Though he may have the typical look, there is nothing typical about Luke Stewart. Yes, his ears have cauliflower from nearly 10 years of Jiu-jitsu. Yes, he is heavily tattooed having gotten his first at the age of fourteen. But what you would not expect from Luke was that he spent 2 years of his childhood as part of a yoga community in Virginia with his family. He is also a successful business owner with his partners Erik Rieth and Jason Kundell. Together, they own the Seventh Son Tattoo in San Francisco, mere blocks from where Luke trains at the Ralph Gracie academy. It is this dichotomy that summarizes both Luke Stewart and his fight team; both cerebral and violent.
Stewart has experienced quite a bit of turmoil recently. As I discussed in my Strikeforce recap, Luke was originally scheduled to fight Shonie Carter at the June 27th event in San Jose. When Carter pulled out due to an injury, Strikeforce and Scott Coker were left scrambling for an opponent. They thought they had found the ideal fighter in Joe Diesel Riggs. This fight would have been contested at a catch weight of 178 pounds. Luke expressed his pleasure to me with this weight for the fight, as he normally would cut around 10 pounds to make the original weight of 170 pounds against Carter.
However, the CSAC and Armando Garcia reared their ugly heads again. Garcia refused to license Riggs for this fight upon learning that Riggs (who has suffered from chronic back problems) had been taking prescription pain medication. Upon learning about the opportunity to face Luke, Riggs stopped taking the medication and fully disclosed this fact. To the dismay of both Stewart and Riggs, Garcia did not license Joe Riggs to fight. Then another fiasco arose involving another last minute opponent in Drew Fickett. Fickett agreed to fight Stewart then was unable due to contractual obligations with Mark Pavlech. The result of all this was a lack of a fight and payday for Stewart. Luke expressed his disappointment with the handling of the Riggs situation. But that disappointment was not with Strikeforce, or its owner Scott Coker. Coker has been a strong supporter of Luke and is currently exploring other potential opportunities on Stewart’s behalf overseas. So for the immediate future, Stewart’s itinerary consists of doing his art.
He will be tending to his business, and constant repeat clientel that frequents Seventh Son Tattoo. The business has been built by quality reviews of not only the artists involved with the studio, but the professionalism and cleanliness with is just as important as a quality artist. The origins of Luke entrepreneurial spirit began in his garage like the Gracie’s in the late eighties. Luke began humbly doing Tattoos from his home and building his business with repeat clients and word of mouth. Even today you will not see Seventh Son budget a lot toward advertising because as Luke states, “The art I do for people is the best marketing I can think of.” I tend to agree.
When he prepares for an MMA fight, Luke can be found grappling at the Ralph Gracie academy or Fight and Fitness with James Cook and Neungsiam for his standup. Stewart reflects on his days under Kurt Osiander and Ralph Gracie. This is an academy where many names of MMA got their start. These names include UFC lightweight champ BJ Penn, and AKA head Jiu-jitsu Dave Camarillo. The one teammate that left an impression on Stewart was Jason Collard. Collard and Stewart progressed through the ranks of BJJ together, and Luke credits having someone close to him to push him through the ranks a great asset. It was through this bond, Stewart could see the tide change during his training where he was able to hold his own against the higher up in the academy. This opened his eyes to the fact that he might have a future in the sport.
The often over looked component is the strong support of a significant other. Once again, Stewart has this in spades. Lisa, his girlfriend of three years, prepares Luke’s diet, nutrition and maintains the home front so he can train with a clear conscience. Not to mention she has a fulltime career as a jewelry store manager. Luke’s face brightened up with the mention of Lisa and the intangibles she brings to all the aspects of his life.
With his typical look, atypical work ethic and support from those closest to him, Luke Stewart continues forward with his training, artwork, business, and relationship. We can only expect great things from the Gracie black belt in all endeavors he sets out on and I look forward to seeing the results.