On January 2nd, Rolles Gracie awarded Rashad Evans his black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Some in the BJJ community have expressed discontent over the decision to award the black belt to Evans, primarily because many years training in the gi is traditionally required before someone is given a black belt.
In today’s episode of The FightWorks Podcast we ask Rolles about the promotion. Read what he has to say and let us know in the poll above whether you think training in the gi is necessary for a black belt in BJJ.
EXCERPT OF INTERVIEW WITH ROLLES GRACIE ON RASHAD EVANS’ BLACK BELT
The FightWorks Podcast: One of the things I wanted to ask you about Rolles, was your relationship with Rashad Evans. He had a [UFC] fight recently. You were helping him prepare his ground skills right?
Rolles Gracie: Yes, we’ve been training now for a while. He’s an outstanding guy, outstanding athlete, and soon you’re going to be seeing his jiu-jitsu kicking in a lot more every single fight.
The FightWorks Podcast: Let’s talk about that. I think one thing that surprised some people recently was – I think it was on your Twitter account (which is twitter.com/rollesgracie) there was a picture that appeared and it sounds like you gave Rashad a black belt. Talk about that.
Rolles Gracie: Yes, I see what’s going on and I get a lot of questions and that came out like a big controversy, people questioning this belt. First I want to say that I have been involved in jiu-jitsu in my family my whole life. It’s been like a lifestyle to me… And for people to ask why I give a guy like Rashad a black belt is a big disrespect in my opinion, you know? When I realize all this controversy, people saying this and that, and they were asking, I was very surprised. Not only surprised but insulted. I don’t really owe an explanation to anybody. But then I realize that not everyone is lucky to train with guys like him and in the school in New York. Maybe they don’t know me or Renzo, my brothers, and the system that we teach. We have a school like I said that has over 1,000 students and I think that speaks for itself. Some great guys train there, great talents like Matt Serra, George St. Pierre, they all go there to train. And I really shouldn’t be like, explaining. But these people want to know how Rashad’s training is going, I’ll be glad to do this.
The FightWorks Podcast: I think one of the questions that people had was that traditionally people expect some years of work in the gi to be required for a black belt. Maybe you know something that other people don’t know. Does Rashad use the gi? Or is this different?
Rolles Gracie: I never trained with the gi with Rashad. If this happened five years ago, maybe I wouldn’t have given him his black belt, you know? But the sport evolved. Today we see Worlds and Pan-Ams gi and no-gi Pan-Ams by the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation, which is the biggest organization out there, the most renowned. So the sport has evolved. Rashad is a black belt in no-gi jiu-jitsu. That’s why I give him his black belt. Rashad is a phenomenal athlete. He is a great wrestler. He picks things up faster than anybody else, you know? So that’s what it is. If you see his last fight, he dominated! He dominated Thiago Silva on the ground. And Thiago Silva is a well-known black belt. He passed his guard, mounted him a few times. You know there are things I hear from people like, “[Rashad] did not attempt submissions, he never triangled, he never finishes anybody.” Man that’s his personal game: he likes to use the ground to hit, to use his ground and pound. That’s how he’s comfortable there. And I’m happy. And people are still questioning him? They should come back and roll with him to see how they do.
The FightWorks Podcast: So like you said, it’s justified based on your experience with him, that he is technical and qualified.
Rolles Gracie: Yes, because like I said – in the No-Gi Worlds and No-Gi Pan-Ams if you put him to compete it wouldn’t be fair if I put him in the blue, purple, brown belt divisions. He would be competing with the black belts. Would he win? I don’t know. After everyone signs up for the tournament, you can’t really know for sure.
The FightWorks Podcast: I guess a similar example would be Josh Barnett right?
Rolles Gracie: Exactly, exactly, I agree.
The FightWorks Podcast: Somebody who knows a lot of technique and maybe they didn’t train formally in a Brazilian jiu-jitsu environment, but skill-wise in noggin submission grappling, they are there.
Rolles Gracie: Yeah. And like I said, he’s just a phenomenal athlete. He picks things up real fast and I’ve been working with him a lot this past year. I dunno if people saw me on the TUF season. I was there, working with him, helping the other guys. So in this past year we have developed a great relationship training.
The FightWorks Podcast: Sounds like you guys are pretty close. It’s nice to have people like that, friends.
Rolles Gracie: Yeah. Not only that, Rashad is my first black belt. So I wouldn’t throw that at [just] anyone.