As Kayron Gracie walked onto the mats in the UCI Bren Center, a reverent silence filled the room. The son of Master Carlos Gracie Jr. and grandson of Grandmaster Carlos Gracie Sr. entered the Pan as a recently adorned black belt. Anticipation of his matches was building. Soon, everyone’s questions about Gracie’s skill level and abilities would be answered.
Gracie’s middleweight division was stacked. In his first match, Gracie faced off against Diego Gamonal from Brazilian Top Team. Gracie says, “This was my first fight as a black belt. I was excited to see how I was going to do. I couldn’t wait to see how all my hard work was going to pay off.”
And pay off it did. Gracie said he was feeling very confident and focused, “I knew I was going to do well. I could feel it.” Gracie pulled guard and swept Gamonal, “He attacked my foot and I escaped, almost passing. I passed guard and then I mounted. I got the choke from the mount halfway into the fight.”
Gracie had time to rest before his second match and says he felt good getting back on the mats with Marcelo Mafra from Checkmat BJJ, “I had a game plan, but he pulled first. I stayed on top the whole match. I almost got his back, but he escaped. I ended up winning by 5 advantage points.”
In Gracie’s semifinal fight, he was matched up with Alliance’s Sergio Moraes. Gracie says he knew it was going to be a tough fight because Moraes was a top contender, but he felt very confident in his abilities, “Moraes was putting a lot of pressure on me. I scored one advantage point and then I pulled guard and tried to attack, but he was defending well. He put a lot of pressure on me until the end. When Moraes saw time was running out, he tried to explode, but I didn’t let him pass.”
Gracie says he was really happy after the fight. He could finally see the fruits of his labor. Three fights down, one very big fight to go. Gracie says he felt great knowing that he was going into the finals, “I got very excited beating Moraes, but knew I had the biggest fight of my life ahead. I didn’t want to get too excited and not be focused on it.” So Gracie went home to rest. He says he stayed there to take the focus away from all the talking people were doing around him. He wanted to concentrate on the big fight to come.
Gracie came back to the Bren Center at 5:00 that evening to discover that he was fighting Abmar Barbosa, from Drysdale BJJ. He says he felt a little “tense and excited,” and was anxious to see what was going to happen, “I knew Abmar from before,” Gracie says, “He has a very dangerous guard.”
Gracie says he had a strategy to pull Barbosa to his guard, but Barbosa pulled first, “I knew he was going to do it, so I went for his legs and scored 2 points for the double leg. He was moving a lot. I attacked, he recovered, and I tried to keep moving. I didn’t let him adjust. Then he swept me.” Gracie says instead of thinking about resisting the oncoming fall onto the mat, he thought about landing in a good position, “I tried to reposition myself,” Gracie says, “and was able to sweep him back. I was on top for a while, then he swept me again.”
The two then got to their feet, “It became a big battle over who was going to pull guard first and I did,” Gracie says, “I was adjusting my sweep and waiting for the right moment. I swept him with like 10 seconds left in the match.” Barbosa tried to scramble to his feet and double leg Gracie, but he sprawled. Time ran out and Gracie won. The crowd erupted and the GB cheering section lifted a triumphant Gracie into the air. Standing in the background, his father, Master Carlos Gracie Jr., was smiling, pride for his son’s accomplishments written all over his face.
After the match, Gracie said he couldn’t define how he felt, “I can’t put how I feel into words. It’s unbelievable.” Gracie says his friends from Brazil called him after the matches and told him that his butt was broadcast all over Brazil, “I think my pants were pulled down during most of my fights,” he laughs.
In typical Gracie fashion, he is gracious and humble about his win. He is more concerned with thanking the people around him who helped him get where he is today than he is about taking home gold, “I want to thank my dad, Master Carlos Gracie Jr., for all of his support; Marcio Feitosa and all the guys at GB – Flavio Almeida, Romulo Barral, Otavio Sousa, Lucas Rocha and, everyone who trains with me everyday and helps me get better, including all of my students.”
Gracie is already back at the gym, preparing for his next performance at the Worlds.