Bellator’s Neiman Gracie grapples with his training partner in the basement floor of Renzo Gracie Academy in Midtown Manhattan. Fresh off a win in March at Bellator 151, Gracie throws a few strikes before going for a single-leg takedown. The room is humid and crowded, while the men drip with sweat and alternate between training partners. Gracie is focused on taking his partner down, and it is apparent that nothing is able to deter him–not the hot room, the groups of people lined alongside the padded walls talking and taking photographs, or the those training around him. He is in his zone, and all that is matters in this moment is training to fight.
Neiman comes from the world famous Gracie family and teaches at the very academy where he trains. Despite being born into the trade, he never felt pressured to follow in the footsteps of his family and train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The Welterweight began training as early as the age of seven and primarily trained in Brazil until he moved to the United States. He says, “My parents never forced me to train. BJJ and competition are what I have always loved and I’m glad I chose this path.”
To Gracie, there are not very many differences between training in Rio and training in the Big Apple. His only concern is the temperamental weather in the city, compared to the oft-sunny and breezy skies in his hometown. NYC training requires some adjustments due to the weather, as heat and humidity can skyrocket in the morning, only to have a downpour of rain in the early afternoon. It doesn’t matter to the Bellator fighter–he trains daily, rain or shine.
Originally signed to World Series of Fighting, Neiman Gracie’s undefeated record followed him to Bellator’s promotion. The key to his success has been training in all aspects of MMA such as Muay Thai, boxing, and wrestling, as well as keeping his Jiu Jitsu sharp. He trains with Team Renzo Gracie as well utilizing the wrestling coaches at the famed Edge Wrestling school in Hoboken, NJ. Neiman’s cornermen are critical to him: Master Renzo Gracie, Muay Thai coach extraordinaire Jamie Crowder, and a either one of his cousins or his father. It’s more than just a family affair for the Gracie–he knows he is surrounded by the best and uses his family’s expertise to hone his skills in the ring. Fight camps are intense–training from 2-3 times a day for up to 12 weeks–just to prepare for a bout.
The Welterweight title is on Gracie’s mind, but he is focusing on every fight that is in front of him for now. He believes that “Fighting for the title is every fighter’s goal, but I don’t want to rush into anything. My focus is one fight at a time.” Currently, the Jiu Jitsu professor shares his beliefs with his students at Renzo’s academy and emphasizes that “Jiu Jitsu is not only a martial art, but a way of life. It can change your life, including outside of the mats.”
While there are several fighters that he looks up to, Gracie is inspired by Jesus Christ and does his best every day to abide by his values. Neiman Gracie represents many things: the Gracie name, being an instructor, and a fighter in a new world of mixed martial arts. His legacy that he would like to leave behind is representing his family’s name with the utmost respect and dignity. It is important for him to let his students know that “if you have a dream, work hard and believe in yourself–because that is what you need more than anything to have it come true.”