Rickson and Royler Gracie Interview

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Interview originally published on The New Full Contact

Translated by Julio Hwu; Edited by Terry MorleyMagazine: Why have you chosen to be each other’s coaches?

Rickson: I always search within my family for support first. Also Royler is an excellent fighter and has a high technical level of fighting. I offer the same to him. I feel confortable with him, not just because he is my brother, but also because of his good advice and by his competitive nature. I feel the same way as his coach.

Mag: How would you rate Royler after his first vale tudo match against Eugenio Tadeau 10 years ago and now in the Japan Vale Tudo open 96?

Rickson: It’s like the difference between a 1986 Porsche and a 1996 Porsche. One model is more modern but both are still a Porches.

Mag: Rickson you are a veteran in vale tudo competition. You fight at a professional level while Royler is just begining his vale tduo career. On the other hand, Royler is always doing BJJ competitions. Did you go through these same phases before coming to the US?

Rickson: Yes, and they are the best memories that I have. BJJ in the US had a boom here becauseof it’s success in the UFC with Royce and in my events in Japan. The vale tudo competitions have gained their poularity because they combine all the styles. The fact that Royler has been involved in BJJ competitions helps to give him the reputation that he has now, but the world doesn’t really follow BJJ competitions so he had to fight in Japan in a NHB event. It’s just natural.

Mag: Royler you are starting a NHB career with many fights to come. Are you going to continue competing in BJJ tournaments?

Royler: I didn’t consciously stop taking part in BJJ competitons, but I’ve proven all I can in BJJ. I love the competition. I have competed all my life so I can’t say I will never compete in BJJ again. Until this year I was the World BJJ champ in my category. This year I entered in two vale tudo events and three sportive events. But everybody asks if I’m finished, and they are used to seeing Royler fighting in these. They want to pay to see me fight in this new field.

Mag: Would your heart still be in the BJJ compititions? When you watch them, will you still get caught up in the rush of it all, feeling like you could have done something differntly there if you had been there.

Royler: Well, this is my life. We eat breakfest, lunch and dinner with a gi on. But when you see a student of yours who trains all the time with you, and he makes a mistake, it’s like you are making a mistake. There is a pleasure in watching my fighters win. It’s not that Royler and Rickson have to always win. I would like to see new talents winning and see new champions. I’m pleased that Joao Roque won. I would have liked Saulo to win but it was good for everyone.

Mag: Rickson , how do you feel?

Rickson: I feel the same as Royler. Fighting is in the blood. We see the competiton and always have the desire to be in there, but today I see BJJ in a bigger perpective, more than a championship. Do you understand what I mean? There is some big talent, and I think everybody has the right to competeand win. During my BJJ competition phase, I always won gold medals. Today I represent BJJ internationally. I have to be ready for bigger challenges. I’m thinking about the big event that will be televised coast-to-coast. I feel respect from fighters of all styles and belts. I don’t have enemies and I feel very proud to be a point of unification for BJJ. My biggest objective is taking BJJ to the big timet. Let’s say fighting Mike Tyson, the most recognized wrestling professional, and the Holland champion. To represent all my black belt friends, represent all the fighters who win medals in BJJ competitions. In my blood I feel the desire to compete in the tournaments, but by the same token if I don’t meet the challenge then I’m happy for the one who wins.

Mag: Where did the competitive spirit in the family come from? Looking at you two play ping pong I can see that neither of you ever wants to lose…

Rickson: The family is descended from Scotland and we have hot blood. We are naturally competitive and I think this is a big thing. It just pushes us foward.We always keep it positive but we always fight to get better. I can be playing waterpolo, which I’ve never played, and I will not like to lose. I will always try the maximum, even if I am playing with the world waterpolo champion. Life like this is always more enjoyable. You can’t lose and be happy with that.

Mag: Rickson why haven’t you fought in the US yet ?

Rickson: The US is a great country, a center of opportunities and the hub of NHB events, but I can’t find a NHB event who satisfies me, financially, rule wise, or the organization.

Mag: The WCC invited you, why didn’t you accept?

Rickson: Yes I was invited before Renzo. He was really interested in doing a big event. I just didn’t sense a good business ethics in the organization.

Mag: Were they unorganized?

Rickson: My 6th sense told me not to enter. I was right. The WCC just happend once. To be a great fighter you have to have good people behind you.

Mag: On the other hand you chose an event in Brazil which turned out badly.

Rickson: The project was good. Then one person ruined the event and made me look like a fool.

Mag: You entered because the fans wanted to see you in action in Brazil?

Rickson: Exactly. I lost a lot of money because I was training from my own money. Without the payment from the fight and with no prize i lost quite a bit. Nothing was honored. The idea was good, I just don’t know what happend.

Mag: What do you think of the UFC?

Rickson: I think it’s never easy to do a NHB fight. 3 in the same night is even harder. The guy should have a good head, be technical, strong and ready for that. You don’t put a truck driver in the UFC. The problem with the event is the time limits. When you use weight categories, then we can talk about time limits. Something I will never do is fight a guy that’s 120kg with time limits. Now you may ask: Would you fight anyone in the UFC. Yes without time limits.

Mag: Why?

Rickson: With time limits it may be a draw. I am technical and I trust 100% in my ability to win. 10, 20 or 30 mins. to beat a guy who weighs 50kg more than you and is an olympic champion may be a bit too much. I’m not saying that he would win but I may not win with the time limits.

Royler: If we have a good offer to fight a guy for 5 min we wouldn’t accept, and we are not going against our principles.

Magazine: Have your students all been impressed by the wins in the UFC? How has the public reacted? BJJ is still popular even though BJJ doesn’t have a champion in the UFC?

Rickson: Yes, BJJ brought a revolution to the martial arts, much like Bruce Lee did 25 years ago. Fighters of all kinds, from all the martial arts want to learn BJJ. My seminars 3 years ago had 50-60 people and now they attract 250-300 people.

Mag: As BJJ has become more popular, have you had more incidents like the Russian Judoka who challenged you in your academy or the Japanese fighter after your victory in the Japan open?

Rickson: No, not anymore because the respect now for BJJ is higher. If your the fastest guy in the west, and everybody wants a shot at you, you have to always be training. You know that if you make a mistake you will be in trouble. Now it’s more professional. There is more respect between the fighters.

Mag: Rickson how have you adapted to California?

Rickson: Life here is not easy. Lots of work and tough routines. Anyone who comes to the US has to understand that this is a land of opportunities, but only for those who are willing to work hard.

Mag: But that phase of hard work is now over?

Rickson: Exactly, but in the US people have to work hard to achieve their goals.

Mag: What about things like friends, food, leisure?

Rickson: Living in Brazil I had a good quality of life. I like the fruits, the life and the people. It’s my country. There is no doubt about my desire to come back.

Mag: But there are always students of yours coming here…

Rickson: Always, but it’s not the same as living in Brazil. I live here because big things are happening to me, but I miss Brazil and have want to come back.

Mag: Talk a little about your other hobby (surfing).

Rickson: (laughing) Then I would have to say the truth…

Royler: (shocked) Speaking the truth? In surfing I am number 1. He may be number 1 in BJJ but in surfing I rule.

Mag: Do you surf daily?

Royler: (laughing) Maybe Rickson, I work.

Rickson: Just when we have big waves.

Mag: What about your son Rockson, does he surf better then both of you?

Rickson: No way!!

Mag: Didn’t he pass you?

Rickson: I can’t admit it. Never (laughing). I can say that he is trying to follow in the steps of his father.

Mag: Royler, in the surf there is not too much of a difference between you and Rickson, but what about in other ways?

Royler: I think Rickson is more calm, probably because he is older and more experienced. Life in Rio is more intense, sort of like New York. In California it is more calm. Here you have time to watch things. When I arrived I was the most stressed.

Mag: Rickson your are famous, but you are still easy going. You are always willing to take pictures with others, etc..

Rickson: I don’t feel any different from anyone else. My training in BJJ has taught me to analyze the individual. Normally you say that the guy who is strong is a good fighter, if you have a Rolex watch you are rich, small fighters wear kimonos.In reality there are small fighters that are brave with compassion for friends and you see big guys that are cowards with no character and who cry in the fights. I judge the person by the shake of his hand, by the look of his eyes. I don’t care for the ones who show that they have a lot of money or for very big guys, this doesn’t mean anything. It can be the Prince of Persia or the son of the doorman, they will receive the same attention. In the ring, there will be no difference. They will show fear, and if they have the ability to control their emotions. In the future I could be the most famous person in the world and have to give thousands of autographs. I would give them all and if my hand got tired I would say I’m sorry. I will not protect myself like many insecure artists, such as Michael Jackson, who don’t know how to deal with the fame. I’m not like this because of what I learned in the ring.

Mag: Are you religious?

Rickson: My religion is related to energy. I believe in God and in the transformation of the energy but I don’t go to church.

Royler: I feel the same as Rickson.

Mag: Royler you stay in Rickson’s house, do you eat well?

Royler: The guy is very good, he saved me in Japan. I can’t complain.

Mag: What kind of food?

Rickson: We have a method of eating that all the family uses. I particularly like cooking. It’s like jiu jistu, it is an art.

Mag: Does this process of creativity help in jiu jitsu…

Rickson: Sure. BJJ for me is a philosophy and not just a martial art.

Mag: Is the biggest challenge to fight yourself?

Rickson: Fighting gives you a chance to know your self better and to find your limits. You can work on fixing your weakest points.

Mag: The best fighter is the one who knows his limits and tries to get better?

Rickson: Yes but not only on the technical side, but also the emotional and the philosophical part. The principal point is that you work under pressure and this will help in dealing with your boss, girlfriend and all kinds of problems. This is the biggest benefit.

Mag: Do your students have the intention to be pro fighters?

Rickson: Sure some do but the majority don’t. Some look at it as a job and others as a discovery. Others want to know how to defend themselves. Whether you start as a child or older, don’t quit.

Mag: Few dedicate their life to BJJ.

Royler: We have BJJ as our way of living. There is a dignity to this art

Rickson: Everything for us is BJJ. Since the milk of our mother to the clothes we dress in. It’s our way to solve problems. Yesterday we went to the Pan-American games. We saw all the fights and went all day without eating.

Mag: How is it being a brother to Rickson?

Royler: Great. Once I remember in school and a bigger guy gave me hard time and I told him that I was going to call my brother. He said to go ahead and call. The next day, after I talked to Rickson the guy didn’t appear in school.

Mag: How is it being a brother to Royler?

Rickson: This kid just gives me happiness.

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