|With Rolles, Igor, and Gregor Gracie.|
It’s not just a fight. It’s for legacy.
The three Gracie brothers, Rolles, Igor, and Gregor prepare to uphold family tradition when they take on tough opponents in One Fighting Championship: Pride of a Nation this Friday. By Rick Olivares.
Three Incredible Hulks surround me. They are actually Rolles, Igor, and Gregor Gracie, grandsons of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu legend Carlos Gracie.
The three brothers have come to the Elite Gym in Pasong Tamo, Makati City to train for their upcoming matches in the inaugural One Fighting Championship event in Manila, Friday, August 31 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Introductions are made with the few journalists present. The brothers hand out hearty handshakes. As I clasp their hands, I know there is strength and power in them. I can feel it in the grip.
After the pleasantries, the brothers step a few paces back, converse in Portuguese then commence stretching exercises that include roll-ups and curls.
There’s a small window for an interview and I head for the king Hulk, Rolles Gracie. Well he does look the most massive as he stands at 6’3” and has broad shoulders. Even in a game of American football he would still look out of place. He doesn’t look like an athlete but a war machine.
He smiles at the description. “It sounds good but there are people bigger than me.”
Hardly the haughty line one would expect from Mixed Martial Arts royalty. The three brothers aren’t at all especially for transplanted Brazilians who have made New York their home for the past seven years.
Now we have two things in common to talk about – Mixed Martial Arts and New York that they have come to profess their love for. “The greatest city in the world,” accentuates Igor. And it’s a perfect fit all right as the brothers, third generation scions in MMA’s Royal Family have made the Empire State their home (others have made California their home).
Rolles, at 32 and a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructor in New Jersey, USA, admits to the pressure of being a Gracie. “Sometimes, I get the feeling that my opponent is not just fighting me but my grandfather, Carlos, or my Uncle Royce.”
He pauses for a moment, “Every one wants to beat us. But that is life. I fight for my family and for myself. And the fans.”
I wonder how Brazil has made a name for itself in football, volleyball, Formula 1 racing, and MMA. “Many use sports as a way out of poverty. It’s what drives us as a people. We have tremendous national pride,” explains Rolles with fervor. “Brazilians do not only become good at something but we put our style in them.”
Rolles was referring to the stylish football that Brazilians espouse. It isn’t so much as winning a match but winning with flair, hence, the beautiful game. In MMA, there’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as Japanese immigrant and Jiu-Jitsu master Esai Maeda taught Carlos Gracie and eventually his son, Helio, by whom transformed some of the moves to create their version of the martial art. “And we are heirs to that legacy.”
All three profess excitement in taking part in the very first One Fighting Championship event in Manila. “You hear many good things about Manila. People here are said to be great MMA fans and we want to be a part in that atmosphere,” said Gregor.
“We are fighting in a place where they had that famous Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight,” piped in Igor.
Rolles, who sports a 6-1 record, will be up against popular Australian heavyweight Tony Bonello (16 wins, one-draw, one-no contest, and one-loss) who studied MMA under Carlson Gracie in Brazil. “We will have familiar styles so this will be a huge test,” noted Rolles.
Igor, who is 32 years old and has five wins and two losses, will stake his four-win streak on the line against Korean KO specialist Jung Hwan Cha.
Twenty-five year-old Gregor will go up against Australian Nicholas Mann, the current Universal Reality Combat Championship Light Heavyweight Champion who sports a 4-1 record. Mann will have the “homecourt” advantage as all his four wins have been in URCC events in Manila. “I like the odds already,” smiled Gregor. “Challenges are what MMA is all about. You do not have time for fear. If I did, I would be doing something else.”