In the formative years of his life, the young man making his UFC debut on Sunday against Alex Caceres was simply known in public as “Rickson’s son.” That could have made Kron Gracie go in various directions, but the path he willingly chose was the one his father and grandfather paved, although he made a concerted effort to do it his way.
“I’ve always felt pressure since I was a little kid,” said the fifth member of MMA’s first family to compete in the Octagon. “Even at nine, ten years old, if I was competing, everyone would always be pointing at me and saying I’m Rickson’s son, so that’s always been very normal, and for a long time, people didn’t really even know my name. I was Rickson’s son. So I always wanted to grow out of that shadow. And it’s kind of been my life to grow out of my dad’s shadow. And once I started becoming well-known in jiu-jitsu, it kind of changed and I had my own name and the evolution of that is to get to this point.”
If your last name is Gracie, there are expectations on you from birth. But if you’re the grandson of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu founder Helio and the son of Rickson, those expectations skyrocket into the stratosphere. That’s the life Kron and his older brother Rockson were born into, and while both handled the pressure, after the tragic death of Rockson in 2000, it was all on the shoulders Kron to carry the name forward from the jiu-jitsu world into mixed martial arts. A choice, yes. But also destiny.
“I knew eventually I would be fighting for the biggest organization that there would be at the time,” he said. “Obviously, I was a little kid when the UFC was started. But there was a point when PRIDE was real big and I didn’t know if it was gonna be PRIDE. And then there was a time when I fought in Rizin and I didn’t know how big that was gonna get. But at the moment, the biggest organization is the UFC, and here I am.”
A pro since 2014, Gracie has won four bouts, all by submission, and in his most recent effort, he submitted UFC vet Tatsuya Kawajiri in December 2016. With any other name, it’s a good enough start to earn a call from the big show. But with Kron’s last name, it’s a main card slot and endless amounts of anticipation. It’s a testament to the magic Royce Gracie first delivered in 1993, and even though subsequent Octagon appearances from Renzo, Rolles and Roger Gracie all resulted in defeats, the mystique is as strong as ever.
“I don’t know how to explain that exactly,” said Kron. “My grandfather started this and he had a lot of kids and his mission was to create a lot of champions, and so he did that in the second generation. And then the third generation, there’s a lot of kids too, and I think as the generations go on, it’s easier to live off the name and it’s easier to not compete because you can have a gym and you can open doors through jiu-jitsu without having it be necessary to compete. I’m the third generation, and I’ve always been one to want to represent for the family and want to compete, and with my jiu-jitsu career, eventually I’d get to this point.”
There’s a gravity to the 30-year-old that you don’t hear in many UFC debutants. Of course, Gracie isn’t like other UFC debutants, but there is little of the giddy excitement for fight night in the big show that you hear from his peers. There’s also no talk of titles, fame, money or anything else that usually comes with a chat with a professional athlete. So yeah, Kron Gracie is one of the more unique fighters to make it to the Octagon.
“Of course I like it, but it’s not easy and it doesn’t mean that I’m laughing about it or joking about it,” he said. “I am a serious person. Whatever cards I was dealt in my life has made me who I am to this point and most of the time I’m kind of serious and I do things the way I do. But that doesn’t mean that I would have it any other way. In this life, we’re all gonna die for something, we’ve all gotta die one day, so this is just what I was born to do. I was born to be in these situations, I was born to get past this hurdle in my life and get past this fight because this is what’s gonna make me a better man. And I think that’s my mission right now, to get past these UFC fights, and then who knows what can happen after that. But I feel like I’d be running away from a lot of growth in my life. It doesn’t mean that it’s easy or that I’m laughing or joking about it, but I understand that this is what I gotta do right now. So I enjoy it as much as I can, and I’m very grateful for the fact that I’m healthy enough to even step into an Octagon. I’m already grateful to have that ability, which most people in the world will never have.”
See what I mean about that gravity? It’s a compelling aspect of his personality for sure, and if anyone wonders if he’s taking this seriously, consider that he could have done anything in life but he instead decided to become a jiu-jitsu player and a fighter, knowing that all eyes would be on him at all times. So why do it? Why not become a doctor, a lawyer, a skateboarder, a businessman?
“There’s lots of different phases in my life and every phase has a different reason,” said Gracie. “Of course, when I first started to get into competing in jiu-jitsu, I had a different motivation and I think now my motivation is different than what it was before. At this point, I realize that there’s nowhere to run. For me, personally, when I train and when I’m competing and when I’m facing challenges is when I’m at my best, and that’s where I feel I need to be. So there’s no escaping fighting for me unless I get through this. Even if I tried to do something else, I think my soul and my actions wouldn’t complete me the same way. When I’m not competing at an intense level, I don’t feel like I’m using myself to my full capabilities. I’m designed for this kind of stuff. Even if I don’t like it, even if I don’t want to do it, all actions end up pointing to the same situation.”
So here he is. He’s a fighter and he’s going to fight. It’s tough for anyone who chooses to do it, but it’s even tougher for a Gracie. And that’s why Kron Gracie is here.
“I’m very grateful just to be able to get to this point,” he said. “What I’ve done in my life is already more than I could have imagined and everything I do from this point on is just a bonus because I’ve already accomplished so much and done so much that’s difficult to do. I really enjoy being in these tough situations and learning from them and it’s better than sitting at home and ordering Postmates.”