This week on The FightWorks Podcast we jump on the line with Renzo Gracie. Renzo is not only a black belt in jiu-jitsu (of course), but he is one of the Gracie family with the most mixed martial arts fights out there. As a member of Gracie Barra, Renzo has come on our show to share some of his thoughts about the comments made last week on our show by Relson Gracie. Relson offered some frank opinions about some of the changes he perceives in jiu-jitsu and like most opinions, there are those who believe differently. Renzo is known as the perennial smiling nice guy in the Gracie family but his rebuttals in this week’s show will show an angle of Renzo you probably have not heard before.
In addition to the counterpoints that Renzo states in today’s show, we learn more about the late Rolls Gracie and his role in the early development of what we call Brazilian jiu-jitsu today.
Renzo goes on to confirm that he is indeed returning to mixed martial arts action in the UFC. The date and opponent are not official but he should see action in the octagon in early 2010.
Gracie Barra students in Southern California.
TRANSCRIPTION OF RENZO GRACIE INTERVIEW
The FightWorks Podcast: All right family, this is Caleb with the Fightworks Podcast, and we have a very special guest on this week. Last week, we had a couple of big names on our show, and this week is just the same. Right now, on the call, I am joined by Renzo Gracie. Renzo, how are you?
Renzo Gracie: How are you doing my brother, nice talking to you here.
The FightWorks Podcast: We’re great, and we’re happy you’re here. Renzo, we brought you on because there are probably some opinions you have about our conversation with Relson last week.
Renzo Gracie: Yes, yes. Relson is a great guy, I love that guy.
The FightWorks Podcast: Some of the things that Relson said, may have…a few people in Gracie Barra may have strong opinions about some of the things Relson said. Do you want to start, or would you like some examples?
Renzo Gracie: Could you bring that up, because I didn’t have a chance to read the whole thing yet?
The FightWorks Podcast: One of the things that Relson said, that I think some people might find interesting, or maybe controversial, was that – and this is not an exact quote – “Roger Gracie is the only person in Gracie Barra who uses pure Gracie Jiu Jitsu.” I think he is talking about his style of attack with the closed guard, and that sort of thing. Does that help?
Renzo Gracie: Does that make sense to me, is that what you ask? [laughs]
The FightWorks Podcast: Sure, sure.
Renzo Gracie: No, it does not. Now its funny, now that you mention, I had a very strange experience this past week. One of my students, he actually went to California, and he ask me where he should train. I say, “the Gracie Academy,” because that was the closest place to where he was going. I sent him to Rorion’s Academy, the one in Torrance. He goes in, and they told him that he shouldn’t train there, because that place was the “real jiu jitsu place.” It was like they were saying he doesn’t know jiu jitsu, and is learning from a source that doesn’t know how to teach.
You know what happened, my friend: I see a lot of people now, especially my family, saying that. “Oh, I know the real jiu jitsu, you don’t know the real jiu jitsu.” We all learn from the same place, we all develop the same art together, growing up. But for some reason, once they jump in a plane and they move to America they try to sell a product, like the American people are a bunch of fools. Right now, I became American, and I know there are no fools here.
Do they pay for good service? They do. So if you feed them the real technique, if you give them the real sport, and everything like a good product, they will buy it and they don’t care about the price. But don’t try to bullshit them and expect them to accept anything you try to shove down their throat, because this is not the greatest country in the world for no reason. In reality, I see this crap today, “this is the real jiu jitsu”…let me be honest, I see jiu jitsu now turning into Krav Maga. Turn into kung fu! Like they are selling things that will chop your head in half, with a karate chop.
You know, its become a joke. Let me tell you what the real jiu jitsu is: the real jiu jitsu is the one that doesn’t back away from a challenge. It goes at the obstacle and defends its flag. It’s like, if you want to claim that you have the best fighting style, you should be in the UFC kicking some ass. That’s where the best competition is.
So when people call me, saying “this is the real jiu jitsu,” the next thing they are going to say is “I cannot use it, because I could kill you!” [laughs] You know, that’s what I heard my whole life, from those fake martial artists who claim they were better than everybody else. So believe it my friend, I live my whole life watching this and seeing this. We were always against that, and now suddenly one branch of my family is turning into that! It’s claiming that, but doesn’t go on the proving ground to prove it, does not step into the place where he should actually be representing jiu jitsu, to do it.
The only guys that are doing this now, is my team, and actually I’m from Gracie Barra. So if you’re talking bad about Gracie Barra, I was one of the founders. You talk bad about Gracie Barra, you talk bad about me! If you claim that I don’t know jiu jitsu…it’s a joke, you know?
The FightWorks Podcast: I think [laughs] the observation that you made about people claiming their jiu jitsu is the purest, or ‘the’ jiu jitsu, but not coming to demonstrate that against other jiu jitsu, is the important point.
Renzo Gracie: Yes! You have to understand one thing. The champions have the right to talk. The losers have to shut up. If you lost, you should shut your mouth off and walk away. So I don’t see no champions talking [laughs]. That’s the reality. People are selling a product, they become the king of the internet.
The ‘pure jiu jitsu’, it’s doing nothing but selling products on the internet. Again, trying to shove crap in American peoples’ mouths. This is just claiming: go and prove it with acts, my friend! The jiu jitsu was good when nobody else knew any jiu jitsu. Now, everybody knows, so now, only those who are really good shine. If you realise Gracie Barra produce more champions than anybody else, go to the world championship and try to fight in there.
You see, I am one of the guys who have the best game, believe it. If I wanna go compete on the championship level, I would have to dedicate like three or four years of my life to be on the level, of the sharpness, of those kids who are fighting in there. So I cannot question the level, the champions that they are: they are! If you win the world championship, you are legit. Nobody can question that.
Anybody questioning that, it’s because they’re afraid to step in there.
One thing I feel sorry about, is Rorion’s kids. They are very good kids, but their father feeds them nonsense. So, they could be unbelievable fighters, but they are going to end up as mediocre fighters, mediocre people. They are going to go through life as great businessmen. If I was them, I’d be selling self-help books, that’s what they should be doing. There is more money in that, instead of claiming that they are real fighters.
They are far from being real fighters. Far. Believe me. When they created a competition, when my cousin Rorion created a competition and created the rules, so his kids could win, and then tells that his kid is going to win, they couldn’t even win that. Not even the pure jiu jitsu rule that he claims he created, which was nonsense rules. Next thing I see, his kids could win nothing. They were losing to guys on the second tier, like Marc Laimon, he was beating them up. Guys who could not even feature in a world championship! People who could never compete in an Abu Dhabi and do well!
This, you know, it is talk. I don’t like to talk, especially because I do have a sharp tongue, and I’m going to strike everybody who makes no sense to me. Relson is a guy that I love, you have to understand. If he needs a roof tomorrow, he has a place in my house. Exactly like I did with his son, his son was here training with me for a long time, he’s a great kid.
Extremely good heart, very strong mind, could be an unbelievable champion, but he needs the environment for training: that’s the environment I create here in New York. A lot of champions come out of my academy. It’s not without a reason, we train for that, and the same thing at Gracie Barra. So, you can’t question that.
To be honest, if I today was Rorion, I would sign up my kids at Gracie Barra. I would put his kids to train there, so they could reach the top of their potential. Right now, they’re in an environment where they will be nobody, they’re going to be nobody for the rest of their life. Let me tell you one thing, I do believe in a spiritual world, and when you are born with the Gracie name, you have an obligation. You have to fight, you have to teach, and you have to influence people in the right direction.
So, if you start selling crap to people, if you start selling this, then chances are you’re going to fade, you’re going to disappear. You may fool one or two for a little bit, but you cannot fool everybody all the time. That’s the reality, you know.
The FightWorks Podcast: I think one of the complaints that comes from that side is they say modern jiu jitsu competition is too different from the way a real fight happens, and those rules are artificial. So, they don’t want to put their kids in, because they think it’s different from what was intended by people like Hélio Gracie.
Renzo Gracie: No, never. You have to understand, my uncle Hélio was one of the most amazing jiu jitsu fighters I have ever seen. He was responsible for developing a lot of the defence aspect. The fact that he was very weak, physically, but he was able to develop sharpness on the defence.
But, my uncle Hélio never had a chance to meet the Japanese person who actually taught my grandfather. Uncle Hélio never met him, never lay his eyes on Mitsuyo Maeda. So before Uncle Hélio, there was my grandfather Carlos Gracie, there was Jorge Gracie, there was Osvaldo Gracie and there was Gastao Gracie. Those four were fighting before my Uncle Hélio. Uncle Hélio had the chance to represent. Was he an important link on the chain? Yes he was. He was the Einstein, he spent his whole life on the mat, developing and working to make jiu jitsu better. But to claim that he was the creator? He was far from that.
This fight precedes us. We are nothing but messengers of what we receive. My grandfather was the first one, Carlos Gracie was the oldest brother. You know, the only difference, which for some reason my Uncle Hélio forgot, was the brotherly love. You see, if you call my brother Ralph now, and you ask him, who is better, him or me, he is going to tell you, it’s me. If you call me now and ask me, who is better, I will tell you it’s him.
We both know who is better, because we’ve trained together our whole life, but I want to see him in the highest spot. I know he wants to see me that way too. If you ask both of us who is actually better, that came out from my mother’s womb, we would both tell you it was our brother Ryan. This is the difference, between the brotherhood and the love we have for each other, and what my Uncle Hélio and his descendants have.
A lot of times, people only respect the hammer, so let me be honest: I am tired of being the nice guy. I have the fucking hammer in my hand! These people keep talking nonsense and insulting others. So they better be ready to step in there and stand up for their beliefs, because I’m ready to get in there and stand up for everything I believe. I also have a beautiful pair of brass balls to do it. [laughs]
The FightWorks Podcast: Renzo, I want to help clarify things. So, you are saying – for our audience out there – that Carlos Sr was the one who learned from Maeda, and Hélio learned from Carlos…
Renzo Gracie: Yes!
The FightWorks Podcast: …and then it went forward?
Renzo Gracie: Yes! He learned from Carlos and his brothers, Osvaldo, Gastao and Jorge. That’s the reality. He was the youngest one. He would be coming to the academy looking at them teaching jiu jitsu. You want to claim he invented jiu jitsu? If there is anybody who can have that claim, in our family, after my grandfather (my grandfather never claimed it), then it would be Rolls.
Rolls is the one who died in a hang-gliding accident, and he was the guy who actually completely changed jiu jitsu in Brazil. He started training a lot of wrestling, a lot of judo, he started training SAMBO, and he was able to incorporate all that into jiu jitsu. He was the one responsible for all the evolution we have today. He was the pioneer of all that change.
Rickson, as good as he was, Rolls was his teacher. All the new generation, they became that great because they learned from him. Relson was great because he learned from him too. So if someone has that claim, only Rolls could do that, but he was humble enough to understand that he was nothing but part of a link in a huge chain that we hope will last forever. I hope that I will see my son one day representing our sport in the ring.
Guys who don’t step in the ring, but want to claim they have the pure jiu jitsu, they sent my student away. Look at the difference: if one of their students came to my place, and claimed he is from their school, I won’t charge him, he will have the class for free. He will be training with us, and I will be trying to help him, in anyway I can, to improve his jiu jitsu. On the other hand, when my students goes there, he has to put up with an embarrassment like that. Someone claiming that that place is where the pure jiu jitsu is, and the jiu jitsu that he knows doesn’t work. This is a joke! I was laughing, when the guy told me, I was laughing.
That’s the reality. When a blue belt student of mine goes there, he is able to finish the brown belts! So, I really ask you, who has the pure jiu jitsu, who is the real deal? I’m not selling garbage here, I’m selling the reality, the one that I learned. I’m in a very privileged position. If I could go back in time, and be fifteen or sixteen years old again, I wouldn’t do it, because I had the chance to know the first generation, the second generation, the third generation, and for sure, I’ll know the fourth generation of fighters in my family. I will help to build them.
This rarity, I had the chance to see everything, to be in the middle of everything, I can tell you from my heart everything I saw. I know, a lot of people are becoming business orientated and their only thing is to make a buck at the end of the day. Believe it, if that was what my goal, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing, I’d be working in the financial market. I would have better odds to make it, instead of being in the martial arts business. This business is for those who put their art first. I would leave the rest of my life, without clothes, just wearing my gi and sleeping on the mat, with my wife and my kids living in the academy, and I would not betray everything I believe in and live, up to now.
So I tell you, while everyone would like to go back and be young again, I wouldn’t change my life one bit, because with what I learn and what I’ve seen, I’m happy with my age. I never understood when my father told me, when I was young, that every age would have its beauty. Now I understand. As I mature, the more I understand life, the more I understand every little experience that I had.
Everything that I’ve lived tells me that Gracie Barra – and now the Brazilian jiu jitsu dies out there, it’s lost – Gracie Barra is one of the main ones, because it was one of the initial ones. Gracie Barra, Alliance, and now the Gracie academies that are out there, to represent Brazilian jiu jitsu, they are the real deal.
If you have a guy competing in the world championship, if you have a guy competing in the nationals, on the top high level of athletes, and he’s doing good, that shows how great your schools are. Anyone that tells you otherwise, they’re out of their mind, it makes no sense. They shouldn’t be walking around the giants that I grew up with, you know, rubbing shoulders with them, which made me understand how great this sport is.
Anybody who gave that away, to get money back, only think about money, it’s completely wrong.
The FightWorks Podcast: Renzo, one of the things you said, I want to talk about. You said, if anybody deserves credit for making jiu jitsu what it is today, its Rolls, because he incorporated judo, wrestling, everything else, into something that before was more simple.
Renzo Gracie: Yes, he was responsible for all the innovations. I remember when I learned the triangle choke, at his academy, in Figueiredo Magalhaes 414 in Copacabana. I do remember, I was there! You can’t come to me and claim that you made this, you made that: it’s a joke. I see guys know, they learn a choke here and there, and they claim to create it. One strong example of that is when I show the anaconda choke to Rickson at PRIDE 2, the second PRIDE that I fought, we saw this move together. Seven years, eight years later, people claim they create it.
This all came from the infinite source of knowledge that my family is. Every time we came together, we exchange knowledge, we saw the moves, we saw everything. So for people to claim, like, that “now I have the purest”, they don’t go in the arena to prove it…it’s wrong. Rolls was always willing to be in there and prove how efficient it was. If you ran your mouth too much, he’d show up at the academy to kick your ass. That’s how he has, that’s how we learned, that’s how we grew up.
I had the chance to see all those generations, one after another, how everything was formed. I saw kids becoming men, you know, together with me as I was growing up. I saw guys like Roger. People claim that Roger has the purest jiu jitsu. Let me explain something to you: the only teacher Roger had his whole life was Carlos Gracie Jr, the head coach of Gracie Barra. He was his main teacher. When Roger was a champion, he came training with me here in New York to improve his no gi. My Uncle Carlos sent him over to train here with me, so he could start fighting in MMA.
In reality, everything Roger knows, was learned from Carlos Gracie Jr, the head of Gracie Barra. Believe it. If you want to sign up your kids, one of the best places to do it will be a Gracie Barra academy. So Rorion should actually do that! Especially because they are now like forty-five minutes from the academy. He should go there and sign up his kids, so they can learn what real jiu jitsu is, you know?
The FightWorks Podcast: There is a lot of Gracie Barra out there.
Renzo Gracie: Yes! For sure, he should go look for the closest one and go train there. Let me tell you one thing, I don’t tell you this to make fun, or try to talk down to them. I tell you this so they can read it, and understand they should be doing that!
Without the kids, Gracie Barra back then was too small. So every two or three days of the week, we had only ten guys to train with, when Gracie Barra was created. I was there, I was a kid, me, Ralph and Ryan. Every chance I had, I would go to Rickson’s academy to roll with him, to roll with my cousin Royler, and all the great guys that were there training.
He should do the same! If he wants to get better, he should go to his cousins academy and train there because that is where the champions are. They can claim they are good, once they can finish those guys. If you cannot finish them, if you cannot dominate them, if you cannot sweep them, if you cannot mount, you cannot show your superiority on the mat, just keep your mouth shut. You’ll look better. You won’t force me to go out of my way, to be talking the truth here.
The FightWorks Podcast: Renzo, you mentioned a story, one of the times when all the guys at Rolls academy down there, went to another academy, who gave problems, I think to Charles Gracie?
Renzo Gracie: Yes, yes, it was a guy from luta livre. We went there, and that’s how all of the fights between luta livre and jiu jitsu started. We had a fight on the street hours from that fight. Rillion, my cousin Rillion, who teaches in Florida, went down and fought the national champion in taekwondo, the luta livre guy. So, he beat the crap out of the guy on the street, and then this guy sneak from behind my brother Charles and knock him out, on the street. So, we went to his academy, and we beat the crap out of everybody there. That’s how everything started.
So, my friend, they force me to one day do a visit, because I will do it. I will grab two or three of my cousins here, and come over, to see who the real jiu jitsu is. So stop talking nonsense, stop selling your fish with doubts, stepping on people’s heads. You want to sell your fish, that actually isn’t fresh: it is fish that has been dead in a boat for over a month! Just because you keep it nice, don’t come and claim that our fish is bad. Our fish, we pick it up in the morning and sell at lunch time, that’s how the market works.
So don’t force me one day to do a visit, because I will do it. Right now, I’ve been training a lot, and I want to fight again. If along the way I need to do a visit, I will do it! I’ll bring the class with me, exactly like they liked to do it in the old times. I know exactly what is going to happen, when I get there, they will tell me “where do you think you are? You’re in America, I will call the police! You don’t belong here!” I do believe that is going to be the reaction. They don’t even have the balls to back it up, I don’t believe they have it. I know what I’m talking about, my friend, believe it.
I’ve seen everything, and anybody who needs to put the others down to look better, this is nothing but cowardice. I don’t put people down. I do admire them, I admire their work, I want them to succeed, but don’t come and claim that I’m behind in line, in any situation. That my team, the Barra Gracie, doesn’t have quality jiu jitsu. This is nonsense. That is the school that I helped to form, and that is the school that I’m willing to stand and defend any time.
I know that the quality of champions that come from that battlefield. I’ve been there to see it, and every time I have a chance, I go back there. Not only to teach, but to learn, because the people that are there are all great.
The FightWorks Podcast: Renzo, you talked a little about preparing to fight again. Can you tell our listeners a little about that?
Renzo Gracie: Yes my friend, I had a great meeting with Dana White, and the Fertitta brothers. They invite me to be part of the UFC. What can I say? How can I say no? I was two and a half years doing nothing but being lazy and eating chocolate, watching TV and watching the unbelievable fights that they put up, and I say, “this is it, it’s time to go back and have some with these young guns.”
So here I am. I will probably be back in action, I hope, at the beginning of next year. I know the invitation still stands, and my gut is already gone, I’m in good shape, so it’s time to battle.
The FightWorks Podcast: I know all of our listeners, because we are all jiu jitsu guys, listening right now, all over the world…our audience is called the Mighty 600,000. There’s not 600,000, but that’s the name.
Renzo Gracie: My brother, to be honest, with all the jiu jitsu guys here today, I do believe you have six million, my friend. [laughs]
The FightWorks Podcast: They are all going to be watching and pulling for you Renzo, so we wish you good luck with that. Anything else you want to tell our audience, before I let you go?
Renzo Gracie: My brother, thanks for this little space that you gave me, thanks for your friendship, and thanks for the giving the opportunity to express all my feelings. All you guys who train jiu jitsu, it is an honour to be fighting there for you guys. For every man who sweats and bleeds under the jiu jitsu flag, you know? This sport is not mine, it’s ours. So its a great pleasure to be representing us in there.
The FightWorks Podcast: Excellent. Thank you very much, Renzo!
Renzo Gracie: Thank you my brother, all the best my friend.