Aleberto Crane never thought he would compete in the fight game. As a youth, he dabbled in kickboxing and boxing, but did not take the combat sports seriously, choosing soccer as his competitive outlet during his high school years in the early to mid 90s.
Perhaps it was the lack of a mentor, as he so openly described it, that caused his direction towards fighting to be skewed – or to put it more accurately, delayed.
When he was 18 years old and working in a restaurant, Crane was convinced by some friends of his to try a unique form of martial art named Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He agreed to try the combat style, which at the time was unfamiliar to him.
The result: his arm nearly getting hyper-extended from approximately 10 armbar submissions. To the typical person, this may propel them away from training in jiu-jitsu any further, but not Alberto. The experience began a new path in life for the Southern California resident. A path that took him to becoming an instructor, then earned him a black belt in 2001 under Vinicius “Draculino” Magalhaes and Carlos Gracie Jr.
From there, Crane’s jiu-jitsu grew to become world-class. So legit was his grappling, he literally walked into tournaments on a whim, winning them in what seems like easy fashion. He did so in Denver just a few years ago.
“There was a tournament, so I just jumped in and there was some tough guys,” Crane told MMAWeekly.com. “It was like a pankration, submission grappling tournament. And so I just did it. There were like three matches.
“I did win easily there… I pulled it off.”
In addition to walking through grappling tournaments, Crane has competed in mixed martial arts, sporting a 13-5 record over nine years. Two of his fights included bouts in the UFC in late 2007 and early 2008. Unfortunately, the results of those fights were not in his favor, losing to both Roger Huerta and Kurt Pellegrino.
To most fighters, getting to the UFC includes a drive to consistently be part of the organization and to one day compete for a title. For Crane, the drive is there, but for a different reason. With two losses in the world’s premier MMA promotion, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu master talks of one day returning to the organization and getting that one win he sought when he first competed in the UFC.
It is not a revenge thing against Pellegrino or Huerta. As a matter of fact, returning to the UFC is not the top priority. He admits coaching others is his passion, but a UFC “W” is something he would like to add to his resume.
“I still want to get a win in the UFC,” he said while reflecting on his time with the Las Vegas-based company. “It’s not in front of these other things like me coaching, for example.”
Being a motivator for others is a reward he holds in high regard.
“It’s rewarding… (to see) your students do well,” he said. “Not even doing stuff like fighting in the cage or winning medals, but improving lives through the training.”
Being a coach and a competitive fighter has its advantages, though. By both training his students to compete professionally, then competing in professional bouts himself, Crane leads by example. He tirelessly trains students to fight at Gracie Barra gyms in Encino, Pasadena, and, most recently, Burbank, Calif. Many of his pupils are competing on a King of the Cage card on March 27 in Tarzana, Calif., and Crane will be there, but for more than cornering and moral support. The black belt will make his return to fighting on the very same card.
In competing at King of the Cage, Crane will look to exemplify the phrase ‘practice what you preach.’ If he can reel off a victory on March 27, and then collect another win or two, Crane can potentially get the opportunity to finally score that one win in the UFC. The path to that destiny begins with this next fight.
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