Daniel Gracie talks Bellator, Georges St. Pierre and Frankie Edgar (Exclusive Interview)

BJJ maverick Daniel Gracie took time off his training schedule, to share thoughts with LowKick.com about his plans for 2011, training Georges St. Pierre and Frankie Edgar for their title defenses and much more. Daniel Gracie was recently signed up for Bellator‘s first ever Light Heavyweight Tournament, which will take place next spring.

Currently holding a professional Mixed Martial Arts record of 5-2, Daniel Gracie is coming off a convincing submission victory over the Swede Martin Wojcik at IFC: Genesis event, which took place last November in Tel-Aviv, Israel. Daniel Gracie runs Renzo Gracie BJJ Academy in Connecticut (103 Atlantic Street in downtown Stamford). You can follow Daniel on Twitter @DanielGracie or his personal Facebook profile.

Hey Daniel, it’s great to have you back on LowKick.com. Congratulations for signing with Bellator. How are you doing these days?

I’m training like a maniac. And I’m so happy to sign with Bellator. I’m not gonna be waiting for UFC to call me. I’m 38 years old, so I can’t be fooling around. Bellator are a big promotion. Getting into their tournament is a fantastic opportunity for me. So I took it right away.

Yes. They also recently announced a deal with MTV2.

Exactly. That’s another reason behind signing for them. They got that great TV deal, which can provide me a really good exposure. It’s my chance to show all the people how good I am. That ideal for any MMA fighter.

Obviously it’s a tournament format. Which means that you’ll be fighting quite often. How do you feel about this?
It will be like, fighting almost every three months. I think that every event should be like that. I don’t know why people want to take 4 or 5 months off. Only if you’re hurt, you want to take such a long time off. Like I said, at my age I’m not here to play games. I want to fight. And Bellator are perfect for this.

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Do you have an exclusive contract with Bellator? Can you fight outside the promotion?
One of the reasons I signed for Bellator is that they are very flexible with their contracts. It’s only exclusive in the US. So I can fight outside US in any promotion if I want to. Only during the tournament I can’t fight for other promotions. The tournament will be March, April and May.

I would like to take you back to your fight at IFC: Genesis against Martin Wojcik. How you felt coming to this fight, especially after 4 years off fighting?
I didn’t spend these four years for nothing. I trained hard all that time and was in a great shape. I was a little bit nervous before entering the cage, but as soon as I began to sweat, and the blood was flowing… boom. I was not nervous anymore, and felt at home. This event in Israel really reminded me of PRIDE. The organization and the environment was really good, so it really was a good way for a comeback.

Did you have any injuries after this fight? Because if I remember well, you were cut during that fight.
No, no injuries at all. The cut I got was from a glove. It was not even a punch. I was in great shape, and my body reacted well for the fight. I weighed 206 at the weigh-ins, and right now I’m walking around 218. So it’s easy for me to keep this weight.

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I wanted to ask you about Georges St. Pierre. He trains at Renzo Gracie’s Academy. Can you talk about how he improved his BJJ game, and how he’s now as a fighter?
Since Georges’s training with us at the academy, his BJJ improved greatly. Same with Frankie Edgar. To tell you the truth, I can’t see Georges losing his title in the near future. He’s a very well rounded fighter. The only thing I thought he has something to learn at – is his BJJ game, and he closed that gap thanks to a very hard work. He’s a complete fighter now. I heard he’s going to fight Jake Shields next. Jake is a very good guy and in my opinion one of the best submission fighters in the game. But Georges improved so much, especially his submission defense. So I think Georges St. Pierre can go out there and win against anyone with great Jiu-Jitsu.

If the fight between Georges St. Pierre and Jake Shields goes to the ground, what will be Georges’ goal? Will he be aggressive, or just trying to defend against Jake Shields’s submissions?

I think that his goal should be to defend Jake Shields’s Jiu-Jitsu. And he can do it. If I was Georges St. Pierre I would not go into exchanging my Jiu-Jitsu skills against Jake Shields. Shields is a complete fighter in terms of Jiu-Jitsu.

What do you think about the attitude of some of the Cesar Gracie fighters? Fighters like the Diaz brothers, for instance.

Oh, to tell you the truth, I love it. And you know why? Because these guys are real fighters. They have a hot blood, always aggressive and ready to put up a good fight. When you get inside the cage against them, you better to be prepared for war. I like their personality. They are for real, and will do anything for victory. This strong “street fighter personality” only makes the fights more exciting. They will do anything for their team, and it’s simply great in my opinion.

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What’s your prediction for the fight between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard?
It’s gonna be a great fight. I think Gray Maynard has a chance to win, but that does not gonna happen. Frankie is in such a good shape. He’s well prepared – so I think it will be an easy fight, actually. The only skill Maynard has is his wrestling, but I think that Frankie Edgar learned perfectly how to use his skills inside the cage. Maynard may be a better Wrestler, but Frankie knows how to use it, and he utilizes his skills better. Just like Georges St. Pierre. Koscheck maybe on paper is better than Georges, but Georges is smarter on using his skills in MMA. That’s why I say that Frankie Edgar’s wrestling is better for MMA than Maynard’s.

What are your goals for 2011?

I want to become a Champion, to have a belt. But if I don’t get a belt in 2011, at least many people will hear about me. My goal is to be a Champion, but I also want people to see my work. I want to put great fights for the fans in 2011.