World Series of Fighting returns for its fifth edition on Saturday night in Atlantic City, NJ, and a trio of Gracie family members plans to steal the show at Revel Casino Hotel.
Rolles Gracie, Gregor Gracie and Neiman Gracie, three of the new generation of MMA’s first family, spoke to MMA Fighting about their expectations for Saturday night, and their plan is to go 3-0 at WSOF 5.
"I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long, long time," Neiman Gracie said. "I was set to fight before, but then I had problems. This time everything went perfect, and I’m ready."
Neiman, a grandson of Robson Gracie, makes his debut against Darren Costa after a short career as a jiu-jitsu competitor. A black belt in the art form his family made popular, the 25-year-old middleweight hasn’t competed very often on the mats.
"I started trained jiu-jitsu as soon as I learned to walk, and I’ve competed more between the blue and brown belt," he said. "I haven’t competed as a black belt because I started training MMA. After winning the IBJJF Pan-American as a purple belt and some other tournaments, I started focusing on MMA, and I’ve been training on daily basis for two years now.
"I don’t know much about [Costa], but I really don’t care, actually," he continued. "I have to focus on myself, on what I can do. Whatever he brings to the table, I will have an answer ready. I’m not a black belt in striking yet, but I believe I’m a blue belt with some degrees (laughs). It’s my debut, right? I’m starting slowly."
It’s not common to have all this attention when you’re making your MMA debut, but Neiman feels that his training with his cousins will ultimately pay off.
"It’s my debut, so training with all these guys has helped me a lot," he says. "Of course, the Gracie name brings an extra weight on my shoulders, but I’ve been fighting [jiu-jitsu] for a long time and I’m used to that. It’s normal, [and] I can deal with it."
The Gracie family had three fighters competing in the same night for the first time in 2012, when Gregor, Igor and Rolles Gracie fought at One FC 5. They went 2-1 that night, but Gregor is confident they will make a clean sweep at WSOF 5.
"We are well-prepared now," Gregor says. "Neiman will make his MMA debut, but he was doing great in training. Rolles is in phenomenal shape, and I’m sure we will get three wins at WSOF."
Gregor, a two-time world champion in jiu-jitsu, meets Rich Patishnock, who made his WSOF debut with a win over Gregor’s brother, Igor, when the doctors called a halt to the bout at the end of the first round.
"He’s a tough opponent, he has some good kicks -- but I don’t think he beat my brother," he says. "Igor was dominating the fight when he had an accident and injured his shoulder. I’m sure [Igor] would’ve won, but anything can happen in a fight. [Patishnock]’s a good fighter and I’ll be ready wherever the fight goes."
"I’m excited to make my WSOF debut and fight near my home," Rolles says. "That’s the type of fight I wanted, a win that would put me higher in the MMA world. I can’t underestimate [Mehmen], he’s very well-rounded and dangerous, with a strong wrestling background. He won the majority of his fights via knockout, so this will be a really good fight for the fans."
An American Top Team product, Mehmen enters the cage riding a three-fight win streak, and has earned 10 of his 15 career wins by way of knockout. Rolles, who at one point competed in the UFC, says he has to be careful with his opponent’s hands, but at the same time says he's ready to stand and band for 15 minutes if necessary.
"His weakness is jiu-jitsu, but I’m ready wherever the fight goes," he said. "His background is wrestling, so I have to be prepared not only to stand for three rounds, but to win every round standing. And I am. My strategy will always be jiu-jitsu, that’s pretty obvious, but some day I won’t be able to take my opponent down."