ONE: It didn't take much for MMA legend Renzo Gracie to get back in the cage
Santino Honasan on Jul 25, 2018 02:09 PM
"I came here because I love fighting, I love to represent my family, and I love jiu-jitsu, and I think good representatives of jiu-jitsu should be fighting for their art.”
After nearly a decade away from competition, martial arts legend Renzo Gracie will be making his return to the cage at ONE Championship: Reign of Kings, Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila.
The 51-year old Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu icon will be taking on Japanese MMA royalty in Yuki Kondo, a veteran of 103 professional mixed martial arts contests.
After being away for so long, one would think that it would have taken quite some convincing on ONE Championship’s part to get Gracie back into competition.
On the contrary, ONE founder and chairman Chatri Sityodtong reveals that it actually didn’t take much to get Gracie to return.
“It was literally, we were just sitting down, I was like, ‘Renzo, you should come back’, and he was like ‘Okay, let’s do it!’, literally.”
Maybe ONE promised Gracie a massive purse that he couldn’t turn down?
Nope, not even.
“I was like ‘How much do you want?’ and he goes ‘I want nothing, I want dollar.’, and I said no, that’s not fair,” Sityodtong continued. “Anyway, we’re giving him a huge check, so don’t worry, we’re taking good care of him,”
So what made Gracie come back? He says it was simply love.
“I have everything that anybody could ever dream of, but most people only see money. When Chatri asked me, ‘How much money do you want for the fight?’, I said I want a dollar. I’m doing it because I love it.” Gracie said during the Reign of Kings Press Launch, Tuesday. “It was my dream to fight Kondo back in PRIDE, it’s a dream I had 20 years ago, and thanks to ONE Championship, this dream will come true.”
“To fight Yuki Kondo was something that, if you called me yesterday - completely out of shape - to fight tomorrow, I’d do it. I had to take it.” Gracie added.
It’s been eight years since fans last saw Gracie compete in mixed martial arts.
The last time Gracie put on some MMA gloves was in a loss against Matt Hughes at UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi. While many thought that that was the Brazilian legend’s last stand, Gracie maintains that he never actually called it a career.
“I never retired. That word gives me goosebumps.”
The sixth-degree blackbelt says that in those eight years, he’s been working to take the sport of BJJ to a whole new level.
“I never retired, I actually stopped because I was so busy, I have many schools, I have 67 schools all over the world, I was attending to them, I was making jiu-jitsu grow, I was helping Abu Dhabi to implement the jiu-jitsu program, today they have 135,000 practicioners, which means 12 percent of the whole population of the country, and from that number, 50 thousand are women.”
“I was helping jiu-jitsu grow, I wasn’t sitting, watching TV and eating chocolate, I was working towards jiu-jitsu, towards martial arts.” Gracie continued.
And as a lifelong martial artist and a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master, Gracie continues to train and to learn, and that has kept him in shape, even away from competition.
“Since my business is to teach and to train, I never stopped. I’m always training, I’m always seeing the new things, working with the good guys. I had the opportunity to see Garry Tonon go from a white belt to a black belt in this time period, so that’s what I was doing, I was making champions like Garry Tonon, John Danaher, and people like that.”
Tonon, of course, is one of ONE Championship’s newest lightweight acquisitions, while John Danaher is the BJJ coach of two-division UFC world champion Georges St-Pierre.
When Gracie returns to the battlefield on Friday, he maintains that it’s not about the money that he’s going to make.
“That’s not the reason that I’m here. I came here because I love fighting, I love to represent my family, and I love jiu-jitsu, and I think good representatives of jiu-jitsu should be fighting for their art.”
“He has everything in life already, he’s a multi-millionaire, he’s a legend in martial arts, he has houses and cars, he has everything he wants in life, he has schools, he doesn’t need to fight, he’s doing it because he loves to fight.” Sityodtong added.