We last saw Roger Gracie in the cage in September of 2011. His opponent, Muhammad Lawal, better known as "King Mo", waded through the light jabs, closed the distance enough to butt heads and land a massive overhand right on the temple of the stunned Gracie. Since then, the multiple time jiu jitsu world champion has been relatively quiet in the MMA world, choosing to shuttle back and forth between his home academy in London, England and seminars in far flung places like the Evolve gym in Singapore.
For those who follow grappling, the Lawal loss was an outcome that many feared, but hoped Roger would be able to avoid due to his proven toughness, composure and large frame. Commentators and fans wondered whether the loss would drive him from MMA permanently like Marcelo Garcia (who was a "one and done" MMA competitor after trouble finding a follow-up bout). Now Roger pops up again on the MMA landscape at the 2012 International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation European Championships with a short, but memorable interview given to Raphael Nogueira of Gracie Mag.com.
The Gracie gets emotional (teary eyed) as he remembers the moment he first caught sight of his son after his fight with "King Mo". "I don't want to ever feel like that again; my son is the most important thing to me, and I want to be the best example possible for him; so I can't let myself go home defeated," said Roger.
"So I'm focused on my MMA career now. I believe that, in the gi, this year I'll only compete at the Worlds [in June]. That's why I didn't sign up for the European. I'd really like to compete at a high-level championship but my priority right now is MMA training. That was the big career lesson I learned from losing: I have to be more determined, enter the fight at a more intense pace. In Jiu-Jitsu, I often get taken down early on, but I have around eight minutes to recover, which is plenty of time. In MMA, one punch or a knee can end the fight instantly; there's no time to recover from a knockout."
"For my whole career as a black belt I got used to starting out slow and calm in my matches. I never felt the need to go all out against my opponents during the first two minutes, since a match lasts ten. I always started out slow and brought up the rhythm progressively, hitting max intensity towards the end. However, ever since losing in MMA, it dawned on me; if I don't change my way of fighting, I'll lose again," [said Roger.]
The pace issue is certainly a factor, but his comfort level, defense and power in striking is probably more crucial than being a slow starter. If Roger really improves his overall game, it would be nice to see his constrictor-like abilities in the Strikeforce cage once more - especially now that Mo Lawal is suspended.