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Neiman Gracie: Rory MacDonald has very good jiu-jitsu but it’s not better than mine

Neiman Gracie (pictured) challenges Rory MacDonald for the welterweight title at Bellator 222 in New York City on Friday
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Neiman Gracie always intended to fight at Bellator 222, but he wasn’t sure if his opponent would be welterweight champion Rory MacDonald.

MacDonald’s last fight against Jon Fitch in late April ended in a majority draw after a five-round battle. Following the fight, MacDonald cast doubts on whether he would compete again while saying that he no longer had the “killer instinct” to hurt people anymore.

Two days later, MacDonald released a lengthy statement addressing any concerns that he may be retiring from the sport while adding that he intended on defending his welterweight title against Gracie on June 14 as expected.

For all the questions about MacDonald’s state of mind in the fight against Fitch or expectations about how he’ll perform at Bellator 222, Gracie says he expects nothing but the best from the former UFC title contender when they finally clash on Friday night.

“What we do is very hard,” Gracie said when speaking to MMAFighting. “I respect him for being the warrior that he is and all the warriors that he beat. It’s such a tough sport. Maybe if he doesn’t want to do it anymore, that’s fine, that’s up to him. When I saw him fighting Jon Fitch, I thought he still had it and I saw him trying to kill Jon Fitch. So I’m sure he still has that killer instinct.

“What people take for granted is that Jon Fitch is one of the best welterweights in the world. I don’t remember him losing a fight to nobody that wasn’t a champion or someone that was fighting for a belt. The guy is really, really good. I knew that was going to be a war and that’s what happened. It was a war.”

When it comes to his own preparation for MacDonald this weekend, Gracie has never been shy about revealing exactly what he plans to do against any opponent.

With a last name like Gracie it’s not a huge surprise on what he intends to do and he has no problem telling MacDonald his strategy.

“Many times people ask me what is my game plan for the fight or the fighter and I always say the same thing. My game plan is always the same. My game plan is always to go out there, scrap, try to get a takedown and finish on the floor,” Gracie said. “There is no secret.

“Even though people know this, it’s hard to stop. Especially because I can do it from the bottom, I can do it from the top. My game plan is always the same. When I put that on my mind, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Gracie isn’t the first high-level Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt to make it to this stage much less fight for a title, but many of the top submission specialists in the sport have failed to walk away with gold when competing for major championships.

The difference when it comes to the 30-year old welterweight title contender is that he believes his jiu-jitsu was specifically built for mixed martial arts and that gives him a distinct advantage when he fights.

“I think what separates me is that my jiu-jitsu style is different from everyone else,” Gracie explained. “My jiu-jitsu style was bred and made for a fight and not for competition. I think that my jiu-jitsu style is different from everybody else and I think that’s what’s going to pay off in the fight.”

When it comes to assessing MacDonald’s skills on the ground, Gracie is impressed by what he’s seen out of the reigning Bellator champion, although he’s very familiar with the style he employs whenever he displays his jiu-jitsu either offensively or defensively.

“Rory has very good jiu-jitsu,” Gracie said. “His jiu-jitsu is also built for fighting. I think a lot of the jiu-jitsu he’s learned comes from my school, it comes from Professor John Danaher because Professor John went many times to Canada to teach the guys up on his team.

“I think that he has good jiu-jitsu but of course, I don’t think his jiu-jitsu is better than mine because I’ve been doing this since I was three years old. The key with Rory is that he’s a very good, complete fighter. His jiu-jitsu’s good, his striking’s good, his wrestling’s good, that makes him good.”

Gracie knows that he has to be ready for everything when he actually faces MacDonald but he’s still ultra confident that he will be able to eventually secure the takedown and bring the Canadian into his world on the ground.

At that point the countdown begins to the end of MacDonald’s reign as champion.

“I think it’s going to be a war. I think it’s going to be a really tough fight but I see myself winning. I see myself winning by submission just like all my other fights,” Gracie said.

“I think if I take him down, it’s different than Jon Fitch, I’m going to try to finish the fight on the floor. It’s gonna be a really good match.”

Winning the Bellator welterweight title would also be the culmination of a dream that Gracie first had when he was still a child in school dreaming of joining the family business.

Now he’s one fight away from finally feeling gold wrapped around his waist and it’s tough for him to contain his excitement.

“That’s a childhood dream,” Gracie said. “When I was a child, I used to draw myself wearing the belt on the book. It’s a childhood dream that’s going to come true for me. It’s a whole life’s work that’s going to pay off.

“I can’t wait to do it. I can’t wait to do it in New York, so close to my gym and my friends. It’s like a movie. I can’t wait.”

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