Heavyweight Rolles Gracie, 31, doesn’t beat around the bush: his UFC debut, set for February 6 in Las Vegas, is cause for some anxiety. But it’s good nervousness, as he explains in the following interview with GRACIEMAG.com.
Rolles (3w, 0l) speaks about his preparations to face Lebanese fighter nationalized British Mustafa Al-Turk (6w, 5l), 36, who coincidentally was born on the same day as the Brazilian, July 14. And he went out of his way to remark on all the repercussions of his promoting Rashad Evans to black belt, after his win over Thiago Silva at UFC 108, on the second of the month.
How are you dealing with the anxiety in the lead up to your UFC debut?
To tell you the truth I’m really anxious about this debut. I’m more anxious in the sense of being stoked; I’ve received a lot of messages of support on my site, twitter and facebook.
Have you been doing anything special in the final stretch of training?
I have a team of first-rate coaches in Renzo, Greg Jackson, my boxing teacher mark Henry. Not to mention my uncle Rilion, who, even though he’s in Miami, is always in contact by phone, to listen to me and give me advice. They know what they are doing, and I just go along. So everything is going as planned. Training is great and my body is keeping up, and thank God I’m injury free.
The photo of you giving Rashad Evans his black belt, published on your twitter and GRACIEMAG.com, yielded some debate. How do you see the issue?
I was surprised about all the questioning of the promotion. Truth is I was really offended. I should never explain anything to anybody. But on the other hand not everyone has the opportunity to train at Renzo’s academy with me, with my brothers Igor and Gregor or even Rashad himself, a tremendous athlete.
He made the transition from wrestling to Jiu-Jitsu really easily. We’ve been training together for a year, in New York, New Mexico, Denver, and I trained him and the guys at The Ultimate Fighter.
He likes training in the gi too?
I’ve never trained with him in the gi. Rashad is a No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu black belt. Five years ago, I wouldn’t have given him the belt, but our sport has evolved, so much that the IBJJF put together a No-Gi championship. If Rashad were to enter any one of these championships, I would sign him up as a black belt, and I’ll tell you he’d do great.
He has a really good top game, passes guard well and it’s really hard to sweep or submit him, besides him defending well from the bottom. I feel we saw that in his fight with Thiago Silva, who was dominated on the ground. If anyone has any questions, I recommend they have a roll with him and then tell me how it went.