Ex-bully builds his character through practicing mixed martial arts at the UFC gym


Oscar Tovar’s dark, piercing eyes rest intently on his opponent.

His tan, heavy set body is still, like a large wild cat stalking its prey.

He knows that focus is required to successfully leap in for the kill.

In an instant, Oscar Tovar and his opponent, Edwin Lozano, mesh together in a grappling mess as they roll like dice on the foam-padded floor of the boxing ring.

Oscar, 23, automotive technology major at El Camino College, trains in Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) and mixed martial arts (MMA) at the UFC Gym in Torrance. He hopes to one day enter into BJJ competitions as well as become a MMA coach.

BJJ was introduced by the Gracie Brothers through the Gracie Academy, where they took the Japanese art jiu-jitsu that was more of a standing sport and made it into more of a ground sport and with more grappling, Roger A. Jarret, vice president of the United States Jiu-Jitsu Federation, says.


Oscar does not only consider BJJ and MMA enjoyable hobbies for himself, but he sees it as a means to overcome the negativity that life spews his way.

Oscar is no stranger to the word struggle. When he was a year old, his biological father was killed by gunshot during an altercation.

Oscar did have a step-dad, but he eventually separated from his mother.

Now that his older siblings have moved away, he now lives alone with his mother and makes a living working at the UFC gym to be able to support his household.

Recently, Oscar found out that his mother has two tumors growing in her brain and that hit him hard.

There was a time when Oscar’s self-esteem and self-confidence were not at its highest and when bullying was something he had to face on a regular basis. He was often bullied for the wearing glasses and for not seeming “cool” to others.

“It would suck,” Oscar says. “I felt like an outcast.”

During this time, Oscar transformed into a bully himself.

But there was a twist: Oscar became the “good bully” by bullying the bullies who picked on him and his friends.

However, these experiences took a toll on the way he carried himself.

It wasn’t until he started his training at the UFC Gym in March 2013 and made good friends there that he was able to truly build himself up properly.

“That’s when things took a very, very big turn,” Oscar says.

Oscar randomly discovered the UFC Gym one day, and said, “Hey, a UFC Gym.” The very next day, he walked in and the rest is history.

“Oscar’s (come) a long way since he’s started here,” Vance Bejarano, 33, Oscar’s striking coach and the head coach at the UFC Gym in Torrance, says. “At first, he was really, really quiet. You could tell that his self esteem had a lot to do with his shyness.”

Once Vance got him comfortable talking with the other members and coaches at the gym, he then started to show Oscar how to punch and how to kick. Vance continues to help Oscar with his kickboxing and conditioning.

“Sure enough, his self-esteem was brought up a lot more and his self confidence is coming along the way,” Vance says.

Oscar started following UFC fights when he was 14 and says that the UFC boxing spar between Anderson Silva and Forest Griffin in 2015 really inspired him. He was impressed that a man (Anderson) could “pound” a guy down in a “matter of seconds.”

Oscar became a fan of Anderson, who also happened to practice BJJ. Oscar then became more passionate about the art and started practicing it. When Oscar began to consistently come to class, Chris White, the jiu-jitsu coach at the UFC Gym in Torrance, started to notice Oscar.


“He was very eager to learn, asked a ton of questions,” Chris says.

Chris says he can “definitely” see Oscar competing in the ji-jitsu world.

“He’s game to try anything. He loves to help people and he loves to be helped,” Chris says. “That kind of quality, that kind of personal quality carries you through whatever you do in life.”

Back on the floor of the ring, Oscar has his legs locked around Edwin’s neck. Edwin, one of Oscar’s BJJ classmates, is on top, and tugs on Oscar’s gee, the BJJ uniform, as he tries to break the lock.

One second Oscar is on top of Edwin. And the next moment, Edwin is on top of Oscar. Both working hard to conquer the other. Yet a level of humility dances around them.

Alas, Edwin taps Oscar’s arm. It’s the BJJ way to let your opponent know you need to break away.

Edwin, 14, playfully says that Oscar gives him “so much trouble” when rolling. He appreciates that Oscar is “pretty explosive” and “at the same time, he considers you.”

Oscar has learned that there is a level of humility that comes with these sports. When he wins and when he loses he tries to be the “bigger person” and gives respect to each of his opponents.

“It’s all about just being humble,” Oscar says.]AP0A8379.jpg