This is the true story of Rafiel Torre, fake BJJ black belt and murder. It’s a real example of how far lies and deception can take you under certain circumstances. One of the most unprecedented cases in BJJ history which ended tragically, Read More how did it all started and how it ended.
The background of Rafiel Torre
After the initial success of UFC during the 90s, MMA as a sport was in danger in America. In the early 2000s, UFC and similar PPV events were dropped by providers of service due to government intervention. This pushed MMA to the underground and only a handful of fighters continued with the sport. From then on, the only way of following the sport was through the internet.
Rafiel Torre managed to get into the online MMA community, which was where he started his path to “fame”. He was bragging about his 14-0 record, one he had in the underground pit fighting tournaments. Although he didn’t have any proof, many people bought his story. This happened mostly because MMA had a hole during that period, it wasn’t properly documented. To this date, there are some never seen UFC fights because they simply weren’t filmed or edited. On the lower level, it wasn’t uncommon to have events in middle school gymnasiums or similar venues for professional promotion. Therefore, the idea that Rafiel Torre had 14 fights that nobody saw or record wasn’t hard to believe.
The growing popularity, media attention, and ADCC Fight
After he had attention from the online MMA community, he started making up stories about his background. He was claiming to be an ex-Navy Seal and that he trained BJJ from a young age by his Brazilian father.
His stories about his underground fighting even caught some media attention. Rafiel Torre became so popular that he caught the attention of Arab Sheik Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who invited him to the Abu Dhabi Combat Club aka ADCC. Rafiel’s fight ended fast. He was submitted in less than a minute by Beau Hershberger. However, this wasn’t enough to hurt his credibility in the MMA community.
Rafiel Torre in MMA fight
In 2001, he returned from his retirement to fight in a professional MMA fight against his former student, the heavyweight Ioka Tianuu. Apparently, they had an unresolved conflict and they wanted to settle the score. The match was held under King of the Cage promotion during the event “Wet and wild” (the event was held outside during a rainstorm). Torre ended up winning with the kneebar after Tianuu had given him his leg.
This was begging of the end for Torre, his credibility went down because it was obvious that he paid his opponent to dive. After this fight, the truth came out and people figured out that his 14-0 score, Navy Seal and Brazilian background were a lie. His name wasn’t even Rafiel Torre, it was Ralph Bartel. Shortly after, he disappeared from the martial arts scene.
Rafiel Torre and Bryan Richards Murder
Later, he met Angelina Richards and the two fell in love. Since Angelina was married, they decided to murder her 32-year-old husband, Bryan Richards, due to collecting insurance money. To do it, he first tried to pay ten thousand dollars to Gerald Strebendt, an ex-marine and UFC fighter, but he turned down the offer. After Strebendt refused, Torre took decided to do it with his hands and choked Bryan with RNC (rear-naked choke)to death. Torre asked Strebendt to provide him an alibi, which Strebendt refused to do. He admitted the murder but claimed that it was self-defense after Bryan Richards accused him of having an affair with Angelina and pointed a Glock handgun at him.
In 2005, after testimony of Strebendt, Rafiel Torre was convicted to life in prison for the murder of Bryan Richards. More about the case at this LINK.
This case was also mentioned in Joe Rogan podcast