Could MMA hinder Roger at the Worlds?

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On May 15th, Roger Gracie submitted Kevin Randleman at Strikeforce “Heavy Artillery” in Missouri, but he refocused his mind on the upcoming World Jiu Jitsu Championship in California. Gracie headed straight back to his academy in England, where he started to train hard for the most important Jiu-Jitsu event of the year. Now, he’s ready for the challenge.

Gracie faces Lovato, in a photo by Ray Santana

Gracie says there’s a noticeable difference, mentally and physically, in the type of training he has to do for Jiu-Jitsu vs. MMA, and that it can be difficult to compete in a Jiu-Jitsu tournament right after an MMA fight. Gracie says, “I have to be really focused when I’m training MMA because I’m not training with my gi. Now my whole focus goes back to gi training. To fight one right after the other takes a lot of adaptation. I have to work on my grips and my strength for gi fighting.”

But Gracie is not concerned about the time he has left to adapt back to Jiu-Jitsu from MMA, “I had enough time to train before the Worlds,” he says, “My conditioning was already really good.” Gracie says that MMA is more tiring than Jiu-Jitsu because it’s more explosive and a faster game. “You have to move a lot more,” he says, “In Jiu-Jitsu your body doesn’t have to move as much. Of course, a Jiu-Jitsu match can be really tiring if you go really fast.”

“Going really fast” is not necessarily Gracie’s style. When you watch him fight in any genre of competition, there is a common theme that runs through all of them. Whether you are watching him skillfully dominating on the mats in Jiu-Jitsu or moving lithely around the cage of an MMA fight, there is always something that separates him from the pack. It’s something that is not only a part of his true nature, but also something he’s developed over the years that he feels is essential to his success so far, and that is: patience.

Gracie patiently sets up a choke on Streckert, in a photo by John Lamonica

“In my opinion, patience is a fundamental that every fighter should have in order to be good,” he says, “You have to be patient. If you’re not, and your nerves show, you make lots of mistakes. He who loses his concentration has a big chance of losing the fight.” Gracie says he’s not a “nervous or agitated” person. “I am naturally calm,” he says, “My personality helps, but I’ve also been fighting for so many years. I think that competing a lot helps me.”

Gracie says he has to work a little harder at staying as calm in MMA as he is in Jiu-Jitsu because he’s usually competing in Jiu-Jitsu wearing a gi, and “That’s my game,” he says. “In MMA your opponent can strike you in all sorts of ways. It’s not natural for me; it’s much harder.” Gracie says the pace in MMA and Jiu-Jitsu is also very different. “With Jiu-Jitsu you can take your time,” he says, “You can wait and see which way the fight goes. In MMA, you can be punched and kicked. Your have to have much greater concentration.”

Another fundamental important to Gracie is his game plan. Even if someone is scoring points on Gracie during a Jiu-Jitsu match, he manages to stay calm, follow his game plan, and play it until he succeeds. Gracie says that he always has a game plan in Jiu-Jitsu, but that it’s never 100% because things always change. For MMA he says he has to have even more of one. “MMA is a lot quicker,” he says, “If you blink, you can get knocked out.” In his fight against Randleman, Gracie says that for the most part he was able to follow his game plan. Gracie says “the knee” (that took Randleman down) was unexpected, but the fight itself went as planned.

Gracie is all about family and many of his family members and friends flew in to support him behind the scenes at the Randleman fight. Gracie says that having them there changed the environment for him and helped him stay upbeat and calm. “I definitely feel much better with them around,” he says, “You can feel a bit lonely otherwise. They helped distract me in the locker room and I laughed a lot more. Having them around was good for my mind before the fight.” One person Gracie clearly loves having around is his dad, Mauricio. Gracie says that his dad attends all of his tournaments and fights. “He’s at every single one. He’s always there. He helps me a lot in my training, too.

In-family match. Roger and Romulo, in a photo by Mike Colon

Now with his focus back on Jiu-Jitsu and the upcoming Worlds competition, Gracie is trying to pack on some pounds to be at his preferred weight of 205 lbs. “I’m eating as much as I can,” Gracie laughs. He had to lose about 16 lbs. for the Randleman fight. “It was like starvation to get there,” he adds, “I didn’t lose too much strength or explosiveness, but I prefer to fight at 205. I feel better fighting at that weight.”

Gracie says he’s training as much as he can, about two to three times a day. Gracie’s currently training at GB America in Irvine. He says training with the other GB black belts will helpprepare him  for the Worlds.

Roger says he feels his greatest opponents this year will be the usual crowd of stellar athletes. “There’s quite a few guys who are training hard to get into top shape to fight,” Gracie says, “Xande’s (Ribeiro) fighting. He’s definitely a top contender. Romulo Barral – I’ve fought him twice.” Gracie says the list of competitors is long, but he’s confident he will win again this year. “It will be a pretty tough final,” he says, “But my hope is that it’s me in it!”

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