Who is Royce Gracie?
Well, for the mixed martial arts fans this name would not need any introduction. but for others who have not heard of him, let me give you a brief biography of this unbelievably one of the greatest mixed martial arts fighter ever.
Royce Gracie was born in December 12, 1966 and is a professional mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner. He is widely considered one of the greatest fighters in MMA history.
Gracie became well-known in the mid 1990s with a series of submission victories over much bigger opponents in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Between 1993 and 1994, he won 11 matches by submission and was the tournament winner of UFC 1, UFC 2, UFC 4, and fought to a draw with Ken Shamrock in the superfight at UFC 5. These results contributed to the movement towards grappling, cross-training and mixed martial arts.
Royce is a member of the Gracie family. He is the son of Helio Gracie (Helio, along with his older brother Carlos Gracie, are the originators of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) and spent his childhood in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Royce learned Jiu-Jitsu from his father and his older brothers Rorion, Relson, and Rickson Gracie. He began competing at the age of 8 and by the time he was 16 had attained the level of blue belt. A year later he was invited by his brother Rorion to help teach Jiu-Jitsu from his garage in America. Despite not knowing English, Royce accepted the offer and moved to California. He competed in a number of Jiu-Jitsu tournaments in Brazil and the United States and compiled an amateur record of 51-3. Royce received his black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at the age of 18.
Why is Royce Gracie the best UFC fighter ever?
Brainchild of Rorion Gracie and Art Davie, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was an eight-man single-elimination tournament with very few rules that would award $50,000 to the winner. The basic premise was to find out how different styles of martial arts would fare against each other. Art Davie placed ads in martial arts magazines and sent letters to anyone in any martial arts directory he could find to recruit competitors for the event. Among the takers were kickboxer Patrick Smith, Pancrase fighter Ken Shamrock, and Savate world champion Gerard Gordeau.
While Art Davie felt that Royce's older brother Rickson Gracie, who was stronger and more skilled than Royce, was the obvious choice as the Jiu-Jitsu representative, Rorion Gracie chose Royce to represent the family style. At 175 pounds, and with a frame much smaller than his opponents, the Gracie family felt that Royce would be the perfect fighter to demonstrate the claims that Jiu-Jitsu techniques could be employed to overcome a larger opponent.
In his first match, Royce defeated journeyman boxer Art Jimmerson. He tackled him to the ground using a baiana (morote-gari or double-leg) and obtained the dominant "mounted" position, also pinning Jimmerson's left arm around the boxer's own neck. Mounted and with only one free arm Jimmerson conceded defeat, mostly due to frustration rather than submission.
In the semi-finals, Royce looked to be the underdog against 220-pound Ken Shamrock, who showed excellent grappling skills in his first-round submission win over Patrick Smith. Royce immediately rushed Shamrock, who sprawled effectively and got on top of Royce. Shamrock then grabbed Royce's ankle and sat back to attempt the same finishing hold he used to finish his first match, but Royce rolled on top of him and secured a rear choke that forced Shamrock to tap the mat in submission. Shamrock has later stated that Gracie used his gi suit as a tool for ligature strangulation to perform the submission, protesting the fact that he was not allowed to wear his wrestling shoes because the event organisers had stated that it could be used as a weapon, feeling that the rules for the tournament were created to favor Gracie.
In the finals, Royce was again outweighed by 40 pounds, but defeated Savate World Champion Gerard Gordeau (who broke his hand in the first round of the tournament against Teila Tuli), taking his opponent to the ground and securing a rear choke. This victory, along with future UFC events, had a substantial impact on the public image of martial arts and fighting systems.
Over the next year, Royce Gracie continued his winning streak in the UFC, obtaining submission wins over fighters such as Patrick Smith, 250 pound (113 kg) European Judo Champion Remco Pardoel, and Kimo Leopoldo. His final UFC victory was in a match that lasted for 16 minutes (there were no rounds or time limits at the time), during which he was continuously pinned underneath 260 pound (118 kg) wrestler Dan Severn. To end the match, Royce locked his legs in a triangle choke for a submission victory. The match extended beyond the pay-per-view time-slot and viewers, who missed the end of the fight, demanded their money back.
Time limits were re-introduced into the sport in 1995 and Ken Shamrock would become the first fighter to survive Royce Gracie's submission attack and earn a draw. The match lasted for 30 minutes and a 5 minute overtime. Fans have been calling for a rematch ever since. The draw sparked much debate and controversy as to who would have won the fight had judges determined the outcome, or had there been no time limits, as by the end of the fight Royce's right eye was swollen shut. However, the swollen eye was a result of a standing punch due to a sudden change of the rules in which both of the fighters were restarted on the feet. After this fight the Gracies left the UFC. In November 2003, at the ten year anniversary of the UFC, Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie were the first inductees into the UFC Hall of Fame.
Royce's official UFC record when he left did include one loss. In the second round of UFC 3 Royce was to face fighter Harold Howard in the semi-finals. Although Royce came out to the ring, he was dehydrated as a result of his first round match against Kimo Leopoldo, and had to be physically helped to the ring. The announcers of UFC 3 stated that Gracie's shoulder had been hurt in the previous round. Before the Howard match began, Royce's corner threw in the towel.
Over three and a half years after he finished his tenure in the UFC Royce returned to active competition, only to be choked unconscious in under 5 minutes with a "clock choke" by Wallid Ismail in a no time limit jiu-jitsu match in Brazil.
On January 16, 2006, UFC President Dana White announced that Royce Gracie would return to the UFC to fight UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes on May 27 2006 at UFC 60. This was a non-title bout at a catchweight of 175 lb. under UFC/California State Athletic Commission rules. To prepare, Royce cross-trained in Muay Thai and was frequently shown in publicity materials. In round one, Hughes hyperextended Gracie's arm in a kimura, but Gracie refused to tap and held on with a calm expression on his face. In a later interview, Hughes stated that he purposely let Gracie out of the arm lock because he knew that Gracie would not submit and would rather allow his arm to break. Hughes went on to win the fight by TKO due to strikes at 4:39 of the first round.
UFC fighters nowadays are bound with all these rules of engagement that impede a true fighter's fighting skills. We have this time limits that are geared towards stand up fighters and fighters that have less stamina. Their true skills are not quite tested with this restrictions of time. Competitions during the early UFC were definitely harder just like what Royce Gracie went through. The tournament style competition, where only one man is claimed to be the winner, really pin pointed who the battle tested champions were. I am not taking anything away from our UFC champions right now.
I am sure all of them are legitimate champions and are great fighters, however, I still believe that had not the rules been changed, I bet we would have had a different outcome of events. Martial art experts believed that the reason why Royce Gracie was successful was because early MMA fighters do not know how to fight on the ground. Well, hello there, if it were not for Royce and his family, the mixed martial arts world would not have been exposed to a fighting style that needed to be incorporated with their fighting art. Thanks to the Gracies. And what about the ground and pound fighting of wrestling and the throw down and grappling skills of judo? They have been around for years as well right? And yet, none of their styles succeeded with Royce Gracies' style of Brazilian jiujitsu.
Anyway, no matter what other people say, I firmly believe that Royce Gracie is the real UFC champion that has ever lived up to this point. He was a champion with a warrior heart. He won against much bigger opponents. His stamina and endurance were definitely tested due to the tournament style fighting competition and no time limit restrictions. Unless UFC changes the rules to the old UFC again, then I may have a different point of view.