Carlson Gracie interview: "Living Legend"
From O'Tatame magazine (Brazil)
This interview took place soon after UFC 15, at the end of 1997.
Translated by Tatiana Andres (Asst. to Carlson Gracie)
- Who was the best in Jiu-Jitsu: Rolls or Rickson?
- Of course it was Rolls. He was a lot more technical, a phenomenon.
- And in Vale-Tudo? Who is the best fighter that you've seen?
- Until now, it's Vitor Belfort. There are a lot of good ones, but Vitor
is the best.
- Liborio has the fame of being the best Jiu-Jitsu fighter from your team.
Everyone says that he's a finisher. Do you think he
would beat Rickson in a sport Jiu-Jitsu fight?
- For sure he would win. I have no doubt.
- Why doesn't he fight Vale-Tudo?
- Because he's sponsored by Banco do Brasil (one of the largest Brazilian
banks) and they don't agree with Vale-Tudo, but
it's being discussed. In Vale-Tudo, he's a phenomenon. I guarantee.
- In your academy, there are fighters with a very high level of technique,
for example: Murilo, Ze Mario, Crezio, Amaury, De
La Riva, etc. Until not long ago, Wallid was the most well known. Was he
really the best fighter from your team, or was his
fame more of a self-promotion?
- Wallid is one of the good fighters that I have, but was never the best.
There are a lot of people ahead of him.
- Wasn't there any jealousy from the fighters that were mentioned in the
previous question towards Wallid?
- No. Even though he did a lot of self-promotion, there wasn't any
jealousy of that kind. In fact, the marketing of Wallid
helped promote the other fighters from the academy also. Then it ended up
being good for everyone.
- Do you think Amaury would've had a better performance in the UFC, had he
been trained by you? What do you think of
him as a Vale-Tudo fighter and how is the relationship between the two of you?
- Look, the relationship between us is great. I don't know what happened
with him in that Vale-Tudo in the U.S. He was
dead, with no physical conditioning, with no technical conditioning. If I
had been his trainer, the way he had been performing, I
wouldn't of let him fight. There he would lose to anyone. Even though I
think he's a great Vale-Tudo fighter.
- What can you tell us about names like Marco Ruas & Hugo Duarte?
- They are good fighters, but are not among the top. Proof of that is
that they don't want to fight my fighters.
- How is the relationship with your family? What do you think of the
accusations that Reylson made against you?
- Reylson is mentally retarded, crazy, and should be in a mental hospital.
I have no answers for a famigerado (asshole/troublemaker). About the rest of
the family, everything is fine right now. Even though there's little things
that I don't agree with. But in the ring, I don't care. My Jiu-Jitsu is
completely different from theirs, my technique has nothing to do with "Gracie
Jiu-Jitsu". I AM CARLSON GRACIE and that's the way it is in the ring. Who ever
shows up on the way in, is going to have to fight against my fighters.
- How was your beginning in the U.S.? How is your life there nowadays? Has
it been worth it for you in all aspects, including
- Look, in the beginning, it was a disaster. I was working with an
asshole named Frederico La Penda. This guy was the
biggest swindler in L.A. I don't know how a man like that can promote
Vale-Tudo events here in Brazil. So because of that, I
was doing very badly in the beginning. Nowadays, even though I don't have
my own academy, my situation is very good. Now
in November, I'm going to open a big academy. I'm expanding Jiu-Jitsu to
the whole world. I have fighters in big events. For
me it's great.
- How did you meet Al Stankie, and how did he start training Vitor for
- One day Vitor went to train at the L.A. Boxing club (one of the biggest
in L.A.). Al Stankie saw the training and went to
talk to him and told him that he had huge potential and would like to
start training him. That was it.
- What do you see in the future for Vitor?
- Well, in Vale-Tudo, he's already at the top. In boxing, according to Al
Stankie, he has a big future ahead.
- What do you think of him leaving the Vale-Tudo and staying only with
- This doesn't exist, it's only gossip from the opposition. He's going to
fight in both.
- You wouldn't let him leave Vale-Tudo now?
- Who am I to tell him not to fight. I would be against it, but if he
wanted to leave, what can I do? But I think not, he loves
Vale-Tudo, it was Vale-Tudo that gave him the fame. I think that he can do
both at the same time perfectly.
- You always complained about the referees in Jiu-Jitsu competitions. How
do you see this problem nowadays? Give some
examples of doubted results for a clear explanation.
- I've seen the biggest, most absurd referees here in Brazil. There was a
fight with Royler against Joao Roque in the National
championship of '94. It was incredible what they did with the boy. Have you
seen a fighter win from a 5-0 deficit and lose from
a 4-0 advantage because of the referee. Joao Roque had five points clearly
on Royler, (I have the video of the fight to prove it)
and the referee, Redley, didn't give it to him. And the boy without going
anywhere was incredibly punished with the loss of four
points by Redley. Actually, in the same fight, even if there weren't any
points, Joao Roque would've won. The tape doesn't let
me lie. There is this guy named "Big Head", he's the biggest rat in
refereeing, I don't know how he can go home and look at his
wife and kids. He's a rat. There's people that commit errors because they
don't know, but there's also people that commit
errors on purpose. Another example: Royler was a referee of a fight with
one of my students in the Pan-American games, it
was between Anderson and Claudio Moreno in the finals. (before another
final in the same competition, Royler told me, "look
Carlson, now I want to see your student against mine") His student had
finished five fights and was going to the finals against
Daniel Christoph, then I said, "Is you student going to fight that blond
guy there? Man that guy would even beat you. Stop
talking shit, if your student doesn't tap, it doesn't count." Then after
two or three minutes, Daniel had dominated the fight and
finished his opponent. Then I had my moment to laugh. Just after that
Carlinhos called Royler to referee Anderson's fight. What
he did was too much; it was truly a crime. Anderson had seven points, and
Claudio Moreno had only two. Royler raised
Claudio's hand. He knew he cheated. It was 7-2 for Anderson. I think that
Royler was told to do so. I think Carlinhos told him,
that if Anderson won that fight, my academy would have taken the title.
- Speaking of that, how is your relationship with the Federation?
- I don't have a relationship with them. I was in the world competition
as a protest and now my academy will not participate
any more. Not only do you pay a lot for the registration, (basically equal
to a month's minimum wage salary) but also you get
cheated. We are making our own federation now, were going to make better
competitions where the athletes will basically pay
nothing, because that's the way it should be. It's absurd; the fighter
makes the show and still has to pay to be involved. All this
money goes in the president of the Federations' pocket.
- Who is going to rule over the new Federation?
- Janualdo Damardil, a very good politician who's going to get a lot of
sponsorships and make a lot of good events.
- What did you think of the fight between Marcio Feitosa and Leozinho in
the finals of the World Championship?
- In the beginning, Marcio really had the advantage, but after, he got
shy and the other guy attacked the whole time. He kept
attacking him and Marcio was just balled up. For me, Marcio Feitosa should
be dis-classified because he didn't even try to
compete. Leozinho kicked his ass and with out a doubt won the fight.
- How many Vale-Tudo fights were you in? Was there ever any loss?
- I was in eighteen Vale-Tudo fights. There was one time in Bahia (North
Brazil) against Euclides Pereira, and the referees
decided to give him the victory. I don't think I lost, for me that was not
- What was your hardest fight?
- My hardest fight was against Ivan Gomes, he was a monster. Afterwards,
he became my student and became world
champion. That was a terrible fight, with three-ten minute rounds, and
would only stop if one of us fell out of the ring. He had
98 Kg (215lbs), and I was 73Kg (160lbs). But I was in really good shape, if
it wasn't for that, I would have lost.
- Was he a Jiu-Jitsu fighter?
- I think he learned with a student of my uncles, George in Recife (also
North Brazil). He was a Jiu-Jitsu fighter and not only
was he very strong, but he had a very hard guard.
- What about Waldemar Santana?
- Waldemar was a student of the family for twelve or thirteen years. He
fought more than 20 times for our academy. What
happened was, he had a disagreement with Helio Gracie, and they decided to
fight Vale-Tudo, and Waldemar won. In fact, I
was a friend of his, and told him: "look Waldemar, we are friends, but now
I can't let it pass, you beat Helio, now your going to
have to fight me. I have nothing against you, but in the ring, I'm going to
beat the shit out of you!" And I did. I fought against him
six times. I won four times, and two were a draw. He was tough shit. If it
were today, he would be one of the best fighters.
- What's the reason for your disagreement with Helio Gracie?
- I have nothing against him, the only problem is that he's going around
telling lies, you know what I mean? He goes around
saying that his sons are the biggest & best fighters in the world and that
they discovered the invincibility. His students lose
everything here in Brazil. OK, Royce did well in the U.S. He beat everyone
there, but no one knew anything then. Here in
Brazil, I've never seen Royce win ONE championship. He lost to everyone. He
lost to De La Riva, who was so much smaller
than him. He tapped out to Paschoal. He's a good fighter, but never won
anything here. He's not this "phenomenon" that they
- And Rorion? How is your relationship with him nowadays?
- The problem with him is that he trademarked the name "Gracie Jiu-Jitsu"
in the U.S. but he's not going to keep me from
using "Carlson Gracie". Like I said, I want nothing to do with "Gracie
Jiu-Jitsu". I am "Carlson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu" . Nowadays,
the "Gracie Jiu-Jitsu" is old. They say that strength doesn't count, but it
does. Maybe it wouldn't make a difference if the
opponent didn't know anything. If the opponent knows something, then the
strength starts to count. Carlson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is a
combination. It's endurance, technique, etc. I'm not going to have a
student of mine who's 90Kg (198Lbs) fight someone who
weighs 130Kg (286Lbs) and is very good also.
They're lost, they've stopped in time and space.
Along with my students, I've evolved the Jiu-Jitsu even further. They call
themselves the best, but they don't prove it. In the
U.S., they don't enter their students into any outside competitions.
Let me tell you a little story about Rorion. Every day Rorion used to come
to me and ask me if I knew how to speak English,
and I would say no, I didn't know how at all, and he would keep asking me
and Rillion every day. Then he invited us to do a
television interview with him. He was sitting in the middle, and Rillion &
I were on either side. I couldn't understand a thing. All I
understood him saying was "Rillion Gracie and Carlson Gracie" once in a
while, and pointing at us. OK, one month goes by,
and I was here in Brazil when a friend of mine called me to say: "Carlson,
I saw the interview with you, Rorion and Rillion in the
U.S., he only told lies." "You don't know any English, do you?" "He only
said bullshit, and you were practically agreeing with
him." "He would talk and turn to the sides saying that you and Rillion were
there to confirm it." Then I went to my friend's
house, for him to translate exactly what was said. Then I found out that
Rorion said that he was a national champion for 20
years and had never lost and that he had invented the Gracie diet. He even
said that my dad was just a fucking assistant of his
and that it was Helio Gracie who brought Jiu-Jitsu to Brazil. Lies over
lies! When I found out, I was so mad!
- What do you think of the wrestling fighters?
- Wrestling is a hard fight. The guys are very strong and have excellent
technique for takedowns, and they make it very hard
to win. Of course in the same weight category, Jiu-Jitsu is better. You
see, Fabio Gurgel fought a guy that weighed 30Kg
(66lbs) more than him. Murilo, against a monster with 40Kg (88Lbs) more.
This Tom Erickson is the most dangerous
Vale-Tudo fighter out there. Not forgetting to mention that these guys
train in everything: Jiu-Jitsu, boxing, etc. not only in
wrestling. You can't keep giving the advantage of weight to them.
- Talk about the hype around the name "Vitor Gracie".
- In the beginning, my family was against it. They kept saying no,
because they thought he was going to lose. I decided to let
it go, and Vitor started winning, and then the family recognized it. But it
was too late, I didn't want it anymore, and neither did
- Let's talk about something else. What do you like outside of Jiu-Jitsu?
- I'm a music lover. Good music for me is everything. It could be any
kind, if its good, I like it. I think I have good taste. I
also like Tennis, Basketball, Soccer, etc. sports are very good.
- What kind of music do you prefer?
- Romantic, Flamenca, the big orchestras. Now who I really like is Yma
Sumac. To get an idea, she's the only human being
who can achieve a 1/8th octave in her voice. She's now 91 years old. When I
was seventeen years old, I was already a big fan.
I have all of her music and couldn't believe that I saw here in concert in
the U.S. She's incredible.
- Is it true that you gave dance classes?
- Ah, I used to teach girls in the xa xa xa era. That was the kind of
dance that lasted longer. There was rock, twist and
lambada, but the xa xa xa stayed at the top of the charts for 4 or 5 years.
I learned with Brigitte Bardot's boyfriend. Back in the
days there was a nightclub named the Black Horse, and they came to bring
this dance here. I was very good and I used to
teach the girls. The funny thing is that only girls would take the classes,
the guys I would kick out. (laughs).
- To finish this, talk about your sponsors for us?
- Look, I have my sponsor here by my side. Which is my friend, and I
don't trade him for anyone. He's Julio from
Arrebentacao. He's a very good sponsor. There are a lot of other companies
offering me a lot more, but (laughs) I won't
switch, no way.
- Carlson explains the losses in the Ultimate XV:
- "How does someone that spends two weeks locked in a bedroom with his
girlfriend before a fight expect to win? A day before
the fight, he had boxing training with Al Stankie and got tired. I told him
that if he didn't win the fight within five minutes, he was
going to lose. And that's what happened.
If he rests for fifteen days, he'll be back to normal".
- "For me, Carlao won that fight, I think that he didn't do everything that
he was doing when training. He eats all day long, not
even giving his body a half-hour rest to regenerate. It can only be that,
because the training was perfect."