Do you remember Frankie Edgar when he first debuted in the UFC back in 2007?
The former Clarion University wrestler was known primarily as a grappler whose slickest offense was a quick double leg takedown.
In 2011 fresh off his knockout victory over Gray Maynard, UFC President Dana White proclaimed that Edgar had become the best boxer in all of mixed martial arts. It’s a pretty dramatic shift in just four years, but hard work, dedication and the addition of coach Mark Henry goes a long way.
Henry’s work with Edgar continues to show through in each fight, and it’s for that very reason that former UFC heavyweight Rolles Gracie recently added the coaching guru to his stable of teachers.
Gracie is in Canada currently on the eve of his next fight where he competes in Wreck MMA against Lee Mein, and while the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt will always been a grappling purist at heart, he’s adding some new weapons to his arsenal as his development continues.
“I’ve been studying all the aspects of MMA, like boxing and Muay Thai, and every time I do a Muay Thai session it just makes me want to do it even more,” Gracie told MMAWeekly.com.
“I’ve been getting really good coaching like my boxing coach Mark Henry, he’s the same coach that works with Frankie Edgar and my brother. My stand up game is really flowing right now. Every time I feel way more comfortable. Right now, I can have a stand up fight for three rounds if necessary.”
It’s a big shift for Gracie, who just a few years ago was a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner who dabbled in MMA. Now he’s looking to make a real impact in the sport and the only way to do that successfully is to be just as dangerous on his feet as he is on the ground.
Gracie believes Mark Henry is the man to guide him there.
“I’m really fortunate to work with a guy like Mark Henry. He’s probably going to say he won’t admit it, but I think he’s a genius,” said Gracie. “So he’s bringing my boxing to the next level. It’s just a matter of time before I start knocking people out.”
Potential is a funny thing in MMA because a lot of fighters have it, and a great many of them squander it or never live up to the praise they receive. Rolles Gracie wants to show the world that he’s far away from his full potential, but he works hard everyday to get there.
“I always feel like I’m going to have room to grow. If I said that I reached my potential, I’ll only be going downhill from there. Everybody always has room to improve,” Gracie stated.
Now just because Gracie has started to learn how to box and fully admits he loves his training sessions with coach Mark Henry, he knows his biggest strength is getting in the clinch and taking someone to the ground with him.
But having that other weapon tucked away in his back pocket is the kind of back-up any fighter wishes they could have.
“I want to get my boxing so good that people want to go to the ground with me,” said Gracie.
If Frankie Edgar’s evolution is any indicator, Rolles Gracie could be well on his way to accomplishing that very goal.