At 44 years of age, Zé Mario Sperry is getting ready for his next big challenge. In September the Carlson Gracie black belt, who is a past Jiu-Jitsu world champion and had a stellar career in the Pride FC ring, will take on Renzo Gracie in an all-veteran superfight at the ADCC in England.
We caught up with the submission savant at the Nogueira brothers’ Rio de Janeiro training center for a close-up look at his preparations for Renzo. Zé is hard at it with established beasts like Rodrigo Minotauro and Rogério Minotouro, as well as getting the chance to rekindle his friendship with old training partners like Amaury Bitetti. Take a look at the following interview and exclusive photos of his preparations and, to boot, learn a technique for making it to back mount that Sperry teaches exclusively to GRACIEMAG.com readers:
How did this opportunity to face Renzo Gracie come about?
I was caught off guard; I’d been away from the fighting world for a while, about three or four years, but I see this opportunity as a privilege I get for the years of my life that I dedicated to the sport. I decided to accept because of the esteem the ADCC organization held me in and also because of the opponent, who’s a highly regarded fighter with a past, as well as being a big name. I couldn’t be more grateful for the invitation.
But you what kind of training routine have you been keeping all this time you’ve been away?
I’d train when I could, but I didn’t have a routine. I was training because I like it. I travel a lot and, every now and again, I’d get in some training, so I’ve basically been out of the game for around four years. This is an opportunity to catch up with old friends and get back into the fight world, and I’m enjoying it. I’m being pushed into getting back into the shape I was in, and it’s been interesting. I can get a sense of the legacy I built through the respect I’m feeling from these kids who are backing me, and it’s great.
So, after so long without fully dedicating yourself, what’s it like getting back to full-on training?
It’s a challenge, as is everything in life. Every day brings a new challenge, and one of the biggest reasons for taking this one on was not the opportunity or the adversary but the chance to see how far I can go. In a way, it serves as an example to these kids by showing that with discipline and dedication we can overcome all obstacles.
Will you be doing your training at Minotauro and Minotouro’s academy?
I’m training with Minotauro’s crew. I had the pleasure of meeting athletes I’d only ever seen on TV and the opportunity to train with athletes I’ve worked with in the past. I’m savoring every moment.
Watch a small sample of Zé Mario in training and learn a position:
Check out the photos from training with beasts like Rodrigo Minotauro:
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