Renzo Gracie: ‘Sakuraba Is a Hero to Me’

By C.J. Tuttle Nov 23, 2014
Renzo Gracie squared off with an old rival on Saturday. | Photo: Dave Mandel/

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Renzo Gracie put an enormous amount of work in for his rematch with Kazushi Sakuraba at Metamoris 5, but “The Gracie Hunter” lived to see another day.

The two legends fought to a draw Saturday in the main event of the submission-only jiu-jitsu tournament at Long Beach Convention Center, but Gracie was pleased with his performance.

“I was very glad with the result. Even though I couldn’t finish him, I was extremely glad that I didn’t feel tired, not even for a second,” Gracie told “I could have done 20 more minutes. That alone builds my confidence to get back in the game.”

By getting back in the game, Gracie alludes to his impending matchup with Matt Hughes at ADCC 2015. The match against Sakuraba was the first step in the 47-year-old getting to where he wants to be.

“I had a short time to be ready for this,” Gracie said. “I was involved with a lot of things that I couldn’t let go, but when I got the call, I stopped everything. I stopped my life to concentrate. It was three months of hard training. I was able to put up a lot of hours of hard work.”

For Gracie, the rematch had nothing to do with animosity or settling the score from Pride 10 in 2000, when Sakuraba injured the arm of the Brazilian with a kimura. If anything, the two battles with the Japanese superstar only add to the respect Gracie holds for him.

“I was surprised with the amount of people who sent me a message telling me to break his arm, like we mean to do that when we are fighting. We expect the opponent to be honorable enough to not tap and allow me the honor to break his arm, but if he taps, we let go. It’s a gentleman’s sport. In reality, I have no animosity towards him, no hate towards him,” Gracie said. “People ask if I hate my opponents; I don’t. I love them. They are the ones that actually make me bring the best I have, make me feel young again, make me push to belong to this game. Sakuraba is a hero to me. If they send me his shirt, I’ll wear it.”

But for two men in their 40s, strength was no issue. Interestingly enough, both men were surprised with their opponent’s ability to resist a submission hold. Gracie also pointed out how different this meeting was from their last, being that one was held under the mixed martial arts rules of Pride Fighting Championships, while Saturday’s was under Metamoris’ unique jiu-jitsu rule set.

“Normally, when I’m in those positions that I was in, I finish everybody, but I felt him being extremely strong, like his ability to prevent my finishing holds. The last seven minutes I was on top, going for the finishes, he was able to hold and not let me close any tight submission,” Gracie explained. “That was very surprising. This is the first time I have ever had the chance to roll with him. The last time we met, we fought. We were hitting each other. I saw the danger of him going for foot locks, leg locks. I was glad that my performance in the sense of dominating him, but I’m going to train harder to be better for the next time I compete.”


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