Interview: Tyrone Glover

Interview: Tyrone Glover

[Tyrone 'T$' Glover grew up in Sacramento, California and was part of the first generation of American wrestlers to find success in the 90s grappling scene after learning jiu-jitsu.

Tyrone was Ricardo ‘Franjinha’ Miller’s first black belt, a professional fighter for Japanese MMA promotion PRIDE, and now resides in Denver, Colorado where he practices law as a social justice attorney focused on civil rights and criminal defense.

We talked to T$, a longtime friend and newly-minted team member, about what's been keeping him energized during self-quarantine.] 

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"Throwing down some mats at home is oddly meditative. I have a little 10x10 roll-down mat in my basement I’ve been using while being stuck inside, and even though they are not the mats of my first academy, there’s always a strong sense of familiarity and nostalgia.

I pulled together some things that remind me of my history on and off the mats, and some different things that have become a part of who I am."

"I’ve had the same instructor since I was a white belt. I'm out here in Denver now, and have been training primarily at Lōgōs, but Franjinha’s always been a constant in my Jiu-Jitsu journey. He’s always been a real and genuine instructor—he always led his team without having to adopt the hierarchies and formalities you see at more traditional martial arts schools. Paragon has always felt like a family.

This black and white photo is from an instructional he was filming down in LA. Back then he would catch in this move all the time.

Franjinha loved to use belt promotions to motivate me to win tournaments. He'd throw that extra incentive in at the last minute right before finals. *laughs* I remember having to beat Eddie Bravo to get my purple belt in 2000, and I got my brown belt in 2003 by winning my first pro tournament by Peruvian necktie."

"This belt is my original black belt (I have 4 stripes now). I’m on my third actual black belt but this is the original I used for my first 6 years.

These magazines were significant because this was a time before internet reporting. There was and the Sherdog forums… but Grappling Magazine was the one we always read. I started to do well on the no-gi circuit and Brian Cimins would come have me do these super-fights at Grappler’s Quest. He would fly me out to Vegas and New York and Florida… those were the biggest tournaments on American soil for a long time."

2003 Pan Ams (top left)
2004 Grappling Games
1999 Capital City Grappling Open
2001 Gracie United

"When I was growing up, music was the vanguard of the cultures I connected with. My family is from the DC area, and when I was living out there I learned about bands like Bad Brains. It opened my mind to listen to music that was different than what kids were listening to on the West Coast at the time.

When the Wu Tang Forever double-disk came out, and you waited in line to buy it at Virgin records, it came with this limited edition jersey.

Recently, I’ve been blessed to hook-up with some talented DJs and have been learning a lot more about using music as an art-form. I’ve started to play professionally and it’s been a fun continuing to learn new ways to express myself, while letting my history with music and counterculture continue to be a part of my life."

"After college, I did a couple MMA fights and Cecil Peoples reffed one of my matches. Afterward he pulled me aside and my told me that I should be doing it full time. That was a real moment for me.

So I left—I quit my job and moved to San Diego to train full time. While I was there, I was training with Branden Vera, who was pumped on these PRIDE auditions, so I went along and filled out an application on a whim. I always loved PRIDE for its presentation of the sport—it’s interesting to me culturally and I identified with that warrior/martial artist feeling. I love the UFC, but it always felt kind of bro-y to me.

That T-shirt with letter-number combo is the one they gave you as a contestant. And I wore those Muay Thai shorts because… you know… I was a good grappler, but I wasn’t an accomplished striker... so I thought if I wore those I would fake them out. *laughs*

They ended up signing four people, and they sent us to Seattle to train with Matt Hume. I had a couple fights stateside and then I told them I really wanted to fight in Japan so I could experience it.

When I’m in strange waters professionally or in life, I remember these PRIDE days. It's empowering to be a part of a small group of individuals that got to experience such a cool thing. It was a life changing experience and I hope to one day go back to train and cruise around."

"No-a-days the grappling and MMA events being promoted are a bit more cookie cutter. Back then it was still raw and creative… they didn’t have to worry about doing it at scale. I used to love getting homemade VIP passes. It reminds me of a time when things were smaller, we had less resources, and you had to DIY everything.

One of my sponsors made me this trading card. I love how they used the dollar font for my nickname. One of my dad’s friends photoshopped my dad's face on this, made playing cards, and gave them to me before I went to law school. *laughs*”

"When PRIDE was falling by the wayside it was a good time to think about what to do with the rest of my life. I liked fighting and competing but I wanted to fight for something bigger than myself.

I found a way to do that in lawfighting for those can't fight for themselves. And I found that the skills I learned in Jiu-Jitsu helped me in trial advocacyI excelled in national trial competitions during law school. The message on the right is from the author of The New Jim Crow, an important book. I received that right after starting work as a public defender.

My parents made sure I read a lot of literature about who I was and where I came from. I think I’ve read the autobiography of Malcolm X four times. My dad and I read Black Count together—representation is important and it meant a lot to find out the Count of Monte Cristo was a black dude. I was always nerded out on comics, so I loved Black Panther (Ta-Nehisi Coates update pictured). And of course Brian Stevenson, who is doing a lot of important work.”




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