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 Trocacao 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. However, the fight is so enjoyable that I often end up fighting. 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. He said, “That is my plan. To take the fight to where I feel more at ease, but he’s tough as hell.” Although everyone knows all these things, no one is fooled, his last fight showed him winning but getting caught in an insane submission that I have never seen. 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. This is an opportunity for me to show myself I am capable of rebounding. I’ve bounced back before, so it’s another opportunity to prove to myself that I can overcome anything.”
The Bellator belt is always his goal. But Gracie understands that after back-to back defeats, he will need to do something extraordinary to get back at the top of the weight classes.
“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.