This is the transcript of Episode #51 with Cesar Gracie. A listener politely posted that the original audio interview was too hard to listen to. Ross, thanks for keeping us honest. Above all we want to do right by our fans.
Caleb: Hey everybody, welcome to The FightWorks Podcast, presented by On The Mat.com. This is Caleb, your host, and we’ve got Dan, our cohost, and of course we’re joined today by Cesar Gracie. Cesar, how are you?
Cesar: Doing good, thank you.
Caleb: We know you’re really busy these days, why don’t you tell us a little bit about the things that are boiling right now on your stove.
Cesar: Um, fight-wise, we’ve got Nick fighting Gomi coming up here on the 24th of February. I’ve got Javier Vasquez and Renzo Gracie fighting February 10th in Showtime, I’m managing both those guys right now, and Jake Shields looks like he’s going to Bodog, we’re probably finalizing that today and he’ll be flying down on the 11th of February for that fight, that’s in Costa Rica, we’ll be getting his opponent named shortly here and after that I’ve got both those guys Jake and Nick going over to Showtime May 5th, and that’s what I got going on in the fight arena.
Caleb: Is Gilbert Melendez under you these days now, I’m kinda lost on that.
Cesar: Yeah Gilbert, I don’t manage Gilbert, but Gilbert does fight on our team. He’s been on our team now since he started.
Caleb: And is David Terrell still active, or what’s his status these days?
Cesar: David Terrell, I’m heading up to his academy in two days. Um, let’s see here, he’s had this like bad elbow injury, he’s got a chip, a little bone chip on his elbow and he’s going in for surgery next week. Then he’s gonna get back into fighting, training again, he’s gonna stay in shape, and after his elbow has had some time, he’ll start fighting. Gilbert Melendez is not fighting on the Vegas show for Pride, he’ll be fighting in Japan, probably not till May however.
Caleb: Is that a recent change?
Cesar: No he was trying to get on the card out here, there’s a lot of contractual stuff… looking at getting [him] into the GP tournament they’ll be having, lightweight tournament in Japan
Dan: That is a lot of stuff on the stove, Caleb.
Caleb: Yeah, he’s a very busy guy.
Cesar: Yeah and those are just the major shows. Obviously there’s a bunch of smaller shows coming up here this month and next and my other fighters will be fighting on those shows.
Caleb: Well, one of the things we like to do is always to get a little bit of background and biographical information about our interviewees because a lot of times we hear the recent things people are doing and what they’re up to but we don’t know a lot about when they came to the United States, and how they got involved, and of course you’re a member of the Gracie family so we have some idea, but could you tell us a little bit about your story?
Cesar: Well, I came to the U.S. originally back in the 1970’s when I was a kid, my mother moved out here and then I moved back to Brazil, and I stayed there, and I came back about 1990, and at the time, jiu-jitsu was very small here in the U.S., there was only one major school and that was Rorion Gracie’s school. But that was out of a garage, you can’t really call it a major school. Carley Gracie lived in northern California and taught primarily privates, so there really wasn’t any schools whatsoever. Rorion had that garage and that was the first public school and that was in Torrance California. At the time, I moved out, and I brought some of my cousins from Brazil, the Machados, and so I brought them out here, and we opened a school in my garage in Redondo Beach and that was the second school in the United States. And we’ve been teaching since then. I decided to move to northern California, I opened a school up here, and I decided to bring another one of my cousins up to the U.S. and got him started here, Ralph Gracie. And, that’s how things got started. So, that’s a little background.
Dan: It’s always cool to hear about that original school when all the Gracies were training together, you know, in one garage.
Cesar: Yeah, you know, it was kinda interesting, at one point, when Rorion had the mats in his garage there and everything, and there was so many different guys there, it was myself, and Ralph was visiting with me so we both trained there, Rickson started teaching some classes there, Royce obviously was the main instructor at first. Rorion taught a few classes and Royler was out here for a while too, and you had all these guys, training together you know on the same, small place. It was a 700 square foot garage or something, with mats on it, and all that talent was in there training so obviously it really kinda branched out a little bit, and we opened another place. Royler decided he really enjoyed living in Brazil more, with his family, so he moved back, and then Rickson eventually started his own thing, opened his own school. And [unintelligible] used to train out of his own garage too, for a while there, so we all kinda started opening up our own schools, and branching out with our own careers and so forth. The sport grew bigger and really got popular where all these other people from Brazil came up here, and now you’ve got Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which is massive. I remember the day when no one used to know what it was. It was in one spot only, in the United States.
Caleb: One of the things I wanted to ask you about Cesar, bringing it back to the present, is just recently, I think it was back in November you left the World Fighter Organization, and from a business perspective, the mixed martial arts scene is really volatile these days. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Cesar: I do. You know, it’s like any other business. It reminds me a lot of the dot coms as a matter of fact, where, obviously there’s potential, and people see the potential, and everybody wants a piece of the potential. Everybody’s saying what a lot of startups said, with people wanting to be the next Pride, or UFC, or K-1 or whatever. So they’re opening up, they’re starting these organizations to be successful. The World Fighter Organization was one of those, and there’s a formula for success in this game, and most people don’t really know the formula. So they’ll come in, and they’ll come in with good intentions and everything, but it’s just not a matter of spending a lot of money. It’s not necessarily the way to go. And you’d see things like, the WFA, which folded, who poured huge amounts of money into making a show big, which doesn’t necessarily mean it will be. The World Fighter Organization in particular had hired me as a matchmaker and I wasn’t part of the organization as far as like money coming in, or business decisions. I said, “Hey, get this fighter here, this would be a good guy to get”, you know, and that type of stuff. A little bit further down the line I noticed that they made some mistakes and started to misrepresent themselves a little bit. They had said they would do the show on the boardwalk with Renzo, Frank, and this person and that person, and a bunch of other people, and me knowing the fighters very well personally for many years, I knew some of these guys from outside. They said they had Frank Trigg for example, signed to the organization, and I knew that wasn’t the case. I’m friends with Frank’s manager, Rico Chiaparelli, and he wasn’t signed. So them putting that out there, and putting other people that they really didn’t have a signature yet, I could tell that they were trying to wing it, and build up the hype they have with a person and then hoping that more investment would come and more people would sign and so forth. Really that’s not the way to do things, because you know people get wary of you real quick if they start to see some things
aren’t real. And then I noticed that, I called the boardwalk myself and noticed they weren’t booked there, but it was on there website. So, you know I had to move on from the thing and I kinda figured it would collapse shortly afterwards and about a month later or something it really did. So I was happy that I did the right thing.
Caleb: Do you have time for a couple more questions?
Dan: The big question that I had is, Cesar you’re one of the folks who’ve really seen both sides of fighting in terms of gi, as well as no-gi. It’s always one of the questions we’re always asked a lot at the school and so forth, and I’d like to get your opinion on… How do you deal, in terms of someone starting off in fighting or training, especially if they’re gonna be going into MMA, do you like for them to still start with the gi, or do you like for them to start off without the gi? How do you tie those two together?
Cesar: I think you really need to be able to do both. At my school we do gi and gi-less, and everybody that’s gonna come in has their own priorities. Obviously I’m going to have guys and you know, they just want to do gi-less and I got guys that just want to do gi, they really appreciate that, that aspect of the gi, and they want to explore that and have fun with it. You take the gi-less people on their own, and they wanna fight, and they like that better, so you give them that option. Now the reason I think you need to do both is because if you really want to do MMA, you gotta think mixed martial arts is a competition for a professional to get into, but really MMA is you not getting the shit kicked out of you in a street fight or something, you know? People don’t walk around in Speedos in the street unless you’re in Miami in the summer or something. People walk around in clothes, and all the gi is is a substitute for the clothes so you don’t have to keep getting them ripped over and over. They’re meant to take the place of that, a jacket, and a pair of pants, jeans or something. I’ve had really good MMA guys come in, and get choked out by a guy wearing a gi. You need to know how to defend against a sleeve choke, or something, and they learn quick, “Oh I don’t want to be training with a guy with a gi on, and him getting me in this move…”. You need to understand that jiu-jitsu and the grappling arts were originally invented for self defense. You’re walking down the street and you’re attacked, and the guy he’s got a jacket on him, and then you’re probably going to have a jacket on. What’s gonna happen when you don’t know how to defend against a simple choke, you know? An MMA guy may get on top of you with a double leg or something, next thing you know the guy’s got two hands in your collar and you passed out. That’s really not the objective of things. My idea is, you don’t have to be excellent and have to know both, you can excell in gi-less, and know some gi, or vice versa just to have yourself prepared for those situations. I pretty much teach guys to do both. I do have guys that 99% of the time do one thing. Right now David Terrell he just trains gi-less, and he’s got his black belt in gi. Jake Shields was a gi-less guy that came in, and he did some work, and I did have him compete with the gi on, and he won the Pan-American purple belt division a couple years back. He had like seven matches. I do prefer guys to do both at my school.
Dan: So, I guess the next question is, when you have someone who competes without the gi predominantly, and let’s say maybe they’re not an MMA fighter, when you’re promoting them, does that come into play at all.
Cesar: It does, it does come into play. Again, I look at what that guy wants to specialize in, and like Jake for example, he’s my gi-less guy. You know a guy like Nick Diaz he’s really 50-50 to be honest with you. Jake is a brown belt, Nick is a brown belt. I think that you look at a guy like Marcelo Garcia. He does both [gi and gi-less]. Who’s going to tell that guy he’s not a black belt if he just never wore a gi again. Him coming up, you’d have to promote him also. I’d have to obviously make a little bit of adjustments from that standpoint because I came from a Brazilian jiu-jitsu school, where you learn how, you put a gi on, and that’s how you train. That’s how you get promoted. So it works kinda like hit and miss, you know, what to look for under my own standards. I’ve got my standards of what I need to see, so I’ll see a guy with technique, and I think that if a guy is to be promoted gi-less, I’d like them to know some gi. So it’s like I told you with Jake Shields, you know, I put a gi on him for a while, and he got pretty damn good at it to be honest with you! Winning the purple belt at the Pan-Americans is no easy task. He really wiped out the field. In his last match he took a guy that was a silver medalist in the Worlds, and Jake beat the guy like 18-0.
Cesar: Yeah and everybody else he armbarred or did whatever to. So I think we’ll put a gi on a guy a little bit, and kinda go, “Look check this out I know you don’t like this too much, and whatever, but…”
Dan: “…give it a go and see how it works out.”
Cesar: Yeah give it a go a little bit and just be somewhat proficient. You don’t have to be great at it, you need to know what’s going on with it. That’s just my opinion.
Dan: Good, I like that. Caleb…?
Caleb: I was just going to say thanks a lot for being with us Cesar. Is there anything else you’d like to say out to the listeners out there before saying goodbye?
Cesar: This is for On The Mat?
Caleb: Yeah, we’re going to be on On The Mat.com and The FightWorks Podcast.
Cesar: No, just say “hi” to Scotty and Gumby, and those guys. I heard Gumby got his black belt from my cousin Ralph, so congrats, and to all the guys that are training in jiu-jitsu and everything, just have fun with it and thanks for participating in the sport.