Stephanie: What do you think of all the changes happening in MMA and how it has evolved throughout the years?
Renzo: Everything is evolving; the moment that you stop evolving, you become like Blockbuster [Video]. You have to close your doors… You have to be open to new ideas and new concepts, so that cost them. That’s why today you don’t have a Blockbuster in your neighborhood. I honestly believe for the sport to evolve, we need rules, we need weight divisions and that’s what happened. I grew up at 135 pounds; my whole life I was trying to gain weight. I take like three, four, five times a day huge meals and I did everything so I could gain weight because I was fighting open-weight division! I was 160 pounds fighting guys 230, 240! I imagine now…it would be much better [than] when I was fighting with the rules that we have today, but everything needs to have its base. I’m glad I was able to be one of the pillars that formed that base; that support, that amazing support. I gave my blood, I gave my sweat and I was there hurting and teaching and doing, you know? I completely disagree with [the statement] ‘Who knows does, who doesn’t know, teach.’ In reality, I KNEW, I DID, and I TAUGHT. [Laughs] Every rule has an exception.
Stephanie: Do you remember UFC159 when Michael Bisping scratched up Alan Belcher’s eye very badly? There was heavy discussion that there should be new gloves made to cover the fingers and prevent eye gauges. What are your thoughts on that?
Renzo: It’s dumb! I saw the new glove; it’s bigger, thicker. Soon they’re going to be wearing boxing gloves! The gloves should be smaller and thinner, in reality. You see that guy [Yancy Medeiros at UFC 159] broke his thumb when he fell on the ground? Why is that happening? The guys who are taping the hand before they go into the glove… You have to understand, when I [fought] I didn’t want no wrapping; never, I don’t need one! Just the glove, I will be fine. But I had to wear the wrapping. So here we are, they wrapped my hands so much (because they go in there like it’s a boxing match) and the fingers curve forward. If [Medeiros] had fell with his hand on the ground and the thumb wasn’t so wrapped, he wouldn’t break his thumb. The thumb would give, would slide a little. But the thumb was so tight that it came out of place. So that’s the situation; when someone moves, your first instinct is to push the guy away. You open your hand to spar; anybody would do that. But now, your fingers are pointing forward thanks to the wrapping. You’re going to stick your finger in the guy’s eye! That’s why so many eye gauges have been happening. You lose the ability to open your fingers and spread your hands; when you can’t do that, your fingers become little arrows. The problem is the wrap, not the glove.
Stephanie: That makes sense.
Renzo: Yeah, first time for Pride [FC], I told them, ‘Look, if I fight with this glove, I am going to break my thumb.’ They said, ‘No,’ that I had to fight with the same gloves. I go in; I fight; I walk out…I have a broken thumb. I look at them and I show it. I said, ‘This is what you do and I broke my thumb!’ I still have one [thumb] twice the size of the other because of that. After they saw this, [Pride] immediately changed the glove; they never had that problem again.
Stephanie: Pat Miletich was quoted as saying that you are ‘a man’ because you didn’t run away from any fight. Can you tell me a little bit more about your superfight, your relationship with Pat and the surprising submission in the first round? How did you know to keep your hooks in when it looked like Miletich was handling it so well?
Renzo: I have a very good, very strong arm in guillotine. I was one of the guys who made and perfected the submission. A lot of times, people think they are safe. If you have a chance to see the fight again, you are going to hear the commentators say, ‘No! The arm is inside. There is no danger for Miletich.’ …And then he taps. [Laughs] I always loved Pat; he’s a great guy and I always thought of him more as a jiu-jitsu fighter than a wrestler or a boxer (although he had great wrestling skills and great boxing skills). He was a jiu-jitsu man; very smart with his opponent and a guy I really admired. When they called me to fight him, I said, ‘No, I don’t want to fight Pat.’ And they said, ‘Why?! You and Pat are the same age; you’re supposed to fight,’ you know? I said, ‘If I fight him, I’m going to beat him too easy; I’m going to submit him.’ They said, ‘What?!’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’m telling you!’ But they kept calling! Then Pat calls, he said, ‘Come on, let’s do this fight…’ I said, ‘Pat, my brother, I don’t want to fight you for one reason: I’m going to fight you and I’m going to submit you very fast.’ He goes, ‘You really think so?!’ I said, ‘I know so, Pat! There’s no match. Grab someone that you’re going to beat up! You’ll be able to trade punches or you’ll end up submitting him; look for another good fighter that you want.’ I say, ‘You’re going to fight me and I’m going to finish you in the first round!’ It’s funny because I see how his game is; he accepts that you clinch with him…I know him. I’ve seen him fighting his whole life. I saw him, like one of the first jiu-jitsu national championship they had was in Chicago, back in 1985 I think or ’89, something like that. I have pictures of Pat training with me then…so I knew everything on him.
It was funny because the whole week I was there in his town. Everywhere I went, people made fun of me: ‘You’re the guy fighting Pat?! You’re going to get your ass kicked!’ I said, ‘Do you have tickets to watch the fight? If you don’t want to see Pat lose, sell those tickets FAST! Get your money back, because you won’t get your money’s worth!’ [Laughs] The whole week I was there doing this. I wanted to cut my hair in town; I asked, ‘You know Pat Miletich?’ and the guy said, “No.’ I say ‘Okay, go ahead!’ [We both crack up.]
[Before the fight] I hurt my neck in a way that I didn’t have no strength in my left hand. I couldn’t hold my weight on that side. I remember that day because I was hurt. I only slept two hours a night; I had to sleep with a bunch of pillows and my head had to be in position with the towel holding my neck, so my neck would be curving back. The next day, I wake up and because it took me so long to sleep, I woke up late. All the radio people were in the lobby saying that I quit, that I wasn’t fighting. I ask them, ‘Why? Is the arena filled up or is there some disgrace that I don’t know about? Some natural disaster?’ ‘Oh no, they say that you are hurt.’ I say, ‘Now that I am here in his town already?! I am going down to [Pat’s] academy and we will solve this problem.’ Then we worked it out for the fight.
When I was able to clinch with him, I actually clinched on the wrong side. If I wouldn’t find the guillotine, I wouldn’t have strength in my hand to hold it. So, I clinch and I spin to the right, pull it apart, because I knew then I would clinch on the right side. The moment that I had the clinch on the right side, I jumped for the guillotine and he had the feeling that he was safe. As I’m holding him and he was acting like everything was fine, but then I felt him a little bit out of balance and I knew he was done…I told the ref, “Don’t worry, everything is under control; the fight is over.’ [Laughs] Then I put my head back and I finish him. Everybody who I knew jump in the ring; everybody that came with us. It was one of the most amazing moments I have ever seen; it was unbelievable. After the fight, Pat asked me, ‘Hey! What did I do wrong?’ and I said, ‘You kept yourself steady. You should have gone down and tried to find a way to escape that.’ He said he was standing because he didn’t want to go on the ground with me. He said, ‘I thought about it, but I couldn’t do it.’ He’s an amazing guy. I told him to get another opponent and fight again in his hometown…his whole family…his MOTHER was there! Who wants to hit someone when the mother is watching? I’m glad I put a choke. If not I would have been hurt on the way home! But I love Pat; he’s the best. He’s a great instructor, a great teacher, a great athlete. He was one of the best fighter of the UFC for sure, one of the original. He was always unbelievable. I always admire him.
Stephanie: Tell me about your current workout routine.
Renzo: Well, I had a problem in my back…I had a horse race in Abu Dhabi…
Renzo: Yes! I did 85 miles on a horse. Out of 180 horses, only I think 17 or 18 horses finished. I was 15. I do believe on that process, I had a hairline fracture in my back from so much pounding on the saddle. It’s been almost three months now and it was bad. So that stopped me for a little bit from training, but I am coming back now. I have been working out and most importantly I have been training with my son. We’ve had a chance to go at it…the kid is getting good.
Stephanie: Earlier you were telling me your most memorable fight will be your next one. Are you planning on fighting soon?
Renzo: Yes. I am looking forward to getting in shape again and to be back on the game; one more run! I do have some wood to burn.
Stephanie: When can we can expect to see that, in what time frame?
Renzo: Probably before the end of this year, I will be back in the game.
Stephanie: But not back in the saddle…
Renzo: Not in a horse! No, I’m not sitting my butt on a horse for a while! [Laughs] It cost me a lot!
Stephanie: Can you tell me which fighting promotion we’re talking about here?
Renzo: I can’t say yet.
Stephanie: I can’t wait. Thank you so much for the interview, I really appreciate it!
Renzo: That was my pleasure, believe it. Thank you.
Photo Credits: Renzo Gracie & Family FCFighter.com