Exclusive: Eddie Bravo on UFC, Jiu-Jitsu, Royler Gracie and rock bands
By Guilherme Cruz

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Graduated as a black belt by Jacques Machado, Eddie Bravo became famous when submitted Royler Gracie with a triangle choke, in ADCC in 2003. The black belt was also UFC’s broadcaster for many years and has as his main passion music. Besides leading many gyms back in America, Bravo is a musical producer and a great Jiu-Jitsu defender, mainly the specific training for MMA. Check below the polemic interview with the tough guy, the differences he sees on the Jiu-Jitsu style he teaches from the original BJJ, he also comments on how many people have turned against him, about his win over Royler, among many other subjects.

Talking about your Jiu-Jitsu style, what’s the difference between your Jiu-Jitsu and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

Well, my schools are mainly taught without the gi. We do Jiu-Jitsu, I rank the same way, I got my black belt in the gi. I love Jiu-Jitsu so much, Jiu-Jitsu is in my soul, my heart, is number one martial art to me, not Wrestling, not Sambo, not Karate, Jiu-Jitsu. What’s most important to me is how Jiu-Jitsu looks in MMA. The world’s watching the UFC. How does Jiu-Jitsu look when somebody is trying to smash your skull, whether it’s on the streets on in UFC, that’s what’s most important to me. The traditional Jiu-Jitsu with the gi, the focus on grabbing and yanking, pulling on the collar, and that’s not so important to me. It’s like surfing: there’s the long board, the short board, I like the short board more. Surfing came from the long board, but I like the short board, short board is more important to me, just like the most important thing for me in Jiu-Jitsu is how Jiu-Jitsu looks with the whole world watching in the UFC. That’s why I decided to take the gi off, teach all my students how to fight without the gi and clinching, and my style is based on the clinch. When you’re clinching, your opponent can’t hit you. So, my whole style offensively, not just defensively, is working on the clinch, setting submissions off the clinch, setting sweeps off the clinch, so when the punches are coming in, it’s no difference, it’s the same thing, because you were clinching all the time.

What’s the difference in the techniques and these things you teach? Is it that difference from BJJ?

Yes, it’s very different. It’s just as different as Judo and Greco-Roman Wrestling. Judo and Greco-Roman Wrestling have the same premise, the same concept: try to take someone down. With Judo, they grab the collar and they yank and they pull, and all the set-ups are yanking and pulling set-ups. Greco-Roman they need under-hooks, over-hooks, head control, it’s different muscles, different clinch, different rips, so if you wanna get a gold medal in Greco-Roman, they’re not training Judo, they’re training Greco-Roman 24/7. If you wanna get a gold medal in Judo, don’t train Greco, train Judo 24/7. In my philosophy, same thing. If you wanna be the best possible MMA fighter, and you wanna have the best Jiu-Jitsu MMA, you should train without the gi in the clinch, like if someone’s punching you 24/7. It’s the same idea.

What’s the difference between this Jiu-Jitsu and Submission?

It’s just different names. You can call my style Submission Wrestling, you can call that, you can call it Catch Wrestling, or whatever, but I still call it Jiu-Jitsu because, for me, it all came from Jiu-Jitsu, you know. Before the Brazilians, before the Gracies showed the world what was possible on the ground, nobody was doing that right, the Gracies showed the world how to do it right, and what I’m doing is taking one step further and keeping doing it right, but let’s get rid of the Japanese outfit – it’s not even a Brazilian outfit, it’s a Japanese outfit, so let’s rid off the Japanese outfit and train with no gi, with punches and with strikes. So that Jiu-Jitsu looks good in MMA, in the UFC in particular, that’s my goal. I’m doing this for Jiu-Jitsu, it’s all about Jiu-Jitsu.

There’s a lot of polemic in Brazil about your Jiu-Jitsu style. What do you think about that?

You know, it’s hard for me to understand because it’s seems that all the traditions, there’re lots of Brazilians out there, I like Junior Perez, Ricardo Liborio, there’re lots of Brazilians who understand my philosophy, and I can’t understand why they all don’t, they’re all ruining for it, they want all my style not to work out, ‘cause right now it still hasn’t been proven 100%, not to the world. For the world, it you wanna get good, you still train with the gi and so it’s still not proved, it’s on the proving stage right now. You’d think that if you really love Jiu-Jitsu, you’d be hoping that there’re new techniques to make it better, but it’s strange how are people who are against it and all I’m doing is for Jiu-Jitsu, everything I do is for Jiu-Jitsu, so the reason people are so resistant is a shame because I wish everybody’d jump in and we all worked together and do this task together, but there’s so much resistance I’m left to do a small percentage of the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu community instead of everybody, it’s battling.

Do you think it’s impossible now for one to be good in MMA only training with the gi?

It’s not impossible, but it’s definitively not as easy as it was before. Royce is probably the only Brazilian, the only Jiu-Jitsu fighter to fight in a gi, Royce’s the only guy, and he was the first guy. So he left such an impression with the gi, it was suck an impression that everybody thought: ‘oh man, I got to get a gi too’. If Royce didn’t do the first UFC, if it was Rickson, Rickson wouldn’t have done it with the gi. We would have a whole different impression of Jiu-Jitsu if Rickson would have did it instead of Royce, or even Renzo or Murilo Bustamante or Wallid… All this other guys could have did it, but they choose Royce and Royce decided to wear a gi, that’s what left the impression that the gi is what make you powerful, the gi is everything, when to me I look at the gi as slowing you down, it slows you down. If, in 2003, when I opened my first school, and I said ‘I’m opening my school without the gi, I’m not gonna have my students getting used to the yanking and pulling and then they gotta do MMA and they gotta readjust. I’m not gonna have that’. When I did that, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu community thought I betrayed Jiu-Jitsu, they thought I through Jiu-Jitsu out, that I said ‘fuck you’ to Jiu-Jitsu, but that’s not what I did. I got rid of the gi, the Japanese outfit, it’s not Brazilian, and I got rid of that part. I felt what’s going to make Jiu-Jitsu better, that’s gonna bring Jiu-Jitsu back.

If Helio and Carlos, if they would have said, in 2003, ‘you know what, this American is making a point… Why are we wearing this Japanese outfit still? We evolved so much, we have changed the sport so much, but we still wear this Japanese outfit… Why?’. They would have said: ‘everybody, let’s get rid of the gi’. Right now Jiu-Jitsu would be smashing, dominating all wrestlers, but the reason the wrestlers are dominating is because they’ve spent all their lives controlling bodies without handles, without the gi. That’s why wrestlers are in there, that’s why you see Matt Hughes totally dominate Royce Gracie. Royce Gracie trained with gi his whole life, Matt have never trained in the gi, but that was why Matt was able to beat Royce so easily, because he’s used to controlling bodies without handles. And even Roger Gracie, Roger Gracie just made a public statement, after all this resistance, that I’ve got for eight years, Roger Gracie this year made a public statement saying that 80% of the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu does not work when there are strikes, does not work in MMA. He said it, and that’s what I’ve been saying this whole time. He said it, nobody really reacted, it was a big thing, it was on news, 80% of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu does not work when there’s punches and strikes… Yeah!

Of course it doesn’t because if your Jiu-Jitsu was yanking and pulling all the time no one is doing this on a fight. Do you know what happens? It’s even if you don’t have a developed clinching style, Greco-Roman style, when you get hit, they clinch, they’re holding even if it’s not their style, they’re holding the head so they don’t get hit. But there’s not their style so setting up submissions as not as easy, but if every day you practice it, instead of every day you practice yanking and pulling your Jiu-Jitsu, if every day you practice under, setting everything from the clinch, moving every day, when somebody starts punching you, it’s the same game you play every day. That’s not a difference game. All I’m saying is let’s practice the same game you’re gonna practice in MMA. Not a totally different game, and people just don’t seem to understand it.

Do you think you proved your idea in Abu Dhabi, with Royler?

You know, I don’t know. Obviously I didn’t prove it because people would believe it. I don’t know.

But to yourself, did you prove it?

I know to myself. I know that for MMA the way I know it’s better to prepare no gi quality Jiu-Jitsu, not no gi whatever Jiu-Jitsu, it’s gotta be no gi from a really good no gi Jiu-Jitsu instructor, focused on no gi techniques that work in MMA, that’s better than training everyday with the gi for MMA, just for MMA, that’s all I’m talking about. When a guy starts to punch you, how’s your Jiu-Jitsu when he starts to smash you? How is it? That’s all that is important to me. In the UFC, the whole world is watching UFC and the whole world is watching punching. To me, Jiu-Jitsu is so important that I want to look good in Jiu-Jitsu, I’m not even getting rid of the gi to help Wrestling out, I didn’t get rid of the gi to help out Muay Thai. I got rid of the gi to help Jiu-Jitsu, that’s all it’s about.

How do you think that win helped to make your name bigger?

Maybe beating one of the Gracies is the best thing that has ever happened in my life. It gave me a louder voice. Before that I was still saying the same things, but no one even knew who I was, but beating him now people listen to me, as least they listen to me. I have 29 schools, I’m not complaining, my life’s great, but my mission is to make my philosophies stand though all MMA, through all martial art, I’m not trying to get rid of the gi. Some of my schools have the gi program and no gi program. I want the Jiu-Jitsu community to realize it’s Judo and Greco-Roman, it’s two separate styles, I want it to be in every school plans of Jiu-Jitsu classes for people who are interested on the clinching style beat suited for MMA, but then you have your Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, but then you also have on Tuesday and Thursday you have no gi classes. It’s two different styles.

Why do you teach Jiu-Jitsu with the gi if you don’t believe it’s as good as with no gi?

No, no. All I’m concerned about is MMA, but a lot of people don’t wanna do MMA and they don’t care about that, so they like to choke out with the collar, they like that and there’s nothing wrong with that for me, that’s fine too. I don’t hate the gi. There’s people who like the gi and train with it. There’s people who like the long board and there’re people who like short board surfing, you know what I mean? That’s all it is. If you wanna train long board, train long board, but I’m focused on the short board. You don’t have to do both, but if you wanna do both, do both. If you wanna do one, do one. If you just wanna do the gi, do the gi. Ultimately I want to be a choice: gi classes or no gi classes, that’s it. I’m not trying to stop out the gi.

You worked with UFC for a long time. Would you image that MMA and UFC would be as huge as it is today?

I don’t work for the UFC anymore, I just quite. I was with it for eight years, but it’s too much travelling, I’m focusing on my schools, growing my schools, training my fighters and working on music, which is my main passion. The Jiu-Jitsu thing was an accident (laughs). I was only doing Jiu-Jitsu to stay in shape, so I wouldn’t look like a fat slum on the stage. I started Jiu-Jitsu when I was 24, that’s when I started it, and I’ve been producing music all my life. So, I was training Jiu-Jitsu to stay in shape, I got good at it, I beat Royler and I go ‘oh, ok, cool’. I have a lot of passion for Jiu-Jitsu, but the main passion has always been music. Now, the bigger my Jiu-Jitsu gets, the bigger my music gets. They’re working off each other, and as far as knowing if UFC, if I was surprised… I was never surprise. From the day 1, when I saw UFC I said: ‘this could take over the world’. I was just waiting for it to happen, and in the dark years, like from 1997 to 2000, I knew it was a matter of time. I said this literally word for word: ‘it’s gonna be a billionaire out there who falls in love with the sport and it’s gonna save it’. I knew it was going to happen, that someone with money would come in and it would happen. The Fertitta’s got involved, they bought it, they blew it up, there was no shock for me, I was waiting for it this whole time. I knew there was no way you could stop it, because everybody that I knew that was into it, they were fanatically into it, so on a small market, when they were exposed to it, the percentage of fanatic was huge, that’s like the test-marketing: you test a movie, and you show 40 people this brand new movie, and 30 people out of the 40 went like ‘man it was amazing’. You know that, even with only 40 people, you know that movie’s gonna be big. Same thing the way I look, my friends were all nuts for the UFC, and I was like ‘man, it’s going to take off, all it needs is a spark to tart to blow it up, I’m not shocked at all.

Do you think about working with them again in the future?

Probably I don’t see that happening. My focus, from this point on, is going to be building as many schools as possible, proving my philosophy for MMA and keeping producing my music, have a couple of kids, a couple more animals and just be happy.

I heard that you have a band. How does it go?

Like I said, I’ve been producing music, I’ve been in and out of bands ever since I was 10 years old. There’re few people I’m producing right now. One of the projects I’m producing is called Smoke Serpent, it’s a band like if The Cure, Depeche Mode, Marilyn Manson, Smashing Pumpkins and Peter Murphy all got together and said: ‘let’s form a rap band’. That’s what it sounds like.