CONFERENCE CALL QUOTESLEGENDARY MMA PIONEER & HALL OF FAMER ROYCE GRACIE, ELITEXC LIVE EVENTS PRESIDENT, GARY SHAW Thursday, May 10, 2007
In a highly anticipated grudge rematch, Royce Gracie will face Japan’s Kazushi Sakuraba in the semi-main event of the spectacular “SoftBank presents Dynamite!! USA’’ MMA event Saturday, June 2, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. It is presented by FEG (Fighting Entertainment Group), ProElite and SHOWTIME Networks.
Tickets, priced from $10 to $1000, are on sale via Ticketmaster locations, www.ticketmaster.com and the Coliseum box office. The live card starts at 5 p.m. PT. The highly anticipated Gracie-Sakuraba fight is one of six that will be produced and distributed live by SHOWTIME® Pay-Per-View (10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT). In other SHOWTIME PPV bouts, seven-foot-two-inch South Korean giant Hong Man Choi will face hugely popular former pro and NCAA wrestling champion Brock Lesnar, while former University of Southern California (USC) and NFL star Johnnie Morton will make his MMA debut. Contact your Pay-Per-View provider to order “Dynamite!! USA.”
The SHOWTIME® PPV fights will be preceded by a one-hour telecast on SHOWTIME® (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) that will feature three of ProElite’s EliteXC top performers, popular women’s superstar Gina Carano, Antonio “Big Foot” Silva and Jake Shields.
Shaw: It is going to be a great event. First time ever that SHOWTIME is doing an MMA Pay Per View and the first time that we are doing a live SHOWTIME show leading into a Pay Per View, which should be really exciting. On behalf of FEG, EliteXC and ProElite, I would like to welcome everyone to this call. On a personal note, (I would like to say) how lucky I am. This will be my second MMA event and I am with the first family of MMA, so I am a lucky promoter in that respect. We have some great fights on this card. (We are bringing back) Gina Carano back. Everybody was so excited (after her) first fight, and (Antonio) Silva. I want to see Brock Lesnar fight myself and, of course, the historical rematch of Gracie and Sakuraba. Begin Press Questions
Question: How’s training been going and what are your thoughts entering this grudge rematch? Gracie: First, I do not believe in luck. To be involved with the No. 1 family in the MMA business, he must know what he is doing. Grudge match? I do not think it is really a grudge match. He is just an opponent. (We will be fighting with) different rules than (we did when we fought) in Japan. I am training to win and we will see what happens. Question: In the first fight, you fought 15-minute rounds. This fight will be five-minute rounds. How does that affect your strategy?Gracie: I was training for (a fight that had) five-minute rounds. So I have not changed that much. The last time I fought 15-minute rounds was in 2000. What is my strategy? Just got to get used to it. That is pretty much it. Question: Do you feel pressure on you to uphold the family name and finally beat this guy?Gracie: If I look at the pressure, I would not walk out in the rain. I would stay home. So I try not to put any pressure (on myself).Question: Do you still enjoy fighting? Do you still feel you have a lot of peak years left in you and that you can fight as well as you did before?Gracie: I am still on the top. My name is still a draw, so yes. I still have a few years (left). I take care of my body. I do not drink or smoke. I live a very healthy life, eat a lot of fruits. I eat very healthy, and I am always in shape. So it is not like I totally get out of shape. Question: This is like a home game for you since you live in Torrance, Calif., which is not too far from downtown Los Angeles. How does that help you?Gracie: It is much easier. You are fighting at home, so I do not have to look for places to eat. (I do not have to worry about) not knowing the place or what kind of food is going to be served, or get used to jet lag. It is much easier that way. Question: Gary, was there any truth to the rumors that Josh Barnett would be on the card? Shaw: We were trying to get the very, very best fighters we could for this show and we did contact a lot of different fighters, both through my matchmakers and through the FEG portion. Question: Royce, were there any other opponents discussed for this bout?Gracie: No, Sakuraba was the first opponent they brought up to me. Question: Royce, how is your mindset? You are used to venues in Japan, but now (you are back) in the U.S. and competing in place that holds 90,000 people. Also, how is your mindset in regard to trying to avenge a loss against Sakuraba in 2000?Gracie: I fought in Japan with a crowd of 92,000 people, so the crowd does not really bother me. It does not matter if it is 1,000 or 90,000 people. I am only going to listen to my corner – my father, my brothers, my cousins. So it is select hearing. But pressure? I do not put myself under the pressure of having to come back from a loss. I understand losing, winning. If I lose, something went wrong so I go home and I figure out what happened. I know how to deal with pressure. I do not feel that I have to avenge my loss to Sakuraba. Every fight is different. Every approach is different. Every approach has its own strategy. Question: Would you say this outcome would affect your future? Gracie: My future is on the history book. No, that would not change a thing. Ali is the greatest boxer of all time. He lost his last few fights, but he is still the greatest. Question: Can you go back to the first fight with Sakuraba and talk about your feelings and how it ended up? Gracie: That fight was in a tournament. We were fighting no time limit, 15-minute rounds with two minute rests. We had to fight right after. Whoever wins would go on to fight again in the tournament one or two more times. So it was three fights in the same night. It got to the point that I think he thought the same thing: Forget the next fight. We have got to finish this one. We were both so exhausted. But he kicked me on the shin. There was a partial tear on the tendon, a crack on the shin. (After) six rounds, I sat down and told my brother and my father, ‘I can get up, but I cannot walk. There is no way I can walk. What should I do?’ They told me, ‘You cannot confuse being tough with being stupid. You have already proven to us you are tough by fighting six rounds for 15 minutes. To continue on would be (a stupid thing to do). If you cannot walk, you cannot walk. Let us throw the towel.’ Question: How important is it for the Gracie’s to get a win over Sakuraba, who has made a career out of fighting you guys.Gracie: He made a career of fighting everybody. He never turns down an opponent. It does not matter what size. The guy is a good fighter. He made his career great not just by fighting the Gracie’s, but by fighting everybody and putting his blood on the mat. Question: Gary, Sakuraba has a history of medical problems, and he is going to have to go through a rigorous physical to pass in California to be eligible for the fight. Is there a contingency plan in place if Sakuraba does not pass the physical?Shaw: Very good question. No, not at this time. We do not have a second opponent lined up. I think that is bad karma for me and the way I deal in business. Hopefully, everybody we have is in top shape and is medically cleared to fight. Obviously, everybody knows my reputation. I would never put anybody in that is not medically cleared or has any injury. As of right now, I am told that he is in excellent health and there is no problem and he will clear the medical. So the direct answer: there is no contingency plan at this moment. Question: Royce, how do you think the U.S. rules are going to affect this fight?Gracie: Well, I was training for that (for my last scheduled fight). So the short rounds just (means) a faster pace. Fighting 15-minute rounds for six rounds, you have to pace yourself. Question: Do you think the rules will change the direction of the fight especially since Sakuraba will not be able to use some of the tools he used against you in the first fight?Gracie: It changes it for both of us, but a fight is still a fight. It is a question of who is better trained for that day and who did their homework. Yes, the rules change (things) a little bit, but it is not a major thing. Whether I fight in a cage or a ring, it is the same thing in the end. Question: Gary, what is your goal for attendance?Shaw: Obviously, I would like to have 70,000 people in there. You cannot go by 90,000 because there are a lot of seat kills because of television and Pay Per View. But at the end of the day, I would be thrilled with 35,000 or 40,000. But if you ask me getting closer to the event, I will have a better handle on it. Question: With the ticket sales starting last Friday, do you think you will be able to accomplish that 35,000 or 40,000?Shaw: Yes, I do. I have to get the numbers from FEG, who has those tickets and has that part of the program. I will try to get an answer to your question. Question: Royce, with you being the headliner in such a high profile event, do you feel any extra pressure to have an exciting fight versus just trying to win?Gracie: Every fight is different. I am not worried about showing off for anybody. I am worried about doing my game, playing my strategy, putting my game on the table and winning. Of course, it takes two of us to make the fight exciting. You can put me in the ring with a guy who comes out and wants to fight like I do and the fight is exciting. Or you can put me in a ring with a guy who is a boring fighter, who wants to run the entire time and the fight becomes boring. The crowd goes to sleep on it. It just depends on the fighters. That is why matchmaking is very important. Question: With this show being outdoors, are you worried about the heat of California possibly affecting the outcome?Gracie: Not at all. I live in California. I am at home. Question: You have trained hard in many areas of fighting. How much do you think you have improved in your jiu jitsu since you started fighting?Gracie: I have been training and improving. It is not like I am standing and not training at all. For six months of the year, I am on the road teaching — from South America to Europe to Japan. So I am keeping up with the game.Question: What do you feel will be different and what makes you feel confident you will win this time?Gracie: If you look at the first fight with Sakuraba, I was winning the first three or four rounds. Many told me that I should not have asked for a no time limit, that I should have asked for one round since I was winning in the first few rounds. Question: Gary, has there been any opponent named for Antonio Silva? Shaw: We are working on that and will hopefully have that closed by tomorrow.Question: Brock Lesnar, who is also be on the card, has a one fight deal with FEG. Will there be any interest from FEG and/or EliteXC to sign Lesnar to a longer term contract?Shaw: I cannot speak on behalf of FEG; I can only speak on behalf of EliteXC and the answer to that would be yes. Question: Gary, what are the rules for the fight with Royce and Sakuraba? What happens if it goes five rounds?Shaw: The reason I cannot answer that is because I have not sat down for a meeting that we are going to have between EliteXC, FEG and the California Commission.Question: Royce, how many times have you watched Sakuraba fight in the last two years or so?Gracie: I watched when he fought last New Year’s Eve and I watched a couple of fights before that. But I know him. I know his game and who he is training with. Question: Do you think he has gotten better or worse as a fighter?Gracie: I do not think he has gotten worse. He may be more experienced now. If he was worse, he would have been gone from the game a long time ago.Question: Gary, are there going to be special rules in this fight or will it follow the unified rules?Shaw: I would guess that it would follow the unified rules, but EliteXC rules are different from the rules that FEG fights under. So we have to get our act together so that we are all under one rule for the entire card of the night – both SHOWTIME and the Pay Per View. Whatever we do, we have to clear with Armando Garcia from the Commission.Question: The bout is five rounds. To my understanding there is no title on the line. How did you secure a five round, non-title fight?Shaw: Within the rules of California, there is no rule that says you cannot have a five-round fight. Question: Royce, how important was your fight when you fought Sakuraba? Did you feel you were representing your family or was it nothing more than a typical fight?Gracie: I am always representing my family. So every fight is important. I cannot say my last fight was not important. Every fight to me is important. I am a professional at this game.Question: What about Sakuraba? After the way that fight happened and just the epic nature of it, were you disappointed? What was your emotional state after that fight?Gracie: I am trained to win. I do not train to lose. Of course, I am disappointed to lose. I am not happy. Who is happy to lose?Question: You talked about your corner saying you proved how tough you were. Did you feel you came out of that fight adding to your legacy, or did the loss in any way diminish what you had accomplished before?Gracie: Hey, we fought for an hour and 45 minutes total time. It was the second longest fight in history. My father fought for three hours and 42 minutes. I am proud of that. Question: On the family side, are your older brothers helping you prepare for this? Gracie: They are all helping and supporting me one way or the other. Some of my brothers are busy and cannot make it. But some of the brothers are already here. They have been watching Sakuraba fight and giving me input on what could be done. Question: Do you have any knowledge of them preparing for fights of their own?Gracie: No, I do not. Question: After the Sakuraba fight was over, what was the immediate reaction of your family?Gracie: The next day we sat down and went through what happened, what I could have done better. There were a couple of things I could have done better. We discussed that. Every time, if we win or lose, the next day we get together right away and go through the fight. Question: Have you been craving for a rematch since you lost? Gracie: This is just something that came up on me. When they offered, I said sure, let us do it. It has been awhile since I fought him.Question: Well, the first fought was in Japan. Would you ever expect the rematch would be happening in America and not Japan?Gracie: In this game, you cannot expect anything. Anything can happen. Actually, I fought at his house and now he is coming to fight at my house.Question: Was there any difference between the feeling after the loss in your last fight and the loss to Sakuraba?Gracie: I did not show up my last fight. I had his number and had his address, but I just did not show up. I was not present. Sakuraba, we had a battle. There was a total difference. Question: Is there another fighting discipline now that is having a large effect on jiu jitsu and changing its direction, especially Gracie jiu jitsu? Gracie: It is going to be hard to do that now. From the beginning it was a style against a style, and my family proved that the Gracie’s were using the best style. But today, everybody changes it. Boxers and kick boxers are practicing grappling, and then grapplers are practicing stand-up. So it is not a style against a style anymore. There is not one style that dominates anymore. Now, it is the person. Whoever does their homework, whoever trains, (wins). Question: Is there one particular style that maybe affected the way you trained jiu jitsu?Gracie: No. It is all around. It is not a style anymore. If you get just a wrestler who never boxed before or a karate guy that has never done any grappling, most likely he will not last long in the ring. Today’s combinations are all around. You have to be all around. Question: Which one of those styles do you find the most difficulty training in?Gracie: I have been in this business so long; I do not find any of it difficult. You are asking me which gun is harder to shoot, a 45 or 9 mm. To me, I shoot a lot, so they are both the same to me. I like both of them. But for somebody that never fought before, they might know the difference. But for me, I am out on the range every week, so it is so easy.Question: Are you coming out guns blazing on June 2?Gracie: I am ready for the fight. Question: Gary, much was made about the alliance between K1 and EliteXC, and there is an event in late June (June 22) that EliteXC is putting on with Strike Force. Is this a trend we can expect EliteXC and SHOWTIME PPV to follow in the future?Shaw: Yes, exactly. When we had our first press conference, I said that was what we were going to do and we were going to live by (as well as allowing fighters signed to EliteXC to fight for other organizations. The only way to grow this sport is to join forces and work with others so there can be a true champion. So when someone is either in the ring or a cage, and they hold up a belt, they can say, “I am a world champion.” It was not just staged from within; it is inclusive and not exclusive. Question: Royce, obviously you come from the most legendary family in all of mixed martial arts. Are there any younger family members you are looking to carry on the legacy that you and your brothers have set?Gracie: Oh, the Gracie family is always producing a new generation of champions. There are a few guys coming up. There are a lot of great family members.Question: Royce, you sound very excited and it gives the impression you really do still enjoy everything about the game. Is there anything that is more difficult about getting up and going back to training everyday these days for you?Gracie: Oh, I have got four kids at home. Staying away from them and putting them away to go train — yes, that is hard. I enjoy my wife and kids. So it is hard sometimes when I have to disappear for three or four months to prepare for a fight. Question: Some people might say that as time has gone on in MMA that the really good fighters are less likely to be caught in submissions than in the early days. It appears that less fights end in submissions. Do you have any thoughts on that phenomenon?Gracie: That means everybody is practicing grappling, so it is making it harder. It is the evolution of the game. Question: Royce, how many fights left you have under contract to K1 and FEG?Gracie: I am fighting a single fight (with a one-fight) contract now. Question: Gary, there are a couple fights you said would not be on SHOWTIME or PPV. Will any of those fights be on a web simulcast?Shaw: Unfortunately not. That was FEG who did that. Those initial fights are going to be sent internationally. International will pick up the SHOWTIME portion and then pick up the pay-per-view portion. So those will be the two or three fights that will go on just prior to the SHOWTIME telecast. We may hold one as a swing bout if we go through the three fights quickly on SHOWTIME. Question: Royce, what are your thoughts about this card overall – from top to bottom? It is obvious they star studded a great competitive card. What are your thoughts?Gracie: I like it. It is a very good card, very good overall. There are a couple of guys that we do not know how they are going to react — like Johnnie Morton and Brock Lesnar, but Brock Lesnar’s opponent is a tough opponent, so I believe it will be a fight. Johnnie Morton is an athlete. He has been training in martial arts for a long time. He used to train with my family a long time ago. It is a good card. Question: What do you think of Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva?Gracie: I am not crazy about his style. Shaw: Once they get with me, Royce, they change. I do want to say in closing that I am honored to be working with you. I appreciate you being on our card. Question: Royce, do you have any closing comments? Gracie: Seems people are worried about whether the tickets will sell. If they do or not, there is going to be a show. If it rains that day, somebody will take a hit on June 2. Even if the entire show gets canceled because of rain, snow in Los Angeles, I am going to drive downtown later and I am going to hit somebody in the face on June 2. I have been training for awhile. This is a fight that is going to happen.