Royler Gracie occupies a strange place. On the one hand, he's a multiple-time world jiu-jitsu champion both in and out of the gi. Many people believe when he lost to Eddie Bravo in 2003 at ADCC, it was an accident. After all, Bravo faced Leo Vieira after getting past Gracie and was soundly defeated. Vieira, it should be noted, was defeated by Gracie in 1999, a match that gave Gracie his fourth black belt world championship.
Yet, in 2014, a measure of doubt still lingers. The finality of Bravo's finish coupled with previously failed attempts to create a rematch has pushed intrigue about where the 'reality' of it all stands to a fevered pitch inside the jiu-jitsu community. Is Eddie Bravo much better than he's being given credit? Does Bravo have Royler Gracie's number?
On Saturday at Metamoris 3, there will ostensibly be some measure of an answer provided.
MMA Fighting spoke to Royler Gracie ahead of his long-anticipated rematch with Bravo about the state of jiu-jitsu today, his ability to prepare for this match at age 48, the strange rules under which it will take place and what, if anything, Royler Gracie intends to prove by gaining a measure of revenge over Bravo.
Your rematch with Eddie Bravo is a week away. How do you feel about it? Are you looking to prove something, have fun or just get it over with?
Well, I don't think I need to prove nothing. I'm more than happy to be there and I've trained well. I do my homework like everybody else. You're talking about the high-level athlete and that's how I train my life every time I've been in a competition. It's not going to be different. Be conservative. Pay attention. Go forward, but if you need to back up, you back up. And that's how the fight's going to be.
I think in my fight, not his fight. Make sure you have two tanks of the gas behind your back, you can go forward all day long. Yeah, just be ready. No pressure, like the old times.
People sometimes, they say, 'Hey, Royler, man, you're world champion. You're going to fight again. It's not too much?' Hey, I have a beautiful sleep the night before and that's amazing. I'm not worried about it. Whatever happens, it happens. If you don't like to lose, don't compete.
That's my thing. Everything can happen. I know I do my best and like I said, do my homework and then I put on my money on Royler today and the day of the fight.
You're a multiple-time world champion in the gi, multiple-time world champion without the gi, multiple-time Pan Am champion. Did you ever think that one loss like this, so to speak, would carry on a life of its own or go this far?
I have one loss already from him and then he make his whole career on top of the win he had. I'm glad I helped him to build his academy. At least Royler helped him in something. It's not only the victory he had, but his whole life he's talking about Royler. I don't think this is going to happen again.
It's not going to be really bad for him if he loses. I don't think it's going to affect him. And it's not even for me. Actually, we're not competitors anymore and that's going to be fun. On that side, I'll really enjoy the time I'm there.
At this stage in my life, I don't have nothing to lose. Probably he's the same way. He's not a competitor. He's going to the world championships anymore. He'll never be world champion, I know. What I did before, it's over. What I'm going to do today, it doesn't matter. I don't think it's going to affect [anything]. That's how I think. It's not going to affect what I do for jiu-jitsu before. I know who I am. I know where I'm coming from and then I know what I do for this sport.
The match is taking place under really interesting rules. It was originally full no gi and then through a back and forth process, he's going to wear gi pants which you are allowed to grab. I'm also told you can grab each other's rash guards, but have said you won't. Is that right?
No, no. We can't hold the rash guard. I don't think so.
The deal is, as soon as you have a contract like three months ago. [The match] was supposed to be at 150 [pounds], 155. He said he cannot do 160. He said, 'Can I do 165?' I said, 'Yeah, it's no problem.' And then 'Can I use the pants?' I say, 'Oh, that's a strategy'. He's going to hold his own pants. He does this a lot. He makes the grip for himself.
I said ok, you can. Then, a month and a half after he comes back and says he's not going to use the pants. I said, 'Oh, we have an agreement. You're asking me to sign and telling me you're going to use the pants. I trained for you wearing pants. What if I tell you ok, this is no problem, you're not going to use the pants. Then, one week before the match, you cannot come with the pants. It's going to change everything. If I train to fight with no gloves, it's going to be no gloves. If you put the gloves, it's going to change a little bit. With the 16 ounces, it's going to be completely different than UFC gloves.
He asked me. He's the guy asking to use the pants. It's not me. That's the bottom line. He asked to fight with the pants. That's the deal. I said, 'Ok, you're going to fight with the pants. You're going to hold your own pants.' He said yes. I'm going to hold, too.
Ok, no problem. We signed. We're good.
You have to be happy about it, right? No matter what, you can use all the no gi passes, but grabbing the pants, there's an entirely new set of passes you can use as well.
Let me tell you, it's going to go both ways. Because the pants are going to dry and he's going to hold me more. And if he plans to keep me in the half guard, trap one leg, he's going to have much more success with the gi. Then he can hold himself more with the gi. He uses the pants all day long. That's his thing. He's right.
When he asked, I was like 'Oh, this is a little tricky for me.' But it's going back both ways because I can hold and I do this all my life. It's going to be a little trick. The time I'm between his legs, it's going to lock me a little more. We know that. It's going to be a little more hard for me in some different ways, but in the same way, hey, Royler, you can hold the pants.
Eddie Bravo trained in the gi. He's a black belt under Jean Jacques Machado. He also says he dropped the gi and created his own style because he believes it hampered development for pure no gi or for use in MMA. Yet, in the case of this bout, he's using gi pants, ostensibly for grips, which you can't do in modern MMA or no gi grappling. Do you find that a little bizarre?
Well, I find [that], but I'm not say nothing because it's his own style. It's actually a controversy. He says, 'Well, I like to use for MMA', but all day he use the pants. You're right, 100 percent.
I was thinking about this the other day. I say, 'Hey man, the guy use the pants all day. He asks to fight with the pants and he says he uses his style to go to MMA. What are you talking about?' It's a little weird. But, that's his style. It's not my problem and I don't have nothing to do with this.
If that's how he feels comfortable to walk in his school all day long with the pants, probably he doesn't like to walk with the shorts, it makes it look good a little more for the student. I don't know.
Let's talk about you for a moment. Your match with him was 11 years ago. Are you a different grappler today than you were then?
In 2003, I didn't know who is Eddie Bravo. I walked in and I didn't care who was in front of me. I was really mentally strong and a good competitor before, but sometimes you get something in mind and you over think the other guy. That's when you make a mistake and sometimes it's hard to recover.
Today, I probably don't have the best shape I had at the time in 2003, 11 years ago. We need to realize that. But I know who is Eddie Bravo and then I know his weak part. I'm still going to be methodic, pay attention, twice more than the time we fought before.
If haven't trained with someone, you never know. This guy is going to surprise you if you don't know, if you don't pay attention. You think, 'Ah, ok. I'm good. I'm good enough.' That's how it works. I was thinking about back in the day, I said, 'You know, I'm kinda over too much. Royler, I don't have problem with this guy. Ah, this is nothing.' That's not supposed to be in a competition. You need to treat everybody as an equal. It's like the final.
If Eddie Bravo's guard is his best asset, what do you think his weakest point is?
I'm going to tell you after the fight *laughs*
Ok, how about this. From what you've seen, do you see a weakness in that style of guard play?
He's very dangerous. He's very flexible, but everybody has a weak part because he's going to wait. He's smart. He's going to play a smart game, but I like I say, he has weak parts. It's not THAT good. The guy's who train with him, they know. We're not going to go to that point, but yes, we're going to discover on the day of the fight.
How do you feel about jiu-jitsu today? What do you think about leg drags and berimbolos?
For me, jiu-jitsu has grown a lot. In the whole world, people are taking advantage, changing people's lives, saving people's lives. It's a lifestyle. Of course, the competition is one little part of jiu-jitsu. We have self defense, jiu-jitsu's helping in MMA, jiu-jitsu's helping you to make confidence to get good in life, to be healthy. Everything. The competition's one part.
Back then, we didn't have this hold the fight too much. People were looking for the finish almost the whole time. Today, you see 50/50, it's not my style. Berimbolos is really good because you go one after another. It's incredible, but still it's not my style. But they work in a competition. Who is Royler to say, 'Oh, this is not good. This is bad'? It's still works for them. Sometimes the guy wins the match for advantage. In 10 years, who knows how many advantages the guy won by in the world championships in 1992? That's the bottom line.
It's not my favorite and I hope the little kids, they don't this like crazy and think about winning the world championships with a half point. That's bad. Jiu-jitsu is much more than this. I'd be much more happy if I see jiu-jitsu help people in life. If you need to jiu-jitsu to help save your life, to do a good self defense, to make sure you're going to look forward and not be scared. That's how jiu-jitsu helps you in your whole life.
So, competition is a small part of jiu-jitsu, but is there a competitor out today who you feel like is not only winning, but represents the kind of jiu-jitsu you like to play or prefer to see?
I like all the guys in the top class today. In MMA, we have all these guys that are black belts. You see Jose Aldo, you see Anderson Silva, you see Wanderlei Silva. They're black belts in different martial arts, but they're black belts in jiu-jitsu. You see Demian Maia, he's a really good representative of jiu-jitsu. These are in the guys in MMA.
In jiu-jitsu for jiu-jitsu competitions, we have a lot. Back then we had Saulo Ribeiro, we had Xande Ribeiro, Fabio Gurgel. But it's changing, you know? Now we have the Mendes brothers. Rafael Mendes is one of the best in his class. We have Cobrinha. I love Cobrinha every time I see him fight. I like Andre Galvao. I like Zak [Maxwell], the guy from my school. He's very smooth, always changing pace, always happy. That's the thing. Every time he's training he's happy.
We like to watch these guys. In the competition, they're really good. And without the competition, they're still good because I bet you if you go with any one of those guys and train with them, you're going to have a hard time. They don't need to be in the competition only.
Obviously people like Anderson Silva, he has a legitimate black belt from the Nogueira brothers and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira has a black belt from De La Riva himself. That's real lineage. What do you feel, though, about when a MMA fighter is awarded a jiu-jitsu black belt for something they've done in or after a MMA fight?
Yeah, because they train hard. These guys are high training. In one way or the other way, they're going to get the black belt. If they like to be good in MMA, they need to train in jiu-jitsu. I don't see the best guy in MMA without jiu-jitsu today. And that's my father before he died. He already said this to us, 'Hey, we already proved the point. Don't walk to the ring or to the cage without jiu-jitsu.' And he's right.
Getting back to you for just a moment, how do you feel these days? You're 48 years old. Are you able to train 4 or 5 days a week?
For the fight, I train every day and then I wrestle one day for the last three months. Normally, I travel a lot during the week and on the weekends I'm home. Then I'm pretty much in the academy every day, Monday to Thursday. 3 or 4 days a week, go there, train a little bit, roll for a couple of rounds and having fun, laugh, enjoy and joking. That's what it's all about. It's having fun. Enjoy the friends, roll a little bit. That's a kind of therapy.
I know you said you have nothing to prove, but how gratifying would it be to you to not only win by submission, but maybe by triangle?
Well, I can promise nothing. A fight is a fight, but one thing I know. For everyone watching us online or live, I can guarantee I'm going to do my best. I'm looking forward to finishing. Of course, step by step, not like crazy and give my opponent something. But that's my goal. Finish him in a good position, in a bad position. That's what I'm looking for.
And then I'm glad we have Metamoris to put this up and give these guys a chance to prove. That's not a regular tournament. It's going to be 20-minute match. If you don't know how to start and you don't know how to end, you're going to be in trouble. 20 minutes with Royler is going to be a long time.