Rolles Gracie is preparing to take on Bob “The Beast” Sapp in a Super Heavyweight clash at ONE FC: Battle of Heroes in Jakarta on Saturday despite giving away around 100 pounds in weight. However, the member of MMA’s first family is determined to put on a the sort of performance which could establish him as a serious contender for the ONE FC heavyweight title as well as belts outside of the organization.
Gracie spoke with Five Ounces of Pain about becoming the latest in a long line of his family members to fight in Asia, his anguish at being cut by the UFC after only one fight, and how excited he is to be a part of the fastest growing mixed martial arts organization in the world.
Bob Sapp is 100 pounds bigger than you and you are naturally a heavyweight, not a super heavyweight. Did you have any doubts about taking this fight?
Gracie: No, none whatsoever. To me there is no difference between heavyweight and super heavyweight. Its just a number after it gets to the point where you are more than 100 kilograms – you should be ready fight everybody.
I respect Sapp as an opponent. I respect every opponent I fight. You have to give respect to anybody who steps inside the cage and Bob Sapp is no different. he has a history in the sport, he has beaten so many people, he is massive, and so you have to give him respect.
Sapp’s strength is his striking and he has competed in K-1 and beaten Ernesto Hoost. Do you feel like this is a dangerous match up because his strengths are your weaknesses?
Gracie: It’s a challenge. The power behind his punches is huge so he is definitely dangerous and if I blink I might wake up on my back with people looking down at me. I give him respect and that’s why I trained hard and am ready to do my job. I had a couple of big guys to train with but not as heavy as him. I don’t know how much he even weighs. I think it is between 340lbs and 370 lbs and I had a couple of guys who were 300 lbs so not as big as him but close.
Does having such a large opponent make you more reluctant to shoot for the takedown in case he ends up on top of you?
Gracie: I’m comfortable on my back. It doesn’t matter who is on top of me. I am comfortable it doesn’t make a difference who they are. I am confident in my guard and think I can pull off submissions or sweeps from there.
I’m ready to go three rounds with him if I have to. People say that he is gonna’ gas quick but I didn’t base my camp on that. I am ready to go five rounds if I have to. I trained as if he isn’t ever going to get tired.
Have you focused your training more on striking and MMA, or do you still train BJJ with a gi?
Gracie: I always train with a gi but once it gets close to the fight, like six weeks away, I won’t put the gi on unless I have had a really hard day and just want to do some free rolling. Then I put my gi on and go and roll with my students.
I focus on everything but I cannot forget where I come from or what brought me here which is BJJ so I can’t make the mistake of not training BJJ. I train BJJ and I train the other things like wrestling and boxing.
Sapp fought Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, who also has very good BJJ, at a PRIDE event back in 2002. Have you watched that fight again recently?
Gracie: I watched Sapp’s fight with Nogueira. It was an epic. Hopefully my fight won’t be like that but that was a fight which I watched a lot and I could see things I could work on for strategy but the fight happened ten years ago and both him and Noguiera have improved a lot since then so I can’t base too much on that.
You cornered Gregor Gracie at the first ONE FC show at the Singapore Indoor Stadium last September. What did you think of that?
The first ONE FC show was awesome, I liked it so much I wanted to fight on the next one. It was a great show and the One FC guys do everything right, they take really good care of the fighters, they put on shows in sold out arenas, it’s awesome.
Gracie: I have been waiting for something like this and the time has come. I’m ready to represent and to put on a show for the Asian fans. My whole family has fought in Asia, not just Renzo Gracie, and this is my third time fighting in Asia and I like the crowd here. It’s the birthplace of martial arts and I think Asia is like where the majority of martial arts were born it’s in people’s DNA to understand martial arts and they love it a lot. It’s a different crowd.
Your only loss came against Joey Beltran in your UFC debut. Did you learn a lot from that experience?
Gracie: I couldn’t prepare the way I wanted and I couldn’t perform the way I wanted. It wasn’t the greatest thing to happen to my career, I would never call a loss a great thing, but I learned a lot from that and it made me change my training and made me think.
I was so excited to fight for the UFC, my last fight was like six months before and I didn’t want to put it off and wait another three months to fight again but the right thing would have been to pull out and get another show.
How disappointed were you to get cut by the UFC after only one fight?
Gracie: I was very disappointed to get cut by the UFC because they knew I was injured and wasn’t 100% but I did the fight anyway and then they didn’t give me another shot . It wasn’t me performing but to be honest I didn’t think I performed that bad. I out-struck Beltra, I took him down, and I mounted him. But my cardio was bad and he was only able to take advantage of me after I ran out of gas and that’s something I can fix. All I had to do was step up my cardio.
Would you ever consider fighting for the UFC again?
Gracie: If they call me I will see but I am happy where I am right now. I’m happy to fight for ONE FC. That’s all I’m thinking of.
Joey Beltran just got cut by the UFC. Would you be interested in a rematch if ONE FC decided to sign him up?
Gracie: I truly believe I can beat Beltran. I think if we fight ten times I’m going to beat him nine. The only time he is going to beat me happened already. I can beat him any area, a grappling match, a wrestling match, a kickboxing match.
So you are confident in your stand up?
Gracie: I am very confident in my stand up, just because I don’t show my striking much doesn’t mean I don’t have striking. I have great striking partners and if I feel if I cannot take somebody down I am happy to use my striking, but if I can take them down I will.
Would you like to be the first ever ONE FC heavyweight champion?
I want to win the ONE FC heavyweight belt. I wanted them to make this fight a championship match but I know they are working on their belts and this is only the second edition of the show but I am looking forward to having that belt. My manager is talking to Victor Cui about future opponents and future shows. I had a great experience with Gregor here and I am ready to embrace this project.
How important to you think it is for there to be a show in Asia which fans all over the world can enjoy instead of just watching the UFC?
Gracie: I don’t believe in monopoly. The more shows we have the better. If you only think about one or two shows you are not really thinking about the sport. The initiative which Cui is doing, partnering up with smaller shows in Asia, is great because it is going to create opportunities for more fighters. If you have only one show how many fighters can you have on your roster? It’s great and this is going to be one of the best shows in the world.
Is there anything else you want to add?
Gracie: I want to thank everyone from Renzo’s team, guys from Fuji gis and Tokyo Fight Brand.
The ONE FC undercard will stream for free starting at about 8:00 AM EST on Saturday morning with the main card available for $9.99. Check out the organization’s website or Facebook Page for more info.