Longform

The Cult of Lloyd Irvin

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His salesmanship leaned toward hyperbole. At one real estate investment seminar — another venue of business he once plied his trade in — Irvin was introduced as a "Man of Greatness" who once appeared on the cover of Fortune. The latter wasn't true. Though he later claimed he was "featured" in Forbes, it turned out to be nothing more than a paid advertisement.

Irvin has repeatedly cited Kennedy as an influence. Kennedy has made no secret about how his approach toward marketing and the skills of thought reform are intertwined.

"What business are you in?" Kennedy asks rhetorically in one of his newsletters. "CULTS."


In mid-2012, an instructor from out of state pulled Irvin aside at an event.

"I heard Nick Schultz is with you now," the instructor, who asked not to be identified, claims he told him. "You need to understand something. This kid will burn your school to the ground."

Irvin laughed it off. Had he listened to what his colleague had to say — that Schultz had a history of shoplifting, criminal trespass and erratic behavior — New Year's Day 2013 might have turned out differently.

Schultz, 20 and no relation to Jordon Schultz, had come to Irvin's school from San Diego, where his former instructor had booted him from his gym for theft. He had not broken the habit. "I observed him stealing on daily basis," Jordon Schultz says. "Small things, food items, DVDs. He was one of those guys."

Nick Schultz became friendly with fellow student Matthew "Matteo" Maldonado, who had been there only a month. On New Year's Day, an acquaintance of Maldonado's got a text. "Had a great time," he wrote. "Went out clubbing."

Earlier that morning, Schultz and Maldonado were in nearby Washington with a female student, Billie — not her real name — who had been at Irvin's roughly a year. According to a statement she later gave to police, all three were drinking. She said the two men then took her, inebriated and staggering, into a nearby church parking garage and raped her.

In their arrest warrant, investigators describe retrieving surveillance footage they alleged shows Maldonado holding up an inebriated Billie, then penetrating her from behind. After Maldonado departs, Schultz appears to force her into oral and vaginal sex. At various points, police asserted, she's dropped to the concrete, unable to support herself. Billie was left in the garage until a passerby heard her crying for help.

In an open letter that appeared on GracieMag.com, a jiu-jitsu news site, Irvin promised to see the victim through this difficult period and expressed disgust at the actions of his students, noting that both had only been there a short time.

Despite his statement, the martial arts media pounced on the story, charging Irvin with a corrosive environment that was likened to an island of misfit toys.

"Suddenly," Keenan's sister Chloe recalls, "it went from, 'Everyone makes mistakes' to, 'Lloyd is a monster.'"

Inundated by negative press relating to the New Year's Eve incident and the subsequent discovery of his own 1990 rape trial, Irvin took quick and — by his own admission — regrettable action. He purchased a URL, LloydIrvinRape.com, and used search engine optimization techniques so it would appear near the top of an Irvin-related web search, bumping his own rape-related clippings further down the page.

LloydIrvinRape.com advertised women's self-defense courses. "Lloyd Irvin's Martial Arts Academy is fully dedicated to empowering as many women as possible," read the copy. "Information is power and arming women with the ability to be smart, aware of their surroundings and defend against an attacker is top priority in the Ladies Kick Butt seminar and program."

Accompanying footage showed clips from a 2012 seminar, the women in attendance likely ignorant that the lead instructor was once on trial for sexual assault himself.

Irvin addressed the URL controversy after BloodyElbow.com reporter Brent Brookhouse exposed the sleight of hand. "The reason I purchased the URL was singular," Irvin wrote in the same open letter on GracieMag.com. "I didn't like the tone and tenor of things online but still felt I could not speak publicly about anything... the execution and timing were awful."

Despite the mea culpa, he purchased at least one additional URL after his statement was released: LloydIrvinRape.us, which now directs visitors to a video by stand-up comedian Kat Williams on "haters."

Keenan's mother was horrified. She made another plea for her son to return home.

"Billie just got back from the salon and got highlights," she recalls Keenan saying. "She can't be that upset."

Last January, Irvin called an early morning meeting of his top male competitors. According to Camacho and Jordon Schultz, both present at the gathering, he wanted to clear the air regarding the negative publicity. Of the 1990 allegations, Irvin told them the victim had wanted it and claimed rape out of guilt. No one seemed to question why this seemingly consensual act had sent four men to prison.

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Jake Rossen