Dean Lister grew up in a military family and spent much of his youth abroad in various South American countries. At the end of the 80’s, his family even found themselves in the middle of a military invasion in Panama. Afterwards settling in the San Diego area, Dean developed his desire to defend himself, most likely due to the fact that he was often changing schools and always finding himself as the new kid who was a little smaller than the other kids. He gravitated towards wrestling and excelled at it. It was through his wrestling coaches that he eventually began to learn the lower body attacks of Sambo and would lead to him competing and being successful in that art as well.
He would discover Brazilian Jiu Jitsu through Fabio Santos’ academy in San Diego and would eventually spend nearly a decade training there. Having the wandering heart and wanting to ultimately become a mixed martial artist, led him from the academy as a brown belt and he would ultimately earn his black belt from fellow Santos student and black belt Jeffrey Higgs.
Dean would compete in the prestigious ADCC tournament a total of 6 times with victories over some of the greatest competitors to ever step on the mats. His most famous event was most likely the 2003 Absolute run which saw Dean defeat four straight opponents, including Saulo Ribeiro after having been defeated at his weight class by Saulo’s brother Xande.
Dean Lister would go off to have a mixed martial arts career that would span over 20 fights in the most prestigious events of the time, King of the Cage, Pride Fighting Championships and the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He would also serve as coach to other MMA fighters like Tito Ortiz.
Today Dean continues to teach and compete around the world with his homebase being Victory Mixed Martial Arts in San Diego, where he teaches amongst friends and fellow instructors like black belts Jeff Glover and Jocko Willink.
In the short documentary film Dean Lister shares some of his background and thoughts on Jiu Jitsu.
Dean Lister The Gentle Art
Dean Lister's nickname is "The Boogeyman" because of his difficulty in finding opponents early in his MMA career. But Dean had been scaring opponents with his leg attacks long before that. Having been introduced to leg locks as early as his wrestling days by his coach who was experienced in Russian Sambo, Dean presenting problems to his fellow grapplers from the outset of his career. It his pioneering attacks that built the foundation upon which today's crop of leg lockers stand.
Dean's Heel Hook Breakdown (featuring Bernardo)
Straight Ankle Lock
In the video below, Dean gives a masterful breakdown of the one of the most fundamental and effective leg attack the straight ankle or achilles lock.
Below are a few of the fight or match videos that are available on YouTube for Dean Lister. These matches and many more available today from YouTube or other sources attest to the status of Dean Lister as one of the premier grapplers in American jiu jitsu history who helped pave the way for everyone today. Without grapplers, like Dean Lister, there may not be the burgeoning submission only movement that we know of today. His thrilling matches helped make grappling exciting to watch as he was not playing simply for points, he was playing to win and to submit his opponent.
Dean Lister Highlight Reel
In the video below, you see a short highlight reel of Dean's competitive career.
Dean Lister versus Saulo Ribeiro ADCC 2003
In this next video, Dean Lister takes on grappling legend Saulo Ribeiro during Dean's legendary Open Weight run in 2003.
Dean Lister versus Xande Ribeiro Metamoris
In this final video, Dean Lister meets Xande Ribeiro again on the Metamoris stage. This would be the second time the two had met, with the first being on the ADCC mats.