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Just before battle against James McSweeney in Manila. Core memories.

Roger Gracie was born to do mixed martial arts. When you have the last name “Gracie,” it is hard to do much else in terms of sports.

This coming weekend, Gracie takes on Michael Pasternak at ONE: ASCENT TO POWER for the inaugural ONE Light Heavyweight World Championship. The card goes down from inside the Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore on 6 May.

“For me, to be the first light heavyweight world champion will be really good cause I’ll look great with the belt on me,” Gracie said. “I’m very confident about taking this belt. [I’ve been] already visualizing that ever since I started fighting in ONE. I knew that day would come.”

“This opportunity came sooner than later, and I think I’m in my prime. I’ve trained very hard, I’m always improving. Today, I’m the best fighter I’ve ever been. This belt came at the perfect time.”

Gracie (7-2) started out on his MMA career in 2006, winning all his first four bouts via submission. He debuted with ONE Championship in 2014, finishing UFC veteran James McSweeney.

“To carry the Gracie name is heavy,” he said. “It’s a lot of weight on your back. There is a lot of pressure on you. People always hope that you succeed.”

“Everyone expects me to be good already. If you learn how to deal with it, you can use it in your favor. If you don’t, it’s very hard to succeed.”

Following a run with Strikeforce that included victories over former UFC champion Kevin Randleman, Keith Jardine, and Anthony Smith, Gracie fought for the first time inside the Octagon in 2013. He dropped a tough decision to Tim Kennedy before heading to ONE.

His family has been nothing but supportive throughout his career, as Gracie added, “They only pressure me in a healthy way.”

Back in the early stages of MMA, the name Gracie was seen on almost every major show. Things have changed over the years due to the development and evolution of the sport.

“I think there are not that many Gracie’s competing [in MMA today] because the sport changes a lot,” he said. “The previous sport that was created many years ago had no rules and you stayed there until someone gave up. I think today, with the TV and the press, it’s difficult to do that. They have to put rules and time limits.”

“Today, everyone knows everything. Everyone knows Jiujitsu, Muay Thai, boxing, kickboxing; it’s all mixed. There are no pure martial arts competing against each other anymore.”

In regards to his own development, Gracie showed that he has been working on his stand-up in the win over McSweeney, which was his first finish that did not come by way of submission. He stopped McSweeney in the third round with a knockout combination of a front kick to the body and strikes.

“I wasn’t really trying to prove anything, it was just something that happened,” Gracie said. “My strategy in that fight was keeping the fight standing up, not rushing to take the fight down. I was taking my time; I was feeling better and better in the stand-up. I tried to shoot twice and he escaped, and I saw him running away so I kept the fight standing.”

“(The) TKO is not something I’m looking for. If there’s a big strike that connects, though, obviously that’s welcome. If there’s any opportunity for me to take the fight down, then that will happen for sure.”

Gracie, who will turn 35 years old this September, has been developing his skills at both Gracie Barra and Black House. He holds a third-degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under the likes of Royce Gracie, Mauricio Motta Gomes, and Sken Kaewpadung.

His opponent for the ONE championship belt will be an undefeated fighter in Pasternak. As always, Gracie has taken a strong interest in preparation before the contest.

“I know he’s tough and has a strong heart. He’s not the type of guy to give up,” he said. “I know it’s not going to be an easy fight.”

“He’s just good in general. His ground game is good, his stand-up is good; but he’s not a specialist in anything. I think that puts me in a more comfortable zone.”

As good as the finish of McSweeney felt with both fighters standing to begin, Gracie knows his advantage comes on the ground.

“You’ll never match my ground game,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how much they train. If they aren’t a jiujitsu World Champion, they cannot get close to my strengths on the ground. I’m very good and strong. Everyone will always be worried I have something they do not have.”

Having also spent time competing in the middleweight division, Gracie believes becoming a two-division champion is a possibility.

“There’s no limit,” he said. “The sky’s the limit. I’ll be taking this belt, maybe I can take two belts. Who knows?”

“I want to be the best fighter in the world and that’s why I train every day. I train to succeed against any opponent I face. It doesn’t matter who they are or when they’ll come. There’s no other point for me. There’s no second place for me. I fight to be the best and that will happen.”

Reuters

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Roger Gracie is a 10 time Jiu-Jitsu world champion. He is the grandson of the founder of the art, Carlos Gracie. Son of Mauricio Gomes

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