But what’s Lyoto’s side of the story?
I never stopped being a writer, but I haven’t served the role of journalist in quite some time now. So when I dropped in unannounced at Black House in Gardena, Los Angeles, some ten days ago, I was there more to accompany Roger’s Jiu-Jitsu master, Carlos Gracie Jr., in watching how training was going that day. Here’s my onlooker’s impression, in this non-interview.
The session was great to the point of Carlinhos getting charged up: “I’d sit here watching these burly dudes throw down all day. That’s what I like seeing,” he said, beaming, as Roger headed for a dip in the traditional post-training ice bath.
Lyoto doesn’t know me, or perhaps just by name, but he certainly didn’t connect the name to the face. After all, I wasn’t covering MMA in gymnasiums anymore when he started to stand out as a fighter. But he came over and talked to Carlinhos about Roger, and I was there by his side.
“Look, he’s a monster. What he does to us on the ground is sick.”
“Sure, but that’s not so bad, is it? After all, he does that to the best black belts in the world who are spending 100% of their time on competition Jiu-Jitsu,” he said, showing Lyoto that he too is a beast on the ground, regardless of how a spar with Roger might make things seem (we didn’t in fact watch a grappling session, so it could be that Lyoto was just being kind and respectful).
Roger had already commented to me about Lyoto’s leg movement and unpredictability, but the “Dragon” stood out in an entirely different facet of the game:
Roger Gracie vs. Roger Federer, by Lyoto Machida
“What I tell him the whole time is: every time you throw a punch, the opponent has to truly feel it land. There’s no point in just tagging him,” said the Dragon (perhaps in different words, since I didn’t have a recorder or notebook handy, so forgive the liberty I took in putting it in quotes). But let’s move along.
At this point, I picked up on a brilliant point Lyoto made, and I chimed in:
“It’s like a game of tennis then? At the highest level, if the other guy doesn’t swing for the fence, the player immediately gets ahead, making it easy to score the point.”
Lyoto agreed and carried on:
“Exactly. The guy has to get put off by you. He comes in on you, boom, a punch in the gut,” he exemplified, gesticulating with a right hook, complete with side effects. And he added, “If he doesn’t feel it, he loses respect for you. To win, you have to get in the opponent’s head.”
Just like Roger Federer did yesterday, in a game where he capitalized big time on more than 70% of his second serves to finally unseat world number one-ranked Novak Djokovic in Wimbledon. Full of confidence, at a given volley he took a step over the base line, and he buried the point with an aggressive forehand that drove the Serb further and further back at the other side of the net.
So, Roger, take a good look at your like-named and -aged tennis counterpart, and impose respect in the ring, following the advice of the superb trainer from Belém do Pará, Lyoto Machida.