By Felix Rodriguez, Staff Writer | Photos via Rilion and Renzo Gracie
A conversation with Renzo before his upcoming visit to Houston
HOUSTON, TX – Renzo Gracie is a man that needs no introduction. His achievements in jiu-jitsu and MMA have gained near universal respect from fight fans around the world. Renzo is preparing to come to Houston for a seminar on September 22nd at Rilion Gracie’s Jiu-Jitsu Academy and was kind enough to sit down for a chat where he talks about Texas fight fans, the technique behind his famous raccoon, makes predictions for Houston’s UFC 166 and much more!
Renzo Gracie talks Jiu-Jitsu History, UFC 166 Predictions for Houston, and more
TXMMA: We have Renzo Gracie on the phone, hello sir; it is a big honor to interview you, truly a pleasure!
RENZO GRACIE: No problem, the pleasure is all mine.
TXMMA: Before we begin I wanted to thank you for retweeting an article I wrote about Mariana Fletcher adapting Jiu-Jitsu for self-defense in a cycle accident. These days it seems jiu-jitsu can be seen everywhere and used for anything. Did you ever imagine how far reaching jiu-jitsu’s influence has become?
RENZO GRACIE: Man, I do believe jiu-jitsu is an amazing tool you know, I’ve been living out of this [BJJ] as a person making my life out of jiu-jitsu for my whole life, it’s like you take jiu-jitsu out of me and I’m like an empty shell. So to be honest, I honestly think jiu-jitsu took too long to take off. I always believed jiu-jitsu could achieve this.
TXMMA: You said jiu-jitsu is your whole life, but can you share what was the most special or unforgettable thing you got to do or experience thanks to jiu-jitsu?
RENZO GRACIE: Everything! Everything I do it [jiu-jitsu] is amazing, like in the sense that I’m a teacher. So when I see a guy who is insecure without any confidence in their self and then I see him building the confidence, you know, guys who could barely speak and would stutter and be the perfect example, of an insecure man, grabbing these guys and helping them build their confidence by pointing them in the right direction through jiu-jitsu. Next thing I see these guys start running a business building a family, becoming a regular man. Its like jiu-jitsu gives you power to make a mold for people to improve. It’s the ability to help people, really and everyday I have an amazing experience. Every day that I walk into my academy that I see people learning and training to me is very rewarding.
TXMMA: MMA and BJJ fans in Texas and around the world all seem to appreciate your love for what you do and hold you in the highest regard. You’re coming to Houston for a seminar that’s open to all academies. Can you tell us about it and will you be showing students how to perform the raccoon?
RENZO GRACIE: Rilion Gracie was my teacher. [He was] my uncle, my teacher, my cousin; we grew up together you know, he has some of the most amazing jiu-jitsu I ever met (…) We have a lifetime of stories together…so many good memories of different situations. The seminar will be at his academy. I won’t be showing the raccoon (laughs) because there is not much to teaching this my friend, all you need is range and to know where to throw the punches… that’s it!
TXMMA: Speaking of Texas, the last time you were here you were cornering Frankie Edgar in Houston and you were also at the UFC Fan Expo, what did you think about Houston and the Texas combat sports community?
RENZO GRACIE: Man I really liked it; Houston to me is a special city I do believe jiu-jitsu fits right in there, the weather, the personality of the people who live there, you know people are very friendly, and it’s just a great atmosphere to have jiu-jitsu and to have fighting. You know, honestly I think it’s one of the best [groups of fans] in the country.
TXMMA: The last time you were here at the UFC Fan Expo I remember sitting with your son watching the gigantic line of people waiting to shake your hand and get something signed by you was one of the biggest in the entire place. What is the craziest thing a fan has ever asked you to sign or been willing to do at these types of meet and greets?
RENZO GRACIE: The craziest thing I was a part of was during a promotional event for the IFL fights [International Fight League]. For one event they announced in the radio that whoever came and let me choke them out would get a free ticket for the show. I do believe on that day I choked 70 or 75 people, not sure the exact number we gave away like 75 tickets (laughs)…. unbelievable.
TXMMA: The UFC is coming back to Houston for UFC 166, would you want to help me predict the main card?
RENZO GRACIE: Sure who’s fighting on the main card?
TXMMA: The first fight of the main card is John Dodson vs. Darrell Montague, who do you pick?
RENZO GRACIE: I like Dodson a lot, the other fighter I don’t know well but Dodson is a very tough guy.
TXMMA: The next fight on the main card is Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Shawn Jordan.
RENZO GRACIE: Yes, I think Gonzaga has all the tools and everything going for him to win that match.
TXMMA: Who do you pick between Gilbert Melendez and Diego Sanchez?
RENZO GRACIE: Ah, that’s a tough match, man; I love both! Melendez trains with my cousin Cesar and I love this kid [Sanchez] too. It’s a tough call so I’m just going to wish both good luck and enjoy the fight.
TXMMA: What about Daniel Cormier versus Roy Nelson?
RENZO GRACIE: Oh, that is another good match, man! That one, Roy is one of my black belts, you know, and Cromier is as tough as you can get them. I am gonna be like you for this one and sit right there watching that, you know!
TXMMA: OK last pick for the main event we have Cain Velazquez versus Junior Dos Santos, who do you think wins?
RENZO GRACIE: Oh the rematch huh? Wow! That’s awesome, the UFC is really bringing an unbelievable card to Houston, wow really unbelievable! This one is too difficult to call. Oof! This one is too difficult to call too, man, that’s the beauty of our sport, you know, I think they are one-to-one and this fight is gonna let us know who will pull ahead. You know, like I said it’s too difficult to call I can’t tell you.
TXMMA: Speaking of rematches, did you watch the second Anthony Pettis and Benson Henderson fight? What were you’re thoughts on the armbar finish?
RENZO GRACIE: Yes, it was unbelievable! What an unbelievable show of [Pettis’] jiu-jitsu skills. That was a beautiful armlock!
TXMMA: Did you know that Pettis was a blue belt when he submitted Henderson?
RENZO GRACIE: Yes, yes, I knew this. But Listen, Pettis is an unbelievable fighter I mean he has all the tools to remain the champion for a really long time, I really love how tough he is.
TXMMA: Do black belts really turn to blue belts when you punch them in the face or do you think Pettis’ Jiu-Jitsu skills are higher than his ranking shows?
RENZO GRACIE: No, it’s not that you have to understand this guy trains at a very high level, they’re professional fighters, training with the same group for many years, it’s not about white belt or black belt or when you get punched. It’s about being a professional fighter, they live they train, that is their profession, their work anything can happen. You know, it’s like you can’t compare with a guy who has to support a family and himself you know, on the other hand, look at Jacare [Ronaldo Souza], Jacare is a black belt in jiu-jitsu, but he’s using his hands and knocking everybody out. He’s getting so comfortable from people avoiding the ground that he just doesn’t care and throws his hands. The reality is they’re all professional fighters you can’t measure like you do in a regular academy [if Pettis skills are blue belt level or not], you know.
TXMMA: Speaking of comebacks, any chance you will return to MMA at some point?
RENZO GRACIE: Oh yes, I just began training again. I can’t help it, I’m gonna be back in there for sure. I’ll probably be in top shape in about four months from now and from there I’ll pick a fight somewhere.
TXMMA: Thanks again for your time, Renzo!
RENZO GRACIE: My pleasure brother, see you at the seminar!
The Renzo Gracie seminar is open to all academies, here is more information for the event, please make sure to reserve your spot before the seminar fills out!