15 Questions for Royler Gracie

Coming to America

By Marcelo Alonso Jul 1, 2009
Considered by many the best tactical and technical jiu-jitsu competitor in history, Royler Gracie recently relocated to San Diego.

The three-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion and three-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships winner sat down with Sherdog.com for an exclusive interview.

Sherdog: You had the opportunity to move to the US right after your brother, Royce, won the first UFC in 1993. Why did you decide to move there now?
Gracie: I’m probably the last of the Mohicans to leave Brazil. Actually, 10 years ago, I lived in L.A. I stayed one year there, but I didn’t like the lifestyle, so I decided to return to Rio de Janeiro. Last year, I decided to move to San Diego, which is more like Rio. I’m living in La Jola, which is an amazing place very close to the beach.

Sherdog: What was behind your decision?
Gracie: Actually, it was for two reasons. First, I was kind of fed up being the head of the Gracie Academy for almost 25 years -- taking care of every single detail, from the classes to the lamps, cleaning up the place and everything. I was getting tired of it, so I decided to take a break. Actually, I didn’t come to America to open a jiu-jitsu academy. I can change my mind, but for now, I’m just planning seminars around the world. My working papers are fine, so it’s been a great experience. I don’t know how long it’s going to last. Maybe one day I’ll change my mind and return to teaching classes and spending my day inside an academy. For now, I’m just planning to travel and give seminars, something that I really like to do; they normally happen on weekends, so I have the whole week to stay at home with my family, go to the beach or surf. The second reason is that I was so overloaded in Brazil that I didn’t have time to put on a gi and train. I had to change my whole schedule to be able to surf. Here in San Diego, I totally changed my lifestyle. This week, I was cycling with my daughter in the middle of the week, something I couldn’t do for a long time in Rio. Last week, I was surfing on Wednesday. My lifestyle improved a lot. I’m taking care of myself, which is something I couldn’t do in Brazil. My plan now is to just return to Rio on vacation.

Sherdog: When you want to train in the US, where do you go?
Gracie: My training center is at the University of Jiu-Jitsu, with Saulo and Xande Ribeiro in San Diego. When we have important competitions, I go there to lead the training, but it’s important to make it clear that I don’t teach there. Me and Saulo have an excellent relationship; sometimes he sends a private student to me. I have built a nice dojo in the garage of my house, and it’s a nice area where I receive friends and give private classes. But Saulo’s academy is definitely my headquarters in US.

Sherdog: Where do you give seminars, and how can people who are interested contact you?
Gracie: I have given a lot of seminars since I came to the US -- in Colorado, Miami, Canada, New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia. I’m very impressed that, even with all these world crises, the invitations for seminars didn’t decrease. [Contact info for seminars: [email protected] and (858)344-6797]

Sherdog: How did your father react when you told him that you decided to come to the US?
Gracie: The crisis had just started. I went to talk to him, to tell him I had made that decision, and went to ask him what he thought about the crisis. He said “The crisis has existed as long as the world has existed. Every 10 years, the world passes through a big crisis, not only the world but all the families and people pass through natural crises that are naturally overcome. Go there. I’m sure you are going to do great.” Unfortunately, three months later, he died.

Sherdog: How do you compare jiu-jitsu today to your time?
Gracie: In competition, I believe it will always be evolving because today you have the technology, something we didn’t have 20 years ago. On the other hand, the jiu-jitsu game is getting more tied down, but I believe a good competitor has to know how to study the opponent, not just think about submissions. He must know how to win using advantages, points and, of course, submissions. The competitor must know how to play with the crowd, with referees in mind, and make the audience support him. There are a lot of things nobody taught me that I just learned competing.

Sherdog: How do you compare the growth of jiu-jitsu to the growth of MMA?
Gracie: I believe jiu-jitsu is going to be much bigger around the world than MMA. Actually, it already is because MMA fighters are restricted, between 18 and 35 years old. In jiu-jitsu, you start training when you are 3 years old, and you can train until you’re 80 years old, so it’s a much bigger range. I’m sure there are many more people practicing jiu-jitsu than MMA around the world.

Sherdog: How do you view the jiu-jitsu representatives in MMA?
Gracie: We are very well represented. We have Demian Maia, who is probably the number one representative of jiu-jitsu in MMA after Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Actually, I met Rodrigo last week, and he is an amazing person. That’s what the sport needs -- good examples of idols. I don’t have too much contact with Anderson Silva, but he also looks like a nice person, and, for me, he also represents jiu-jitsu, even as a striker. When he’s fighting on the ground, he never disappoints me. We also have Thales Leites, who is doing a nice job in the Octagon. Roger Gracie also had a nice beginning, and we have Xande Ribeiro and Rolles Gracie coming.
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