Neiman Gracie went from being an undefeated Bellator title contender to only winning two of six bouts over a span of three and a half years.
As much as Gracie is happy with his well-rounded MMA game, focusing on his main weapon could be the key to breaking out of his slump ahead of his Bellator 290 clash with Dante Schiro. Speaking on this week’s episode of Trocação Franca, Gracie said that taking his opponent to the ground at Inglewood’s Kia Forum this Saturday night is a no-brainer.
“The plan is to go back to my roots,” Gracie said. “I’ve never let my roots go away, those who watch me training know I’m always taking the fight to the ground. But I enjoy it so much being in the cage, I end up brawling. My fights are always fun, I’ve never had a boring fight, but this time I’ll fight more intelligently, use my head a little bit and take the fight where I’m good at. When I can take the fight where I want, I’m one of the best in the world in that area, and that’s what I’m going to do Saturday.
“If I can take the fight to the ground and do my jiu-jitsu, I think I can beat the majority of people in MMA,” he continued. “That’s my plan, to take this fight where I’m more comfortable, but he’s a tough guy as well. Everybody knows everything these days, there are no fools, but if you watch his last fight, he was winning well but ended up getting caught in a crazy submission, something I’ve never seen before. It’s going to be a fun fight, and I’m going for the submission.”
Gracie challenged Rory MacDonald for the Bellator welterweight championship in 2019 as part of the 170-pound grand prix, but lost via decision. He rebounded with a submission win over veteran Jon Fitch a little over a year later, but then went 1-3 in his next bouts, sandwiching a knockout win over Mark Lemminger between losses to Jason Jackson, Logan Storley, and Goiti Yamauchi.
“Everything in life depends on how you see it,” Gracie said. “If I put too much pressure in my head and think, ‘F*ck, I need to win this fight,’ I’ll only make my situation worse. It’s an opportunity to prove to myself that I can bounce back. I’ve bounced back before, so it’s another opportunity to prove to myself that I can overcome anything.”
The Bellator belt is always the goal, but Gracie knows that coming off back-to-back defeats, he’ll have to pull off something spectacular to jump back to the top of the weight class.
“Rankings are a bit odd, but it all depends on how you win fights,” he said. “If it’s a super victory, I don’t know, I go out there and pull off a flying armbar and it goes viral and everybody sees it, they will rank me in one position. If I go there and win a super boring split decision, they’ll rank me some place else.
“So I hope to win with a flying armbar.” he added with a laugh.