Opinion: The Gracie Saga Continues
By Jesse Heitz
Not long ago I wrote about Renzo Gracie planning his return to MMA. However, the story doesn’t end there. The story of a famed member of the Gracie clan lacing up the gloves couldn’t end so quietly. True to form, any news that features a legend of the sport seems to garner an increasing level of attention, and in the case of any news that makes mention of the Gracie name, much discussion is sure to ensue.
Indeed, that is exactly what is happening. However, it’s not old Gracie family rivals piping up and stirring up drama, but rather it’s a member of that same family. Royce Gracie, a world-renowned founding father of the UFC, recently opted to take a few jabs at the members of his family who are ostensibly soiling the good family name, and perhaps even Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu itself, with less than stellar in-cage performances.
In a recent interview with Ariel Helwani on MMA Hour, as published by bloodyelbow.com, Renzo Gracie responded to his cousin’s criticism, stating,
“In order to make a negative comment about the Gracie family, you have to help the Gracie family. You have to actually be producing new champions, putting your time to build new champions. I don’t remember Royce doing that.”
“Each man chooses their path. How can I judge someone if I don’t walk on their shoes? It’s their comfort zones. Unfortunately, I cannot just sit and watch. Don’t judge others with harsh word on situations that you didn’t try to improve them. This is the portrait of life. People will claim that we forgot who we are, that we forgot jiu-jitsu. … We didn’t forget s–t, man. We are 100% what we are. We live, eat and breathe what we do.”
“Come train them, and then you’re going to be able to evaluate the reality. Sometimes people move away from reality and start dreaming, and they start living in the dreamland, judging others by their dreams or believing what people tell them.”
I must admit that I’m inclined to agree with the sentiments of Renzo Gracie. I don’t doubt that many of the Gracie clan are having difficulty competing in today’s MMA landscape. However, I don’t think it’s due to turning their backs on Jiu-Jitsu; it may be just the opposite. No longer is a BJJ wizard fighting submission illiterate opponents. Today’s premier fighters are well-rounded. They’re well-versed strikers, and many are All-American caliber wrestlers with advanced submission skills, or at a minimum possess submission awareness.
Royce Gracie’s fight with Matt Hughes at UFC 60 showed that the game has greatly changed, and that a solid submission game is usually no longer enough to guarantee success in MMA. Maia, Werdum, Jacare, just to name a few, are all world champion grapplers that have been forced to adapt and broaden their skill set horizons in order to remain competitive. In that respect it’s difficult to agree with Royce as I’m not sure that a return to the basics would work. Perhaps Royce should retire from this scuffle with Renzo who’s clearly on the logical side of this unusual argument.