xIf you’ve heard John Danaher tell his crazy stories about the blue basement at Renzo’s, you’ve heard him mention the curious case of Boris. The subject of Boris is not one that Danaher dwells on. Still, since it came up again in that marathon podcast John did with Lex Freidman recently, stirring up some old footage of the pair (Danaher and Boris) training together in the Renzo Gracie Academy in New York almost 20 years ago.
The story of Boris is strange, even by Danaher’s story standards. the most likely Russian-born grappler came to Renzo Gracie’s Academy as a wrestler, looking to train something different. Everyone in the room, including John held him in very high regard, although even Danaher himself found his demeanor weird and amusing:
“Boris came from Long Island, he was a wrestler. He was of Russian-Jewish descent. Highly intelligent, of shorter stature, but very powerfully built and compact. Very nice, polite young man… But also slightly eccentric, which I always liked about him.
He would always come dressed with the glasses on and he would leave the gym dressed like a “complete nerd”. Now, he was heavily muscled, but he would dress in such a way that it didn’t appear so when he left,” said Danaher on the Lex Friedman Podcast.
Boris became one of Danaher’s best students and one of his very first black belts. Despite the huge potential he had, he never really shows any tendencies to compete, not allowing even the atmosphere at Renzo’s legendary gym to change his mind:
“A very young Georges St-Pierre came to train with us at that time and he would come at 6AM, for his morning class. And he was one of the main training partners for Boris.
Boris, being a wrestler, used to generally prefer top position – and I would always encourage Georges to play bottom position… And Boris had very strong guard passing.
And I remember, one of Georges’ happiest days was when, after two years, he swept Boris, got on top and finished him.”
So, what happened to Boris, and why did;t this mysterious grappler ever make it to the Danaher Death Squad or anywhere alongside John, for that matter? The story of Boris ends as abruptly and mysteriously as it began. As Danaher explains it:
“The funny thing about Boris is that, every time we would have a conversation, he would say: “I am only going to do this sport until I’m 40 years old, and then I’m gonna stop.”
And I was like: “Why? Why not be a life-long martial artist? You’ve become so good at Jiu-Jitsu, you’ve got great skills, you’ve worked hard. Why not just keep going”?
And he was, like: “It’s ridiculous for a man to train after 40, there is no need.”
The moment Boris turned 40, he was never to be seen again on the mats of the Renzo Gracie Academy, and the only video footage of him taking part in John’s classes emerged recently, dating back to 2005:
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