The last name Gracie brings certain expectations. Two of the elder Gracie brothers, Helio and Carlos, are widely credited as the founders of the fast-growing martial art Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Both of them had many sons, most of whom are involved in BJJ on a global scale as some of the highest-level practitioners and masters.
In the widespread Gracie lineage, there was a son of Carlos, Rolls, that was raised by his uncle Helio, who also trained him in BJJ. Rolls Gracie had two sons, Rolles Jr. and Igor, before passing away in a hang-gliding accident at the young age of 31, when the younger Igor was only two years old. The widow of Rolls Gracie had another son, Gregor, about two and a half years later.
Gregor Gracie, now 25 years old, currently trains with his half-brothers under their cousin, the famous BJJ Master Renzo Gracie, in New York City.
Gregor is an accomplished black belt in BJJ. He has won the World Championships, the Pan American Championships, several Brazilian National Championships, and holds medals in both NAGA and ADCC competitions. Needless to say, he is following right in line with the family business and is currently competing as a professional mixed martial artist.
Gracie, at 7-2, has a great record so far. All but one of his wins came by submission, and his losses were one knockout and one decision. As can be expected, he is a tremendous ground fighter that doesn’t get submitted.
Beginning in Sept. 2011, Gracie went on a three-fight run in Southeast Asia’s ONE FC promotion, racking up a 2-1 record with his decision loss coming in June. Shortly after, on Aug. 31, he stopped Australia’s Nicholas Mann with a first-round armbar. This was a win that Gracie needed, especially coming off a tough loss.
“It felt great, you know,” Gracie said in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “I showed I could fight a lot better. I was able to show all of my capabilities. The first thing when I walked out of the cage, I asked them when would be my next event.”
Well, it didn’t take long to get an answer.
In the late summer and early fall, Ray Sefo, former six-time Muay Thai world champion and current MMA striking trainer at Xtreme Couture, and his colleagues were able to put together a deal with NBC Sports, formerly known as Versus, for a new MMA promotion called the World Series of Fighting (WSOF).
The WSOF is new and a lot of people aren’t really sure what to expect. The good thing for the WSOF is that it has seasoned announcers in Bas Rutten and Todd Harris, good looking ring girls, a new ten-sided cage design, the backing of NBC Sports and, most importantly, a great lineup of both old-school and up-and-coming fighters.
Gregor is one of the fighters getting a shot at the inaugural promotion this Saturday, Nov. 3, at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. He has the privilege of bringing the family name into the new promotion, and he is excited for his chance to shine.
“I feel great. For sure, it’s going to be a huge show,” Gracie exclaimed. “They’re starting the first-ever show, so it’s going to be huge. It’s going to be live on TV, and it’s going to be history. I’m sure the guys behind it are going to make it work. The guys fighting in it are expert fighters. I think they have the TV crews to make it a big show.”
On the card, Gracie will be fighting Canadian Tyson Steele, who has only one loss on his record, by submission, with seven of his nine wins also coming by submission. This will be Steele’s first fight outside of his native Canada, and with Steele possessing a background in BJJ finishes, this should be a good matchup for Gracie.
“He’s a very tough fighter,” Gracie admitted. “I watched his fights. I always want a tough opponent. He’s a tough guy, very experienced, 9-1, which is a very good record. I think it’s going to be a great fight. He pushes forward and always tries to finish his fights, and I always push forward. It’s going to be a very exciting fight for people to watch.”
An exciting fight for sure, and almost a guaranteed ground battle. In fact, with most of their respective fights finishing on the ground in the first round, there is very little tape on either guy fighting on foot.
Gracie isn’t really sure what to expect from his opponent’s striking.
“I don’t know,” he admitted. “I think we both train very hard. I don’t think he stands up much, and I don’t stand up much in most of my fights, so it’s hard to tell.”
Gracie is trying to keep a clear head going into the fight. Without trying to expect too much, he is only expecting to defeat his opponent.
“Every fight I always fought, I thought ‘Well, if he tries to do this, I’m going to do that, you know?” the Brazilian explained. “I just can’t wait for my opponent. I always try to win, so I think I’m going to win. I think it’s going to be a war on the ground. He likes to take down and I like to take down. I think it’s going to end up on the ground, and I’m definitely going to win. I don’t know how, but I’m going to fight for the win.”
Many people would assume that going into the inaugural event of a new promotion, there would be a lot of pressure to carry on the Gracie legacy. Especially when Royce Gracie, a distant cousin and son of Helio, was the winner of the inaugural Ultimate Fighting Championship, but Gregor is not too concerned about that standpoint.
“I don’t feel much pressure,” Gracie stated. “I’m always fighting a different person, and I don’t fight for expectations. Fighting becomes a part of you, and I’m more focused on the person that’s ahead of me. If anything, my background will work in my favor, I believe.”
That’s the sign of a true warrior. Gregor Gracie is not all swept up in the family name. On the younger end of the current Gracie fighters in pro MMA, he is all business, all the time. And with WSOF, he sees a future, and he’s not too concerned with the starry-eyed UFC hype, like some of the other up-and-comers.
“The most important thing is to keep fighting,” Gracie explained. “Right now, I’m very happy with World Series of Fighting. I’m just going to have that first fight now, so it’s hard to predict the future. I’m just looking forward to fighting Tyson Steele. If they keep treating me the way they are, I think I’ll be happy here.”
Gregor is a humble, yet dangerous fighter with a great work ethic. A work ethic he credits in great part to his cousin, Renzo.
“Renzo is not only my coach, but he is almost like my father,” Gracie intimated. “He is the one that brought me and my brothers to New York. He has helped us, not only in the fight game, but also in life. He always made sure that if I was going to train, that I would be there. He would say, ‘Hey, if you want to train, you’re going to be there, right? Because if you’re not going to be there, you’re not going to get in the cage.’ It’s amazing to have a coach with such experience to be there to help me out.”
The respect Renzo has earned from his fighters and many others in the MMA and BJJ world is growing at an exponential pace on a global basis. Gregor is not only a participant on Renzo’s team, but he is also one of the trainers at the academy in New York City.
Outside of training others and his own training, Gregor leads a pretty normal life.
“I like to hang out with my friends,” he said. “I have a lot of good friends here. We just like to hang out, go to dinner, watch a movie, just like everybody else, you know? I’m just a regular guy.”
Well, he may be a regular guy in his own eyes, which is a common theme amongst many professional fighters, but he is also a highly skilled and dangerous individual in the ring.
“I like to go back to Brazil about two or three times a year,” Gracie explained. “This year, I wasn’t able to go much, with me and my brothers always fighting. It makes it harder to get back to Brazil. Whenever I can, I go over there and see my mom. I always train wherever I go. There’s no such thing as vacation. I believe for an athlete, there’s no vacation. It’s a full-time job. When you’re training to fight, you’re 24 hours on the job. You have to worry about what you eat, you have to worry about how you train. The moment you stop, and you go into the cage, and the other guy’s been training, you’re going to be behind.”
If the fans didn’t already know, they do now. This is the life of a fighter, and there is no better example of that than Gregor.
The very humble Gracie wants the fans to know just a few things, “I fight for my fans and my family. I want to keep this going to teach to my kids, and I’ll be very glad if they’re fighters. I’m always fighting to finish the fight and do my best.”
Well, Saturday, the fans are sure to see the fireworks fly in Gracie’s debut for the WSOF inaugural promotion. The descendant of the first family of BJJ is sure to put on a show in Las Vegas, and can’t wait to continue his career in MMA.
Top Photo: Gregor Gracie (Martin Hooson/Sherdog)