In the jiu jitsu community, there are people who are on the front lines: competitors and instructors who are out there furthering the art and the sport. These people have names that we know, and they acquire fame throughout our community.
There are, however, people in the background who are just as important to our community We may not know their names, but their work is familiar to most of us.
A while ago, several entities in jiu-jitsu (specifically Scramble, Newaza Apparel, Meerkatsu, Gawakoto, On The Mat, and Open Mat Radio) released a special rash guard to raise money for Paul Moran’s cancer treatment. When I saw the rash guard titled “Another Lion to Kill,” I was interested in learning more about the man whom these companies got together to help. I had never heard of Moran, but clearly he is an important person to our community.
A quick internet search revealed Paul Moran is a podcaster who has done big things for the jiu-jitsu community. Specifically, he is working with Open Mat Radio to help publicize and popularize the art.
I reached out to Paul, and he was kind enough let me interview him about his experiences as a key figure in our small community.
Like many who provide services to the jiu-jitsu community, Paul is himself an active practitioner.
“I’m a brown belt under 7th degree coral belt Sergio Penha. I started under a Carlson affiliate in Western New York before moving to Las Vegas where I trained a few years with a Carlson camp here before finding Sergio. I have never been all that incentivized by competition but I have placed and won a few local Grapplers Quest/NAGA tournaments along the way. My passion is more for teaching than competing. I’ve been fortunate to be able to teach a few seminars and when possible I teach a fundamentals/drills class at Sergio’s. I started training in ’06 or ’07.”
Paul is well known specifically for his work with Open Mat Radio, I was curious about what got him to start Open Mat Radio.
“OMR started for a few reasons. Rafael Penha, Richard Heinrich and I started OMR after we ran a few World Pro Trials. We really enjoyed being part of the scene in a unique capacity that was not just competitor or student. Add to that the less frequent recordings from The Fightworks Podcast and we were off and running. Caleb from Fightworks has been a huge inspiration to me and I still believe set the high bar for what a grappling podcast should be. After we saw the impact some of the shows were having we kept running with it. Eventually life catches up with everyone and the show took on some changes. While it’s been on hiatus for a while now I’ll be bringing that and theJourneyPodcast.com back soon.”
Anyone who is familiar with Open Mat Radio knows that they have done big things for the jiu-jitsu community.
“Open Mat Radio’s mission has always been to ‘tap you into grappling culture.’ Rafael grew up in the scene as his father is a legendary fighter and coach. Richard and I both had our lives completely changed by jiu jitsu. I can’t speak for Raf or Richard but my mission with the podcast was to illustrate the history, culture and characters that changed and saved my life. I can’t take so much from a martial art and community without giving back. OMR was one way to do that.”
“It’s a rather straightforward podcast. News and announcements up front and then long form interviews with the most important people in our community. Sometimes shows are an hour; sometimes they’re a few hours or split into multiple more easily digested episodes.”
“Being able to help spread jiu jitsu is an honor and privilege. I love introducing the history of the sport to new and seasoned grapplers alike. Introducing up-and-coming athletes and projects is also something I think we have done a great job with. We get lots of messages about people finding new favorite athletes and even new coaches/teams to train under. I think the most rewarding thing has been connecting the community with various charities and good causes. While we haven’t come close to making a dime on the site we have raised thousands of dollars for various charities. We aren’t saving the world but we like to think we’ve made a difference in the scene for some. Helping athletes get paid by hyping/connecting seminars and super fights is also awesome.”
“The Movement Mixtape series I did in response to a lot of the scandals and negativity that was flooding the scene was really well received by our community. There is so much good going on that people don’t ever realize. It’s part of our mission to share that with the community.”
Paul and the rest of his colleagues on Open Mat Radio paved the way for other media outlets that exist in the world of jiu-jitsu. Like many who give back to the community, Paul Moran has had many amazing opportunities to work and interact with the jiu jitsu elite.
“I’ve had a lot of really cool experiences. Being backstage at events like Pride, EBI, Metamoris, The Ultimate Fighter (Thanks Ryan!) and other events is always very unique. I’ve done some interviews in unique places as well. From grand suites at Mandalay Bay with Enson (Inoue) or Connor McGregor’s hotel room with John Kavanagh, to run-down hotel rooms in Manhattan with Eddie Bravo, Denny Prokopos, Mike Fowler and Paul Schreiner. It’s always an adventure. More than anything the best part is the friendships I’ve made over the years. I can’t even begin to list the number of amazing people I am proud to call friends thanks to jiu jitsu.”
With the release of the special edition rash guard came increased awareness of Paul’s health situation. As many times before, the community banded together and made a substantial dent in his medical expenses. I was interested to learn a bit about the circumstances under which this specific project came to be.
“OMR has done well in downloads but to be honest we never really cared about the numbers. I’ll mention some health stuff but don’t want to get into my current situation for various reasons.”
“I’ve had a four year fight cancer that has involved several major surgeries. If it weren’t for jiu jitsu I probably would never had gotten checked out. For sure if I hadn’t been training under Sergio Penha I would not have had the strength to survive through what I have. I’ve gone through multiple rounds of chemotherapy and have gone through radiation as well. Unfortunately I fought a lot of staph infections after my surgeries as well, one of which required me to be airlifted from Vegas to UCLA.”
“I owe a huge thank you to Mike Cosman for pushing me to do the rash guard. I’ve never liked to put my hand out but after all the medical procedures I’ve gone through my bills started to get pretty insane. Lisa Del Toro is an amazing tattoo artist that trains at Sergio Penha’s with me in Vegas off and on. She used Sergio’s mantra of “Just another lion to kill” to create the design. Then the fine folks at Scramble went to work putting the overall design together with the other sponsors. I’m honored to have had the support from OnTheMat.com/Lucky Gi, Meerkatsu, Gawakoto, Newaza Apparel and of course Scramble. Thanks to the kindness and compassion from Matt and Ben of Scramble I’ve been able to get a significant chunk of debt taken care of. Olli Geddes was a handsome model and the community showed some amazing support. This help will ultimately be one of the reasons OMR and The Journey Podcast will be able to return to the interwebs sooner than later.”
I was curious to learn a bit about the motto on the beautiful rash guard “Just another lion to kill.” This specific motto applies in so many areas in life, but to Moran it holds special meaning.
“Sergio got his black belt in 3 years and was never able to spend time at brown. Going from purple to black doesn’t happen often in jiu jitsu. Osvaldo Alves, who many believe to be the Encyclopedia of Jiu Jitsu, was Sergio’s coach. Day after day Osvaldo would send killers after Sergio to break him. Sergio’s mantra was ‘Just another lion to kill.’ He saw each opponent as a unique lion that he had to conquer before anything else. Sergio’s mindfulness and respect of his opponents (he could have called them sheep or ants but no, they were lions as lions deserve your respect) is awe inspiring to me. Some days he would pile “lions” 10 deep sometimes it was 20 or more. Age, belt, weight, experience, number of training sessions that day never mattered. All that mattered was there was a lion that needed killing and Sergio had to find a way to accomplish that. I adopted the mantra for my battles with cancer. Every dose of chemo, radiation session, surgery or setback was ‘just another lion to kill.’ No bother living in the future or past. We can only kill the lion in front of us.”
In closing, Paul had some special thank you’s and shout-outs:
“I’m filled with gratitude for the support from my wife Stephanie, personification of positivity that is my sister Marsha, my family by blood and those by loyalty like the Grady’s. If you are in Las Vegas please support The Caring Place and Nevada Childhood cancer Center who are instrumental in supporting all those fighting cancer.”
“Personally I would like to thank Sergio Penha and our SPJJ Team for the support over the years. Richard and Raf for always being part of OMR. To Scotty Nelson and Alan ‘Gumby’ Marques of OTM for always supporting jiu jitsu and my projects. Thanks to Cal Medcraft and Jiu Jitsu Style for their support of OMR. Personally I have so many thanks it would take another 10,000 words to get through them all. Matt Godden, Rosco Rosborough, Riccardo Amendolia, Alberto Marchetti, Bernardo Faria, Marshall Carper, Mike Fowler, Ryan Hall, Matt Benyon, Garry Tonon, Andreh Anderson, Stu Cooper, Ben Tong, Travis Newaza, Bong Abad, Seymour Yang, Nic Gregoriades and everyone that has spread good vibes in the scene. I have so many more people to list and they know who they are! Thanks to everyone that has supported OMR and theJourneyPodcast. If you want to say thanks in any way please do so by bringing someone new to the mats and sharing jiu jitsu. Be kind to each other and roll till the wheels come off.”