(Funny, I don’t remember this position being taught in those Gracie Jiu-Jitsu instructional videos. Photo courtesy of UFC.com.)
Being a Gracie in MMA is a little like being a Kennedy in American politics – for better or worse, there are certain expectations. We realize Rolles Gracie had only his fourth professional fight at UFC 109 on Saturday night, so we didn’t expect him to burst on the scene like the second coming of Rickson. We did, however, expect him to beat a guy who took the bout on a few days’ notice, and whose most significant career win thus far was a knockout of Houston Alexander in January.
For the first few minutes things seemed to be going as planned. Then Rolles turned into an exhausted zombie, plodding flat-footed and open-mouthed around the Octagon before eventually giving up altogether and lying flat on his stomach as he waited for the referee to get bored enough to stop the bout.
A lot of trainers might try and soft-pedal their disappointment out of regard for the guy’s feelings after a fight like that. Renzo Gracie is not one of those trainers. Talking to GracieFighter.com, he called the performance “embarrassing,” adding:
“I can tell you he wasn’t in that bad of shape. Fact is the nerves drained him of his energy. His stand up and ground work looked bad, nothing at all like he was doing in training leading up to the fight and it was if he couldn’t hear what I was telling him. I think the pressure he put on himself overwhelmed him. He’ll learn and be back.”
Nothing like having your coach assure people that you weren’t in that bad of shape to boost the old confidence. As for Rolles, he seems fully aware of how awful he looked, telling GracieMag.com that he should have paced himself better, but instead “kept pushing forward and exhausted my energy.”
It also sounds like he has felt the backlash from disappointed fans who expected a glorious Gracie revival on Saturday night, and instead saw a fighter with the cardio of a toddler:
“I mean, this is MMA, not golf. The fans are a different breed and when they are angry, they definitely let you know. With the internet, Twitter, e-mail, Facebook…everyone is so accessible and with the click of a button, you can tell an athlete exactly what you think of his performance. That’s just the way it is these days and I’m glad to be a part of a sport where the fans are so enthusiastic.”
That’s a remarkably positive way to look at things, Rolles. I never thought of it that way before, but I guess sometimes ‘enthusiastic’ is just another word for ‘vociferous jerks.’