know how good they are if they only train and never actually get to the big shows. Eddie invited Mike that should have been enough for Danaher to get on with making sure he would have the same level of proficiency and success as the others. Now here’s the kicker; John Danaher wanted Mike a 34 year old guy to pass up on an incredible opportunity as the EBI to give it to a 24 year old kid! Are you fucking kidding me? At 24 Tonon is an established name in grappling who will get plenty more opportunities while this could’ve been Mike’s only one if he’d a fucked up on the first round, Mike is getting older in six years he’ll be 40, almost past his elite competitive prime, Tonon on the other hand will be at it’s apex just turning 30. I think what mike did was a no brainer, could/should’ve been handled differently? of course, but don’t vilify the dude for tryng to carve his own path on the trail.


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