–Kenny Rice

As he sat on the couch, his hand down his pants watching TV ignoring as best he couldĀ  the wife and children, who knew beneath this iconic pop culture figure with such memorable poses and moments could take you apart in the gym?

Golden Globe nominated actor Ed O’Neill redefined Everyman Husband with Al Bundy in the modern classic sitcom “Married With Children.” He now brings another layer of his talents and a new patriarch image, earning a Screen Actors Guild Award to his mantle, as Jay Pritchett in the ABC hit “Modern Family.”

And from that show to this show, he has done something else amazingly well, he earned a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt from non other than the legend Rorion Gracie.

“Ed is the toughest actor in Hollywood, no doubt,” Gracie states. And that statement is bigger than any red carpet entrance could ever be, considering among those he has trained over the years include Mel Gibson for the climatic fight scene with Gary Busey in “Lethal Weapon.”

Of course to train for two decades under Gracie, the founder of the UFC, shows there is more to O’Neill than the now famously sad sack Al who scored four touchdowns in a single game for Polk High as his only claim to fame. O’Neill was so convincing in that role that he fell into the typical Hollywood typecast hole, though talented enough to be recognized by some of the best in the business like his friend David Mamet working with him in “Spartan,” “Red Belt” and “The Spanish Prisoner.” It was O’Neill who introduced the renowned writer/director to the world of BJJ where he has been a devotee of the sport since.

As he sat in his chair on the Inside MMA set this week, with hands visibly folded on the table, there was yet another side of O’Neill revealed beyond his training. His knowledge of MMA is among the best ever on the panel, the nuances, the strategies are not missed by him. He is able to watch and dissect a fight as good as most analysts. While watching highlights of the events around the world with fellow panelists Javier Vazquez and Gracie, O’Neill was as smooth and comfortable as he is playing a role on the screen.

Perhaps he understands the game way beyond the average fan–even some fighters– because of his athletic background, one the required patience and studying and repetition as a star lineman at Youngstown State University which led to him being signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers. An athletic core that as well prepared him for the grueling training under Rorion Gracie and ultimately the black belt.

As well as being one of the most incredibly gracious guest ever on Inside MMA, have no doubt he is an equally incredible actor to make us believe in Al Bundy and Jay Pritchett, because neither of them would be able to bring the MMA game like O’Neill.

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