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Roger Gracie Grapples With Questions Before Strikeforce Debut

When your last name is Gracie, you don't go to much trouble to keep your game plan a secret. It's like being a Kennedy and trying to tell people how you pulled yourself up by your bootstraps. The only ones you're bound to fool are the profoundly ignorant or the painfully gullible.

Roger Gracie doesn't bother with that brand of nonsense when he talks about his plan for defeating Kevin Randleman at Saturday night's Strikeforce event in St. Louis.

"I'm sure he'll want to avoid the ground," the 28 year-old Brazilian said. "That's part of my training, though. He wants to avoid it, and it's my job to take him there anyway."

In case you haven't guessed by now, Gracie is very good at jiu-jitsu. He's a regular on the podium at the Jiu-Jitsu World Championships and ADCC Submission Wrestling Championships, and he's beaten all the famous names in the tournament circuit, from Robert Drysdale to Fabricio Werdum.

But as prolific as Gracie has been on the jiu-jitsu mats, he's been anything but in the realm of MMA. Since making his pro fighting debut in December of 2006, he's had a total of two pro fights – both first-round submission victories.

If his entrance into MMA was supposed to signal a coming resurrection for Brazil's first family of fighting, the MMA world is still waiting for the big payoff.

Gracie insists he's not disappointed with how few fights he's had in recent years, pointing out that he's had several prospective bouts fall through due to injuries and other last-minute problems. Even his Strikeforce debut was almost scratched when Randleman was reportedly battling illness.

But at least part of Gracie's inactivity is attributable to the fact that, unlike many other fighters, he's not necessarily out to prove anything to anyone else.

"To be honest, I don't really have a goal in MMA," he said. "I don't aim for any belt. I fight to become a better fighter, a better person, and that's the life I chose. Fighting for me isn't about a belt or a tournament. If it was, after I win there would be nothing else out there. I fight to prove to myself that I can become better."

It's been almost exactly two years since the last time Gracie got that chance. Last time it was MMA journeyman Yuki Kondo in Japan. This time it's Randleman, a 13-year veteran of the sport trying to prove that he still has what it takes after two consecutive losses.

"He's been down and up. He's fought many times and he's a veteran of MMA," said Gracie. "He may not have won all his fights, but he's a pretty strong opponent. He's very explosive, so you have to be careful. I mean, he knocked out [Mirko] 'Cro Cop' [Filipovic]. He's still a dangerous fighter."

But of course, just as your approach to a fight is never a secret when you're carrying the Gracie last name, neither is it ever solely about your own performance. There is always the question of legacy to consider.

With both Renzo and Rolles Gracie both coming off ugly losses in recent UFC outings, Gracie won't deny that he's got a little more weight on his shoulders in this bout.

"Those [losses] put a little pressure on me, to tell you the truth. But I can't let it change the way I fight or hurt my concentration. It's unfortunate that they lost, but that's about them. This fight is about me."

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