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Todd "Hollywood" Hays: The Kickboxing Bobsledder
Fighting his way to an Olympic bobsled driver's seat.

Flashback to 1995

It's 1995, and Gracie Jiu-Jitsu rules the martial arts world. Rickson Gracie travels to Japan to defend his 1994 Vale Tudo Championship title. Filmmakers are there to capture the story for a documentary, appropriately titled "Choke". And who's there to challenge him? Olympic bobsled hopeful* Todd Hays.

Todd Hays
Todd Hays, US Bobsled driver
photo courtesy USOC, used with permission
 Related Resources
• Martial Arts: Kickboxing
• Martial Arts: Mixed Martial Arts
• Martial Arts: Olympics
 From Other Guides
• About Football
• About Olympics
 Elsewhere on the Web
• Rickson Gracie Official Website
• Todd Hays Official Bio

How does an Olympic athlete get caught up in the dog-eat-Dog Brother world of No Holds Barred (NHB) fighting? Simple. He needed the money.

From Texas to Salt Lake

Hays, a linebacker at the University of Tulsa, tried to join the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League after graduating from college. He tried out for the team for two seasons, but failed to make the cut. So when his brother Lee urged him to try out for the bobsled team in San Antonio, he couldn't refuse. Todd Hays won that tryout in Texas. When Hays won the next round at Lake Placid, New York, he was put onto the team as a push man, and two months later found himself careening down an icy track in Calgary.

Hays was hooked. But he aspired to move up to the front seat, and to do that meant he would need his own sled. What better way to make the money, than to fight for cash in Japan?

Vale Tudo 1995

Hays didn't just wake up one morning and decide to fight in a prestigious NHB tournament. As a child he had studied jujitsu and kickboxing, eventually winning a U.S. national championship in 1993. With explosive tackling skills from years of football, and a lifetime of kickboxing experience, he figured he had a fighting chance.


Compare prices for Choke at MySimonTodd Hays' story at Japan Vale Tudo 1995 is well documented in the movie "Choke", available on DVD and VHS. This movie gives viewers an insight into the mindset and motivations of NHB fighters, as well as scenes from the eight fights of Japan Vale Tudo 1995. "Choke" profiles Hays, Rickson Gracie, and Japan's Koichiro Kimura in detail--you meet their families, listen to their pre-match thoughts, and share their victories and defeats.

Besides Hays, Gracie, and Kimura, "Choke" also shows footage of Wayne "The Viking" Evans, Yoshihisa Yamamoto, Craig "Pittbull" Pittman, and Gerard Gordeau. Although "Choke" spends most of its 98 minutes profiling Rickson Gracie, the true hero of the movie is little Yuki Nakai, who gets pounded to a pulp in the ring but still manages to submit two much bigger fighters.

Compare prices for Choke at MySimon

Hays, fighting out of Dale "Apollo" Cooks' stable, knew he'd have to face the toughest fighters in the world, including Rickson Gracie. And for someone without a lot of NHB fight experience, he didn't do that bad.

Hays fought his way to a final match with Rickson, but with a damaged shoulder, wasn't sure if he would ruin his bobsledding career if he lost to (read: got pounded by) Rickson. The movie "Choke" spends a lot of time with Hays agonizing over his decision--fight or pull out of the tournament? Luckily for bobsled fans, Hays pulled out, collecting the $10,000 to buy his sled, and letting Rickson breeze past Kimura for the championship.

Time to Make Olympic History

Hays spent some time at the top of the bobsledding world after winning big in the 2001 season. His wins and four second-place finishes placed him on top of the World Cup rankings. However, his brakeman Pavle Jovanovic tested positive for drugs just a week before the Salt Lake games, and Hays was stripped of the ranking points from the suspect wins. Deja vu for Todd Hays, who missed competing in the Nagano games when Mike Dionne tested positive for drugs and Dionne's team, including Hays, was not allowed to compete.

Hays is a medal favorite at the games, and has the hopes of the U.S. bobsled community, parched after a 46-year drought at the Olympics, riding on his rails. We know he's got the fighting spirit to take on the world.

*Update - 2/24/02: Hays won silver in the four-man bobsled on 23 February.

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