SINGAPORE — The organiser of a local Brazilian jiu-jitsu tournament is being sued for libel by a UFC gym after he questioned the credentials of one of its coaches. The term bandied about was “scammer”.
UFC Gym Singapore is taking legal action against 24-year-old Alvin Ang, founder of the Singapore Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Open. In September last year, Ang posted a screenshot of a photo that was previously uploaded on Instagram — of a group of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) practitioners and coaches — along with this message:
“Hey UFC GYM Singapore, don’t you know that one of your “coaches” Iskandar Saim is a scammer? He’s not a brown belt, never been, never will. He’s not even a white belt 2 stripe mate. Please vet your staff properly. We of the martial arts community hold coaches to high standards, and we wouldn’t want a fitness gym coming in and besmirching our reputation. If you don’t know who to hire you can drop me a private message. More than happy to help.”
Ang posted a screenshot of Iskandar’s Instagram post, which showed the UFC coach wearing a brown belt in a group photo at UFC Gym Singapore after a BJJ training session. He called out Iskandar for being a “scammer”, saying: “He’s not a brown belt, never been, never will. He’s not even a white belt 2 stripe mate.”
First to reply to the post was someone who tagged Barnabas Huang, UFC Gym Singapore manager. Huang was quick to respond to Ang’s post:
“Thank you for your feedback,” Huang wrote. “Iskandar is our Muay Thai coach, he does not coach bjj at our location. We will look into this.”
To which Ang replied:
“Thanks for being nice and clarifying things. Just so you know, I have experience with MMA and it doesn’t seem like his striking credentials are legitimate either,” wrote Ang.
After a few more queries from commenters on Iskandar’s brown belt credentials, Huang replied:
“We are investigating on Iskandar although he is our Muay Thai coach and if found guilty on a fake brown belt, we will take necessary action as integrity is our upmost priority. He has been temporary suspended. At this point, I do not see a need to comment further, as Iskandar is clearly not our BJJ coach,” said Huang.
Many people from Singapore’s active BJJ circle aired their thoughts on the matter, most of them suspicious of “fake fighters” circulating in the community who had not earned their colours the legitimate way.
Most agreed with Ang and were in doubt as to Iskandar’s real credentials, even noting that when they questioned him on Facebook and Instagram, the coach blocked them. It seems that it was not just Ang in the close-knit BJJ community who were doubtful as to Iskandar’s legitimacy, not just as a brown belt but as a coach and fighter in general.
Videos of Iskandar coaching and demonstrating BJJ moves were posted on the thread, with most mocking his technique and expressing disbelief over his coach status.
Ang, who has been practising BJJ since 2012 and has a blue belt, called Iskandar’s attempt at a triangular chokehold “very amateurish”.
“To get a brown belt, it’s an average of eight years of consistent training, which is like three or four times a week,” Ang said to Coconuts Singapore. “So if you are a brown belt, people would know. Nobody knew who he was and suddenly he showed up.”
Brazilian jiu-jitsu has six belts: White, blue, purple, brown, black and red.
According to Ang, he received his blue belt after four years of training. He currently trains at Impact MMA and Team Highlight Reel.
While the conversation between Ang and the UFC Gym Singapore started out as amicable, it didn’t stay that way.
In November last year, Ang reportedly received a letter of demand from UFC Gym Singapore to take down his Facebook post, make nice (apologise) and pay over S$40,000 in damages.
Huang said through a publicist that he had taken the matter to the courts for adjudication and “would not be able to make any comments about the issue”.
Ang is prepared to fight back, taking to Facebook on Wednesday (Jan 15) to announce that he had hired a lawyer. He has also organised a fundraiser for S$25,000, which will take care of his legal fees. As of Thursday (Jan 16), he had raised more than S$5,000.