Roger Gracie defeated Trever Prangley on the January 29th Strikeforce show to take his record to 4-0. Fighters Only contributor Lance Edwards caught up with him this week and learned that among other things, he is training with former world champion sprinter Linford Christie.
Fighters Only: Congratulations on your Strikeforce win over Trevor Prangley. Did the fight go to the game plan you had?
Roger Gracie: It went exactly as planned. It was the first fight I’ve had where it did go as planned though. I’d been working the jab a lot, I’m taller so planned to use that to control the distance. I thought he was expecting me to take him down immediately, so the plan was to keep the fight standing and not to rush.
I actually expected him to rush and try and push the pace going for a knockout, and was ready to clinch. I had worked a lot on knees in the clinch, and used them, and after that I knew it was time to take him down and finish the fight.
Fighters Only: How did you prepare for the fight?
Roger Gracie: I did all my training in London. I have a great Muay Thai coach who I’ve been working with since November, Jason Kelly, and since my standup has really improved. I have a couple of students who fight in MMA so was training with them as well. I also spent a little time with Georges St- Pierre.
Fighters Only: How was it training with GSP?
Roger Gracie: Well at the end of November I went to Canada for a week where we trained, and then he came over in January for a week to London. He really helped me a lot, particularly with takedowns.
I actually think he made a massive difference in my game, he corrected a lot of little mistakes I was making. My takedowns improved a lot, I could tell because after training with him, the guys I was training with were much easier for me to takedown.
Fighters Only: Do you feel that training for MMA and training for BJJ competition as well makes it harder to be good at one or the other, or does training both have its benefits?
Roger Gracie: You know, for me it is complementary. My base is jiu jitsu, and that’s my main focus, everything else I train is to complement my game. Hard training in any sport is the same, when you do it in one it is easier to do it in another.
The hardest part in both is the physical side, having the endurance, getting tired, keeping going; the time you train is similar, you pretty much keep a similar schedule, you just replace one activity with another, whether it’s running, rolling or punching a bag.
The strategies and types of techniques you are using change, but the basis of hard work is the same. Even in MMA seventy percent of my training is in jiu jitsu, so for me it’s very easy to change from one to the other.
Fighters Only: Is there a particular reason that you didn’t have sponsors on your shorts in your fight?
Roger Gracie: It wasn’t for a particular reason, I just couldn’t agree on a deal that was good enough. It would have to be a sponsorship that would make a difference to me, it has to be of benefit. I don’t want to be sponsored for very little, basically for change, it has to make a difference to me to accept a sponsor.
I’m in no hurry, I’m sure that in a fight or two I’ll come to an agreement, but if I don’t then you’ll just carry on seeing me in the plain shorts. I have two gyms in London, so I don’t depend on the money, fighting is something extra.
Fighters Only: You are known in BJJ competition for having an extremely good mount game, your father is known for having a devastating mount game. Did you get that from him?
Roger Gracie: Well I got great tips from him and he definitely helped. He makes himself heavy, when he’s on top of you it feels like he’s three hundred kilos and makes himself really uncomfortable.
I’m not as heavy, and I’m longer so I can’t do exactly what he does. My Uncle was my main teacher, and he also has a very good mount, I remember when he mounted me I couldn’t move, so that inspired me to work on it.
Fighters Only: Will we see you fight much more?
Roger Gracie: I’m twenty-nine years old now, I won’t stop fighting until I retire from competing, I will fight until my body will ask for retirement. So maybe I have another ten years, and I plan to fight more often than I have been. This year I plan to fight two more times. In fact, I am completing signing to fight again in April, and then in June it’s the World Jiu Jitsu championship, so there will still be time to fight again.
Fighters Only: When you moved to London in the UK, there were not a lot of good jiu jitsu competitors there, but you still continued to do extremely well in competition without having the high level training partners, why do you think that is?
Roger Gracie: The secret is in the person, if you really want to improve it doesn’t matter who you train with, you can find a way to get better. When I got my black belt I moved to London. I trained with my students, and would be rolling with blue and purple belts. I continued to get better, because I trained with dedication and not losing my focus.
I would still go to Brazil to train, and New York to train with my cousin Renzo for a month a year. I had to be cleverer, to improve myself I had to put myself in difficult positions that no-one could actually put me in, where I needed to escape. For example, I’d let someone put a choke on deep and from situations like that I improved. Anyone who is better can go out an demolish their training partners who aren’t as good as them, but you won’t learn like that, you won’t get better.
I also was able to train with Braulio Estima who is here, and we would train once or twice a week. I know people who have the best training partners but still don’t reach their potential, they don’t train the best way they could, so don’t improve as they could.
Fighters Only: Talking of high level competitors, I’m aware you trained with Linford Christie, Olympic 100m gold medallist. How did that come about?
Roger Gracie: that happened when Georges was here. His girlfriend is training for the Olympics and she trains with him. He invited us down for a sprint session; I actually felt embarrassed because I couldn’t run and keep up. I have a lot to learn, sprinting makes you explosive and I really think it will help me a lot. I am still training with him, in fact I am going later this week. If you want to be the best it helps to learn from the best.
Fighters Only: Do you have anything else interesting coming up?
Roger Gracie: Well my some of my family and I will be in Costa Rica teaching on the Gracie Adventure. It will be me, Rilion, Rolles, Igor, Kyra and Gregor; it will be a great experience. We invite everyone to come, fantastic jiu jitsu in paradise.
People can find out more from the website, gracieadventure.com. I’m looking forward to it, plus I’ll be training for Strikeforce so it will be part of my preparation.
Fighters Only: thank you Roger, it’s been a pleasure talking to you.
Roger Gracie spoke to Lance Edwards.