It was an easy gig.
Show up. Put on black slacks, shirt and socks. Watch other people try to strangle each other. Raise a hand in the air. For Brazilian Jiu Jitsu brown belt Lucas Costa, it was a day on the BJJ Tour like any other. Except he wasn’t competing, and winning, as usual. He was, in actual fact, getting thrown in to officiate a match of the kind of semi-global significance that is increasingly part of what happens when celebrities—Tom Hardy, Ashton Kutcher, Guy Ritchie, Russell Brand et al—get bit by the only sport where their opponents actually try to kill them, celebrity be damned.
Referee to a billionaire: Mark Zuckerberg
“Mark’s fight was a surprise,” Costa said via phone from his redoubt at Northern California’s Serao Academy (total disclosure: my home away from home as well). A “surprise” that involved a security team of six members of his security detachment and a disguise.
Mark Zuckerberg’s disguise?
A COVID mask, baseball hat, and sunglasses. AND a security detail. So, nothing to see here. Keep it moving.
“I was impressed though,” said Costa. “He seemed like a normal guy. Looked me in the eye, gave me a firm handshake and an even bigger surprise was that he fights well.” By which Costa means the pedigree of his training partners, courtesy of Dave Camarillo’s Guerilla Jiu Jitsu, was apparent.
The downside of training with the creme de la creme, however?
“He goes forward a lot. He attacks more,” Costa said. “With very little defense.”
Something lost in the media reportage of his outing, which seemed to focus on how Mark Zuckerberg supposedly mau mau’d, or karen’d, his way to an early win by arguing with Costa until it was changed.
Mark Zuckerberg’s viral argument video
“There was no argument,” said Costa. “It was in Gi and he got choked out. That was the video you saw. I stopped it and he wanted to check with me about why I stopped it. He didn’t know what was happening, which was one of the reasons I stopped it. But he had started to snore and the rule set says that snoring is a version of a verbal tap.”
Was there a possibility that he was just clearing his throat?
“I was paying a lot of attention,” Costa laughed. “I was paying even more attention because it was Mark. He got caught in an Ezekiel and I waited, but he didn’t fight back. And I was waiting, but on the third snore I had to stop the fight. He was very polite but he wanted to know how the rules work.”
So while Zuckerberg was finished in the Gi, the gold medal he won was for his one match at No Gi. The question for those inside the fence remains: how good is he really?
Does Mark Zuckerberg have a future in MMA?
“It was more like he’s been doing self-defense jiu jitsu, not sports jiu jitsu,” Costa concluded. “Like ADCC rules. So if he wants to fight MMA, he’s on the right path.”
And for future bouts at the BJJ Tour?
“He should spend more time in class just training with guys at his level, white belts who, as you know, might just do…anything.”
Finally, for inquiring minds, was the security squad really necessary?
“No. Everybody left him alone.”
Thumbs up for that.
Eugene S. Robinson is the author of A WALK ACROSS DIRTY WATER AND STRAIGHT INTO MURDERER’S ROW: A Memoir, set for release on August 29th.
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