Royce Gracie: MMA is not a style
Sports Illustrated’s Jeff Wagenheim recently conducted an interview with MMA Hall of Famer Royce Gracie, and discussed the differences between martial arts and mixed martial arts.
Jeff Wagenheim: What do you think of the MMA that your kids are growing up watching? The fighters of today are well versed in a variety of disciplines, from standup to the ground. The thinking is you can’t survive as simply a jiu-jitsu guy anymore. Do you agree?
Royce Gracie: Fighters have to adapt. Look at Lyoto Machida, for instance, or Chuck Liddell. They come from a karate background, but they had to learn wrestling to avoid being taken down. If they did wind up on the mat, they had to know jiu-jitsu, just to know what’s coming at them. I learned my boxing and kickboxing not because I was planning to knock somebody out. I just needed to know how standup fighters moved, how they would set me up with a kick or punch. So, yes, fighters have evolved, but they all have one main style that they call home, where they feel most comfortable.
JW: Nowadays, though, a lot of gyms don’t teach one particular discipline, like jiu-jitsu or karate. They teach mixed martial arts. Do you think something gets lost when young people learn this way rather than focusing on a single tradition that’s been passed down through the generations?
RG: You don’t say, “Hey, I’m going to go get some Starbucks.” No, you’re going to get some coffee at Starbucks. “Hey, I’m going to make a Xerox.” No, you’re making a copy on a Xerox machine. So kids want to learn mixed martial arts? Mixed martial arts is what you do inside the cage, inside the ring. What they should be looking to learn is a martial art.
You learn a style. You learn wrestling. You learn Gracie jiu-jitsu. You learn boxing. You learn judo. You don’t learn mixed martial arts. You learn a style or maybe more than one style, and then you mix them. But you don’t teach a mix. People come up to me all the time and ask, “Do you teach UFC style?” [Laughs.] UFC is a brand. It’s not a martial art.
What do you think UG? Is Mixed Martial Arts now a valid martial art to teach, or is it something you do in a cage, from a base of BJJ, Muay Thai, wrestling, etc?