At Combat Sports UK, we want to run through the best grapplers to grace this earth. We will be showcasing pioneers, inspirators, and legends of the grappling world, first up Royce Gracie.
As this is the first post I’ve written for ‘Grappling legends’, I thought I’d begin strong with the man who, in my opinion, put eyes on grappling as a real form of fighting, Mr Royce Gracie.
Let’s go back to the late 80s – karate kid has been released for a few years, which contributed to massive karate following. Rocky was already cemented in the world of cinema, and Mike Tyson was the world’s heavyweight champion.
So when it came to fighting, you either did boxing or karate. There wasn’t a massive choice of other things available.
Then on the 12th November 1993, the world witnessed this new show – ‘‘The Ultimate Fighting Championship”.
This was the night when the world saw a smaller man destroy his opponents with his technical takedowns and grappling prowess, skills and abilities. I think it’s fair to say that no one had given grappling the respect it deserves until this pivotal moment in sports entertainment.
This, however, is when we first caught the attention of grappling, not the first time that Royce Gracie had fought!
The Gracie Challenge
Before UFC, Royce’s uncle, Carlos Gracie, laid the foundations of ‘Gracie Jiu-Jitsu’ and was so confident that the system would work that they would do exhibition fights. The Gracies would go from gym to gym, finding the best fighters and putting them against one of the Gracie brothers. Many people would see their style as arrogant, but this wasn’t the case at all.
Back then, people were fighting in different styles, whereas now, most fighters understand more than one style, which makes them the most effective. Still – Even by today’s standards, laying down a challenge like this and going around exhibiting your style. That’s some gangster stuff to do!
Royce Gracie – UFC
Rorion, Royce’s oldest brother, then formed ‘The Ultimate Fighting Championship’. This was the Gracie’s way to showcase their system against other styles. Safe to say, their system worked! 1 night = 3 fights, 3 wins and $50,000 in prize money.
Royce was handpicked to fight in the UFC by his father (Helio Gracie). Check out the full video here, but Royce said that his dad could have picked any of his brothers or cousins. Helio didn’t want to pick the biggest of his fighters because ‘it would be too obvious’. Royce talks about smaller people than himself who could have done the same job. However, may have taken a little longer. Ultimately, Helio chose Royce to showcase ”Gracie Jiu-Jitsu” over his siblings and cousins.
Royce went on to have 20 fights in the UFC – 15 of them were won. 2 losses, and three no contests. That – is a hell of a record.
Why Royce Gracie Deserves His Place As a Grappling Legend
For me, Royce and his family gave me BJJ. The system single-handedly challenged the way people thought about fighting. ”If he’s bigger than him, then he’ll win” kind of mentality was binned almost overnight. These days UFC has weight categories and time limits, but back in the early days, Royce’s achievements allowed you to open your eyes. He is the original GOAT, and for me, there was never going to be anyone else besides Royce to begin my ‘Grappling Legends’ series.
Featured image credits to Embed from Getty Images