Ralph Gracie interview

This Article originally appeared on BJJ.org. The entire archive of information is now available on OntheMat.comFrom Gracie MagazineTranslated by Boy From BrazilDecember 1997


Gracie MagazineHow did the opportunity come to fight in Extreme Fighting?

Ralph GracieJohn Perretti was looking for a Gracie to fight in the event and asked me. I accepted because it would be a good opportunity to defend my family name and help spread BJJ in the USA.

GMYou won the first three editions. Why didn’t you win a belt in the first one?

RGBefore anything else, the Extreme Fighting organization never liked me, they always were interested in me losing to put an end to the rise of the Gracie popularity in the US. They were mean and put two Gracies in the same weight category (my cousin Carlson Jr. and myself). Obviously the family doesn’t fight against each other, so there was no way for me to get the belt. After the fight, the organization even wanted me to go on TV and challenge my cousin.

GMIn the second edition there was a big problem, all the fighters were arrested in Canada. How was this story?

RGNot all the fighters, I got away. It was the following: the fight was going to take place in an Indian reservation in Canada. The government was against the fight, but didn’t have legal access to the reservation, so they couldn’t prevent the event from taking place. However, after the show we left the reservation and went to a hotel, where the police arrived and arrested everybody. I was in my room and a friend called me telling me they were checking every room and people were being arrested. Quickly I left my room and went to my friend’s, where the police didn’t think I would be. I lawyer advised me to stay in the room for 3 days until after the hearing, which would solve the problem. The funniest thing that happened those days was when Nino [Schembri, Ralph’s friend], who thought the police were also after him, wanted to climb down the window from the fifth floor, tying the blankets together.

GMWhat about your celebration a lá Elvis Presley after your win?

RGThat was because Nino was spending some time here in the US, and since he is crazy about Elvis I did this celebration for him.

GMIn the third event it seemed like it was hard to find an opponent for you, right?

RGIt really was hard, I think because here in the US I am considered the best fighter of my weight and people think twice before fighting with me.

GMAnd after, didn’t your fight against Eugenio Tadeu take place, in Extreme Fighting 4? He said here in Brazil that you chickened out, is that true?

RGEugenio must have been high or crazy when he said this, because there isn’t a human being for me to chicken out to. Eugenio with his “tactics” for a draw would have wanted to stall in 3 5-minute rounds, which would be made easier with his habits of oiling his body. Now, that I know, who is known as a chicken is him, which he showed on several occasions. In 1983, Renan Pitangy had to call his mother, father and grandfather names and yet he didn’t want to fight. After, in his fight with Wallid [Ismail], he desperately tried to throw himself out of the ring, and used the fake excuse that the crowd was beating him up to say that he was in no conditions of fighting. To end, in his fight with Royler [Gracie] he asked to stop 3 times. What’s more, the organization told me he wasn’t able to get his VISA.

GMAfter, Extreme Fighting, the second biggest NHB event in the US, ended. Didn’t you have any more offers to fight NHB?

RGI had some, but none which interested me.


GMWhy did you go and live in the US?

RGI came because I was invited by my cousin César to give some seminars and saw that here there was a strong potential to spread Jiu-Jitsu.

GMHave you full adapted to life in San Francisco or do you plan to go back to Rio de Janeiro?

RGI have adapted very well here, because my wife and family helped me a lot and I had an excellent reception, by my students and the American people. But I miss the beach, the training, my friends and my dog Diavulo.

GMHow do you keep in shape without the tough training in Brazil?

RGNow I am keeping in shape by training boxing in a ring that I set up at home, working out a lot, training with my cousin César and with my students who are becoming very good.

GMThey say that you are one of the guys most recognised by people in the streets, is this true?

RGYes, really, all the time someone asks me for an autograph. Before I even thought people were looking at me asking for trouble. Once I was in the airport with Flávia [Ralph’s wife], coming back from a seminar and noticed that three guys were walking behind us. I thought it was strange, so I turned back and asked them what was happening. Kind of expressionless they asked me if I was Ralph Gracie. Imagine who the guys were? The band members of Santana.

GMThis isn’t the first time you live in the US, right?

RGNo, I was on vacation for six months in Los Angeles, three months at my cousing Rickson’s house and 3 months at my cousin César’s house.

GMHow was your stay before?

RGIt was cool, I had the opportunity to meet new people, make new friends and do some demonstrations. Once we went to give the Marines a seminar. It was a basketball court, and only about six or seven guys paid attention to us, because no one thought a bunch of skinny guys (in comparison to them), could have some effectiveness. Rickson started a demonstration with his son Rockson and people began to observe how such a small boy could do all those moves. After playing with his son, he made me mount on the biggest guy there, and the people there thought he was crazy, because I was very thin and only 17 years old. Rickson answered “leave little Ralph”, and everyone began laughing with the difference in size. I started mounted on the guy and he couldn’t get me off, then he mounted on me and I quickly got him in my guard, from where he got me in a headlock. He squeezed so much that they asked my cousin [Rorion] if he wasn’t going to explode my head. My cousin told them he wasn’t worried, because I had gone there for that. He squeezed more and more, and I thought it really was going to explode my head, but I managed to go to his back and made him tap with an armlock. Everyone was impressed and finally showed some interest in the seminar.


GMHow is your academy in San Francisco?

RGMy academy is very good, with an excellent level of technique and being recognized as the best academy in California. I am happy for doing an excellent job and having my students recognize that. I teach guys that vary from FBI special agents to the more calm computer specialists. I am now in a project with the police, encouraging kids from the street to practice BJJ, to avoid their involvement with drugs and gangs.

GMDo you have a partner?

RGNot in the academy, only in the sales of tapes and books.

GMWith your mean look, what I have heard is that at home and in the business who’s in charge is Flávia. How is this? Does she run the academy?

RGIt’s true, because with her strong personality and great character I am proud and admire her a lot. She takes care of all our finances without having me worry, and now that she’s pregnant she is even more in charge, not only at home or in the academy, but in my heart.

GMDo you have students ready to compete?

RGYes, I have athletes ready to compete until purple belt. My academy is really new but always is excellently placed in tournaments.

GMDo you plan on opening other academies?

RGYes, I want to bring some friends to help me establish a chain of academies.


GMWhere did the nickname “Pitbull” come from?

RGIt was because in the first Extreme Fighting some people saw me fight and found it similar to a pitbull when it fights.

GMSince childhood did you think you would be an NHB fighter?

RGYes, it’s funny, this started in my own home, because I always fought with my brothers and cousins, and on one occasion, in a fight with Ryan [Gracie, Ralph’s brother], I gave him an uppercut on his head and he fell, my father separated the fight and as always, we made up. As he always did, my father didn’t fight with us, but taught Ryan how he could have avoided the punch.

GMIt seems as if you don’t want to get hurt. Renzo [Gracie, Ralph’s brother] told me that he gave you a cross-bow and he almost got hit by an arrow, is this true?

RGI really never liked getting hurt, and I shot him once, but only to come close.

GMRillion [Gracie, Ralph’s cousin] once almost got hit by a tile on the head, right?

RGHe was bigger and hit me with a broomstick, and I wanted to give him something back, so I went to the terrace to find stones to throw at him. But my cousin came out protected by a trash can lid, escaping from the rocks I threw.

GMWhat about your strong uppercut, does it also come from your childhood?

RGSince I was a child I am known for being very strong for my size and for having a good punch. I remember one day at the beach, we were at a surfing championship, I think I was about sixteen years old and dated my present wife, Flávia. I left her with her sister Renata and my cousin Giovana on the sand and went for a swim, and when I cam back there was a crazy guy bothering the girls. Not being reluctant, I threw an uppercut which sent him down, he was an adult and I was a skinny kid, but he was KO’d immediately.

GMWhen did you start to take Jiu-Jitsu seriously?

RGSince I was little I always learned at home, but I started taking it seriously when I was thirteen years old.

GMHow was your NHB debut?

RGIt was a good debut in São Paulo. Renzo, Marcelo Behring and myself fought and won. those were important victories for Jiu-Jitsu. I had a great fight, beating my opponent in 30 seconds.

GMWhat about sport Jiu-Jitsu, which do you consider your main fights?

RGTo me all my fights were important, all my opponents were special.

GMDo you have any bad memories in relation to Jiu-Jitsu?

RGIn relation to Jiu-Jitsu, no, but in relation to the behavior of some people, who forget the past, that my grandfather introduced Jiu-Jitsu to Brazil and everyone started learning with my family. Thanks to this many were able to get a job, and unfortunately don’t recognize this, always trying to put us down, instead of helping us make our sport more popular.

GMHow is Jiu-Jitsu being spread, in the US?

RGIt’s being very well spread. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu has made Brazil recognized like no other sport has. People on the street, when they know where Brazilians, don’t ask about soccer or Formula 1 anymore, they ask about Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.

GMWhy don’t any of your fights last more than 2 minutes?

RGBecause I am a specialist in the basics, which I find important for every fighter. Always with will, I go for the submission.

GMTo you are the fights personal or professional?

RGAll the fights to me are professional before entering the arena, but in the arena they’re personal.

GMTo end, any message to the people in Brazil?

RGGuys, here goes my big hug and wait for me because next year I’ll be on vacation around there.

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