UFC Hall of Famer Royce Gracie took a contrarian stance on the family's underwhelming record of late.
it is widely held that MMA has developed from its Vale Tudo origins, drawing now from striking, BJJ, and above all, from wrestling. The Gracie family has been faulted for not keeping up with the changes in the sport.
However, in an interview with MMA Fighting's Guilherme Cruz, Royce says the reason Gracie family fighters are not doing well is in fact because they are cross training.
"Jiu-jitsu is enough," said Royce. "I’ve trained boxing in the past to learn the distance, trained wrestling to understand how he would take me down, but I won’t get there to fight my opponent’s game. The guys from the family want to complement their game, like if jiu-jitsu was incomplete. I guess they forgot a little about history."
"I do jiu-jitsu my whole life, so why would I try to stand and bang with Mike Tyson? I’m going to learn boxing in six months because my opponent is good in boxing? That makes no sense."
"Roger (Gracie), like any other member of the family, is trying to learn wrestling, boxing. I believe in pure jiu-jitsu. That’s what I’ve done in the past. You have to go back to your roots and train Gracie jiu-jitsu."
Royce's nephew Rener, son of UFC co-founder Rorion, took a more nuanced view in a recent interview.
"The funny part is Royce is right, and Royce is wrong," said Rener. "He’s right in that, jiu-jitsu by itself is a complete martial art. It addresses a standing strategy, and it addresses a ground strategy. We teach our students in the back of the Academy to get ready to use self-defense in a street fight, and they’re not incomplete. They can close the distance, they can neutralize strikes and effectively neutralize the opponent. And in that sense, Royce is right, all you need in jiu-jitsu. Going back to the roots, if I had to fight some beast of a man in a street fight, I wouldn’t need amazing wrestling and amazing striking to do well against him. I would need jiu-jitsu and to manage the distance so I didn’t get knocked out.
"But if I had to fight that same beast in three five-minute rounds, with judges who don’t train martial arts watching me, I cannot pull guard and defend for 20 minutes? When Royce fought Dan Severn, which was an amazing battle, Royce lost in the judge’s minds until the very last second when Royce run (at the 15:49 mark of the fight). In MMA rules today Royce would have lost to Dan Severn. So, in that sense, you have train the striking aggressively. You have to train the wrestling -- not because it might be the most energy efficient way to fight, but because the judges will only score in your favor if you fight according to that game plan. It’s part of the newly accepted ideal way to fight a fight. As long as the game is being judged under those circumstances? Guess what, you better train in those arts, otherwise you’re asking for trouble in the eyes of the judges.
"I think that Royce and my dad and my uncles, all those guys, being the generation two -- old school, proving it against every other martial art, as they did so perfectly -- they get a little emotional sometimes seeing how things are evolving now. And I think their viewpoints are…they’re right, but they’re wrong, because you have to play the game."