Robert Drysdale On His MMA ambitions, The Mir-Nog Rivalry, & Why he thinks Jacare Would Beat Roger Gracie in MMA

By Guilherme Cruz for Tatame magazine (Translated from Portuguese)

“Robert Drysdale has a big collection of Jiu-Jitsu and Submission titles, like a golden medal at 2007th ADCC. But now he has changed. In love with MMA, modality on which he has won all four bouts disputed, the black belt trains again to fight in November at Legacy FC, and hopes to meet a UFC veteran.

“There’s no use on defeating someone who’s never been in the UFC. It’s not a big win. I want someone who’s been in there, a known guy so it makes a difference to my record”, said the athlete, on an interview with TATAME, revealing the difficulty on finding an opponent who accepts fighting him. “It’salways f… hard finding someone to fight me. Nobody wants to fight me for two, three grand. It’s always like that. I’m used to it”.

On the chat below, Drysdale evaluated the trainings of Frank Mir and Forrest Griffin for their respective fights against Daniel Cormier and Chael Sonnen. Also, he talked about Mir-Nogueira rivalry, the possibility of fighting gi Jiu-Jitsu again and, among other things, explained why he would bid on Ronaldo Jacare on a possible MMA fight between him and Roger Gracie.

You recently got a win in MMA. When will you be back to action?

I teach and stay at the gym. I’m training a lot of people. There’re like 20 professional at my gym. Sometimes one athlete demands attention because he’s fighting, but I’m here. I fought in July and I’m fighting again in November.

Have you been matched up?

It’s always f… hard finding someone to fight me.

Nobody wants to fight you, is that it?

The shows I’ve been fighting at don’t pay well, so nobody wants to fight me for two, three grand. They want like ten, fifteen thousand and the guys don’t wanna pay it, so they argue about money. It’s hard, but I’m sure they’ll find a way. It’s always like that. I’m used to it.

Will you fight at Legacy FC?

Yeah, it’s a Legacy fight again.

Is it possible for you to fight for the belt?

That’s the plan. I have a couple more fights on the contract. I guess next fight won’t be a title fight but the third one might be. What I asked them is a UFC veteran. I asked them twice because I guess it’s a bigger fight. There’s no use on defeating someone who’s never been in the UFC. It’s not a big win. I want someone who’s been in there, a known guy so it makes a difference to my record. That’s what I asked them but it’s not an easy task. It’s not easy finding someone to fight me.

Have you asked for someone in specific?

I’ll tell you the truth: I don’t know, I’m not familiarized with everyone who fought in the UFC. There are many people who got in there fought and left and we don’t know. They win a couple of fights and lose two others… I’d rather fight a guy who’s been in there, with a good record and a guy people know.

Fighting MMA is just a phase or is it something you plan on keep doing?

Man, let me tell you that it’s the same answer I give people when they ask me about Jiu-Jitsu: I’ll do it as long as it pleases me. I like it. I go to the gym and I crave to get better. I can see I’m getting better on the trainings and it’s a good thing to me. It’s not work. I really love training like I loved it when I was 16. While it doesn’t change, I’ll keep fighting. When I feel like I’m too old I’ll quit. But I don’t feel like that now, I’m far away from it. Since I’m involved in many things, opening branches everywhere, I’m training the guys and sometimes it’s hard to set a good training camp. And I don’t wanna fight unprepared. I like to make sure I have a good training camp. To me one has to have at least a eight-week camp. I prepare like if it was a UFC title fight. You can’t play around.

Who have you been coaching?

Frank Mir, Forrest Griffin… Vitor Belfort trained here when in Vegas. Dan Hardy trained here, Martin Kampmann, Matt Riddle… Everybody who comes to Vegas train here at the gym. No exceptions. There’re lots of guys, man.

So everyone who goes to Las Vegas trains with you, is that right?

Jiu-Jitsu, yeah. Now we started Wrestling and striking trainings too so guys don’t have to go elsewhere. For a long time guys used to come to my gym to train Jiu-Jitsu and then left to train striking, Wrestling and sparring in another gym. Now we offer it all. We started it like four, five months ago and it’s getting bigger. Now we have nine people at Wrestling class. When it first begun it was just me. We had a Jiu-Jitsu school and then a Jiu-Jitsu focused on MMA school and now we have a MMA school.

How is this new phase as gym owner? Do the projects demand much work?

Yeah, but you ought to empower people. We have a 24-hour day, so you can’t do it all otherwise you get crazy or you can’t do everything or you do everything bad. I have an excellent staff. I left for a month and then everything has been taken cared when I came back. Everybody’s doing their jobs just fine. We moved to a bigger space and we’re talking about moving to an even bigger place. We have about 300 students and we plan on expanding to 400, 500. We’re doing just fine. Considering I don’t work half what I used to work at the gym, it’s excellent. Never better.

Is there any Brazilian who coaches there?

There’s Rodrigo Botti. He’s been teaching here for two years. He’s a black belt graduated by Leo (Vieira). There’s also Gilbert Durinho, who’s been there, trained and also taught. Everybody who comes to Vegas comes here even if it’s just for a while, but they all come here.

How do you see the Frank Mir-Daniel Cormier fight going?

Man, it’s a hard one. It’s hard because the guy’s tough on the stand-up and has good takedowns. The mistake most people make when fighting Frank is underestimating him. Everybody that underestimates him gets caught. Frank’s a sniper, lands directs hits. He choses the right moment and lands it when finally does. It’s a tough fight but he’s prepared. We know it can go to the ground and Frank may be on the bottom and we’re training for that. I guess Frank has an advantage on striking. On the ground, if he (Cormier) makes a mistake, he’ll get caught. But he’s a tough guy, a guy whom we respect a lot. It’s a fight we’re taking very seriously. We never joke about a fight.

Could you analyze Cormier’s ground game, since he hasn’t shown it on his fights so far?

He knows how to block Jiu-Jitsu. He knows what everybody knows: the anti Jiu-Jitsu. He knows how to defend an armbar and a triangle, has Wrestling base and a good posture. He won’t make a mistake, but we’re bringing some traps for him.

But only defending Jiu-Jitsu is not enough when one is fighting Frank Mir.

Exactly. That’s what I tell people. You can’t make a mistake with him. I train with the guy. He goes smoothly, you think he’s not paying attention. Brother, the guy catches you and you don’t see that coming. You can’t tap, you have to scream. If you try to tap out he breaks you in half (laughs).

He breaks people during practice?

No, but he’s very strong. When he goes 70 percent it’s like other people going 100 percent. That’s the problem. To train with him you gotta be ready to tapout the entire time.

Were you surprised by his fight against Minotauro Nogueira?

Well, I can’t tell you I was surprised. I always bet on Frank because I know him. He’s very talented. The first time he fought Minotauro, he learned that jab-upper cut combo a couple of weeks before the fight. A guy showed him at practice. “I like it”. The guy showed him like three times. He’s uncanny. You show him a sweep and he sweeps you on that position on the same day. He’s very talented. I’m not surprised he defeated Minotauro.

I guess Minotauro made a mistake. It could’ve gone another direction. If Minotauro had won I wouldn’t be surprised either. Actually, Minotauro’s an idol for Frank. He’s always said good things about the guy. This rivalry comes from Minotauro, who went nuts because he lost. He has never said a bad thing about Minotauro, only good things. He brought me to his camp because of that. He knew he was fighting Minotauro and told me: “I want the guy who knows Jiu-Jitsu the best”. He said he wanted someone like Minotauro: same height and weight. We trained Jiu-Jitsu a lot for that fight. He respects Minotauro a lot, but I wasn’t surprised. I know him,

You also coach Forrest Griffin and now he’s fighting Chael Sonnen. What are your expectations?

They fought before. Forrest submitted him. I guess it’s an interesting fight. Chael is tough. Nobody wants to fight him so it’s a tough fight for everyone.

Do you think this rematch could go different then their first fight since both of them are more experienced now?

Maybe yes. Anything can happen. It’s hard to predict. If I had a crystal ball I’d be super rich betting (laughs). I don’t see Chael training and I don’t know what he’s up to. I see Forrest training, so my opinion is biased not only because I’m friends with the guy but because I see him training every day. The guy’s amazing. I’m always going to bet on him, but Chael is tough. Nobody wants to fight him. He’s hard. He has fast Wrestling. He jokes saying “I’m the fastest white guy you will ever meet” and that’s true. He’s too fast. He’s very explosive.

When he fought Anderson, did you see that speed he used when took him down that fast? He went for it and didn’t give Anderson a chance to defend himself even though Anderson knew he was coming for him. It’s complicated to stop his takedowns. Well, the good news is that he makes the same mistakes he’s always made: he gets in the guard and gives you his arm or a triangle. Almost all of his losses are for submissions escaping from the guard. He didn’t correct it. He improved, but keeps making the same mistakes from the beginning of his career.

Do you believe his ground game has evolved since his first meeting with Anderson or he showed Silva isn’t that good on the ground?

I’m guessing both. For you to get better you need to want to improve. It’s not enough a guy come and teached you and you train it a little. Chael is kinda stubborn, he believes that “guard doesn’t work”. It’s obstinacy of his. I don’t know if he’s willing to change his game. His ground and pound is strong, it’s his best weapon. But, in the other hand, all his loses started from there. He has improved, but I see him making the same mistakes over and over.

Talking about ADCC and BJJ Worlds. Do you think about doing it again?

Man, I was at Worlds this year. When I saw (Marcus) Buchecha fighting Rodolfo (Vieira) I got the chills. How good was that fight, right? Sometimes I think about stopping MMA and going back to Jiu-Jitsu. Many people do that. they go and fight MMA for a couple of years, like it or not and then go back to Jiu-Jitsu, which is their true passion. I like MMA and I feel I’ve come too far to drop it now but I want to. They’re telling me to fight Las Vegas Open. I’m a master fighter now. I guess i can do a lot of damage as master (laughs). A five, six minute fight… I can do it. I used to say no, not at all, but I feel like fighting with the gi on for a while. It turns me on training gi Jiu-Jitsu.

Are championships like Abu Dhabi BJJ Pro more attractive since they have money reward?

Honestly, that would be the reason. It’s an incentive of course, but it’s still very little. It’s something but you can’t compare it to a MMA career. If I started fighting Jiu-Jitsu again wouldn’t be for the money. It’s good and something I think about but not now. I fight in November and that’s all I’m worried about right now.

Two great Jiu-Jitsu guys went to MMA: Jacare Souza and Roger Gracie. What are your thought about them fighting MMA?

They’re excellent. On Roger’s fight he couldn’t have made it worst for the other guy. I expected Roger to win, but not that easily. What amazed me was how easy Roger clinched and took him down. It did surprise me. What also surprised me was the fact Roger didn’t submit him. It’s not a critic to Roger, I’m just giving him (Keith Jardine) credits for defending that well. He didn’t give Roger any space, there was nothing to get caught there. That’s so that Roger got the mount and couldn’t submit him. Jacare is a guy everybody supposed that would do just fine. He got caught, but since his first time we knew he would have a good career there. He’s a guy that you look and say: “he’s gonna rock at MMA, I don’t have doubts”. Here’s there at the top of the division and I believe he’s going to UFC pretty soon.

They fight on the same weight class. How do you see a bout between them?

Complicated. I guess it’ll be decided with both of them standing because no one will try to take the other down. Maybe Jacare takes him down, but I’m guessing a striking fight it is. if I had to bid on something, I guess Jacare wins via points because he’s more aggressive. Roger has the height so maybe he can use jabs to win on the decision, but Jacare wins for his aggressiveness. It’s a great fight. Like when they fought with and with no gi, I guess it’s going to be a great MMA fight. I’d love to see this fight happening.

It wouldn’t be decided on the ground. I’m guessing nobody would want to get tired by trying to take the other down not knowing for a fact that he could submit the other. You work a lot to take the guy down and  you know he’s as good as you there, so who guarantees you will submit him in two minutes? At Jiu-Jitsu guys have like ten minutes and still can’t submit the other. Will you do it in two? That’s why I guess they would fight on the stand-up.

You’re fightins at 205. What’s your regular weight? Is this your division?

I tried to go for the middleweight but it’s hard. I suffer a lot. I don’t like it. I don’t think it’s at all good to me. You gotta fight on your weight. If I’m strong here I’m staying. The middleweight is as hard as the light heavyweight. I don’t think one is easier than the other.”

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