Neiman Gracie talks COVID-19 impact on Bellator title plans and gyms forced to close

Coming into 2020, the first order of business for welterweight Neiman Gracie was to get healthy enough to return to fighting following an injury that caused him to pull out of his scheduled December bout versus Kiichi Kunimoto at Bellator 236.

Initially hoping to return in the early part of 2020, Gracie’s road to return was placed on hold due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

“I was coming off of my injury, so I was trying to stay healthy and fight again as soon as possible; get a good fight that would get me to a title shot. That was the plan when everything got bad,” Gracie told

“By March my injury was much better, and I was able to start fighting again, so I was getting ready to maybe fight in June, but everything happened and everything got canceled. I hope as soon as they can get back, I can get a fight pretty soon.”

In addition to the shutdown of sports, gyms were among businesses forced to close their doors. This has caused problems for members of the Gracie family, whom has long been one of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu’s most prominent teachers of the martial arts.

“Some people are struggling, but most of them are doing okay because they still have students, they are doing classes online, and they’re trying to do whatever they can to keep the students active,” said Gracie. “But it’s pretty tough for people who have gyms because some of them have to pay at least part of the rent, and it’s been really tough for these guys.”

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While he’s been unable to fight in 2020, Gracie’s past bouts will be featured on CBS Sports Network’s “Bellator MMA: Recharged.” When it comes to a fight that Gracie feels fans should watch if they get the opportunity is his fourth-round submission victory over Ed Ruth from Bellator 213 in December 2018.

“I think, in my opinion, it was one of the best grappling fights in recent years,” Gracie said. “It’s a good fight to watch. It’s super fun. It’s not like those grappling where nothing happens.

“It was a great fight because (Ruth is) also a really good grappler, and he was able to escape from positions, and put me in bad positions, and I put him in bad positions. So it was a really active fight and a fun fight to watch.”

When Gracie is able to return to fighting, he wants to work his way towards a crack at the Bellator welterweight championship, hopefully sooner than later.

“The goal is the same that I had before – to get to a title shot as soon as possible,” said Gracie. “I want to fight some one ranked or who is close to the title so that I can maybe after my next fight a title shot, or maybe after two fights. I want to get fights that will take me to the title. That’s my plan right now.”