Neiman Gracie Carries Legacy Into Bellator 198
There’s something we hear a lot in MMA: the latest member of the Gracie family to take up fighting is going to be the one to bring the name back to the elite levels of mixed martial arts. Roger Gracie, with his large frame and back to basics, MMA-friendly style of Brazilian jiu jitsu was one of them, but he retired last year after averaging a fight a year in his 10 fight career. Kron Gracie, Rickson’s son, had a lot of hype, and finished veteran Tatsuya Kawajiri in his last fight, which was one fight removed from Kawajiri being very competitive with Cub Swanson in the UFC. But that was also well over a year ago with no return in sight.
The jury is still out on Khonry Gracie, Royce’s son, who went straight to Bellator in January without amateur fights and lost in a disappointing performance. That leaves Neiman Gracie (the son of Carla Gracie on the Carlos Gracie side of the family), who’s also in Bellator, but with a 7-0 career record.
“It feels great, the more the better,” he told FIGHT SPORTS when asked about the current generation of Gracies in Bellator. “And I hope [Khonry] keeps fighting there [in Bellator].”
So, how do they get there?
“I think the goal now is for the next generation to be more complete fighters,” explained Neiman. “Because MMA is a different sport from jiu jitsu. So the next generation that comes in, hey have to train everything, and that’s what I do. I don’t just train jiu jitsu, I train all the other martial arts that I have to, and I think that’s the biggest key right now. Don’t think that this is 1995 and that you’re fighting no holds barred with one hour [time limits]. It’s only five minutes [per round] and there are many rules. So they have o be ready, you know? It’s a different sport now.”
Still, even if MMA is no longer in the Gracies’ element, taking the family name comes with awfully high expectations.
“The pressure exists, of course,” he added. “But it’s something that we learn to [deal with] when we’re young. Competing so much in jiu jitsu, we learn to deal with that pressure, so I don’t think about that so much. I think more about me, and I don’t have it affect me when I go in there.?”
This Saturday, Neiman fights on Bellator’s latest “tentpole” event, taking on fellow middleweight Javier Torres (10-3) of the well-regarded Syndicate MMA camp. Their division is not one of the more populous in Bellator, so if you’re fighting at 185 pounds and on a wining streak, a title shot is not an unrealistic possibility. And Neiman does recognize that a win over Torres could very well put him in line for a shot at champion Rafael Carvalho.
“I hope it is [a title shot]. It depends on how it ends. If I get a good finish, maybe it can be.” And if it doesn’t, he does have some other things to worry about when he gets into the cage.
“My wife doesn’t like me getting hit, so I’m going to try to do the same game plan as always: Take him down, don’t get hit, and finish the fight.”.