The Royler Gracie versus Eddie Bravo bout at this year's ADCC in Nottingham, England is off. What transpired over the past couple of months after the rematch was initially announced was perhaps the least surprising, most predictable story to grace the Submission Grappling world. Arguments for and against each party for the match not happening have been made but now the dust has settled it seems clear where the majority of the blame can be placed.
Here's a timeline of what went down:
- In May the rematch many expected would never happen was officially announced by the Abu Dhabi Combat Club.
- Within a week doubts first arose of the match taking place when Eddie Bravo dropped a bombshell on his official website message boards stating that Royler Gracie after initially agreeing to take part in the match wanted significantly more money from ADCC to participate, citing ADCC Vice President Guy Neivens as his source (this may or may not have been the inspriation for Lyoto Machida to ask for 'Anderson Silva Money'). GracieMag blog - a clearly partisan online source - quickly dismissed the allegation as 'rumor-mongering'.
- By the beginning of June Royler Gracie had posted a blog entry on his official website giving his side of the story and justifying the amount of money he was asking for. He also threw out the belief that his negotiations with ADCC should have been kept confidential and not leaked to Bravo, and further suggested that Guy Neivens acted unprofessionally in disclosing contract information to Bravo. The story takes another twist when both Bravo and Neivens state that in the history of ADCC no contract is ever in place with the participants: they are there by invitation or qualification only and terms and purses are not negotiated.
- By the end of June Eddie Bravo had spoken with BJPenn.com about the situation and set a deadline of July 10th for Gracie to accept the rematch citing the time and energy required to train would need to be a solid couple of months. Bravo speculated Gracie was likely posturing by delaying this long perhaps in the hope Bravo wouldn't have enough time to prepare. Bravo only sees the rematch happening at the following ADCC in 2013 if at all.
- 3 days after the deadline imposed by Bravo, Tatame posted an interview with Gracie who claims that while he has no problems with ADCC, he still maintains they were yet to conclude negotiations (despite ADCC making it clear they don't negotiate or form contracts) and that they had not contacted him so he wasn't going to wait around and waste his time in the process. Later in the interview we find Royler Gracie is negotiating to fight at an Amazon Forest Combat MMA event in Brazil (which he later signs), and that the promoter offered Eddie Bravo a chance to fight Royler Gracie under MMA rules. According to Gracie Bravo declined and didn't want the fight, and Gracie makes light of the situation saying he'd only hit Bravo with open hands.
Royler Gracie made a reasonable case for himself early on in his demands for $50k to show and the $25k win bonus at this year's ADCC. He's a multiple world champion in both the IBJJF Mundials and the ADCC No Gi tournaments, as well as having fought in MMA in bouts with the likes of Kazushi Sakuraba and Genki Sudo in Pride FC and K-1 MMA. Gracie is in his 40's with schools to run, fighters to coach and tours to make doing seminars all of which helps generate a steady, premium income that would take a hit should he drop everything for a couple of months to train for a match with Bravo. However, Bravo similarly would have to drop everything and lose out on potential earnings from his own schools and seminars and yet made no such demands to ADCC after accepting the invitation to take part. Considering Gracie also continued the narrative of 'contracts and negotiations' after it had been made clear they didn't exist in ADCC to me suggests political spin on Gracie's part.
Bravo has also stated he has no desire to take part in MMA and now that he is also in his 40's it's not unreasonable for him to turn down an offer to fight Gracie in such an environment considering it would be his MMA debut against someone who has had 10 MMA fights. Royler Gracie backing out of the ADCC match but eager to accept an MMA match with Bravo in his home country of Brazil knowing full well he has the edge just seems incredibly transparent and pathetic. Maybe it was the AFC promoter's idea to make a MMA fight with Bravo and who knows, maybe they're paying Gracie the same or more to take part in an MMA fight than ADCC were for a Submission Grappling match but the whole scenario reeks of the Gracie Family Stereotype in making stipulations for a match up to stack the deck in their favor.
Royler Gracie's legacy is secure and his achievements can't be taken away but actions like we've seen over the last few months coupled with debatable excuses and explanations shouldn't endear him to or draw sympathy from anyone. A rematch that has garnered a lot of attention and could have helped raise the profile of the Submission Grappling world has fallen through, and it's hard to blame anyone else but Royler Gracie.