Kron Gracie explains near four-year hiatus from UFC, defends one-round fights to ‘change the sport for the better’


A lot has changed in Kron Gracie’s life over the past 1,300 days — yes, that’s how long it’s been his last UFC fight, a loss to Cub Swanson in October 2019.

He’s ready to finally face the music again.

A man of few words, and not big on interviews or social media, a rare attribute in today’s MMA sphere — especially for someone who was known by the combat sports world as soon as he was born — re-enters the octagon Saturday to battle Charles Jourdain at UFC 288 in New Jersey.

Gracie, the son of Rickson Gracie, said on this week’s episode of Trocação Franca podcast he never intended on stepping away for three and a half years but the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the country and moving from California to Montana demanded time, opening his own gym and learning to “live in the mountains” alongside his Cane Corso.

“It’s not something I chose, to have a break without fighting, but life happens,” Gracie said. “When you’re fighting and competing since you were 9, that’s something I had to do to get to this point. This time I had to learn to live in the mountains. And I have a dog now. It took a while for me to learn to live in the mountains, the cold weather. It’s very different and it takes time. The gym had to get going and people around me needed to be in a position to help me. I did what I had to do and now I’m ready to fight.”

Celebrities and influencers tend to post around 10 times per week on Instagram for clicks, money and attention. Gracie shared around 100 photos over the past 1,300 days, most of them with no caption. There were no interviews over that period of time either. In fact, Gracie only talked to Trocação Franca because it was part of the mandatory fight week schedule planned by the UFC.

Gracie doesn’t hate doing media per se, but feels it’s useless at this point.

“I don’t have much to say,” Gracie said. “Since I was a kid, everybody wants to know about my life. Every competition I’m in people are interested in what I’m doing so I feel I’ve done a lot for the sport already, talking about what I’m doing, talking about what I’m thinking. Time comes where I don’t have anything new to say, you know? My life has always been like that, competing in training.

“How many times do I have to talk about my training and what I’m doing? It’s the same thing, you know? Nothing has changed. My fighting style is the same and my training has had some adjustments, but it’s the same thing. I’m fighting competitively since I was a kid. Everybody already asked me how it’s like being Rickson’s son, everybody already asked me how it’s like being from the Gracie family. I’ve answered that many times before, so I don’t see what I have left to say that would make much difference. It’s time to fight and that’s what matters. People want to see me fight, so I’m saving my energy to fighting.”

The 34-year-old fighter, an ADCC gold medalist and multiple-time jiu-jitsu champion, said UFC 288 foe “Air” Jourdain was “kind of the best fighter the UFC was offering me” for a start of a more active stretch in the organization.

“I didn’t want to wait too long, I wanted to take a fight soon and go back to fighting life,” Gracie said. “Regardless of time away and what I plan for in the next years of fighting, I had to take a fight soon to get the machine up and running again.”

Gracie said “every fight changes [you] a little bit, especially when you don’t have the result you want, so you evaluate and see what happened.” The lesson learned against Cub Swanson, a three-round decision in Tampa, Fla., was that fights aren’t to death — even if that’s what he has in his heart.

“In my mind I always fought to kill or be killer so time was never something I thought about,” he said. “In jiu-jitsu or MMA or boxing, I always fought and trained a lot, many rounds and many hours of training, because in my heart and soul I always think of fighting to death, fighting until the other guy gives up. But, unfortunately, it’s three rounds and time will run out and you have to make some adjustments for that.”

The UFC has loosened up a little bit over the past few years by adding two extra rounds to certain bouts that were not for belts nor headliners. Asked if he’d like 10 more minutes for his clash with Jourdain, Gracie said that “first I need to fight this fight in order to make some difference and ask what I want.”

What he truly wants, however, might be harder — or impossible — to achieve in the UFC.

“What I really think MMA needs is, instead of [more] rounds, is 15- or 25-minute rounds,” Gracie said. “I think that’s something that would change the result and bring more finishes on the feet and on the ground because when you have rounds, you have a break and time to think, your coach brings you water, and that changes the fight. It’s no longer a fight between you and the guy. I know it’s hard to have a fight with no time limit, but I think there should be no rounds. It should be a 15-minute fight, or a 25-minute fight. I think that would change the sport for the better. You would have more chances to fight and win with these rules.

“The sport definitely wasn’t ready for that in the beginning. I think even fighters didn’t have enough level for such thing. But I think the sport is way smarter now. Fans are way smarter. Fans appreciate grappling more. There are fights, like Robert Whittaker and Yoel Romero, both fights were very competitive. If it was a 25-minute one-round fight, I think there could be more opportunities for them. When fans’ intelligence grows, I think you can adjust the rules.”

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