An Interview with the one and only Roger Gracie, OSSS
Interviewee: Roger Gracie
Location: London, UK
Photo by: Roger Gracie Jiu-Jitsu
A name synonymous not just with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu but also BJJ in the UK, Roger Gracie really should need no introduction.
However, for those that need a crash course, here’s a quick run-down: ADCC Champion (2005 (where he also submitted all 8 of his opponents)), IBJJF World Champion (04/05/06/07/08/09/10), IBJJF Pan Champion (06) and IBJJF European Champion (05). He also had a successful career in MMA, with several notable wins, before closing out his competitive career in a super-fight against Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida in 2017, which he won via submission (choke from the back).
Now well into his retirement, and with no plans to return, Roger reflects on the early days of coming to the UK,
“My Father [Muricio Gomes] lived in the UK when I was 15, and years before I moved permanently, I was spending my summer holidays here.
Back then, there were barely any academies, small gyms, people would get together with backyard mats – tough people – but no one knew what BJJ was.”
Noting how it stayed like that for a few years, it wasn’t until he was around 17 years old traveling all over the UK with his Dad doing seminars that he noticed the gyms growing and getting busier,
“You had to prove yourself every time you taught. It took a long time before it took off.”
Eventually, moving to live full time with his Father here in the UK whilst also traveling back to Rio de Janeiro to train at the Gracie Barra headquarters, his progression continued.
However, at the time of some of Roger’s greatest successes, the UK Jiu-Jitsu scene was yet to really catch up.
“I had my students, but it was just starting here. There was a purple belt, a couple of blue belts, and Braulio [Estima] in Birmingham.”
When asked how he managed to stay so competitive, Roger had this to offer,
“The most important thing is you need to be motivated to try and achieve something. That was the drive that bought me to do everything.” Roger remembers, “If you have the motivation, you can improve on your own. Surround yourself with people that motivate you, that make you do your best, that motivates you to be greater than you are.”
It’s harder to argue with that approach when the results speak for themselves. Even in retirement, Roger remains in the UK, with his main gym in London, but others dotted around.
After such a long stint and in a prime position to observe the change over the years, we wondered what the future of Jiu-Jitsu in the UK had in store,
“If you look how we were five years ago, BJJ has grown massively all over the world, but clearly in the UK, it’s growing. The number of gyms, students… we’re seeing numbers we wouldn’t have thought possible. The UK has huge potential. In Europe, I think the UK is the biggest. Maybe I’m wrong, but what I see in competitions and what I know, if the UK isn’t the biggest, it’s top 2 or 3 for sure.”
And when asked if it could ever beat football, a truly British past-time,
“I think after football, maybe. If you see the way it’s growing, it will be one of the biggest sports in the country. Cricket and Rugby are also massive in terms of popularity, but in terms of practitioners, I think it could be number 2.”
So, keep an eye out for Jiu-Jitsu… you may find yourself, if you’re not already, practicing it in your neighborhood very soon!