Kron Gracie submitted Asen Yamamoto at Rizin Fighting Federation’s New Year’s Eve show a year after his MMA debut, improving to 2-0 as a mixed martial artist with a pair of first-round submissions, and wants another bout as soon as possible.
"I have evolved a lot as an athlete and as a human being," Gracie told MMAFighting.com. "My boxing is better, I have more experience now. I believe it was my best year in terms of evolution and understanding myself as a human being. I’m ready to fight now. It can be sooner than we think."
The 27-year-old Gracie is under contract with Rizin, and plans on competing at the featherweight division. "I think 145 is a good weight for me," said the Brazilian, who fought his first MMA bout at 160 pounds. "The weight cut is never easy, but it’s doable."
"The help of my father and my training with Nick (Diaz), Nate (Diaz) and Gilbert (Melendez) made me get to this win," he added. "I’m training with them for four years now and they are really part of my success. You will see how effective I’m becoming after every fight. They teach me a lot of things, how to box and how to fight, but especially their mentality, the fact that they became my friends, is the most important things I’ve learned with them. When I met them, I saw how great people they are. They are always trying to help the community, and that gives me more motivation to represent them."
After scoring a 65-second submission in his MMA debut, the Brazilian prospect had to work more to get his second win. He tapped Yamamoto with a triangle choke eventually, after his opponent managed to escape from an armbar attempt.
"You’re ready to die in there," he said. "Nothing was going to surprise me. I was ready to get knocked out or submitted. You have to think about everything in a fight. I never thought it was impossible for him to escape from a submission. His arm was really flexible, like rubber. I didn’t apply much strength so I wouldn’t hurt his arm, so I jumped to another submission.
"I was going all over with everything I got until he makes a mistake and give me something. The pressure was never over. He made that mistake because he simply had no other option. When you have no options, you make mistakes. That’s what I want. I want my opponents to make mistakes."
The nephew of "Kid" Yamamoto, Asen comes from a traditional family of wrestlers in Japan, and Gracie knew it would be tougher than his precious MMA fight. In fact, Gracie expects anyone to be his toughest opponent after having his undefeated 51-match submission streak in jiu-jitsu snapped by Sergio Moraes at the 2008 jiu-jitsu world championship.
"I always expect a tough fight," said Gracie. "When I faced Sergio Moraes, everybody said it would be an easy win, that I would beat him quickly, that he would gas. Everyone was saying that around me, and I believed it. I will never underestimate any opponent. I will never expect an easy fight anymore.
"In this fight, I expected a tough guy, a good wrestler, and I knew he had a good camp with ‘Kid’ Yamamoto," he continued. "I knew it would be tough. Everyone around me thought it wouldn’t be tough, that I would beat him easily, but I knew it would be tough. The fight was way easier than the training I did for it. I trained hard, and that gave me confidence to win."
Realizing he doesn’t have to think about representing the Gracie family every time he steps inside a ring makes it easier, too.
"Life will always give you challenges you’re ready to face," he said. "Life won’t give you anything you can’t overcome. I had to go through a lot of things to be where I am today. My father was a great fighter, but being a great father wasn’t the best thing he’s ever done. He taught me how to be a good man, loyal, to have honor and respect. I respect my father not because he never lost, but because of who he is and what he’s showed me. I understand that today. Fighting is a small part of our lives, and I can understand that today.
"Fighting isn’t easy, you get punched in the face. I had to go through this. My family always gave me motivation, but now I’m representing the light inside all of us. This light gives me the strength I need to face anything. I’m feeling less pressure than ever. I never put myself in a position that I have to win, that the result of the fight will make a big difference in my life or my career. The most important is that I can prove a point to myself. I simply train as hard as I can, do important things for myself, but I don’t put some pressure that I’m representing the Gracie family or jiu-jitsu.
"It’s pretty obvious that I represent those things, so I don’t need to put an extra pressure over myself that I have to win for my family, for my father. That’s not true. I’m always doing good things for myself and for my family, no matter if I win or lose. I will always represent them, but I’m happier now because I don’t put this pressure that I have to win. The only pressure is that I have to train hard and do everything I can to stay calm and do what I know.
"I’m representing the light we have inside all of us. The light that will guide us to a better path. I’m fighting now, but who knows what will happen in the future. My life doesn’t depend only on fighting, but being a good man and bringing this light to everything I do."