Age means nothing to Renzo Gracie. “If you have 20 years old but stops training Jiu-Jitsu, it doesn’t work for you. However, if you train consistently you can go over 40 and still be in the best shape of your life, “says the Rio de Janeiro teacher living in New York.
At 47, the black belt has two up coming fights scheduled, one against Kazushi Sakuraba, 46, on Metamoris 5 and another vs. Matt Hughes, 40, in the 2015 ADCC. Nevertheless, he wants more: between Saku and Hughes, Renzo still wants to go at it twice in the UFC to prove his theory that he is at his technical peak.
While granting the interview to GRACIEMAG, and parked inside his car, Renzo saw a flustered American driver hit the back of his car. The Gracie was not irritated, nor went out to verify the damage; instead he let the guy pass by, apologize and leave. Should all this tranquility be a fruit of joy over his rematch with Sakuraba at Metamoris 5 in Long Beach? Find out here:
GRACIEMAG: Many fans see your No-Gi match at Metamoris 5, on November 22, as the perfect outcome of rivalry between Sakuraba and the Gracies. However, few people remember that the Japanese lost in 2010 to Ralek Gracie, who is the event organizer. For you, what is at stake?
Renzo Gracie: Yes, thanks to Ralek the family is ahead now. What I will achieve with this fight is a chance to get my hands on him again. As a Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, I will be able to check if I have improved from that time forward, and see if he also has improved since then. Meeting again with a guy with whom you have fought and lost is a golden chance for you to assess this development. Thus, I could not say no when Ralek called offering me the fight. I signed the contract without even reading it.
Was it already the initial idea of the Metamoris organization to have you against Sakuraba?
Once Ralek began negotiating with Sakuraba, he called me. I embraced the idea and did not drop it anymore; I started training in the same day since I was busy as hell and was not training hard. So it was like that; Sakuraba has signed knowing he was fighting me. It will be a pleasure; I cannot wait.
What was the biggest lesson learned from that defeat at Pride 10 in 2000? Did you study the Kimura escape from every angle?
Yes, after that day I do not get caught anymore; I escape easily today. At the time I was already cautious; what I tried to do was to apply a takedown and fall on top of him. However, Saku hit the string and set up the submission, and in the process my arm was broken. People still asks if that broken arm causes me grief, anger or regret until now. Look, the reality is: that poor outcome has brought me great pride, and no grief. After all, I lost to another Jiu-Jitsu fighter: with that victory Sakuraba had proof that our family took Jiu-Jitsu back to Japan. Like grateful children that we are, we took the gentle art back to its crib so it doesn’t get lost.
You usually teach that a great fighter needs someone he respects coaching his workouts, waking up the guy early, requiring a little more of each session. Who will push you? And who will be your sparring partners in NY?
Who usually plays this role is Ricardo Almeida, always pushing me and requiring more work done. But I’ve also started push myself: I woke up early today and ran 46 minutes in the morning. My body is starting to react. I’m excited because I have tough people surrounding me; the team is sharp. From the family, Neiman is one of them, which is in excellent shape and already shines in MMA. Then, there is Gregor, Igor, and Rolles who has a MMA fight scheduled in Poland. The training will be catching fire until November.
At 47, you’re living in a wonderful phase where you can train and exchange knowledge with your son, Ruran of 19. Will he pursue a career?
Not only him, but also there is a new generation coming up that will not be easy. For an example, yesterday I found myself almost an hour with Daniel Ignacio, my 15 years old godson. He is already a wrestling champion here in the USA, and has my size! The tough guy was trying to submit me during the entire training. Now, he wants to wear the kimono and start winning in Jiu-Jitsu as well. Ruran is evolving too; it is a pleasure to see how much he still has to improve throughout his career. I am increasingly a fan of his. He had been sick for a while, but it was just one more struggle in our lives. Everything in life is a fight, and all was well in the end. We are closer after this fight together.
You face Sakuraba in November; and Matt Hughes in September 2015, at the ADCC in Manaus. Who do you want to face in the meantime to keep you in shape? You did not give up the UFC yet.
I should have one or two bouts around that time. I want to go at it again. And, against any opponent; after all I was born with this defect. Choose an opponent has never been my style. I just hope it’s a tough guy, the best we have, and a champion. But it is up to the promoters to pick who will face me. I’ll be ready to fight and even for free. Dana White said he would give me a blank check to stay home and don’t fight. But I said I would go there for free, we’re in this tug of war.
Are you preparing something special to surprise Sakuraba?
We train everything here, especially chokes and armbars. The guillotine and kimura are up to date. Yet, the reality is that I want to impose my game and see if he can follow.
Is there something missing in your career, Renzo? Fighting someone?
I have yet a lot to do for the love of Jiu-Jitsu. I want to try to take the sport to the TV here in the USA, for example; that is a next step. In the ring, I just have to celebrate. Being born in 1967 I had the glory of being able to exchange sweat and knowledge with four generations of my family. I am thankful for having shared so many amazing moments with the new and old generations of fighters. Not missed anyone. When did Conde Koma die? Was in 1941? Just missed him then, for a few years I did not take a plane to Para and went there to train with this Japanese.