In his Strikeforce debut, last Saturday in St Louis, Roger Gracie was unimpressed by the greater experience of his opponent Kevin Randleman. He notched his third MMA win using the best of what the gentle art has to offer, finishing with a rear-naked choke 4:10 min into the second round.
Now his attention has turned back to competing in the gi, as the black belt will storm full steam on his way to an unprecedented third absolute world title in Jiu-Jitsu.
With the same serene demeanor he displays when facing opponents, Roger had a chat with GRACIEMAG.com. Check out what he had to say.
What’s your breakdown of your fight with Kevin Randleman, an opponent with 31 fights on his record?
I think I had a certain advantage because of my height and the fight went pretty much according to plan. I imagined he’d have a hard time hitting me because of my size, so I worked my jab and waited for the right time to take him down. I managed to catch him by surprise with that knee, something even I didn’t expect. It was spur of the moment and made the most of it by going after him.
You displayed calm while striking and managed a knockdown with a knee. How do you feel about your standup department?
So, so. My standup has improved a lot, but the way I use it will always depend on my opponent. I’ll always feel more confident on the ground, and that’s where I’ll try and take the fight. But a fight starts standing, and one has to always be prepared for that. It’ll depend on the opponent. Whenever I don’t feel confident, I’ll try to take it to the ground right away. That’s how it went with Kevin. I realized he was hard to take down, so I waited for the right moment and let the fight play out.
Did you feel any pressure in this fight because of Renzo and Rolles’ losses?
My head was in the perfect place for the fight. I faced it like any other fight I’ve had in Jiu-Jitsu or MMA. I went in calm, was aware, and I think that was most important. I was fine, and the pressure was the same as with any other fight.
Will we see you fight more regularly in MMA? Were you alright making weight?
I plan to fight more often and stay at this weight (93 kg, light heavyweight). I have an easy time making weight. It would be much tougher fighting someone heavier than someone my own weight. It wasn’t that big a sacrifice and it’s better than fighting someone 130 kg.
Randleman squirmed a lot on the ground. Was it hard to hold him there?
I realized he was kind of groggy when he landed. I leapt to mount and he nearly escaped. Perhaps I acted prematurely because I wanted to go straight for the katagatami (arm-and-neck choke). He nearly got up, but I managed to take his back. That’s when I went to work on getting his neck.
Are you really going to compete at the Jiu-Jitsu Worlds? Could training for this MMA fight hamper your Jiu-Jitsu?
Yes, I’ll be at the Worlds. I’ll be back on the mat shortly! I don’t feel this fight got in the way of anything. I’m going to put on my gi now and train specifically for Jiu-Jitsu, and not believe anything can get in my way.
What are your expectations going for a third absolute title?
My expectations are the same as always. I’m going in the same as I always do and we’ll see what happens.