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Tap Houston: A Sit Down With Royce Gracie ‘The Godfather of MMA’ – Part III

BRITT HOFFMANN, TAP HOUSTON
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“Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.” Michael Corleone, The Godfather Part III 1990

When you’re last name is Gracie it seems as though your work is never finished. Even Helio Gracie, who lived to the age of 96, was still building his legacy until he could give no more when he passed away in 2009. So it is with his sons and nephews who still work to give Gracie Jiu Jitsu to the world.

In Parts I and II Royce Gracie describes the difference in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Gracie Jiu jitsu, how it applies today, and how to find the right place to learn. While at Sugar land MMA we discussed a few other topics including who influenced him most in life, if he still has one more fight, even his take on the transgender fighter, Fallon Fox.

So does Gracie have one more fight left in him? He says he does, that he would like to avenge his loss to Matt Hughes – “Unfinished business” as he calls it. It would seem a moot point, however, given Dana White and Joe Silva have no interest in putting that rematch on any UFC fight card any time soon.

Some might say that it’s just another athlete like Brett Farve holding on for too long. I see it differently. The Gracies have a singular goal when fighting: “Don’t lose!”. Most athletes are taught to play to win and that philosophy would be correct in other sports. The difference is, in a fight, defense is much more important than in any sport.

Brazilian fighter Royce Gracie (right) battles Kazushi Sakuraba from Japan during fight action at the Los Angeles Coliseum, Saturday, June 2, 2007 before an estimated paid attendance of 54,000. Gracie won the fight with an unanimous decision after three rounds. Bob Riha Jr/Contributor Getty Images

Brazilian fighter Royce Gracie (right) battles Kazushi Sakuraba from Japan during fight action at the Los Angeles Coliseum, Saturday, June 2, 2007 before an estimated paid attendance of 54,000. Gracie won the fight with a unanimous decision after three rounds. Bob Riha Jr/Contributor Getty Images

True, today, much of what you see in MMA is all about offense with vicious KOs, TKO stoppages, and submissions. A lost art in in today’s game is defense. My wife makes fun of me when she sees me train or I offer a brief lesson in self-defense likening me to “a praying mantis”. She does so because of the Vale Tudo stance both Royce and Rickson Gracie implemented in their infamous careers: Both hands up palms facing their opponent while kicking their front leg out to make contact with the knee of the opponent with the objective of closing distance to get to the clinch and ultimately taking their opponent down to submit them.

Maybe it’s not the most spectacular of techniques and 100 times out of 100, you’ll never see the Gracies knock someone out. That’s also not their goal. Self admittedly, neither [Rickson or Royce] are strikers so it doesn’t make sense to stand and trade punches anyway. Afterall, the point of Gracie Jiu Jitsu is to avoid being punched or kicked at all and to take the fight to the ground.

Rolls Gracie was a major influence on Rickson growing up until his untimely death in 1982 at age 32 . So I wondered who Royce’s influences might have been growing up in a home full of Jiu Jitsu royalty. Did any of his brothers have a particularly stronger influenced that the other?

They all influenced me. I was the youngest so all of them beat me up and made me better.

Rickson was always known as the “family champion” and now that they are both out of the MMA game, I wondered who is now considered the family champion. Royce, with his accent shows that, no matter the culture at least one thing is universal, fathers from every part of the world are wrapped around their little girl’s finger.

Man, my seven year old daughter is the champion! She say, “Dad, I want this!” or “Daddy do this with me!” and I say “OK” and she don’t even touch me. She tell me what to do and I do it man. She’s the boss!

In the Gracie Family learning how to fight isn’t a choice whether your born a male or a female. With the Gracie name comes challenges and pressure to be tested so all Gracie children are taught self-defense as early as possible. One female Gracie who has chosen to make a career out of Gracie Jiu Jitsu is Kyra Gracie from the Carlos Gracie side of the family tree. It’s been rumored for a couple of years now she will make her MMA debut.

In Part II of this blog series Royce told me he gets more nervous watching family fight than actually being in the cage himself. There’s been a lot of press regarding the transgender fighter Fallon Fox controversy as of late with reactions and opinions from Joe Rogan, Ronda Rousey, and Matt Mitrione [among others]. So just how nervous might Gracie be if [hypothetically] his cousin Kyra faced Fallon Fox? With an unbelievably perplexed look on his face, he responded:

There’s a what in MMA now??? You’re telling me there’s a person that used to be a man who is fighting in MMA as a woman? [long pause] I don’t care if this person fights my cousin. If you were born a man, you fight a man. I don’t care about the operation, the body is not the same [a man's body vs. a woman's body]! That person [man] cannot fight the woman!

Obviously this is a highly sensitive subject and there seems to be no right answer for the situation. But that doesn’t stop people for having a strong opinion one way or the other. Tell me Houston, what’s your take on Fallon Fox? Comment below to voice your opinion.

Britt Hoffmann, Tap Houston

Royce Blue Belt

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