Igor Gracie, is the son of the legendary Rolls Gracie was born in Rio de Janeiro, and currently resides in New York teaching with his cousin, the world renowned Renzo Gracie. Igor Gracie is a black belt from the Gracie Barra Academy and is a successful competitor, including two time state champion and Pan American and Mundial medalist.
Wreck MMA sat down with Igor, who will be the first Gracie to ever fight in Eastern Canada on December 12th in Gatineau (5 minutes from Ottawa) at Wreck MMA: Fights for the Troops.
Wreck: At what age did you realize you were a part of a very special family?
Igor Gracie: My family was always very united. So since I was a kid my mom always made sure I knew family comes first. But it was around 12 years old that I started understand how my family spread the art all over Brazil and soon the World.
Wreck: How old were you when you began studying Gracie Jiu-Jitsu?
Igor Gracie: I started going to the academy very young. Going in there to play, learn a few moves… a kid’s class. When I was about 4 or 5 years old.
Wreck: Was there any point in your life where you thought of becoming anything either than an instructor and professional fighter? Or being born with a famous name like Gracie, did you feel it was your destiny to learn Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and help teach the world about the sport pioneered by your family.
Igor Gracie: I went to Law school for 2 years and Business School for another 2. I think it’s very good to have an education regardless of what you want to be in the future, you got to be ready to whatever life throws at you.
But when I was 22 I started training and teaching full time, moved to New York and could finish the University.
Wreck: In 1993, when Royce Gracie won the first UFC, what was your reaction as a young Gracie in Brazil?
Igor Gracie: I grew up seeing those types of challenges. My Grandfather traveled the whole country challenging other martial artists to show how efficient Jiu-Jitsu was. But 3 fights in one night that was pretty impressive, I knew that I wanted to get in the ring and show my skills just like my Grandfather, Uncles and Cousins.
Wreck: Do you believe that your legendary father, Rolls Gracie, being the first Gracie to openly study other arts and integrate techniques into Gracie Jiu-Jitsu have a great impact on how Gracie Jiu-Jitsu has evolved to where
it is today?
Igor Gracie: Of course. That’s what everybody from the earlier generation keep telling me. How he developed tons of moves; made the guard more offensive; did conditioning training for jiu-jitsu; trained sambo; judo etc… He was many years ahead of anyone else at that time.
Wreck: Why did you decide to move from Brazil to New York to work with your cousin Renzo?
Igor Gracie: Renzo Invited me and I didn’t think twice. Because I knew that in New York I could focus 100% in teaching and training.
Wreck: At this point in your career, what do you believe is your greatest accomplishment?
Igor Gracie: I think I’m a pretty successful Jiu-Jitsu Competitor with major titles. But I want to prove that I can do well in MMA as well.
Wreck: Who are your main training partners and coaches for your fight in Wreck?
Igor Gracie: I train with the guys here in New York; my brothers Rolles and Gregor, Rafael Sapo, we got a good team over here. I also go twice a week to Ricardo Almeida Academy in New Jersey were he got an awesome training session. All that under the supervision of Renzo of course.
Wreck: How does it feel to be the first Gracie to ever fight in Eastern Canada?
Igor Gracie: I think that’s a great opportunity the event is giving me. I want to fight hard for the Canadian fans. And help develop the sport there.
Wreck: You have come to Ottawa on numerous occasions to conduct seminars with your brothers Rolles and Gregor. What are your thoughts on the city and the talent level of the students you have taught.
Igor Gracie: I love going to Ottawa because of the people. Even though it’s a cold place in the winter the people are very warm and welcoming. And the level is very high, Pat Cooligan and his crew do a awesome job running the school and keeping the level very high.
Wreck: How much of an honor is it to see your brother, Rolles Gracie, be the first Gracie since Royce to compete in the UFC?
Igor Gracie: Words can’t explain how happy I am. He trains so hard and dedicates himself so much that, I think he’ll do a great job at the Heavyweight division.
Wreck: Is your goal to follow your brother and become a UFC fighter?
Igor Gracie: Yes it is. I want to fight in the biggest event.
Wreck: Which current MMA fighter do you enjoy watching compete?
Igor Gracie: I enjoy watching Jiu-Jitsu fighters competing in MMA. Proving the efficiency of the art. Minotauro, Minotouro, Renzo, Rolles, Damian, GSP, Jose Aldo, just to name a few.
Wreck: Is there any fighter in MMA that you would like to face in the future?
Igor Gracie: When you decide to compete in MMA you can’t pick opponents, you have to build yourself to fight the best.