In a hefty chunk of BJJ drama fit for The Bachelor, world champion Keenan Cornelius was recently kicked out of ATOS, one of the most storied, competitive BJJ gyms in the world today. Owner and ADCC champion, Andre Galvao, spearheaded the decision in April of 2019. Keenan had been a team member since 2013.
The details of Keenan’s ousting remained murky at best until recently when odd rumors began to slowly spill out around the BJJ community. A recent interview with former ATOS teammate, Josh Hinger, certainly seemed to force Keenan’s hand who had otherwise remained relatively silent on the topic. In the interview, Hinger claims tardiness was a main factor in Galvao’s decision to kick Keenan out.
Keenan finally chose to set the record straight posting a detailed, insightful comment on reddit’s /r/bjj under his username, /u/fritzdagger. Perhaps the most telling part of his explanation is the following excerpt:
“I asked all the people who train there regularly if they felt I should be kicked off. no one agreed with Andres decision, at least publicly… In the final conversation Andre agreed and told me that this team wasn’t a dictatorship. So i called for a vote. As you can see in the image above the vote was unanimous. I left the group chat shortly after. I was still kicked out.”
Keenan’s Full Explanation via Reddit
Below is the full reddit post Keenan wrote detailing his departure (Please note that only paragraph breaks have been added for clarity):
“This is unfortunate that Josh chose to speak on this, I would have rather not spoken about it but now I have to defend myself.
when I first came to atos there wasn’t a late rule and I was late more often, there was even a point for about 6 months that blackbelts were allowed to only come for rolling portions of class. this was later reversed, I had been late many times in the first couple years of the 6 years I attended atos but when it became a rule, i changed my behavior and showed up on time.
There I kept track right when I started seeing me being singled out for it and becoming the scapegoat. I was late 4 times over the last 2 years, I was sent home 2 times in those 2 years.. The very first time anyone was sent home was when Jt and I got sent home in tandem in 2013, me for being injured and not able to roll hard (Andre didnt know i was hurt) and Jt for eating breakfast burritos (hilariously true) and being the one going easy on me for being injured. Andre later apologized.
The other 2 times I was late I waited in my street clothes watching class until I was invited to train. Josh was absent from the final meeting and didnt hear the conversation. But me being late consistently is not accurate, there were no warnings and that was not the deciding factor. ok. enough about how punctual i am.
Me not attending wasn’t due to boycotting but due to the uncomfortable environment that was forming isolating me as the scapegoat for many things and being singled out and targeted for things everyone was doing without the same recourse. From being blamed for other students wanting to leave, blamed that I was opening an academy down the road, being blamed for when team members would privately meet to roll at non class hours, classes being stopped if the instructor saw I wasn’t paying attention to his technique he was teaching, resulting in massive rage blow ups and declarations of how inferior I was while telling the class to look at all his medals on the wall.
This was a much deeper personal issue between me and Andre that I only think Andre, Angelica and I understand. Josh shouldn’t have given his limited knowledge of the situation as fact of why I left and he already admitted he didnt really know the reason and just gave his best guess.. At face value it could seem that way because thats how it was presented to atos after I was told to leave.
Trumpet Dans assessment is far more accurate. The Facts are, I came to the gym, I followed instructions during class, I trained, and I left. I spent increasingly less time at atos as this became the norm for my experience there. I treated everyone nicely and you wont hear a bad word about me from anyone there (aside from the obvious).
I was not warned that any continuation of behavior would result in being kicked out, because there was no real good reason. The decision was made by the Owners and that is their right. They dont need to justify their reasons. Justification in this form, especially through saying it was because I was late is grossly inaccurate.
I feel there was an issue ever since I refused to bow out in 2014 abu dhabi pro absolute semi finals. I lost to Andre by ref decision and continued to insist that closeouts were something i was against. I dont wish anyone Ill will and I feel im in a much better place mentally viewing the situation from the outside.
I wasnt comfortable at atos due to the tension between me and Andre but also felt I had to stay because I couldn’t imagine me training anywhere else with even slightly less challenging partners. This was for the best for both parties and Im just sad it ended in the same abrasive tone it started in.
The real reasons that I was told at the final meeting are as follows: “Negative impact on the training environment, being late, and doing speed drills too slowly..” It doesn’t take a genius to see that is probably not the real reasons but they would not give me any other examples that made more sense.
I asked all the people who train there regularly if they felt I should be kicked off. no one agreed with Andres decision, at least publicly. As seen here. https://imgur.com/a/KgC7klM
One of my main issues was that there was never any real conversation or attempt to improve the situation. I felt that as a team we should work together and have a democratic approach to situations where there needed to be real group discussion to find solutions. In the final conversation Andre agreed and told me that this team wasn’t a dictatorship. So i called for a vote. As you can see in the image above the vote was unanimous. I left the group chat shortly after. I was still kicked out.” Source