As the number of gold medals around Rayron Gracie's neck grows, so do the comparisons between the softly spoken Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu prodigy and his larger-than-life father's BJJ legacy.
Based on the pedigree, the veins of the late Ryan Gracie's 19-year-old only son, considered by many to be the original bad boy of mixed martial arts, are expected to flow through the veins. Rayron digs down quietly and humbly, however, and works even harder to fulfill his family BJJ legacy.
Rayron (pronounced Hi-Ron) came to New York six years ago. The intention, as he originally planned, was not to follow in his father's footsteps but to improve his English skills before returning to Brazil. Upon arrival, he inherited a large academy of BJJ educators that was more expansive than most Ivy League institutions – a Gracie family of world-class champions, including his uncle, legendary jiu-jitsu icon Renzo Gracie (Ryan's brother) .
His temporary stay has now become a long-term success story. As a purple belt, Rayron won his first world championship a year ago. But as a sport that requires dedication, practice, and patience and perhaps the most important thing, humility, finding and fixing the flaws becomes paramount – even if only Rayron only notices the weakness. To build his intangible assets off the mat, namely strength and relaxation, he has hired a team of elite strength coaches and physical therapists to fill in the gaps he cannot fill on the mat.
However, his success plays a minor role in maintaining a cosmic connection with his father, whom he lost more than 13 years ago. Since the age of six, Rayron has made writing letters to his father a consistent ritual. The healing recorded in the recently released documentary "Letters to My Father" shows his experiences without his father through these letters he wrote to his father.
"I don't have any brothers so he was the only one I ever really looked up to," says Rayron. “He was my hero. And when he died I had questions and wanted to find the answers. So as a kid I started writing letters to somehow keep communicating with him. "
Son of a superstar
While the US couldn't finally take MMA into its mainstream, Ryan Gracie was a rock star in Japan as early as the early 2000s. Both polarizing and popular, he was an antihero fan favorite for both his caged ferocity and bombastic aggression behind the microphone in that nation's PRIDE organization, MMA's forerunner to today's global rule of the UFC.
In his shortened career, he scored two KOs and two Armbar submissions as he set a modest 5-2 record. But his exaggerated verbal attacks on Japanese battle legends Kazushi Sakuraba and Hidehiko Yoshida, more suited to WWE at the time, made him popular in Japan and paved the way for MMA stars to take on their current notoriety and market them as former UFC Champion Conor McGregor.
Outside the cage, controversial and troubled people would best describe Ryan. But to Rayron he was just dad, a human safety blanket that threw his child on his shoulders, took him swimming or to the park, or took him to his MMA academy in Brazil, where he admired his father from afar.
On the evening of December 15, 2007, Ryan was found dead in a Sao Paolo prison cell, reportedly from over-prescribing medication his psychiatrist prescribed to calm him down after an arrest. His death came just over a week after Rayron celebrated his sixth birthday.
"He was the only person I really looked up to," says Rayron. "And when he died I had questions and as a kid I needed answers … I really didn't know what death was at that time. So as a kid I started writing these letters to communicate with him in some way. "
As he described in the document produced by Allen Alcantara, he communicated with his father almost daily. On the hundreds of letters he has kept, saved and saved, there are passages and poems based on every kind of emotion – "Where are you?" "When are you coming back?" “I had a good day of training” – that can go through the mind of a child, adolescent and gold medalist.
"I actually had some revelations as I wrote this," says Rayron. “It actually felt like I was talking to my father. t just my father, but also communicating with the happy little kid who had fun on his day. It's an amazing way to deal with feelings like this. "
World Champion's work ethic
One of his most recent messages came in 2020 after winning the gold medal at the PanAm Games last year, the same prestigious tournament his father won in 1998 more than two decades ago. "We're world champions, Dad!"
Rayron added a pair of gold medals back in 2021, and while he continues to scroll through his department to surpass last year's mark, he's still working on BJJ's ultimate diploma, a black belt. With success comes the need to work on flaws that opponents have been working on to remove the belt that has just gone purple, which is still two notches behind BJJ's ultimate diploma, a black belt.
While the 6 & # 39; 2 & # 39; & # 39 ;, 220-pound star's BJJ skills continue to increase, his most noticeable weakness, he says, is his overall strength. He noticed this while sparring with former NFL Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Cushing. "The toughest fights I've had in my career were against soccer players," he says. "They are the next level of athleticism – super strong, super agile. Of course, Jiujitsu is about technique, but being strong helps a lot. I had to find out what they were doing."
Rayron reached out to strength coach Joe DeFranco, Cushing's former coach who is currently working with UFC welterweight competitor Mickey Gall.
"What brought him to me was the fact that he had the biggest problems with ex-soccer players taking in BJJ," says De Franco. "In his words, her" strength, power and speed "was" unlike "anything he has ever felt."
DeFranco first got to work addressing a common mobility problem that most BJJ athletes have faced – rear chain tension. To this end, each warm up would start with hip thrusts and reverse hyperextension to strengthen that area.
DeFranco knew how much time Rayron spends on the mats and needed to be aware that he could maximize his strength and power without running the risk of overtraining his athlete. The program: DeFranco put together a two-day compressed variant of a conjugate training system in which Rayron would repeat the same movement patterns but interchange the movements.
"Rayron has made incredible strides in strength and explosiveness in the first two months together," says DeFranco. "He's already increased his vertical jump by four inches and his grip strength (measured on a hand test stand) has improved by 21%."
Little time to rest with competitive season approaching, Rayron takes the time to talk to recovery expert and renowned New York City physical therapist Dr. To visit Fabian Garcia. Garcia integrates a structured mobility program to reduce muscle tension and joint stress, adding a holistic element to his patients, including Rayron. Every two to three hour session begins with LED red light therapy to nourish the mitochondria.
Given the stress on the joints and muscles, Dr. Garcia reported the need for lymphatic drainage through ACE Medicupping. Liquids that reach the body surface through the application of negative pressure lead to a mobilization of inflammatory proteins via the lymphatic system. This normalizes the fluid dynamics in the body. This is followed by an individual mobility session. Dr. Garcia emphasizes that you do not have to save in time to get the full effect of lymphatic drainage. A process can take between 60 and 90 minutes.
"Health professionals need to see their patients through a telescope rather than a microscope to see the bigger picture and receive the highest level of care," says Dr. Garcia.
Carrying on the Gracie legacy
The perfect Hollywood ending to this story would see Ryan proudly sitting in the arena as his son continues to carry the Gracie torch, but reality says the best Rayron can hope for is a sign that he's proudly watching . "I look into the crowd to see if I can find your smiling face," says Rayron in the document, tears flowing. "I haven't found it yet, but I know you're there."
Since his arrival. In New York in 2016, both Rayrons English and Jiu-Jitsu flourished. And as he put it, his commitment to the Gracie legacy, once questioned after Ryan's death, always grows stronger than his grip on his opponent's gi. Where he's doing his next business – a future in MMA is a long-term possibility, he says – remains open. The choice is his and he is confident that it will turn out the way his father would have wanted it to.
"I think my life should happen the way it does," says Rayron. "Once you follow the path you were meant to be, great things can happen."
Rayron Gracie BJJ Strong workout routine
As part of his conjugate training system, strength coach Joe DeFranco has Rayron do two workouts each week. The first involves a dynamic movement of the lower body, which is replaced by an exercise of the upper body with maximum effort. He'll add both an upper and lower body accessory movement.
Day 2 involves an inversion and is described in the following workout, dynamic upper body movement, followed by lower body exercise with maximum effort, followed by additional work. Both workouts end with a finisher that includes either sledging or farm walks.
1a. Medicine Ball Chest Pass (either kneeling or diving) in Plyo Pushup: 5 sets, 3 reps
1b. Hand-assisted safety bar Bulgarian Split Squats: 5 sets, 5, 4, 3, 3, 3 reps (each leg)
2a. Bentover DB Row (with Fat Gripz): 3 sets, 10 reps (each arm)
2 B. Barbell hip bump: 3 sets, 10 reps
3. 10 yard prowler push (with heavy weight): 8-10 rounds