If all goes well, Roger Gracie (5-1 MMA, 3-1 SF) will soon become the fourth member of MMA’s first family to compete in the famed UFC octagon. But like every fighter on the Strikeforce roster, he knows there are no guarantees.
“Since it’s the last Strikeforce card, it’s a historical event,’ Gracie toldMMAjunkie.com(www.mmajunkie.com) in his native Portuguese. “After the fact, I don’t know exactly what will happen.
“Now is not the time to think about that. I’m just concentrating on the preparations for my bout.”
Gracie fights underdog Anthony Smith (17-8 MMA, 2-1 SF) on the Showtime Extreme-broadcast preliminary card of Saturday’s “Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. Saffiedine” event, which takes place at Oklahoma City’s Chesapeake Energy Arena and precedes the night’s Showtime-broadcast main card.
His opponent is a relatively unknown fighter to most casual MMA fans, but Smith earned the bout bycalling out Gracie and has promised an impressive win. Gracie said he’s not taking the challenge lightly.
“I have been studying him, so I’ll be ready,” Gracie said. “The fact that he’s never gone to decision shows that he’s a very intense fighter, win or lose. We’ve put together our strategy. We’ll see how it goes.”
Part of that strategy will be to remain offensive throughout the fight. The famed submission artist admits it was a lapse in focus and intensity that led to his lone career loss, a first-round knockout result at the hands of Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal in September 2011.
“What happened on that fight contributed to very many valuable lessons for me; my main lesson was to strike less and grapple more,” Gracie joked. “All kidding aside, there were many factors. Psychologically, the way I approached that fight, I became way too comfortable when I heard we had a minute and a half until the end of the round. I relaxed since I knew I couldn’t get much grappling accomplished in a minute and a half. As I was relaxing and saving energy for the next round, that’s when [Lawal] started increasing his attack. It was that lapse on my part that cost me the fight. Ultimately it’s a learning experience.”
Gracie insists there will be no such lapse in this bout. The third-degree Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt spent a month training in Rio de Janeiro with Team Nogueira and then another two weeks in Los Angeles to work at Black House with Lyoto Machida and Glover Teixeira. On fight night, he’ll have Machida, Rilion Gracie and Renzo Gracie in his corner.
Gracie said he’s prepared to compete wherever Smith takes the fight, but he knows it’s imperative to stick with his bread and butter.
“I have to be ready for whatever comes,” Gracie said. “Since my ground game tends to be much better than that of most of my opponents, if I try too hard to find a knockout, I’m simply playing with bad luck. If I see an opening for a knockout, I’ll take it, but the more I hunt for it, the more chances I give my opponent to catch me.
“I don’t want to be on the defensive throughout the fight. I’ll put my game into action instead. If all goes well, he’ll remain without a decision on his record.”
Strikeforce, of course, is closing up shop after Saturday’s event, and most of the promotion’s fighters seem to view the event as a sort of tryout for the UFC.
At 31 years old, Gracie is a little behind the curve in terms of MMA experience, but an incredible 10 Brazilian jiu-jitsu world championships prove he’s a danger to anyone in the grappling department.
For now, he insists it’s not possible to consider his future possibilities. Now, it’s all about winning this one fight.
“I’m 100 percent focused on Smith,” Gracie said. “I’ll fight as I always do. After the dust settles, we’ll see what happens.”