by Jeff Cain, MMAWeekly.com
Mixed Martial Arts pioneer, UFC Hall of Famer, and international fighting icon, Royce Gracie, recently spoke with MMAWeekly Radio about his K-1 New Year’s Eve match against Yoshihiro Akiyama, the debut event of his Fight Fest promotion this weekend in Evansville, Indiana, and his fighting future including negotiations with the UFC.
“Everything is good man. I’m just getting ready for my next fight.” Royce Gracie told MMAWeekly, but his preparation has gone through several changes since it was first announced that he would be fighting on K-1’s New Year’s Eve card.
Gracie explained, “First they were going to give me the Korean guy. The big Korean guy, 7′ 2, 370, and then he denied fighting me. He doesn’t want to fight me as his first MMA fight. Then they changed to Peter Aerts, but Peter Aerts, I guess we’re both big names, but we’re two foreigners fighting in Japan New Year’s Eve as the main event, so they switched that. They actually changed it to a Japanese person. His name is Akiyama.”
Discussing his opponent, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Gracie stated, “He is not as good as Yoshida. He doesn’t have the credibility that Yoshida has like the world title, the Olympic title, but he’s won some fights and tournaments like open weight, and All Japan Open. He’s young. He’s got nothing to lose. I don’t like those guys man because they’re more willing to take risks. He’s strong, fast. I don’t like those. I have bad feelings of those man.”
At this stage of his career, and the multiple opponent changes; what does Royce focus on in training? He answered, “A lot of cardio. I already know what to do, it’s just a question of the strategy. I had a strategy for the Korean guy who’s 7’2, and the following opponent. As soon as they changed, I started changing strategy. I started changing sparring partners for Peter Aerts, and now they changed it to the Japanese guy who is about 5’10, 195-200lbs., so he’s not as big, so I started changing sparring partners, started changing the strategy. It’s more of a build up of strategy and cardio, a lot of cardio.”
Questioned whether he’ll be wearing a Gi in this bout, Royce replied, “Actually my opponent wears a Gi. So far he’s fought five matches, and five matches he wore the Gi. I don’t know yet…I’m training in both right now, and my sparring partners are using both; Gi and no Gi just in case he decides to take the Gi off, or leave the Gi on. On the state of Gi or no Gi, we haven’t figured out yet.” Gracie would prefer Akiyama to wear a Gi. He said, “It’s good for me. It’s better for me, less sweat, less slippery.”
Royce Gracie’s not getting any younger, how long does he plan on continuing to fight? He said, “I’m getting too old to fight man. I’m going to be 39 this year. Once a year is plenty for me right now. All jokes aside, the big show that they do in Japan on New Year’s Eve, that’s the one. That’s the one that all the fighters want to enter. That’s the big payday for a lot of the fighters.” Although Royce has only competed once a year as of late, he revealed that K-1 would like him to fight three times in 2006.
There were rumors that Royce would be apart of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ reality show. Addressing those rumors, Gracie commented, “We’ve been talking actually for quite a bit already. We’ve been talking for quite a bit. It’s just reaching an agreement. That’s why I let my manager take care of that. It’s just if we can reach an agreement as long as it doesn’t interfere with my contract with K-1, so the UFC is not just negotiating with me, but they have to negotiate with K-1 too. It’s a possibility. It’s a possibility. Not for the next season, but maybe for the future…We’re negotiating. We’re talking.”
When asked what it would mean to him to be back in the UFC, Royce said, “It’s my house. [laughs] The UFC is my house. I’m just renting it out for now.”
On the topic of the UFC, Gracie was asked who he enjoys watching compete in the UFC octagon. He replied, “I like Matt Hughes. He’s a really tough opponent. I like him. I like St. Pierre. I like him too. That weight division right there man is a tough one.”
Questioned specifically about Matt Hughes and who’s the more dominant champion, he or Hughes, Royce answered, “There’s only one way to find out. That’s why we do the show.” Gracie further stated, “Matt Hughes is a very good fighter, but he didn’t do very well against grapplers if you look at the history. Carlos Newton caught him in a triangle…BJ Penn choked him out…He’s very good. I give a lot of credit to him. He’s a good wrestler. He has a very good ground and pound game, very tough, but not against Jiu-Jitsu guys. He hasn’t done very well.”
This Friday night in Evansville, Indiana, Royce Gracie’s Fight Fest MMA promotion debuts. Gracie commented, “It’s not just a night of fighting show. We’re trying to, instead of going to Las Vegas, we’re bringing Las Vegas to us. We’re going to have Skid Row do a concert in the middle of the fights. During the fights, we’re going to take a break and do a concert. We’re trying to incorporate the concept of show business and fighting, so it’s not just put the guys out there to fight. Plus, given the rules, we’re going to be moving around from city to city. Try to get some local guys, give them a chance…It’s going to be a good one.”
Gracie was asked about his role as promoter/match maker, he replied, “I’m way behind the back scenes. I’m just kind of approving what’s going on…I’ll say OK, yes or no, so I’m not really the match maker or the main promoter. I’m just the approval guy on the deal…With my fight coming up, I can’t really be on the front line of this show. I’m going to be there. I know I’m going to show up, sign some autographs, take some pictures.”
To hear the interview in it’s entirety, click on the radio archive.