Kyra, Candidly: The Gracie phenom talks about her fighting future

Thursday, September 3, 2009
By Brandy Dolce
Kyra Gracie

Kyra Gracie

Kyra Gracie is undeniably one of the most recognized female grapplers in the world. She holds multiple world titles with the last two secured in 2007 at the Pan American Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Games and ADCC Submission Wrestling Championships.    

What most people don’t know is that Kyra truly is your average girl next door. This college coed loves funk music, belly dancing and, of course, the sport that forms the foundation of her family’s livelihood: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Kyra let me in on a few little secrets about her past, present, and a future that she says includes mixed martial arts bouts, and the one thing that’s prevented her from making her MMA debut.


BD: What accomplishments did you make happen in 2007?

KG: I won the ADCC for the second time and the Pan Ams for the fifth time.


BD: Speaking of accomplishments, do you think things just happen to people, or do they have to go out and fight for what they want?

KG: I believe that life has always something waiting for us, but if you don’t fight you might never find out what it is.


BD: Talk a little about what kind of discipline it takes to be a female mixed martial artist.

KG: It will change depending on your fighting strategy. To me jiu-jitsu has all the elements necessary to an MMA fight: punches, kicks, elbows, knees, takedowns and ground (game). And just like many in my family have done for almost one century, when I decide to compete in MMA I’ll stick to my BJJ training and just change the focus of my strategy.


BD: Do you make sacrifices to fight? If yes, what are they?

KG: Like any person that is committed to go above the ordinary and accomplish something extraordinary, the martial artist must abdicate from a lot of things. For instance, my fingers and my toes are not enough to count how many parties I lost in order to be ready for a competition, or even the pieces of cakes and candies I could not taste, but it is all worth it. There is no better feeling than stepping on the mats for a fight knowing that you did everything in your control to perform your best.


BD: Is it more common for a woman to practice MMA in Brazil than in the United States?

KG: No, actually I think MMA for girls here is growing faster than in Brazil. It’s not hard to turn on the TV and see the girls putting on a nice show in some of the biggest organizations in the U.S.


BD: Do you think the bigger fight organizations, like the UFC, should feature female fighters? Why?

KG: Yes, I even read that Dana White, UFC president, said that he would never put girls fighting in his show. I hope he changes his mind because I believe the girls deserve their spot on the MMA scene.


BD: What about fight purses? Is there a difference?

KG: For sure! The purses that were offered to me were not even close to what my cousins get. That’s the reason I did not have my MMA debut yet.


BD: What would you do to increase the popularity of MMA?

KG: I would not do anything differently I believe the big organizations involved with the sport like the UFC and IFL (International Fight League) are doing an amazing job promoting the sport.


BD: Name the biggest problem facing MMA and how you would fix it.

KG: There is a misconception from the general public. People think the sport has no rules and is underground. The way to overcome this is to keep professionalizing the competitions and educating everyone through magazines, TV, radio and, of course, good MMA schools.


BD: How often do you train?

KG: I train every day. My normal week is five days of BJJ, three days weights and three days of swimming and running.


BD: I know you’ve been asked this question before. But why do you fight?

KG: It all started because of my family’s tradition, but today I can’t imagine how my life would be without jiu-jitsu. I fight for so many reasons. It is sometimes to relieve stress, other times to stay in shape, to compete, but above all…I am trying to conquer myself and become a better person.


BD: What does fighting do for you emotionally? Spiritually? Physically?

KG: Fighting keeps me in balance. Jiu-jitsu is such a beautiful and deep art that it works as a psychologist to my emotions, a temple to my spirit and a great medicine for my health.


BD: In your circle of friends, how many fight or train MMA?

KG: I’m always surrounded by athletes; most of my friends train either jiu-jitsu, MMA or both.


BD: Have you ever lost a friend or boyfriend because they thought you shouldn’t be fighting?

KG: No, I was always lucky to have supportive people around me.


BD: What does your mom think about you fighting?

KG: She thinks it’s great. She was a blue belt herself and was always – and still is – very supportive. I could not have come this far without her. If you see a woman that looks a lot like me, putting my make-up on after my fights, and before the interviews, that’s my mom!


BD: What’s 2008 look like for you? Any big plans?

KG: Each year I want my life to be more and more busy. Before, I was just worried about my fights. Now I have so many things like fights, my brand, college and always being a better human being.


BD: What’s going on in your life right now outside of MMA?

KG: As I said, I’m doing college – business economics – and I want to be as good as I am in jiu-jitsu.


BD: I have two younger brothers. They were so bad growing up that I wished I were an only child. Of course, now I think they’re great. But I can’t imagine what it was like for you growing up surrounded by all that Gracie testosterone. Tell us about it:

KG: For me it was very natural, because I’ve never (known) another kind of life. This is our way of life. It’s the same if you ask the fish how it is to live in the ocean.


BD: What are the big days that your family gets together and celebrates? What’s that like?

KG: Like all families, we celebrate Christmas and everything. The house gets packed. But right now the family’s become huge. It’s all over the world, so we usually get together with the people in the same country, like in America (there’s more than 60 family members), in brazil 100, in Europe(we) have 40, so it’s almost impossible to get everybody together. But our biggest celebrations are the tournaments, like Mundial (and) ADCC. The whole family gets together from all over and we celebrate.


BD: I told some of my girlfriends I was going to interview you. They immediately wanted me to ask you if you noticed how much commentators talk about your good looks, and not just your fight technique, while you’re on the mats. Does it bother you that professional commentators talk about how pretty you are instead of just your fight technique?

KG: No, this doesn’t bother me, because I can show how professional I am on the mats.


BD: I wonder how Matt Hughes would feel if someone commentated, “Hughes is going for a triangle….Wow, he really fills out those shorts…wouldn’t mind if he practiced that on me!”  If you commentated a fight between two attractive fighters, would you describe their physical attributes or just their fight technique?

KG: Me, as a professional, I would talk about their fight technique. But me as a girl, I would be having girlish (talk) and this means I would talk (about) how handsome he is. Remember, I am a girl like (any other) one.


Quickies with Kyra

1. Where do you see yourself in 20 years… Mother

2. Best thing about you…Good friend.

3. Worst thing about you…My feet

4. People who know you say you are…Quiet.

5. The last movie you saw was…“Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead”

6. The last time you danced was…My sister’s birthday, September 21.

7. The last book you read was…“China S.A.”

8. What’s in your CD player right now? Brazilian songs like funk, MPB (Musica Popular Brasileira) and Black Eyed Peas, The Beatles…a lot of different songs.

9. The best you EVER felt in your life was when…I won the ADCC 2005.

10. Your favorite male/female fighters are: Male: Renzo (Gracie). My favorite female is always my next opponent.

11. Any sponsors you’d like to thank? Itapemirim, Rags and Atama Kimonos.

15. Would your perfect guy have to train MMA, or fight, for you to be interested? No.

16. Name some of the most important qualities of a potential boyfriend: Personality, behave like a real man…a man who knows how to treat a woman.

17. What would be your biggest accomplishment? Happiness.

18. Name some things people might be surprised to find out about you: I love funk music!

19. Other hobbies besides MMA/jiu-jitsu? Surf, snowboard, belly dance.

by Brandy Dolce

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