Gracie Wants To Be New G.O.A.T. After Beating ‘Red King’
Bellator 222: “MacDonald vs. Gracie” takes place tomorrow night (Fri., June 14, 2019) at Madison Square Garden in New York City, streaming exclusively online via DAZN. Bellator’s Welterweight champion Rory MacDonald (20-5-1) will face undefeated Brazilian jiu-jitsu star Neiman Gracie (9-0) in a bout where only one can advance to the finals of the Welterweight Grand Prix.
For MacDonald there are a lot of questions to answer after a disappointing draw in his last tournament bout, which was followed by a bizarre interview even by “The Red King” standards. MacDonald professed that he didn’t have “that killer inside any more” and left fans and live viewers alike wondering if he’d even continue in the tournament. Ultimately, MacDonald declared he wasn’t retiring and all eyes turned to Gracie, who earned his shot back in 2018 with a fourth round submission of Ed Ruth. The fourth generation member of the Gracie dynasty and nephew of Renzo Gracie remained undefeated and presented a serious danger to any striker or wrestler who would face him next.
“Yes, definitely! Especially when they made the brackets, I kind of knew, I kind of expected him to be my second fight you know? Not taking anything away from (Jon) Fitch, he’s a really tough guy, but yeah I expected to be fighting Rory.”
That being said, Gracie thought Fitch defeated MacDonald earlier this year and I had to know if he still felt that way in hindsight now that he’s facing MacDonald this weekend.
“Um, yes, but to tell the truth I saw the fight again so (now) I’m not really sure if it was a draw or maybe if Fitch won, you know? But it was a really tough fight, and I expected it to be a tough fight, so that’s what we saw.”
Gracie also expects MacDonald to be a killer at MSG and doesn’t believe that “The Red King” has lost any of his heart or desire to fight despite what he said in San Jose.
“Fighting if you think about it is a crazy thing to do you know — to lock yourself in a cage with another human being and fight each other — and if you don’t want to hurt people you shouldn’t be there. But I think he still wants to hurt people, at least he tried to hurt Fitch, but that’s what I saw.”
He’s not just expecting MacDonald to try to hurt him, he’s expecting MacDonald to be better than he was against Fitch or at any time so far in his Bellator career.
“He’d better be ready, it’s going to be a tough night for him if he’s not a hundred percent on it, you know? But I believe he is. I believe that I’m fighting one of the best Welterweights of all time, so I trained really hard for this fight and I’m ready to fight one of the best of all time.”
MacDonald has had his share of highlight reel fights over the years, but Gracie may try to keep it from turning into one of those wars by putting MacDonald on the mat.
“Of course the best way for me to win this fight is to take it to the ground, you know? I believe that on the ground I’m a step ahead of everyone else. So of course I believe the best way for me to win this is to take him down and work my ground game.”
That has to be MacDonald’s biggest concern going into the fight. Six weeks is not enough time to shore up the holes Fitch exposed in his defense and stop Gracie’s takedown.
“Yeah I believe so too, so I hope it happens.”
Gracie can be succinct and to the point about what he believes, but he’s happy to wax eloquent about getting to fight at home in New York City.
“Oh definitely you know, not only fighting there but fighting there for the title, so it’s definitely going to be a special night for me. I’ve been living here in New York for about 12 years already, and I pass by Madison Square Garden every day to go to my gym you know? Now I’m passing by and I see my picture up there so it’s awesome man.”
For that reason nothing that Gracie has done before tops this moment on his “best of” list. Dozens of gold medals and jiu-jitsu tournament trophies can’t beat how he feels right now.
“This tops it all — definitely you know! And especially when I win this will be the highlight of my career.”
With all of his wins but one coming by submission it’s not hard for Gracie to pick that as his method of victory, but WHICH submission he’ll go for is the more interesting question.
“I think maybe it will be a rear naked choke, or a flying armbar — I don’t know, one of the two. If the (armbar) happens I hope they give me a bonus!”
Bellator has not historically given out post-fight bonus awards, but this is its second show at The Garden, so it may be getting close to time. Either way there’s a prize they aren’t giving out Friday Gracie thinks he can claim — G.O.A.T.
“I think so! You know? In my opinion Rory’s one of the best Welterweights of all time, (if not) maybe he’s a top five in there you know? So beating him will be big for me!”
It’s one thing to say it, it’s yet another thing to believe it, but on June 14th Neiman Gracie simply has to do it.
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of Bellator 222: “MacDonald vs. Gracie” resides here at MMA Mania all week long.
To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.