In mixed martial arts, there are a handful of names that have the ability to capture the attention of fans from all corners of the globe. But there’s one name that may be the most historic in the sport: Gracie.
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The Gracie family lineage in mixed martial arts dates all the way back to UFC 1, in November of 1993. An undersized and overlooked Brazilian, Royce Gracie, was given the task of representing his family at the event. Not only did Royce impress spectators, but he also won, putting forward the argument that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu may well be the most effective martial art.
Fast forward to 2019, and we have witnessed a fair share of Gracie’s make the transition into MMA. Kron Gracie competes in the UFC, whilst his relatives Neiman and Robson fight for Bellator; these three family members have proven themselves to be a force inside the cage with 16 combined wins.
This week, all eyes will be on 30-year-old Robson Gracie Jr, who will be making his third Bellator appearance when the company travels to Israel, on November 14.
Robson spoke to John Hyon Ko of The Body Lock about his upcoming Bellator bout and meeting the legendary Royce Gracie for the first time.
Advice from Royce Gracie
Despite embarking on his mixed martial arts career at the age of 29, Robson Gracie Jr has been successful in both of his Bellator outings, boasting a professional record of 2-0, with two submissions.
Many will be quick to judge the level of competition that the Brazilian is facing, but when considering that he is not even a year into his new career, two stoppage victories can be considered impressive.
The thought of remaining undefeated in a sport as demanding as MMA is a great deal of pressure for any athlete, with the likes of Rashad Evans and Darren Till experiencing that first hand. On top of being labeled as an undefeated prospect, Robson Gracie Jr. must carry the family name on his shoulders every time he steps into the cage.
He spoke about the pressure he felt when making his pro debut, and why it was crucial to get the victory in dominant fashion.
“There was a little bit of pressure, not going to lie,” Robson Gracie Jr. said to John Hyon Ko.
“Because in the first fight, it’s all about if you win or you lose, and how you do it. If I lose it, I knew a lot of people were going to say that the Gracie family is over and all that stuff.”
The Brazilian followed this up by talking about a change in mindset, and why he no longer thinks about the added pressure.
“I try to turn that off. Now it is just me and my opponent, forget about what happens, forget about the Gracie name on my shoulders and move forward.”
“Royce gave me good advice one day before the fight, he said: go in there, don’t fight to entertain nobody, fight for yourself. Do your best, do whatever you want, have fun, and that’s it.”
Royce Gracie acknowledges and understands the pressure that comes when preparing for a prizefight, therefore any advice from the jiu-jitsu legend is absolutely beneficial.
Unlike other members of the Gracie family, Robson never grew up around Royce, meaning it was a special moment having him around during fight week last year.
“I was kind of nervous, and he came to my room – even though he is my cousin, you stop for a second [to realize] ‘oh, that’s a legend.’ Because I never grew up next to him, so we don’t see each other often.”
“Having a legend in your room giving you advice one night before the fight, and a couple of minutes before the fight he also was there.”
Although a 2-0 professional record looks easily achievable when considering Robson’s background, his wins did not come without adversity. He mentioned that the non-stop pressure and relentless work rate from his previous opponents taught him that you cannot afford to take a breather whilst competing.
“One thing I remember from both fights is when they say go, you need to go. You cannot sit like in training and say ‘okay one sec, let me fix my gloves, let me do that, you hit me too hard. I can sit down for a bit’ – but there, you stop when the round is over or when the match is over, so you need to fight the whole time and give your best the whole time.”
Being active in 2020
On November 14, Robson Gracie Jr will make his third Bellator appearance in Tel Aviv, Israel, when he takes on the country’s own Ameer Basheer.
The obvious plan for the Brazilian is to initiate the clinch, look for the takedown and use his world-class jiu-jitsu to wrap up a submission. Unfortunately for Gracie, mixed martial arts isn’t that simple.
Due to the possibility of his gameplan being unsuccessful, the 30-year-old has studied his opponent intensively but remains adamant that he will walk away with yet another submission victory on November 14.
“My game plans are always going to be the same: try to get the clinch takedown and then the submission. But on this one, I couldn’t know a lot about him because he just has one fight. I couldn’t see many things,” Robson Gracie told John Hyon Ko.
As previously mentioned, other members of the Gracie family compete in prominent mixed martial arts organizations, with the most notable being Kron Gracie.
Kron last competed in October, when he faced his toughest test in the UFC, Cub Swanson. The featherweight was ultimately defeated via unanimous decision but proved he had a tough chin as he exchanged strikes with the savvy veteran.
“I think it was a good fight,” said Robson, “he fought really well with his standup game and showed that he can hit and get hit. That’s the hardest part when it comes to fighters – I know a lot of good fighters that can punch really hard, they can throw a lot of stuff, but when they get hit back they get knocked out. But Kron showed that he has a tough chin.”
November 14 will be Robson Gracie’s second fight of the year, and his third fight overall. Desperate to climb the Bellator welterweight ranks, he is aiming to fight at least three times in 2020.
“I want to do four fights next year. Thinking about the title, but I need to take it step by step. I cannot think about the title because I have a couple of fights before then.”
“I’m going to plan my next fight, keep training hard and do fight by fight. But I hope at least three, four fights a year.”
Steven specialises in MMA and Lethwei. He loves a good 1-2 down the middle.