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A Few Words About Renzo Gracie

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This is a preview of an upcoming documentary about Renzo Gracie, which I admit I am very eager to see. MMA Payout has an interesting interview with the director of “Renzo Gracie: Legacy” and in it you can hear how Gracie’s charisma and magnetism convinced him that a film needed to be made about this man.

Having been around Gracie a good deal during my IFL days, I can certainly relate. And because some of you have claimed an interest in wanting to read some of these IFL tales, I figured Gracie was as good a place as any to start.

The first thing to know is that Renzo Gracie is always late. If you plan to meet at him at his academy in Manhattan at noon, bring something to read. You’re going to be waiting a while. At first this used to frustrate me. I couldn’t understand why it was so hard to be somewhere when you say you will. I chalked it up to cultural differences. Then I spent some time with Renzo and it all became clear.

Everywhere he goes, Renzo has friends. Everywhere. It takes him half an hour to get from his hotel room to the lobby because he has to stop and talk with so many people. And he does stop, no matter how well he knows the person. He stops, he talks with them, he hugs them, and it’s all entirely genuine. No wonder he can’t get anywhere on time. He can’t bring himself to ignore anyone he knows, and a guy that likable, who doesn’t want to know him?

When you work for an MMA organization, the fighters aren’t typically interested in getting to know you, which is understandable. I interviewed all of them, many of them several times, and still I’d get that blank look when I approached them for a few quick questions. It’s the look that says, ‘I have no idea who you are, but I think you work for the IFL in some capacity.’ I can’t tell you how many interviews and stories I did with Matt Lindland, but if I saw him today I’d still get that look.

But Renzo has a way of making you feel like you matter, like you’re the most important person in the world right now. He’s entirely sincere about it, too. There’s no pretense about him.

The IFL’s PR man, Jerry Milani, came into work one morning and said that he’d gotten a late night call from Renzo the previous evening. Renzo wanted to know what Jerry could tell him about the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. He didn’t say why he needed this information. The call woke Jerry up, and he was a little groggy, but he went along with it and told him what he knew. At some point he woke up enough to realize how odd this was, so he asked for an explanation.

“It’s for my kids,” Renzo said. “For a school project.”

By Renzo logic, it made perfect sense. You need to know something about American government? Ask an American. And Jerry, who works for the same company you do? He’s a friend. He won’t mind if you call him late at night to ask him about the Bill of Rights. Because it was Renzo, Jerry didn’t mind. That’s because he knew that if he ever needed something from Renzo, he’d get it. He exudes that kind of warmth. Most people want to be liked. Renzo wants to like you.

The last event I worked for the IFL was in New Jersey. I was very sick with the flu and I had to go out to the hotel in the Meadowlands for the compulsory day of pre-fight interviews. Those interviews are no fun even when you’re not sick. It’s a long day and the fighters are all cutting weight, which makes them starving and dehydrated and grumpy. Now that I think about it, it’s the worst possible time to do interviews, but that’s life in the IFL.

A group of us were eating lunch in the hotel restaurant during a quick break before the afternoon session. When we went to pay, the waitress explained that it had already been taken care of. Then she pointed to the table where Renzo was sitting. He just smiled and waved. It was the kind of thing that only happens in movies. For a moment I completely forgot how terrible I felt.

The last interview of the day was with Renzo. I’d been sleepwalking through the rest of them, but not with Renzo. We talked for about twenty minutes. He had the entire room spellbound. For once, nobody was checking their email or playing on their blackberries. It made the entire day worthwhile.

When they edited the interview and put it on the internet (viewable here), it ran about two minutes long. Who knows what became of the rest of it. That’s life in the IFL.

(-Ben Fowlkes)

Cagepotato Comments

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Zee German- September 25, 2008 at 9:49 am
John Hyams, the director of "The Smashing Machine" actually started doing a documentary about Renzo when he ended up doing a documentary about Kerr. You'll find that 30 minute film on the DVD and I recommend it to anyone. That was nearly ten years ago - and my entry to MMA. Looking forward to see the new film about him.
Grace deez Nuts- September 25, 2008 at 3:38 am
Renzo should rematch Frank. I would like to see that happen again.
Kevin- September 25, 2008 at 2:59 am
its a boy named sue, not folsom prison.

renzo is great, i cnat wait to see how his kids do.
mma pro- September 24, 2008 at 10:27 pm
remember when matt linland knocked himself out trying to slam someone....good times
mmapr0- September 24, 2008 at 10:26 pm
tuf guy, brock already lost to renzo, what a dumb ass you are.
Wiltzor- September 24, 2008 at 9:50 pm
haha. Go. haha

Great story Benny.

Farthammer- September 24, 2008 at 8:31 pm
I'm pretty sure Dvorak is eating a cheeseburger right now. Please educate us more on the Gracies, martial arts, and general physical fitness. Go.
skidding- September 24, 2008 at 7:28 pm
I'm with everyone else here. I enjoyed this article for the same reasons I enjoyed the movie "Choke" and "Smashing Machine"; they both feed my curiousity about the fighters' lives away from the camera. For your next IFL story can you tell us about an asshole? I think it would be humorous hearing more about your experiences with Matt Lindland.
TUF Guy- September 24, 2008 at 6:37 pm
I've never heard of the guy. Brock would destroy him.
Fowlke deez Nuts- September 24, 2008 at 6:34 pm
Hoyce is a joke that got dominated by Matt Hughes. Renzo isn't a joke, but a funny man he is.
Old, Bald and Irish- September 24, 2008 at 6:34 pm
Thanks for the article!

Please continue the "IFL Chronicles"!

By the way, it's nice to hear about someone who is a genuinely cool person and not some douch like WarMachine, the "dog"+"Hitler" idiot and that guy who's the eye poking machine.
hooligun- September 24, 2008 at 5:45 pm
Hey Ben, great story and I'm guessing you have a LOT more where that came from.
Please share! Thanks mate.
douchebaggery- September 24, 2008 at 5:30 pm
jk, nice article uckface
John C. Dvorak- September 24, 2008 at 5:27 pm
>But Renzo has a way of making you feel like you matter,
>like you’re the most important person in the world right now.

So to get you into bed, we have to treat you like a chick?
John C. Dvorak- September 24, 2008 at 5:24 pm
>because some of you have claimed an interest in wanting to read some of these IFL tales

All three of them?

No one wanted to hear about the IFL back when they existed.

As for Gracie, I wouldnt exactly use the words legacy to describe him.

There 5-6 living Gracies who deserve to use that word with their names and none of them are Carlos Robson's sons.
Keep these coming- September 24, 2008 at 5:24 pm
Pretty cool to know that there are guys like these in MMA. Very well written too, good job Ben.
Anonymous- September 24, 2008 at 5:24 pm
I really like Renzo.
douchebaggery- September 24, 2008 at 5:18 pm
it's nice to hear you need a charismatic person in front of you so you can do your job properly
mayhem420- September 24, 2008 at 5:16 pm
Awesome read.... thanks for the IFL stories...
Always intrested to hear another persons first hand account.
OH an I live right by the Medowlands... you didnt have the flu...
its the swamp air and water that made you so sick! hahahahahaha!!!
jack- September 24, 2008 at 5:08 pm
Ben awesome recap of your experiences with Renzo. Great writing. He seems like such a gentleman. Good for the sport.
Renzo for Pres- September 24, 2008 at 5:01 pm
This guy is a class act!

Thanks BF for sharing your stories!!!
CWR- September 24, 2008 at 4:50 pm
That was by far my favorite post. Well written, interesting and honest. I look forward to reading more of the IFL chronicles.