EXCLUSIVE | Cesar Gracie: 2 Weeks Out Nate Didn’t Know If His Fight With Henderson Was Really On | UFC NEWS
Wednesday night, Cesar Gracie spoke with BJPenn.com Radio on a number of hot MMA topics. Gracie is the long-time coach of several of the sports top fighters, a team that has gained notoriety for its toughness, its tight-knit camaraderie, and its intense training. Three of Gracie’s high-profile athletes have upcoming fights: Nick Diaz will face UFC welterweight champ, Georges St. Pierre, next week; and in April, younger brother Nate Diaz will fight Josh Thomson under the main event featuring Gracie fighter, Gilbert Melendez, challenging the UFC lightweight belt of Benson Henderson.
In response to most fans expecting, and even GSP himself claiming that he will control Diaz with superior wrestling, Gracie points to Nick Diaz’s past. He said, “I get that so many times, it doesn’t really phase me. I’ve been around this game a long time. If you remember when Nick fought Robbie Lawler back in the day, and they saw it as cut and dry, it was like a 5-1 underdog. [People said] he can’t take Robbie Lawler down because of his wrestling credentials, and Lawler is going to kill him standing up, and bam Nick knocked him out. And the Gomi fight was the same thing. Everyone likes to underestimate people, and they think they know what’s going to happen. If everybody was thinking Nick was going to destroy GSP, it still doesn’t change anything for me. I don’t care if people think he was going to lose or going to win, it’s not going to change the outcome of the fight.”
Cesar Gracie’s prediction for the fight? “You know, I don’t know. That’s the beauty of MMA. People always ask me, and well, I’m hoping for something. I’m hoping, you know, for a third round stoppage. I don’t know, a TKO or a submission, that’s what I’m kind of hoping on. But like I said that’s the beauty of this sport, you truly never know. You could lose, you could win, it’s so exciting… The thing I’m hoping for, I don’t mind a win or a loss for one of my guys, I’d just like to see them win or lose, you know? What I hate is like [when] someone tries to hold you or someone tries to run. I want it to be like, ‘yeah, you beat him.’ You know, I think my guys get better when they know they got beat… One thing I will never tell one of my guys to do, and I know a lot of camps do that, is just say, ‘hey, just win at any cost, run around, try to outpoint them or try to impress the judges.’ You really don’t win the fight that way, and I don’t think you endear yourself to the fans. I would rather have my guy really lose, get knocked out, get submitted, or whatever, obviously I don’t want that, but I would rather have that than have the fans go, ‘man, I didn’t get what I just paid for… these guys were scared to fight each other.’ That’s not what MMA should be about.”
Not to be overshadowed by the more immediate, and perhaps more anticipated, matchup between Nick Diaz and GSP are the April fights of Nate Diaz and Gilbert Melendez. These two fighters have long been at the top of the lightweight division, Diaz in the UFC and Melendez in Strikeforce.
On Diaz’s recent loss to Henderson, Gracie remarked confidently that it was just a learning experience for the young Stockton native. “He didn’t look good. I don’t think it was indicative of who he is, he had a bad night. Not a bad night. I’m not going to say that. He got beat by the better guy that night, for sure… You could see it even in the weigh in, with his physique. If you look at the last fight before that, you know. These fighters, they got to prep correctly. There were contractual issues and stuff like that. I mean people don’t know this, but literally a couple weeks before the fight Nate wasn’t even sure he was fighting. It was that bad. We were having problems with certain things. It got resolved, but you know, it’s hard to train for a fight like that with that mentality when you’re not happy with certain things and everything. It was a mistake on his part, you got to just put all that aside and Henderson, that’s what he did, and that’s why he’s the champ today. But it’s a learning experience and we’re going to move on… So it goes for all of us, me, you, Nate. It’s a life experience, he’s going to move on from it.”
For Gilbert Melendez, who will be facing the very man who last beat the younger Diaz, Gracie believes he will be the next UFC lightweight champ. More than a victory, however, he believes the fight will be tremendous. “That’s just one of those fights where I think it’s going to be great. Styles make fights. Gilbert has a wrestling pedigree to stifle a lot of stuff from Henderson, it’s going to be a lot of stand up in that fight. I think there will be takedowns too. We brought great people in to negate Henderson’s guillotine chokes and everything. It’s going to be a barn-burner, that one. I think it’s going to be just one of those great fights… and at the end of the night, Gilbert’s got his hand raised. So it’s going to be an exciting night.”
Despite having studied Henderson’s style for Nate’s fight, Gracie does not see that as an advantage coming into the Melendez fight. He remains more focused on what his fighter is doing than what his opponent did some months ago. “Gilbert’s been working with Jongsanan also on his kickboxing. You know I look at Nate, and we’re working on a lot of stuff. His front foot is always turned in, and I know a lot of people look at that and they’re going to think, ‘kick out that front foot and he can’t hit you,’ but that’s stuff we’re fixing. But that’s stuff that Gilbert has already fixed in his game a while back. So there’s stuff like that, like I said, it’s just one of those things we’re going to have to see what happens.”
When asked his take on the recent scandals surrounding the Lloyd Irvin team, Gracie gave a very mature response. “I don’t really know Lloyd Irvin that well. I’m gonna give you my take on it. Like I said, I don’t know him personally, I’ve met him a few times, but it’s not like I really know the guy. So whatever happens or doesn’t happen, it doesn’t matter to me. What I think about it is, I’ve been around this sport forever; that was my dream as a kid, to be a jiu jitsu instructor, to follow in the ways of our founder, of Carlos Gracie, to do something and change these kids lives for the better. So when I see someone that instead uses this sport for their own advancement in a perverted way, I get mad because that’s not what jiu jitsu is about, that’s not what martial arts should be about… If it’s true, a lot of it’s alleged, but if the allegations are true then I’m kind of sickened by it, and this guy’s got to go.”
On a final topic, Gracie discussed his recent expansion of Cesar Gracie Jiu Jitsu to Oahu, Hawaii. It’s one of the more recent of his 20 or so affiliate academies, an endeavor he hopes to continue as he finds the time. “I’m fortunate to say the ones we do have are top quality. Because a lot of time, you start losing control. Because I know a lot of the Gracie Barra schools are great, and then some are just kind of mediocre. For sure, it’s a money making venture… And ultimately, I think it downgrades the sport, and it’s not the greatest thing. They open up everywhere and advertise, and then the people don’t get the real experience that I got in Brazil when I went there and a bunch of other guys have been fortunate to have gone through in the United States where they have real schools where they really got to earn their belt, they really got to learn their material and train. And that’s really what Gracie jiu jitsu and Brazilian jiu jitsu are really all about. And if you deny people that, you’re really doing them a disfavor… I mean, yeah, you put some money in your pocket; but at the end of the day, you’ve done nothing. You’ve deprived that person of an experience that could have been really good in their lives. That’s the way I look at it.”
His full interview is located below for your convenience: