The With Leather Interview: UFC And Jiu-Jitsu Legend Royce Gracie Discusses Metamoris II

On October 14, 2012, the Metamoris Pro Jiu-Jitsu Invitational made its debut in San Diego, California to rave reviews. The idea behind this unique new event was to take the points out of Jiu-Jitsu and leave the results to the actual fighters. Instead of what we see in most mixed martial arts tournaments and competitions, with judges declaring winners based on scores if a result isn’t reached by the fighters, Metamoris allows fighters to focus on the art of submission by giving them 20 minutes to defeat their opponents. It is in this setting that the event’s founder, Ralek Gracie, believes that the fighters and spectators alike can truly celebrate the essence of Jiu-Jitsu.

With Metamoris II taking place on June 9 at the Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles, I was fortunate enough to spend a few minutes talking to one of Ralek’s legendary family members about this year’s bigger and better follow-up – which will have Ed O’Neill serving as a color analyst, by the way. But imagine my surprise when I learned that I’d be speaking with UFC legend Royce Gracie, which had me unapologetically giddy. He’s the giant killer, the original icon. It was like talking to Babe Ruth.

Royce and I discussed the fight card for Metamoris II, including the main event of Shinya Aoki vs. Kron Gracie, as well as the benefits of a no-points scoring system, the rise of women in MMA and which fighters we should keep an eye on in L.A.

What: Metamoris II

When: June 9 at 7 PM ET

Where: Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles

Why: To watch the world’s best submission fighters

How: Watch online via the Metamoris II live stream

The Card:

Shinya Aoki vs. Kron Gracie

Braulio Estima vs. Rodolfo Vieira

Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu vs. Brendan Schaub

Mackenzie Dern vs. Michelle Nicolini

Andre Galvao vs. Rafael Lovato Jr.

Bill “The Grill” Cooper vs. Victor Estima

With Leather: If I’m the casual fight fan that’s only familiar with the big ticket promotions and events, what do I need to know about Metamoris II?

Royce Gracie: All martial artists were built to defend themselves in a street fight situation. You use it for self-defense, most martial arts. You’re not using it to score points, and a lot of people get into it because they want to compete in tournaments. But I’m not talking about fighting like in the UFC. I’m talking about how most people train for martial arts and never have the chance to use it in a street fight situation. So Metamoris is as close as they’re going to get, because there’s no point system and it makes you look for the submission. They want to finish the fight instead of just scoring the points.

WL: What is the ultimate purpose of these types of fights, with the 20-minute match length and the elimination of a points scoring system?

RG: It is to get a precise result and get the guys to actually fight for the win. It has become a point game now, and the guys, they get the points, and they say, “Woo, I got the win” and have a celebration. But that’s not the point, the point is to knock someone out, or in Jiu-Jitsu it’s to finish the fight by a submission, not to score a point. So taking the points system out makes them go faster for the submission and go faster for the win.

WL: Do you think that this is a scoring system that could or should be adopted by the bigger MMA promotions or is it something that is better suited to what has been created and developed with Metamoris?

RG: That’s what it was in the beginning. In the beginning of the UFC, there was no time limit or point system. You can beat your opponents in a street fight situation. You’re not going to walk up behind your opponent and say, “Excuse me, how much do you weigh? Sorry, he’s not in my weight division, I’m not going to beat him up.” There’s no such thing on the streets. So that was the thing back then – there was no points system, no time limit.

But then, the UFC had some changes. With Metamoris, there’s no punching or kicking, no striking allowed. We’re just getting the top guys from the grappling world to compete in this. It’s not everyone, it’s not a big tournament with numbers. You go to a tournament and there are 3,000 competitors, but who are you really there to watch? The top guys. We’re catching the best, top guys of the moment, and we’re getting them to fight each other in front of everybody.

WL: Let’s talk about the Metamoris II card a little. What can we expect from the main event pairing of Kron Gracie and Shinya Aoki?

RG: Kron is a creation, so enough said on that. He knows what he’s doing and he trains hard. Aoki, he’s a tough guy. It’s going to be a good match, man. In every fight that he’s had, he’s broken his opponents’ arms and legs – he’s one of those guys who likes to finish his opponents. He’s a super tough kid. We’ve got a lot of tough matches.

WL: How are the matches determined for Metamoris events? Are they in line with today’s weight classes or do they harken back to the early days of the UFC and your legacy as a giant killer?

RG: It’s more about agreements. It’s like, “Hey, you guys are close enough, would you like to do it?” and we try to pick the names and the opponents that would be “dream matches”.

WL: At this event, UFC heavyweight Brendan Schaub is fighting and it led some people to ask the question as to whether or not MMA guys could and should be able to fight in a strictly jiu-jitsu format. But doesn’t focusing on this one style ultimately show us how good these guys really are?

RG: If you put the UFC fighters in this tournament, without the points system, they’ll be much better prepared for those with the points system. But the question is – which would you rather be: the best fighter in a points system or the best fighter in the world? By taking the points system off, you’re giving them a better chance to finish.

WL: Who are some of the other fighters that you think are worth keeping an eye on at this event or is it pretty even across the board?

RG: Man, it’s even across. All those guys are awesome, they’re the best. Again, we’re getting the top names like Brendan Schaub, Aoki, Cyborg… and the girls [Mackenzie Dern vs. Michelle Nicolini] fighting, they’re supposed to be phenomenal. It’s supposed to be the best of the competition and that’s why we’re doing this.

WL: I interviewed the WWE’s Eve Torres last year and she has obviously become a very vocal figure in teaching Jiu-Jitsu to women. What do you think of the recent rise to prominence of female fighters, most notably Ronda Rousey’s breakthrough into the UFC?

RG: She’s a professional athlete, man. She’s no joke. She trains, sleeps, breathes and eats the stuff. And she’s already a champion, so it shows that she’s not just somebody that they got off of the streets. She’s somebody that has been training in martial arts for a long time.

WL: Is it a concern at all, when creating, planning and developing and event like Metamoris, that the casual MMA fan that watches UFC and Bellator for blood and awesome knockouts might not take to this submission-only format? Or is that even a target audience that you’re concerned with?

RG: Most people join martial arts because they’re looking for a self-defense style, and the coaches and such turn them into fighters, and that’s how they end up getting to the UFC and fighting professionally. But most people are looking for style. A lot of people come up to me and they ask, “Do you teach UFC? Do you teach MMA?” You don’t drink Starbucks. You drink coffee from Starbucks. You don’t get a Xerox. You make a photocopy in a Xerox machine.

WL: Speaking of weight classes and size differences, one of the favorite buzz words of UFC fans and media these days is “superfight”, as we’ve been teased with GSP vs. Anderson Silva and others. What do you think of that idea in today’s UFC? Is it something that would be good for MMA or is it a pipe dream?

RG: It would be good, but you’d have to take away the time limit, because while heavyweight has the weight, his opponent is going to need the time. That’s the way I would do it. If somebody wanted to fight, and I’d say, “Hey, you’re fighting this big monster over here, but you only have three minutes”, he’s going to say, “Come on, he’s going to lay on me for three minutes.” And he’s considered the winner, because of the rules. Forget about it. Take the time limit off.

WL: Are there any young, up-and-coming fighters in any promotions that you’re excited about or think that people should be talking about more?

RG: I like the guys that know how to use strategy, not just the guys who come out to brawl and fight and duke it out. What is strategy? A lot of people confuse that. They say, “I’m gonna walk into this fight, I’m gonna throw a one-two combination, take his leg and take him down, throw a couple elbows and choke him out.” That’s not strategy. That’s a wish. You wish the fight’s gonna go that way, but it’s not what your opponent is going to do. That’s why the guys at the top are the champions, because they use strategy.

WL: I’ve read plenty in the past about people asking you if you’ll ever fight again, so naturally I have to ask – will you ever fight again?

RG: Yeah, they wanted me to go back again, but you’ve got to know when to stop these days.