Neiman Gracie, a black-belt undefeated in MMA who just turned 30, has a theory. “What we practice and start honing today, we’ll in fact be using four, five fights down the line,” he says. “Hence the patience. We have to train knowing that that technique will be useful years later.”
And Neiman sure is good at waiting. He fought and trained in the gi for months. Years. Decades, really. Until, last weekend in Honolulu, he had a memorable night at Bellator 213, finishing a thitherto-undefeated opponent and getting his shot at the welterweight belt. All that just one day after celebrating a win by his cousin — the newcomer Robson Gracie Jr., whose mom, Carla, is a daughter of red-belt patriarch Robson Sr.
Robsinho beat Brysen Bolohao by controlling the back and squeezing a rooster choker in round 2 at Bellator 212.
About that Saturday, December 15th, Neiman (9w,0l) said after his round-four win, “It was jiu-jitsu versus wrestling.” The fight was a part of Bellator’s GP.
“It was awesome,” he added. “Certainly the most complicated fight of my career to date. Of course I was even more nervous due to Robsinho debuting and all. But it all worked out — we were very well prepared. Ed Ruth is the biggest wrestling champion in the U.S. right now. My hat’s off to him. Now I will be fighting for the welterweight belt. Now it’s lots of training to stay undefeated and win my next one.”
Neiman started his fight squeezing a triangle as he was unbalanced by the wrestler, and even attempted a guillotine and a beautiful armlock from the guard later. But the win had to wait until the fourth frame, when Neiman used his specialty: Full of stamina, he got a takedown right away, mounted, took the back and squeezed his opponent’s neck.
“Part of my tactics was to use lots of low kicks to his leg, like I’ve been practicing in Muay Thai,” said Neiman. “In the end, I was happy not to have caught him in the triangle right at the start, because I needed to feel how I would behave in the course of four rounds.”
A vindicated Neiman added: “Man, all I do these days is train, eat and sleep. It’s time to show the world the fruits of it all.”
Neiman’s next opponent will come out of the bout between Rory MacDonald — the sitting champion — and Jon Fitch, probably in March. Meanwhile, Neiman has only one thing in mind: hunting down waves in the Hawaiian paradise until the end of the year. “I’m a four-stripe blue-belt in surfing, I reckon.”