Rafiel Torre: The fake MMA fighter who ended up in prison

  • Tom Ward

UFC fans these days may not have heard of Rafiel Torre but back in the 1990s and early 2000s, he was known in the online MMA community for all the wrong reasons.

Back then, the sport was in a rather bad place. Fans were not able to watch it on television and none of the major outlets sent journalists to events to cover it either. To make matters worse, US senator John McCain famously led a campaign to ban the UFC, calling it ‘human cockfighting’.

Amid all the turmoil, opportunities presented themselves for cads and con artists to try and take advantage of the situation.

Chief among them was Torre, real name Ralph Bartel, who tried to pass himself off as a legit Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt before he was badly exposed.

On top of that, he also claimed that he was an ex-Navy Seal and that he had been training BJJ since childhood – and those were just some of his most outrageous lies.

To some extent, it actually worked, as he ended up receiving an invitation to compete in the ADCC, which he accepted.

Unfortunately for Torre, the match was over almost before it had even really begun, as Beau Hershberger submitted him in less than 60 seconds.

But it wasn’t until he rolled on the mats with Eddie Bravo that people started to realise that they had been conned.

Rafiel Torre pictured with Tito Ortiz

UFC commentator Joe Rogan recalled Bravo’s version of the events after he invited Torre to train with him at his gym at 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu in Las Vegas.

He said on his podcast: “He was an interesting character. He was a fake Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. My friend Eddie Bravo called him out.

“He was fake. He was a fake black belt. He kept telling everyone he was a black belt.

“Eddie rolled with him. I remember him coming back to me and he was like, ‘That guy is not a black belt’. I go, ‘Are you sure?’ And he goes, ‘Dude, he don’t know anything’.

“It was crazy. He was like a white belt. He goes ‘I thought maybe he was doing it because maybe he was being nice and he wasn’t going hard but then as time went on I realised this guy doesn’t know what the f*** he’s doing’.

“So then he calls him up and he was like, ‘Hey, are you a f***ing black belt?’

“He goes, ‘Well, you know, I’m a black belt in Japanese jiu-jitsu’. He goes, ‘Stop, stop, stop, stop. Are you a f***ing black belt?’

“There was like this big pause and he’s like, ‘Bro, you’re a f***ing liar. You’re a liar’. So Eddie distanced himself from the guy.”

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In an attempt to save his reputation, Torre made his professional MMA debut against Ioka Tiannu under the King of the Cage banner in February 2001, which he won by submission in just over a minute in the first round.

But it later transpired that the fight had been staged after it was revealed that Torre had paid Tiannu to take a dive.

After the secret was out, Torre seemingly completely disappeared from the public eye until he randomly popped back up again in 2005 after ending up in prison for murder.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for the murder of Bryan Richards with whose wife he was having an affair.

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