Last year Riverfront Times named Festus native Lance Benoist "Best Local MMA Fighter" for his 16-0 amateur record and his 2010 signing with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Before going pro, Benoist earned a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ), training at Team Rodrigo Vaghi in Fenton. Owner Rodrigo Vaghi trained in BJJ at the flagship Gracie Academy in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which is kind of a big deal, as the Gracie family is generally credited with founding the martial art. Aside from BJJ, instructors at Team Rodrigo Vaghi also offer classes in mixed-martial arts, boxing, muay Thai and kids' jiu-jitsu. In the last few years, the popularity of mixed-martial arts has eclipsed the sum of its parts — boxing, wrestling, judo. But long after the octagon fades from the apex of general interest, there will be those for whom it's still a discipline, still a call. At Team Rodrigo Vaghi, it's not about flash or recognition. It's about training warriors to spar for victory, and so far, it's more than pulling its weight.
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