By Erik Engelhart
Four-time champion of the World of Jiu-Jitsu, Royler Gracie is 44 years-old now and keeps an enviable lifestyle. The legendary man of the soft art has as his priority the things that makes him feel good, like his family, surfing and, of course, Jiu-Jitsu. TATAME talked to the guy himself and, just like inside the rings, did not avoid any question. Royler analyzed the new generation of fighters, the current scene of Jiu-Jitsu on MMA and its evolution, talked about Fabrício Werdum’s win over Fedor Emelianenko, talked about Rodrigo Minotauro, defended the coming of the World of Jiu-Jitsu to Brazil among many other subjects, which you can check on the interview below.
What do you think of the new generation of Jiu-Jitsu fighters?
I thinks they’re getting better and better. We can’t say they settled down. You always have a new technique to learn, a new detail, and then everybody starts training it and it’s not a new thing anymore and others come. I believe thing tend to grow more and more.
Some people doubted of Jiu-Jitsu’s efficacy on MMA nowadays after some striker’s triumph, but now we come to a favorable moment of the soft art, which has been being used by many important fighters. How do you see this Jiu-Jitsu current scene on MMA?
Actually, I don’t see Jiu-Jitsu being a disadvantage in any moment. Like I told you, there are many strikers who are also great Jiu-Jitsu athletes and they improved their game this way. Wrestlers learned Jiu-Jitsu and are better fighters now. Jiu-Jitsu’s fighters perfected theis skills on MMA. What I can say is that things point out to a better thing because people are training more and more Jiu-Jitsu and its athletes will have a harder time on beating their opponents, because who trains Jiu-Jitsu also learns who to defend yourself of it. We’ve got to a point where the guy can be an expert in Jiu-Jitsu and be a good standing opponent and you ought to want to really be there, will all your heart.
What did you think of the bout between Fabrício Werdum and Fedor Emelianenko?
I thought it was spectacular. Before Werdum fought on World, like a week before that, I came to talk to him and I told him: “you’ll submit this guy”. Fedor, to me, it’s not even close of being on a level like your Jiu-Jitsu is. “Do you think?”, he asked me and I answered him “I don’t think, I’m sure”. Right after the fight I called him to congratulate him and I told him I knew it (laughs). It could only be it, I knew it… We knew it. I believe if he faces Fedor 10 times, he’ll submit him on 9 of them. His Jiu-Jitsu is a lot better than Fedor’s power, there’s no comparison you see this phenomenon, but he has never fought against a guy of Werdum’s caliber.
In your opinion, why many Jiu-Jitsu fighters are choosing to trade punches and end up being beat because of that?
Well, we can’t forget that MMA have events that demand that its athletes stay on that standing game and sometimes the guy doesn’t want to do it, but it became a business thing. If your not good on that area, they won’t call you again, they want to see it, they don’t like to see two guys fighting themselves on the ground. The fight starts standing with the two guys far for each other, so that’s impossible for us to avoid it. If you want to spend all the fight stuck, it’s not easy. I believe it’s a matter of good sense from the Jiu-Jitsu fighter and want to freeze the fight, but know he has to wait for the guy to go for a blow to get a chance to grab him, but not just to grab and get stuck on the round. Sometimes the guy doesn’t know when to stop trying to grab his opponent and being aggressive.
What do you think changed in MMA along the years?
I believe that in the olden days no one trained Jiu-Jitsu and nowadays everybody trains it. It’s like my father used to say: we’ve got to a point where Jiu-Jitsu is the most important thing inside MMA. If the guy doesn’t train Jiu-Jitsu, his chances are very small.
How do you see this growth of non-Brazilians on World of Jiu-Jitsu? Do you believe they can mean a threat to the Brazilian hegemony on the sport?
Everything says they should be better and better each year that goes by. But we can’t forget hat World has being happening in America, not in Brazil anymore. There are a lot of talented people in Brazil, but sometimes, because of not having money enough to travel, or not having a visa or financial support or sponsorship, they can’t manage to go there to dispute the championship. I believe that these guy’s chances are bigger if World comes to Brazil and then we can show the world what we have best, which is our human material.
Are you in favor of this comeback of the World to Brazil?
I believe it’s important for the growth of the sport, it’ll be a good thing to shake this current scene and a good opportunity for those who can’t afford travelling and also to show how much more talented athletes we’ve got, I believe in it. I think it’s really important. We have to bring this championship back to Brazil. I think they should change its location… It doesn’t have to always be in America, neither in Brazil. We can offer the chance of other countries to show its talent without having to spend so much money.
Do you believe Rodrigo Minotauro can shine again among the tops? What do you think he should do to return to the place of a great champion he used to occupy and we know so well?