We had the honour and great opportunity in sitting down with a real bjj royalty, former Strikeforce and UFC fighter Roger Gracie. Roger went 4-1 with Strikeforce but when Strikeforce got closed he found himself under the Zuffa banner. Unfortunately following a unanimous-decision loss to Tim Kennedy in 2013, his contract wasn’t renewed. There were rumors of Bellator being interested but finally he got signed by OneFC. Roger Gracie on training, possible superfights, teaching and many more.
ellenfelem.hu: – Hello Roger. Thanks for accepting the interview. Let’s jump right into it. Do you have anything on the horizon right now, anything set with OneFC?
Roger Gracie: – We have a contract signed for a few fights and actually they want me to fight at their December 5 event which will take place in Manila. I already have the name but they’ve asked me not to mention it yet as there will be an official announcement soon.
e: – Where do you train nowadays? Do you still travel around?
RG: – I train in London mostly. Because of the school and my family it’s hard to travel a lot. When I have a big fight I try to get away for a few weeks so I can focus on training only. I then decide whether I go to the US where I can train at Black House in California or maybe to Singapore’s Evolve MMA. They have a very good setup there and a lot of professional fighters.
e: – How does a training week look like for example? Do you train in a gi even when preparing for a fight?
RG: – I try to train twice a day, sometimes three times. I train wrestling and boxing three times a week, Muay Thai once and bjj twice, a bit of conditioning. I run twice a week and mostly do sprints. Also I do Olympic lifting. Usually in the last 6 weeks I almost completely stop training with the Gi. I still use it here and there but just to add some more to the training and not for preparing for the fight. So if you add it up it pretty much fills up the whole week.
e: – How do you find time for everything?
RG: – Well it’s really hard but luckily I have people around me helping so for example at my Academy I don’t have to be around all the time. When I’m preparing for a fight I don’t teach at all. I just show up to train a little bit and make sure everything is going smooth. But it’s hard to keep a balance.
e: – Gi vs NoGi is a topic that always comes up but what’s you take on it?
RG: – If you really want to be good in jiu-jitsu you have to train in the Gi. NoGi is a very slippery game. You get used to escapes and such where things work because of this slipperiness but not in a Gi. It won’t work there and you’ll have to find other ways and be more technical about situations where you could just pull out without a Gi on. With a Gi you become a lot more technical. If you don’t train with a Gi you’ll never have an efficient guard from the bottom. I can see immediately from someone’s guard and especially from the bottom whether they’ve trained in the Gi or not.
e: – What’s you favorite moment from the Strikeforce days?
RG: – I wouldn’t pick one moment. It was an overall great experience and we had a really good relationship with the whole team of Strikeforce.
e: – Do you have plans regarding getting back one day or you don’t look any further right now and focus on OneFC?
RG: – I’m focusing on OneFC. I’m 33 years old and as an athlete I don’t think I have many years left in front of me. I think I’ve achieved pretty much everything I could in jiu-jitsu. If I would start fighting in the Gi again it would be just for the fun of it and to stay active. But that’s something I can go back to. I was thinking about retirement but I think I’d really regret it. After around 40 you may be able to still be around for a few years but your fighting career is pretty much over. There’s no way back. I love to fight, I love to compete. I don’t fight to prove anything just to improve my skills, to stay active and to do something I really love to do. MMA is a big challenge for me and there’s still a lot to be achieved. This challenge what keeps me going and makes me want to fight in MMA.
e: – Would you still take a fun match in bjj if something would be offered?
RG: – Actually I talked to Ralek as they want me to have some superfight at Metamoris. I’m really looking forward to that. It’s a one time only thing so I wouldn’t need to take much time off from training MMA. I think it will happen for sure.
e: – Did they throw some names at you maybe already?
RG: – Well everybody pretty much wants me to fight Buchecha again. There’s no way hiding that. Rodolfo Vieira could be a great match. Also I was offered to fight Keenan Cornelius in London early next year. It’s not a done deal but we’ll see.
e: – Now that you brought Buchecha up let me ask which one was your favorite bjj match?
RG: – Well people ask me this question a lot but I think the best fight is which gives you the biggest challenge. I had so many hard fights. The most memorable maybe when I submitted Jacare. I had seven fights in two days and everything hurt. I was very tired but mentally I was really focused. I never doubt myself going into a fight but probably at that time I was the strongest mentally I’ve ever been. I attempted a guillotine but he pulled out and I made a mistake with pulling guard and I’ve got a point deducted. I had to turn it around from there. There were about two minutes left and he was winning so he started to hold back a little. Finally I got his back and managed to apply the Rear naked choke while he was standing. If I have to pick a moment I think it’s gotta be this.
e: – Do you follow the career path of former opponents?
RG: – Yeah sure. I’m always watching Jacare for example. We are friends. He’s doing great and I think that soon he should be fighting for the UFC middleweight title.
e: – When it comes to teaching what differentiates you the most from others?
RG: – Well everyone has their own ways, a different approach. I’m happy with my ways because I can translate the techniques to my students and transfer the knowledge. The biggest problem usually I think is that many teachers can only translate what they’re best at. I can show stuff also what I think is not for me but could be beneficial to them. I show them my style but also many different ones so they can pick and absorb what works for them. I think a good teacher must be capable of this. Also the hardest part is to keep them motivated so they’re keep practicing and trying to improve.
e: – What are the biggest mistakes you’ve seen over the years when it comes to practicing bjj?
RG: – It’s not really a mistake it’s just something that takes time but you have to recognize what kind of student you have. Some have natural abilities to learn something fast, others are good in something else while there are people who need a lot more time to learn the same thing. Again it comes down to motivation and how bad they want it. As a teacher it’s the worst thing to see someone who has all the abilities and everything, learns fast but doesn’t have the motivation or will to become truly world class. For me that’s the most frustrating thing as a teacher to have.
e: – In your experience is it common nowadays that people lack motivation to become elite, to compete?
RG: – I think about 5% who truly want to get to the black belt level. At the London Open I had about 70 people from the Academy competing but more than 90% were there just for the fun of it. They’re regular people, training a few times a week who are just happy that there’s a tournament. Very few people actually train to have a career in jiu-jitsu. Less than 5%.
e: – Let’s get back to the personal things a bit. Do you have a morning routine, a ritual you follow every day?
RG: – Yeah, the alarm goes off and hit snooze at least three times. I never get up before the third. (laughs) I can never get up on the first.
e: – Do you have a favorite book maybe? Something that really influenced you and you maybe even go back to from time to time to read it again?
RG: – I love to read. Miyamoto Musashi’s book for example is one that I’ve read a few times. Then there’s Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield. It’s a historical fiction novel by that recounts the Battle of Thermopylae. I’ve think I read it about five times. I love stories about war. It kind of resonates with what I’m doing as an athlete, as a fighter. I love books about Caesar, Genghis Khan or any books I can put my hands on about samurai, Alexander the Great. I’ve read them all.
Thank you for the interview and hope to hear your opponent’s name for the upcoming OneFC card. Wishing you all the best!
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