KnuckleUp Fitness Instructor Dave Vitkay Has High Hopes for The Ultimate Fighter

KnuckleUp Instructor Dave Vitkay

Dave Vitkay


KnuckleUp fighter and fitness instructor, Dave “The A-Town Ogre” Vitkay, believes the second time’s the charm. He travels to Las Vegas this Sunday to try out for The UFC’s flagship reality TV show, The Ultimate Fighter. Dave nearly made the cut at his first try out and says he’s much better prepared this time.

“The first time I really didn’t know what to expect,” he said recently, “Now I do. I’m going there and taking my spot on The Ultimate Fighter!” Dave’s latest win streak and renewed dedication to training are both big things he has going for him on this trip. “Having five wins in a row definitely helps my confidence. I am much more professional about the whole fighting lifestyle. Before, I think I was just a fighter and now I’m a professional athlete.” Dave’s tryouts are April 27th in Las Vegas.


Posted in Knuckleup Fitness News

KnuckleUp Fighters Represent at NFC This Saturday Night.

KnuckleUp Logo for FB 504w

KnuckleUp will be well represented during Saturday night’s National Fighting Championships at Center Stage in Atlanta. Coach Stephen Upchurch gave me the lowdown on three exciting fighters currently training at our gym in Sandy Springs who will be appearing on the card.

Emmanuel Osho, MMA – Osho has been smashing folks at 185lbs and that he’s an absolute killer. With just two fights under his belt, Osho’s first was a barn burner and in his second, he flattened his opponent early in the first.

Zach Golt, Muay Thai – Golt has a serious work ethic and not an ounce of quit in him. Plus, he kicks like an army mule.

 Richard Gillings, Muay Thai – Gillings is a super talented, very unorthodox striker with tremendous hand speed.

 KnuckleUp wishes Emmanuel, Zach, and Richard all success this Saturday night.


Posted in Atlanta BJJ, Knuckleup Fitness News

A Rave Review for KnuckleUp Kickboxing

Dear Knuckle Up,

Thank you for the 1-week free trial. I signed up to enhance my career as a stand-up comedian. I have heard many comparisons between performing and fighting, and now I can say I have bombed at both. Before visiting your facility, I was nothing more than a below average Joe. Since taking on the week-long challenge, my confidence has evolved into Joe Show status. I wanted the full experience, and got way more than I bargained for. I was able to try my hand at everything from Muay Thai to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to Boxing and Kickboxing. My only previous experience with a “gym” was the YMCA, which I joined for the free coffee. It was intimidating to visit a gym where the staff is in actual shape. The Knuckle Up trainers are not the spray tanned Tae Bo disciples you see on YouTube. These are highly trained professionals that could kill you with a wink, but choose not to out of sheer discipline. I was pleasantly surprised with the kindness and generosity of the staff. They were very patient and willing to help me without laughing once. That takes a level of focus only a martial artist could obtain, because I was horrible. In all honesty, the only bad part about the classes was me.

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Posted in Knuckleup Fitness News

Meeting Anderson Silva and a Close Shave with Rousimar

 In the final installment of this three part series on the roots of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which first appeared in FIGHT! Magazine, Master Murgel and I meet Anderson Silva, nearly get shot and meet Rousimar Palharaes before anyone had ever heard of him.

Beau­ti­ful People

As you move south of the equa­tor, so too does the focus of male sex­ual atten­tion. Unlike the Amer­i­can cul­tural obses­sion with large breasts, Brazil­ian women pride them­selves on the tone and shape­li­ness of their behinds. The ideal of fem­i­nine beauty is also dif­fer­ent: darker, ath­letic, and more authen­ti­cally sex­ual. Where the US gave the world blonde but bland Jes­sica Simp­son, the pri­mal pas­sion and phys­i­cal vigor of Shakira, truth-telling hips and all, is more Brazil’s speed. Brazil is home to some of the most beau­ti­ful women in the world – they are one of the nation’s great­est nat­ural resources. Brazil­ians are in gen­eral a good-looking peo­ple and in crowds, one’s eye is drawn to plain peo­ple because they are out of the ordi­nary and here even the ugly ones are homely in inter­est­ing ways.
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Posted in Atlanta BJJ

Who Really Invented No Gi Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?

Posted in Atlanta BJJ

Master Ricardo Murgel and the History of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Master Ricardo Murgel
Photo: Melanie Lynne Klaer

KnuckleUp Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Head Instructor Ricardo Murgel has a 60 year history with  BJJ.  A few years ago, I was lucky enough to accompany him to Brazil for the once in a lifetime opportunity to learn about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu from some of its originators.  What follows  is the first of a three part series that was initially published in FIGHT! magazine describing our amazing trip. 

On June 7th 1494, at the Treaty of Torde­sil­las, in an act of mon­u­men­tal hubris the nations of Spain and Por­tu­gal divided up the known world out­side of Europe. Spain got every­thing west of the Cape Verde Islands and Por­tu­gal got every­thing that lay east, includ­ing what would become the nation of Brazil. This is why, although Span­ish is spo­ken in the rest of Cen­tral and South Amer­ica in Brazil they speak Portuguese.

Brazil’s pop­u­la­tion is com­posed of the descen­dants of Euro­pean set­tlers, African slaves, and the indige­nous Amerindi­ans. With a land mass as large as the con­ti­nen­tal US, abun­dant nat­ural resources and a pop­u­la­tion of almost 200 mil­lion, Brazil has always been a nation brim­ming with unmet poten­tial and pos­si­bil­ity. How­ever in the minds of MMA fans the coun­try will for­ever be linked with the fight­ing style known as BJJ or Brazil­ian Jiu Jitsu. The style came out of nowhere in the early 1990’s when Royce Gra­cie used it to smother, trip and choke his way into his­tory dur­ing the first 3 UFC’s.

My own intro­duc­tion to BJJ came from a great mas­ter of the art, Ricardo Murgel. I met him over a year ago after he relo­cated to Atlanta and I was lucky enough to be able to train with him. Murgel’s resume reveals that he is a 7th level mas­ter of BJJ as well as a Judo Black Belt with over 50 years of expe­ri­ence in mar­tial arts. He has coached fight­ers to cham­pi­onship lev­els at events such as the Abu Dhabi Cham­pi­onships and in the UFC and Pride. His under­stand­ing of fight­ing and fight­ers is ency­clo­pe­dic and he knows every­one in the busi­ness. He is an invalu­able resource to me as well as a close friend. Murgel can be a lit­tle rough around the edges but is also incred­i­bly intel­li­gent and wise. Imag­ine a Mr. Miyagi from the Karate Kid who curses or a Yoda who likes to drink beer; that is Mas­ter Murgel. He has often told me that if I really wanted to under­stand MMA I needed to go to Brazil, the source. I needed to meet the peo­ple who invented it, not in 1993 or with the UFC but sixty years ago in South America.
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Posted in Atlanta BJJ

KnuckleUp Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Instructor Quentin Rosenzweig says Ronaldo Souza’s success in MMA shows the evolution of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Quentin Rosenzweig

Quentin Rosenzweig Credit: Melanie Lynne Klaer


It was a sad day for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu when Mat Hughes dismantled Royce Gracie in front of the entire MMA world at UFC 60. Hughes’ crushing first round victory seemed to settle the argument once and for all as to which was better for the UFC, wrestling or fighting. Never mind that Hughes at 32 was 7 years younger than Royce and at the peak of his career. The aging Royce, on the other hand, had only fought sporadically since his glory days a decade earlier in UFCs 1-3. BJJ purists also made the point, as they had for years, that the rules of the UFC were changed to favor wrestlers over BJJ stylists. BJJ in its essence is a real world self defense system based on the idea that a smaller person can defend themselves against someone larger and stronger until their opponent makes a mistake that will allow them to end the fight with strikes from either a dominant position or a submission. Originally points, activity, and aggression did not come into the equation. So, when the rules of MMA were changed to include things like time limits, gloves, and standing the fighters up when a referee deems them inactive on the ground it made pure Brazilian Jiu Jitsu less effective in the UFC. Despite these arguments, it was hard to argue with the results of the main event at UFC 60 and BJJ was now viewed as less effective than wrestling.

One of the great things about MMA and combat sports in general is how quickly things evolve and so too did Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Rather than go into decline, as some predicted, BJJ under went a powerful renaissance and a new, more active style better suited for success inside the Octagon emerged. KnuckleUp Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Instructor Quentin Rosenzweig recently described what this evolution entailed.

“Today it’s the fighters that are good at applying top pressure, actively seeking to pass their opponent’s guard, and always looking to submit their opponent who are the most successful in MMA.” KnuckleUp Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Instructor Quentin Rosenzweig

Quentin, a Brown Belt under KnuckleUp Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Head Instructor Ricardo Murgel, exemplifies this new style in his own career. He has become a submission machine on the local grappling circuit and looks to move to the next level soon. He brought up names like Demian Maia, Jose Aldo, and Roger Gracie as good examples of the new breed of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu stylists that are currently successful in MMA on a global scale. Most notable of all, he says, is Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. Souza is the multi-time world BJJ champion who burst onto the scene in 2004 with his classic match vs. Roger Gracie. Souza’s aggressive style of BJJ has made mincemeat of a who’s who of wrestling standouts over his MMA career. Want to see how far BJJ has come since UFC 60? You’ll get the chance tomorrow night when Souza faces Chris Camozzi at UFC Fight Night 15 Machida vs. Rockhold.


If you would like to learn more about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu here at KnuckleUp, check out our schedule of classes.

Posted in Atlanta BJJ

KnuckleUp Member Spotlight – Catie Murray



Catie Murray trains Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Kickboxing at KnuckleUp in Alpharetta. Catie’s father, Sean Murray, says he first got Catie into martial arts to channel his daughter’s abundance of energy. Mom lobbied for Ballet while Catie and Dad wanted to try wrestling which then to Judo then Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Since beginning training Catie’s competitive success has been remarkable. A two times Georgia State Wrestling Champion and victor in multiple Judo tournaments she’s also one of the brightest young Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitors in Georgia.


Favorite Class at KnuckleUp –  Kids Brazilian Jiu Jitsu


Highlights- Two Times State Wrestling Champion


Coaches Quote – “Catie is one of the toughest kids I’ve ever seen.  She’s a super hard worker and a pleasure to coach. If she keeps it up she can be as good as she wants to be.” Instructor Quentin Rosenzweig


Posted in Atlanta BJJ, Knuckleup Fitness News, Uncategorized

KnuckleUp Remembers Hagler vs Hearns

If you’re a boxing fan of a certain age then you remember where you were when you saw Marvelous Marvin Hagler knock out Thomas “The Hit Man” Hearns. The fight, which took place thirty years ago today, is so iconic people forget that before the fight it was Hagler who was considered the technician. Hearns was thought to have the better chance to knock his man out.  Plus, anyone looking at their one common opponent would favor Hearns as well.   Roberto Duran fought Hagler to a standstill over 15 rounds but Hearns later obliterated the Panamanian legend in two. So going in many actually considered Hagler, the long time champion, to be the underdog.

That’s not the way the fight played out. Hagler, making his 11th defense of the middleweight crown, unexpectedly waded into Hearns from the outset. This strategy nearly proved disastrous when Hearns caught the Champion flush only seconds into the first.  Hagler, who had one of the best chins in boxing history, was wobbled for one of the few times in his career. But he fought through the fire in what is widely considered the best first round in boxing history.


Posted in Uncategorized

DON’T QUIT: Resilience in and out of the ring helps KnuckleUp trainer Dave Vitkay reignite his fighting career

In March 2012 Knuckle Up Fitness Trainer Dave Vitkay had a gut check. After ten years fighting in Mixed Martial Arts he suffered his second knockout loss in a row and had to reassess his career. “It devastated me and I was going to quit. I was going to retire from fighting and become a full-time trainer,” he said recently in an interview. In spite of the long odds of coming back from two such crushing losses, Vitkay says there was something inside him that wouldn’t let him give up. “There was this itch that said, ‘let me give it one more shot,’ because I just hate being a quitter at anything.”

So, instead of retiring, Vitkay doubled down on his fighting career. He began training harder and smarter, focusing on nutrition and plugging holes in his fighting style.

“Three years ago, I started switching up and going

Southpaw during training to practice. It worked so well

that now I fight that way. I’ll switch up. I’ll go southpaw

a little bit, I’ll go conventional, and actually I can see the

confusion in my opponent’s eyes because they don’t know

what to expect. It gives me a half second and just creates

a little bit of advantage for me.”

Vitkay’s renewed focus and stylistic refinements worked out. He’s currently on a three-year win streak (5-0 with four submissions). Incredibly this MMA veteran is peaking 13 years into his career.

It hasn’t all be clear sailing though. In his last fight Vitkay had to dig down against a wild brawler named Tommy Jones. Jones had him in trouble at least once in the fight. Vitkay, who is nothing if not resilient, showed his trademark toughness and eventually fought through and submitted his tough opponent. “I was really impressed with him,” Vitkay says of Jones.

“He was strong and athletic and could really scramble

better than I expected so he kept surprising me and catching

me off guard. He had me in some bad positions. The first

round he had me side-mounted, and at one point I think he

got on top of me again in the second round. Then in the

third round, I rushed him and got a hold of his legs and took

him down. From there I worked from guard to half guard and

once I got half guard I got a hold of his arm like a kimura lock

and he wasn’t giving up the kimura, he was straightening his

arm and then I just straightened it into a straight arm lock and

finished him.”

The victory was televised nationally on AXS TV and built on Vitkay’s already impressive momentum. He hopes to ride the wave to an appearance on the UFC’s flagship television show The Ultimate Fighter. “They only want to know your last three fights and the last time I tried out I had a loss on my record,” he notes. “But this time, I’ve got three wins in a row and they’re all in bigger promotions like Bellator and Legacy. Plus I just look different now, I’m a lot more athletic and I’m training like a professional athlete,” he pauses before continuing, “and I know this is my my last chance. I’m 34 and the cutoff is 34, so I really feel like it’s my time right now.” Judging by his success over last three years he could very well be right.


Vitkay at Legacy

Photo Credit: Camille Butler



Posted in Knuckleup Fitness News