From the treasure chest: An IM chat with

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On the pages of the Sunday issue of Brazil’s O Globo newspaper: the bust of Carlson Gracie at the exit of the subway station at Figueiredo de Magalhães street in Copacabana is at risk of being vetoed by city hall. While students and friends try to bring sense to the mayor, remembers the late grandmaster who passed away in 2006.

Carlson would have turned seventy-seven years old last month, and the eminent fighter and notable teacher certainly would have had much more to teach us. In 2008, GRACIEMAG imagined what the definitive interview with the Gracie who passed on in Chicago at seventy-two years of age due to cardiac arrest stemming from a kidney infection would have been like. Check it out and remember!

Carlson Gracie and Valdemar Santana (white trunks) during a fight at Colégio Marista gymnasium, in 1970. Photo: Family archives.

Master Carlson! May I ask you a few questions?

Son, let me give you a question to ask, I’m just going to give you this one and then you tell me if it won’t put a swell shine on your article. Ask this, “Carlson, at 76kgs during your peak would you be able to beat someone like Fedor, a guy at 120kgs and…”

Shoot, master, but I already asked you that question years ago, you’d be tooting your own horn to say you could beat them, but if Fedor and Minotauro weighed the same as you…

Whoa, you’re good! I like you, good memory, chief. But for real, if it weren’t for the weight difference, those guys wouldn’t last three minutes with me!

How is everything?

I’m doing really great, I miss the gang, of course, but it’s good here too. It’s like when I used to live in Chicago and would go to Rio. When I was in the States, I’d miss Brazil, and vice-versa… Here all’s good, nice weather, it doesn’t get horribly cold like in Chicago, which I still wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy! (laughs).

Carlson, is there Jiu-Jitsu in heaven?

Huh…? Son, are you really a reporter?? Of course there is, jeez. Ever since I got here I’ve been treated really well. I took a bit of a scolding from the Man, for once having said, in the 1990’s, I was going to print a shirt of the Last Meal, with me at the middle of the table and the traitors around me trying to grab my bread outta my hands. But even Leonardo Da Vinci had a laugh, and soon the Man himself was even asking me to teach him some moves and what not.

What’s the meaning of life after all?

Well, you’ll only find that out once you’ve lived an honorable life, going through many battles along the way. The rest everyone knows, the thing is to live without getting caught up in material things and to help others whenever you get the chance, regardless of whether you know them or not. The Man patted me on the back for having sheltered so many people at my gym in Copacabana, bringing in the homeless to take baths and eat; I hadn’t even remembered doing that. Now, if you want to know what doesn’t do anyone a bit of good, I’ll say it twice: being ungrateful, betrayal, dishonesty, kissing ass, coveting your friend’s wife, inciting violence, lying, drinking too much, being a pain, using steroids and performance enhancers…

Speaking of good deeds, does the gang there remember the time you helped that old lady cross the road in Los Angeles?

Tough old bird, you remember? How was I supposed to know she was just trying to break a dollar for coins for the parking meter? I thought she wanted help crossing the street. Even after living for so long in the USA I never learned English, and what’s good here is that everyone understands each other. But I never needed it there, didn’t I become friends with Susumu Nagao, the greatest fight photographer in the world, and he only spoke Japanese? And what about that time Carlão put out Randleman’s lights at that event in Rio? Coleman understood just fine when I said, “Oh Coleman, silip, silip…” But that was all long ago, before the guys betrayed me.

Carlson, how do you see the concept of loyalty today with the advent of events like the IFL, with teams of fighters of different origins?

Sheesh, didn’t I train with Chuck Liddell? He was tough, and mean. He spent a week training with me in 2004, in California. He asked for tips on how to escape side-control and get back to his feet. He’s a fantastic athlete, learns really quick. After three days, nobody could hold him down. But so, like I said, what’s important is a person’s character, not what gym he trains at. At Pride 4, in 1997, I cornered Hugo Duarte against Mark Kerr. Ah, but he was from luta livre, how could I do such a thing? Well I did it, the guy was Brazilian, and he traveled to the other side of the world, to Japan, to face one of the greatest fighters in the world. I decided to help him. So these leagues are marvelous, you just can’t go betraying your coaches. Watch your back!

What are your views on the rise in athletes getting caught for steroids, in the world of fighting?

Sheesh, I always said a lot of folks were using steroids, and that’s what comes of it. And they need to catch more of them. During my time I was light as Marcelo Garcia, and I beat heavier guys. Nobody touched the stuff.

In the end what’s the secret to winning, master? Both in Jiu-Jitsu and MMA?

There’s no mystery to it, man. To me the secret is the same old one: have a lot of wind, because you never know how the fight will play out, and always fight from the top. If you fall, get up, get on top and win. That goes for both Jiu-Jitsu and MMA. To be successful in the ring you need to do boxing and muay thai too, they’re great styles.

Were training methods during your days outdated compared to that of today?

Of course not! We always trained physical conditioning hard, for gas, like the folks do now. And some stuff we’d do, if the guys now would still practice, they wouldn’t lose. For example, during my days as an MMA fighter most of my training was with guys who were allowed to lay a beating on me and I could only grab them, submit them. The secret is to keep cool, and Jiu-Jitsu saves in the end.

You have always read our magazine, master. Do you have any ideas for articles?

That same one I wore myself out suggesting. The ten ugliest MMA fighters in the world! I have a list here, but I want to see yours, to see if you guys are keeping up with things…

We found a video of your last seminar, in December of 2005, at your student João Crus’ academy, in Dripping Springs, Texas . Can we show it?

Of course, of course, but it’s silly, it’s just one little move.

And is there cockfighting up there, master? What about cards?

Huh? Son, are you really a reporter??

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