Houston, Texas (July 25, 2022) — Attorney Lena Laurenzo of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner has filed a multi-million-dollar lawsuit in Travis County, Texas against Orlando Sanchez, FloSports, Inc. D/B/A FloGrappling, and Gabriel Martins on behalf of 36-year-old Aaron “Tex” Johnson who suffered severe and permanent spinal cord injuries on September 25, 2021.
Tex Johnson was participating as a grappler in the 2021 Who’s Number One Championships in Austin, Texas. The Who’s Number One Championships is a high-stakes tournament for grappling-style fighting (i.e. a technique that involves taking hold of, seizing, or fastening an opponent without striking opponents or weapons, such as Brazilian jiu-jitsu and judo).
The Who’s Number One Championships (“WNO”) is hosted, organized, operated, and/or supervised by FloSports, Inc. D/B/A FloGrappling (“FloGrappling”). Tex Johnson was paired against Orlando Sanchez in a highly anticipated and recorded grappling match. Orlando Sanchez, an experienced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu grappler, had a reputation for fighting dirty. For example, in June of 2021, a video went “viral” of a sparring match where Orlando Sanchez intentionally made an aggressive elbow lock move in an attempt to hyperextend the sparring partner’s left elbow. The maneuver was highly criticized, and Orlando Sanchez admitted publicly it was an attempt to bring the sparring partnering into a “quick little submission.”
Before the match against Tex Johnson, Orlando Sanchez was required to be aware of all of the applicable rules. There was a “no slam” rule in effect for the 2021 WNO competition. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu slam (“BJJ”) is an illegal maneuver where one fighter picks up another fighter to suspend him/her in mid-air before slamming or dropping the suspended fighter down to the ground. The reason why the move can be barred from competitions is due to the high risk of injury, including paralysis. The International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation bans slams under all circumstances.
At no point before the Johnson-Sanchez match began did the referee, Gabriel Martins, announce or confirm that the grapplers understood there was a “no slam” rule in effect. Mere seconds into the fight, Tex Johnson achieved a “triangle hold” over Orlando Sanchez. A “triangle hold” is a figure-four chokehold that encircles the opponent’s neck and one arm with the legs in a configuration like a triangle. It is a legal hold that Orlando Sanchez recognized placed him in trouble of losing the match quickly.
At this moment, Orlando Sanchez proceeded with an illegal slam maneuver. Orlando Sanchez picked up Tex Johnson while stuck in the tight triangle hold. Orlando Sanchez went as high as he could, standing completely up, and violently slammed Tex Johnson back down to the ground onto his back. Only after the slam was done did the referee intervene to stop the grappling. Orlando Sanchez was immediately disqualified from the match for his illegal slam of Tex Johnson. In the video of the incident, Tex Johnson is visibly frustrated and is grabbing at his low back before leaving the mat. As a result of the slam, Tex suffered severe and permanent injuries to his body and his spinal cord. Tex Johnson has not been able to return to his career as a grappler ever since.
On Tuesday, July 18, 2022, an Original Petition was filed on behalf of Tex Johnson against Orlando Sanchez, FloSports, Inc. D/B/A FloGrappling, and Gabriel Martins seeking damages for the severe and permanent injuries suffered as a result of this incident. The lawsuit alleges that Orlando Sanchez was grossly negligent and is liable for civil assault against Tex Johnson. The lawsuit further alleges that FloGrappling’s agents and/or employees intervened too late. The negligence claim against FloGrappling also includes allegations that FloGrappling did nothing to ensure that Orlando Sanchez was aware of the rules and warn of or enforce the rules. Lastly, the lawsuit includes a negligence claim against Gabriel Martins also failing to warn or enforce the tournament rules, and for intervening too late to prevent injury to Tex Johnson.
Lena Laurenzo comments that “These tournaments are supposed to be well-organized so that the matches run not just smoothly, but as safely as possible. When reckless fighters break the rules, people can get seriously injured. That’s exactly what happened here. A grappler with a bad reputation was allowed to enter the competition. He then performed an illegal Brazilian jiu-jitsu slam that caused my client severe injuries to his back with ongoing physical and mental repercussions. No one should need back surgery in their 30s, especially a professional athlete who was at the top of his game. Tex Johnson was a very promising and well-known grappler who will never be able to compete as a professional grappler ever again. The responsible parties must be held accountable.” For questions regarding the lawsuit or interview requests, please contact Geoffrey Adkinson at [email protected] or 713-222-7211 or Lena Laurenzo at [email protected].