Wednesday, August 11, 2010


We all have our own personal story about our discovery of jiu jitsu, grappling and/or MMA/NHB.  Like a lot of fighters and grapplers, I first saw Brazilian jiu jitsu in the UFC when it first aired (I'd been involved in Karate for many years prior).  A few years later, in 1995, I watched an event on pay-per-view called World Combat Championship, which featured an amazingly tough fighter named Mike Bitonio.  He didn't win, but his courage and tenacity inspired me.

A couple of years later I found myself at a live "underground" no-holds-barred event called Neutral Grounds, held in a warehouse in Harbor City, CA.  It was out of that experience that I met and began training NHB/BJJ with a group of burly fighters in makeshift backyard gym in San Pedro, CA - one of whom was Mike.

I trained with them for over a year.  The experience marked the beginning for me of my long journey in jiu jitsu.  Mike and I became good friends.  He was a mentor and a teacher; wise, good hearted and exceedingly strong in every way.  Those who knew him revered him and his feats of strength and fearlessness were the stuff of legends.  Since training with Mike, I've trained with a lot of very tough and talented fighters.  He was unique.

We don't re-post too much around here at DSTRYRsg and we usually prefer to make you smile, but today is an exception.

Thank you, Mike.  You will be missed.  You were one of the very best and I'm so sad you are no longer with us.

Below is a re-post of Ryan Chenoweth's UG post from earlier today as well as Mike's single, but very memorable (especially to me), televised fight:


Sad day for MMA Mike Bitonio Dies

From: Kagekombat

Member Since: 4/11/02

A note to all MMA fans. We lost a true warrior on Saturday night named Mike Bitonio. He was mostly known for his brutal fight against the much larger Bart Vale in the promotion World Combat. I want to make sure if anyone who knew him to please come to his services on Thursday at 3:00. Luben Family Mortuary 5161 Arbor Road Long Beach Ca. 90808

He was the toughest guy I ever had the honor to train with. We will all miss you Mike!!!!!!!!!

Your friend forever

Ryan Chenoweth

From: Kagekombat

Member Since: 4/11/02

Posts: 138

He was working out in his garage and when he came in he told his wife that he didnt feel good. Then he told her to call the ambulance. On his way to the hospital he had a massive heart attack and they couldnt save him.

Those who know him well know how hard this man worked as a carpet layer to provide for his children. I was supposed to have lunch with him last week but he rescheduled for this week because he was too busy. Wish I could of sen him and I am really sad because he was a true man of his word and a great example of a family man.

Those who knew him will all miss him very much!!!

Michael John Bitonio, a loving father, friend, son and husband, died August 8, 2010, at the age of 45. His positive attitude and love for life will be missed deeply. Born December 4, 1964, he was raised in Lakewood, California and Delta, Colorado where he was accomplished in football and track. He attended college in Durango, Colorado where he met and married Debbie Akin on July 18, 1987. He had three children that he loved and worshipped. Katie (21), Joel (18) and Lucas (11). From his heart he taught and gave us all peace, love and respect. He is survived by his wife, Debbie; daughter, Katie; sons, Joel and Lucas; mother, Maggie Mueller; father, Al Bitonio; brother, Tony Bitonio; sister, Cathy Wright. Memorial service will be held at 3:00 p.m. at the Luyben Family Mortuary, 5161 Arbor Road, Long Beach.


  1. Sorry to hear about this, Francisco. I remember you telling me about your friennship with him. This video brings back so many memories of the old NHB/Vale Tudo days. I remember this fight because it was easy one of the bloodiest I had seen at the time. But watching now reminds me how much our sport has evolved in a relatively short period of time. When I first hit "play" I thought "oh yeah....bare knuckles back then." Then when Vale gets into Mike's guard, I almost gasped when he headbutted him. HEADBUTTS!!! With the rise of MMA (as opposed to NHB), I had completely forgotten how brutal headbutts are, and how they change the whole guard game when permitted. And I still get a good laugh listening to old skool commentators, and their complete lack of knowledge of the ground game.

  2. I'm very sorry to hear about Mike's passing and for your personal grief. I remember that fight, from 15 years ago, but just thought of it tonight for some reason. First I was amazed that I found it, then saddened to learn of his death. My brother and I watched the fight together (my brother passed at 22) and we went crazy when he finally got on top. He was always in the back of mind when I was taking a beating that only involved pain. It sucks, people like us who fought for MMA and never got anywhere, I have a medical problem now, and can no longer compete, 12-2-1, and one of them was not really a loss, it was to lure a mid level fighter, I was robbed of the decision, whatever I got a little settlement, signed a confidentiality agreement, that sucks about Mike, again I', sorry

  3. Hey, bro - thanks for the comment. Mike was a great training partner and a righteous man. And, that fight did the same for me!

    Sorry to hear you can no longer fight. Can you at least train? Hope so.

    Thanks again for stopping by DSTRYRville

    Jiu jitz!!

    - francisco

  4. I never knew him personally, but I am sure he was a kindred spirit, as I too am a man of honor and keep my word, in addition to being a warrior from the first nation people. Pain is temporary, love is forever,this pain also shall pass. I felt it was an honor to see Mr. Bitonio fight, and I would gladly give a few years of my own life to see him fight once more.
    Respectfully in truth and liberty. Go easy bro Mike save me a seat over there at the warrior's table, I'll see you soon.

  5. If anyone watched that fight you would know that Mike was a pussy....only pussies fight like that.....SCUM

  6. What a pathetic thing to say about a guy who cannot defend himself. Mike Bitonio lost to a hulking, better trained, more experienced ogre, Bart Vale. He may have lost, but he stuck it out longer than most ppl would have, and had more moral fibre in his little finger than you in your whole body. I'm not surprised you choose to remain anonymous.