UFC's Royce Gracie Interviewed: "Never Fight a Shark in the Ocean"

The Brazilian UFC legend on battling great whites, taking on Tyson, and how to take care of business on the street.
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The Brazilian UFC legend on battling great whites, taking on Tyson, and how to take care of business on the street.

My father always said…

Give me the right leverage and I’ll lift the world. You don’t have to be strong to use leverage. Knowing the right technique and how to do it properly is the key.

Nobody’s punch-proof…

One punch from Mike Tyson or from any boxer would knock me out. But, he only knows that punch. That’s the problem with these styles of fighting. With karate it’s punching and kicking, taekwondo it’s punching and kicking. What are the main rules in boxing? If you’re losing, get in a clinch. Nice and tight. Until the ref breaks it up. It’s not impossible to get in a clinch with Mike Tyson. If we get into a clinch, I know how to take him down, and that changes the whole game.

You’re shouldn‘t fight a shark in the ocean…

You have to take him out the water, lay him on the sand, and then you jump into fight. Don’t fight him in his environment, fight him in yours.

The fighter I’d be fear most…

Would be another Gracie jiu-jitsu fighter. Because he knows exactly what I know.

I’m not saying that boxing and karate are no good...

They’re awesome. But if you cannot outpunch your opponent you need to be able to do something else – it’s like if Manny Pacquiao hit Mike Tyson. Tyson’s just gonna laugh and then knock his head clean off because there’s such a difference in size. Based on that, it’s a question of knowing what to do, having the right leverage and getting him out of his environment. It’s not that the other styles are bad, it’s just that jiu-jitsu has the more complete tools to defeat a bigger opponent.

When I fought Akebono, people said ‘you’re crazy’…

He was 6ft 8in and 490lbs. Now, after the fight, after I beat him and make it look easy, people started saying, “ah, but he’s so fat and slow. That’s why you won.” OK then, you walk up to him and try your luck, see how slow he is. It’s like when Pacquiao fights, he makes people look slow. But that’s Pacquiao. You go fight Oscar de la Hoya, slap him on the face and see how slow he is.

There was no way I could take Akebono to the ground…

Before the fight, nobody could picture what I was going to do to him. How are you going to take a sumo wrestler to the ground? His game is all about not going to the ground. In the end, my strategy won the fight. I knew he was going to charge into me. So I sat down and he almost tripped on top of me. Now he’s on the ground and he’s playing my game. Twice it happened. First time he got away, second time it was all over for him.

If somebody messes with your girl, you can’t say ‘Oh sorry honey, I’m not in his weight division.’ You have to be able to take care of business.

No biting or eye gouging…

Were the only real rules when UFC began, but wasn’t really more violent. You needed to watch what you were punching as you weren’t wearing gloves, so if you didn’t knock your opponent out, you could have to fight with a broken hand – like Gerard Gordeau in the first UFC. Remember, the glove is to protect the fighter’s hand. Not your opponent’s face.

I’m a great believer in not getting hurt…

I don’t want to get used to getting hit. I want to get used to hitting you. You get used to getting hit, I’ll get used to hitting you. We’ll be a perfect match.

Fighting is now a business…

People train for points, not for survival. On the streets if somebody messes with your girlfriend or wife. You have to be able to deal with the situation, you can’t say, “Excuse me, how much do you weigh?” “Oh, sorry honey, I can’t take him on, I’m not in his weight division.” You have to be able to take care of business.

I don’t drink or smoke…

I’m a professional athlete, not by convenience. It’s not just so I have something to tell the girls. I’m a full-time professional. A part-timer will call himself an athlete and then go out and get drunk. What kind of athlete is that?

If I’m training for a fight…

The main thing I do is stop travelling. I cut off my phone and hide out from the world. I start three months before a fight and a typical day will see me doing one hour of weights, then a further hour of fight training, some days grappling, some days standing. Perhaps a four mile run too. It’s not a long day, it’s just efficient. I train for endurance; I’m not trying to get big. It’s just leverage and technique man.

If I’m off season…

I probably run more. I run 8-10 miles. Long runs.

I always laugh when I hear people say…

Oh man, I did weights for an hour, I ran from an hour, I biked for an hour, I did kickboxing for an hour… After the first round of a fight, he’d be sucking for air.

You have to know when to stop in this business…

There’s always a new challenge in this sport, and never say never, but I think I’ve more than paid my dues.

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