Roger Gracie is one of the greatest BJJ competitors in the history of the sport, but he recently opened up about the years he spent pursuing an MMA career instead. He actually made his professional MMA debut in 2006 and by that time, he already had more than one IBJJF World Championship to his name and had become one of a handful of ADCC double champions. There were always going to be a lot of attention on him when he made the move to MMA anyway thanks to his being a member of the Gracie family, but his success on the mats only amplified that anticipation.
He recently revealed that his family name was actually a huge reason why he tried his hand at MMA, and it’s not something he really enjoyed:
“MMA never hit me very well. I didn’t adjust my weight, I changed weight. I was in the middle of two categories. But my heart was never there. I always loved fighting Jiu-Jitsu, I never loved fighting MMA. I fought MMA out of obligation, because I was a Gracie. Since I was a child, what was the path of every Gracie fighter? Do Jiu-Jitsu and fight MMA.”
Gracie went across multiple weight classes throughout his career, originally starting out as a heavyweight in his debut fight. He moved to light-heavyweight for his next four fights but after suffering a knockout loss to Muhammad Lawal, he dropped even further down to middleweight. After another two wins under the StrikeForce banner they were acquired by the UFC and he moved over with several other fighters. His first fight for the UFC was a decision loss to Tim Kennedy, and they chose not to renew his contract afterward. He moved back up to light-heavyweight and moved to ONE Championship, where he had the final two fights of his career and ended on the high-note of becoming their light-heavyweight champion.
It was always clear that the primary focus for Roger Gracie was Jiu-Jitsu competition, as it took him almost a decade to have just 10 professional MMA fights. Sadly the preparation for it took him away from more appearances at both ADCC and the IBJJF World Championship, limiting his time on the mats to less than a hundred matches. He still won the vast majority of them and ended with a 77-7-1 record, winning multiple titles and securing his place as the greatest BJJ competitor ever in the eyes of many people.
As Roger Gracie explains though, it wasn’t as if MMA was something he ever actually set out to do personally:
“Every generation before me has done this. The day I decided to be a fighter, for me, was a natural path, not a choice. It wasn’t a wish, it was the Gracie way. It was the natural path I chose in life. I got my black belt and started doing MMA. I was winning a lot in Jiu-Jitsu and moved on to MMA. It wasn’t because of the passion to fight, but because of being Gracie.”
The interview with Roger Gracie where he discusses his MMA career was uploaded to the official YouTube channel of the Connect Cast podcast: