Jon with Team Royce Gracie in Japan
A trip down memory lane.
It was the year 2000 and we left Los Angeles for Japan to begin the final stages of Royce Gracie’s training camp for the Pride fight against Takada. This was an exciting time for me as you can imagine. I am 26 years young, traveling the world, training with the best fighting family and their martial art in the world and I was on Royce’s fight team.
There are so many stories I could share but this picture was cool because we were in a private training studio and it was media day. To my left is a gentleman named NoNo who helped Royce with some stand up work, then immediately to my right is Robin Gracie, Royler Gracie and Rolker Gracie. And of course sitting in front is Royce Gracie and the legendary Grandmaster Helio Gracie. If you take a look at the Gi I was wearing, it had Japanese writing on it. That’s because it was the opponent’s gi. That’s right, Royce and Takada were going to fight in their Gi’s and it was a historic moment for both MMA and PRIDE Fighting. Never before had both opponents done a true MMA match in the Gi.
The reason I was wearing the gi was because my body type most closely emulated Takada’s and Helio requested, I mean told me to wear the gi so that Royce could also get psychologically prepared by seeing the Japanese writing and in his head he could visualize grabbing Takada too. Yes I took many beatings but in that gi I took a lot. LOL.
Both Takada and Royce agreed to exchange their gi’s with one another so the other could get used to the stitching, the tensions, the sleeve length, lapel width and more. There is a lot of preparation that goes in to an MMA fight and this one felt like a different animal with all of the studying for both the fight and the wardrobe.
It was great time being on Royce’s fight team and on that particular night we came up with a draw but at the end of the day the life experiences I’ve had as a result of training with the legend and his father are priceless and memories that I will have for a lifetime.