Studying your opponent and doing something different for each fighter you face can be the key to success in MMA, except if your name is Neiman Gracie.
Unbeaten in seven fights as a mixed martial artist, Gracie will return to the Bellator cage against Javier Torres on April 28. He was already scheduled to face him back in October, but he was replaced by Zak Bucia on short notice due to an injury. Gracie won that fight via second-round submission.
”I didn’t change much. They were both southpaws, so that was good,” Gracie told MMA Fighting. “In fact, I didn’t change anything because I already know what I will do. My gameplan is always the same. Doesn’t matter the opponent, I will always do the same thing.”
Being somewhat predictable can’t help you, so how does Gracie manage to be successful even if everybody knows what he will try to do in the fight?
”It gets tougher when the level of competition gets higher, of course,” Gracie said, “But if I’m well-trained, it doesn’t matter if they know what I want to do because I will do it regardless. That’s why I train hard in the gym.”
Gracie doesn’t spend any time watching his opponents’ previous bouts even if it’s to evaluate their grappling skills. For an example, he had no idea that Torres had a submission loss in MMA. It’s not on his official record because it took place in the 13th season of The Ultimate Fighter reality show in 2011.
”I didn’t even know he had been submitted,” Gracie laughed. “My coaches watch his fights and tell me what to do, but I don’t like to watch it too much. It doesn’t matter. I already know what I want to do, so it doesn’t matter what he does or doesn’t do. I only watch if he has this one special move that he uses all the time to finish everyone. Other than that, I don’t even watch it.”
Torres definitely knows that Gracie will try to take him down at Bellator 198, so what will the Brazilian do if he’s unable to secure the takedown? Pulling guard is an option, Gracie says, but showing off his striking skills is part of his plans, too.
”I think I’m ready to stand and trade with everyone,” Gracie said. “I’ve been training muay thai for many years. If it’s hard to get the takedown, I will trade with him standing, no problem.”
Gracie will improve to 8-0 in MMA if victorious in Rosemont, and hopes he’s matched-up against the upper echelon of the welterweight roster in order to earn a shot at the belt before the end of 2019.
”I hope this is the fight that takes me to the top. I wanna fight for the belt this year or next year,” Gracie said. “After this fight, I hope I face one of the top guys to earn a title shot.”
”I believe none of them have my level on the ground and that will be the weapon I will use to defeat them when I fight them,” he said of the likes of Paul Daley, Douglas Lima, Andrey Koreshkov and Rory MacDonald. “I’m on a level above them on the ground. … We always try to be the best. I work hard to get to the top. I never take any fight lightly and I’m happy with everything I’ve accomplished so far.”