Bellator 185: “Mousasi vs. Shlemenko” comes to Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., this Friday night (Oct. 20, 2017), featuring the promotional debut of Gegard Mousasi (42-6-2) as he takes on former Middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko (56-9, 1 NC).
This stacked card features plenty more action to boot, including one fighter with a very familiar last name for fight fans: Gracie.
Neiman Gracie has amassed a perfect (6-0) record in mixed martial arts (MMA), picking up two wins in World Series of Fighting (WSOF) and four more since coming to Bellator. With five of those six wins coming by submission, it comes as no surprise that Gracie was a medalist in multiple world Brazilian jiu-jitsu tournaments long before he transitioned to cage fighting.
MMAmania.com recently spoke with Gracie as he looks to take out Zak Bucia (18-8) as he continues to climb the Bellator ranks.
“Yeah, I think he is a pretty good opponent. It’s gonna be a good test, and I’m ready to take it, you know?”
Gracie says the fight presents the same danger as any opponent if you make the mistake of underestimating their skills.
“Everybody is a trap, you know? If you sleep on anyone you might get choked or KO’d, so I don’t take anybody lightly.”
That’s good advice in general, but the fourth generation Gracie and nephew of the acclaimed Renzo Gracie is practicing what he preaches in preparation for this fight.
“Preparation’s been hard like I always do. After my last fight I took only like two weeks off and I came right back to training. It’s been a great camp and I’m feeling great -- feeling great and ready to perform.”
That last fight may have been the first time some fans had seen Neiman considering it happened on the big stage at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Unsurprisingly, Gracie was thrilled with the outcome.
“That was one of the highlights of my career for sure. It was awesome fighting at my second home (in New York), and fighting in front of all my family, all my students and friends, and in one of the biggest arenas in the world, you know? So it was one of the highlights of my life and my career. It was awesome. I hope that every time that they have an event here they call me.”
Gracie seems to be getting the call a lot more of late. This is his second fight of 2017, and if things go well, he wouldn’t mind a third.
“Yes, for sure. All I do right now in my life is train. I want to fight more for sure because I don’t do nothing else in my life. All I do is train, eat, sleep so I’ll be happy (if) the day after this event if I get a call to fight again to fight really soon. Maybe one more this year.”
That rigorous schedule has taken Gracie away from one of his other loves — teaching jiu-jitsu to the next generation — but some sacrifices have to be made to achieve the success he has.
“I’m teaching less and less and training more and more. You know it’s hard, it’s not easy, but I’m trying to make more time to train than to teach right now. I’m prioritizing on my career, and I hope that pay(s) off — and it will pay off!”
One of the ways it could pay off would be a world title shot, but right now Rory MacDonald is next on Jan. 20 to challenge Douglas Lima. Gracie would be happy to fight either one.
“Yeah, whoever has the belt is what I’m gonna do. I have to get the belt too, right? So it doesn’t matter who has it, we’re all trying to get the belt.”
One thing that might help him get that belt is his last name. The Gracies have been synonymous with jiu-jitsu since before the term “mixed martial arts” came into existence.
“So it’s like there is two ways — they can either get intimidated or they can use that as fire to fight harder against you. So it all depends on them, how will they see that, so it can be a good thing or it can be a bad thing. You can have a target on your back and people really want to get it, or people can be intimidated, you know? It depends on them.”
One wonders how Bucia is taking it knowing he is making his Bellator debut against an undefeated foe named Gracie. For Neiman the thrill is the unpredictability of it all.
“Man, I love MMA because we have no idea what’s going to happen. People are gonna have to tune in Friday night to see what’s going to happen — if he’s gonna come at me or if he’s gonna play defensive.”
They’ll also want to tune in to see the Bellator debut of Gegard Mousasi, who Gracie is thrilled to be sharing the card with on Friday.
“Oh I’m excited! Bellator is bringing in all the big names, and I always liked watching Mousasi. He’s a very good fighter and he’s a very calm fighter, an intelligent fighter. After my fight I’m going to want to take the time to watch his fight for sure.”
If Neiman Gracie continues his winning ways, with an average fight length of just under seven minutes a fight (an average skewed by his one win that went to decision), he should have plenty of time for a popcorn and soda to enjoy Bellator 185.
“Yeah ... yeah (laughing) ... I hope that works!”
So do the fans at the Mohegan Sun Arena and those watching live on Spike TV this Friday night.
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Mousasi vs. Shlemenko” resides here at MMAmania.com 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.