Defying the predictions of many, Wolf did not get punched in the face (Photo:Cheryl Witherill)
One-on-one with Royce Gracie
As I waited anxiously at The Bistro in Snowcreek for my interview with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) legend Royce Gracie, in town as part of his Mixed Martial Arts training promotional tour, YouTube clips cycled through my head of Gracie pounding some poor guy’s face.
“Man I hope I don’t piss this guy off,” I thought to myself. These thoughts were legitimate considering all day people were telling me I was going to get punched in the face. But when the 6’1” Gracie casually walked in sporting a black Tapout shirt and jeans, the welterweight mixed martial arts champion didn’t look that intimidating (I was rocking some Umbros and tennis shoes, you know, just in case the sh*t hit the fan).
I figured I’d get straight to the point.
The Sheet: Can you be trained to take a punch in the face?
Gracie: Oh, no. No, you never want to be punched in the face. People say to me things like, “I can take a punch. I don’t care.” I love when people say that. That’s why their careers are so short. People like that are a perfect fit for guys like me because I love hitting people in the face.
Sheet: What are your thoughts before a fight? Do you try to get really pissed off?
Gracie: One hour before a fight you will find me sleeping. My brother comes in and turns the lights on, I do some stretching and then I say, “Point me in the right direction.” My mind is totally empty.
Sheet: What do you think about when you’re getting pummeled. Do you ever think about submission?
Gracie: There’s no way I will submit. When Matt Hughes had me in a hold, he let me out because he knew I would rather let my arm break. I was like, “Go ahead. Take it.” Would you want to fight someone like that?
Sheet: Hell, no.
Gracie: [When I’m fighting] I’m not thinking about what’s for dinner. I’m only thinking about that moment.
Sheet: Even if it means breaking your arm, and being out of commission for a really long time?
Gracie: [Looking me dead in the eye] Yeah, I don’t care.
Sheet: World champion Benny The Jet claimed you backed out of the Gracie Challenge (essentially a no-holds barred fight to submission). What is the truth about why that fight never happened?
Gracie: My brother started that challenge. He had a training facility in his garage to show people Gracie Jujitsu and one day Benny The Jet showed up and challenged my brother. Well, he [my brother] took down Benny immediately, and said, “See what happens when you don’t know grappling?”
A few years later, Benny challenged my brother to a $100,000 fight to see who was better. Benny put his championship belt on the table, too. Then my brother agreed. Ultimately, Benny turned down the fight, not only because he didn’t want to put the money up and his belt up, but because he knew he would lose. Wolf note: See Wikipedia for a slightly different version of the history behind the Gracie Challenge.
Sheet: Why is Gracie Jujitsu so effective in professional fighting.
Gracie: All styles claim to be the best. Boxers, wrestlers, whatever. But there is only one way to find out. When I came into UFC, none of those guys had seen my style of fighting before, mostly because it combines Jujitsu with grappling. I don’t need to depend on a knockout hit to win. I mean, the fight can start out on two feet, but it can also end on the ground.
Sheet: Do people ever try to test you on the street or in a bar?
Gracie: No, never. They might joke about it. [Laughs] but if they were serious, they would have a big problem. Mostly because in an organized fight, the round is over and I’m like, “okay where’s my prize?” But on the street the fight is over when I feel like it’s over.
Sheet: Do you think UFC does an adequate job at testing it’s athletes for performance enhancing drugs?
Gracie: Yes. I think they’re doing a good job with that.
Sheet: You claim to be the best paid fighter in the world. What about Jet Li?
Gracie: He’s an actor, man.
Sheet: Any plans to go back to professional fighting?
Gracie: No. I’m not thinking about that stuff right now. I have been a professional fighter for 17 years. The average career for a fighter is 6 years. I’m done.
Sheet: Well, you never officially retired. What if the right fight came along?
Gracie: Of course.
Sheet: What are you going to do with yourself for the next couple years?
Gracie: Teach the world, man!
If you missed Wednesday’s session at Snowcreek, you’ll have the chance to meet and train with the legend when Gracie returns to Mammoth next May.