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.