This past weekend I had the opportunity to fight with one of my biggest inspirations in Kron Gracie at the San Diego Abu Dhabi Pro Trials.
I remember as a young orange belt watching a purple belt match between Kron Gracie and Bill Cooper at Cleber's Copa Pacific (a fight you can find on OTM's Diary of a Mat Rat DVD). At the time I had already been training Jiu-Jitsu for about four years but I was also playing Water Polo and making music and had a ton of other things pulling at my focus. However, after watching that match I knew BJJ was what I wanted to dedicate my life to.
So needless to say going against Kron was a really exciting experience for me. The whole week leading up to the tournament I was joking with my weight lifting buddy and fellow Claudio Franca brown belt Rafael Paixao that I would fight with Kron in the first round. When he called me on the radio to tell me the brackets had came out I already knew by the tone of his voice who I had first.
I felt really confident going in to my match with Kron and I truly believed I could pull out the win. Before the tournament, I had been practicing training more tightly and patiently in the academy because I remembered how loose and impatient I had felt at the SF Open. This style of training ended up serving me well in the beginning of my match with Kron. I had warmed up well, felt strong and was full of energy. However, I still had somewhere in the back of my mind a fear that when I touched Kron he would feel like a superhuman. I remembered training with Marcelo Garcia when I was a tough purple belt and he still felt so much better than me it was ridiculous. A part of me was afraid that I was still that far away from being competitive with top notch black belts, but right from the first exchange of grips I felt as if I were on Kron's level.
After a bit of grip fighting, I pulled guard and almost immediately was able to get the sweep. I couldn't believe it. I had managed to sweep someone who was a living legend to me. My mistake was that in that moment I let a million thoughts enter my mind all at once. I hadn't expected to get the sweep so early in the match. I had mentally prepared myself for being either tied or behind for the majority of the match and when I went ahead right in the beginning it really surprised me. I lost my focus for a moment and instead of believing in my game and staying tight and focused I got rushed, feeling as if I didn't want to miss my opportunity to pass his guard. I jumped to his side for a torreando pass and Kron sunk in a deep choke forcing me to tap. Check the video of the match above.
Afterwards I wanted to cry, half because I was so happy I had managed to sweep one of my major inspirations in BJJ and half because I was so dissappointed I had blown my chance to defeat him. Still, I came out of the fight with a whole new confidence. Now I know that my strength, gas and technique are all on the level of the best in the world and that the most important thing to work on between now and the pans is always staying locked into my preferred mental game and not losing focus or patience during the match for anything. Thank you so much to Kron and everyone else who made this experience possible!!
Now I'm looking forward to the pans and training as hard as possible between now and then! I should have some top competitors from Brazil coming to stay at my house soon so I'll keep you all updated!!