Royce Gracie is a Brazilian Mixed Martial Artist who is considered one of MMA’s pioneers. He is the son of Hélio Gracie, who is considered to be the co-founder of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Royce Gracie first gained recognition in the early 1990s when he won the first ever UFC tournament. This made him an instant star and helped to popularize MMA in North America.
Royce Gracie went on to have a successful career in MMA, winning several tournaments and becoming a household name. Royce Gracie remains an important figure in the world of MMA and is revered by fans all over the world.
The Early Days
Royce was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1966, as one of nine sons of Helio Gracie. He had his first competition at age eight and started teaching classes when he was only 14 years old. He achieved the rank of black belt under his father at the young age of 17.
Royce Gracie’s early days were spent training under his father, Helio Gracie. Royce garnered a reputation as a formidable fighter and racked up an impressive string of wins in various competitions.
In the United States, the Gracie brothers continued their family’s tradition of staging “Gracie Challenges,” in which they challenged other martial artists to a no-holds-barred Vale Tudo bout in their gym in Torrance, California, to demonstrate the supremacy of Gracie jiu-jitsu.
His Influence In The World of UFC & BJJ
Rorion Gracie edited together a single documentary series called Gracie in Action, which combined material from the Gracie Challenge bouts with portions of Royce’s fights. Art Davie took inspiration from the Gracie in Action films and created the UFC after seeing them.
UFC itself, the largest MMA organization, was born when BJJ master Royce Gracie decided to show the world that with the help of jiu-jitsu techniques, a smaller fighter can defeat a much bigger one. He proved it with his performance at the first UFC event.
He dominated all his opponents and won the first three UFC tournaments with a record of 11 wins without a defeat. Interestingly, he ended all fights by choking out his opponent.
Joe Rogan believes that Royce Gracie is actually responsible for attracting intelligent fans. Rogan explained his theory in his podcast The Joe Rogan Experience.
“He was the guy who introduced us all to the idea that you can be a smaller person with a superior technique and that you can convincingly win in a competition without rules, against huge guys,”
“He showed that you can win with technique. You don’t have to be physically big, nor do you have to be strong. But knowing something other people didn’t know changed martial arts. Suddenly, martial arts became more interesting to truly intelligent people. He (Royce Gracie) is probably the most important MMA figure in history,” added Joe Rogan.
Royce Gracie marked MMA by winning the UFC 1 tournament. In 1992, the master of Brazilian jiu-jitsu introduced the world to the great effectiveness of this skill. Gracie defeated all three of his opponents by submission in the first round.
Although the opponents were physically more imposing, Gracie’s techniques were something completely unknown to his opponents and the Brazilian easily won. Royce won UFC tournaments twice more (UFC 2 and UFC 4), making him the only person with three UFC tournament wins.
Other Notable Accomplishments
This fighter has also fought in the organization’s most gruelling bout at UFC 5. His fight with Ken Shamrock lasted 36 minutes, which is still the longest combat in the history of that company. There were no referees back then, so there was no way to end the fight beforehand.
The bout was stopped after 36 minutes after neither fighter could secure a knockout or submission. These two fighters were the first to be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame on the tenth anniversary of this fight in November 2003.
He has established his own “Royce Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Network” association, with affiliated gyms in 34 locations across the United States and many other places around the world.
He was also awarded multiple awards throughout his career, such as Fighter of the Year (1993) by Fight Matrix, Competitor of the Year (1994) by the Black Belt Magazine, and Fight of the Year (2000) vs. Kazushi Sakuraba by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.
Most Famous Rivalries
The Ken Shamrock Rivalry
A rivalry between Gracie and Shamrock began following his victory over Ken Shamrock in the first UFC bout. Shamrock particularly desired a rematch, claiming that since Gracie used the gi to give him an advantage, he had not been allowed to use wrestling shoes by the promoters, which he considered an unfair edge for Gracie.
The UFC 2 never produced a Royce Gracie vs. Ken Shamrock bout, as Shamrock had fractured his hand in training, and at UFC 3, Royce Gracie withdrew due to fatigue (resulting in Shamrock withdrawing from the event as well). To address the unpredictability of the tournament format, a “superfight,” in which Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock would compete in a non-tournament bout, was scheduled for UFC 5.
The winner would receive a unique belt and be declared the UFC’s first Superfight Champion.
The fight, however, was a draw, however, had there been judges and a time limit, Ken Shamrock would have most likely been declared the champion due to the fact that he had top position for the most of the fight and had also caused more damage to Royce than Royce did to him.
At Bellator 145, it was revealed that Gracie would return from retirement to face Ken Shamrock in a third bout, set for February 19, 2016, at Bellator 149. Gracie achieved victory by technical knockout in the first round.
The Kazushi Sakuraba Rivalry
Kazushi Sakuraba is a Japanese mixed martial artist and professional wrestler. He has competed in several major MMA promotions, including the UFC, PRIDE, and DREAM. He is considered one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time., often called “the Gracie Hunter.”
After PRIDE 8, Royce’s older brother Royler was defeated by Kazushi Sakuraba. Sakuraba won the fight via technical submission, making this the first time in 50 years that a Gracie had been beaten in a mixed martial arts bout. Sakuraba went on to issue a challenge to Royce Gracie, who gladly accepted.
At the PRIDE Grand Prix 2000 Finals, Royce was set to face Kazushi Sakuraba in the Quarter-Finals under special rules set by the Gracie brothers. The brothers requested unlimited 15-minute rounds until one of the contestants either wins by knockout or submission.
The bout lasted an hour and a half, after which Gracie became weary and could no longer stand due to a broken femur caused by numerous leg kicks. The towel was thrown in, and Sakuraba was declared the winner. Sakuraba went on to defeat other members of the Gracie family, including Renzo Gracie and Ryan Gracie, earning him the moniker “Gracie Hunter.”
Royce was set to rematch against Kazushi Sakuraba on June 2, K-1 Dynamite!! USA event in Los Angeles, California. Gracie defeated Kazushi Sakuraba by a unanimous decision. However, a post-fight drug screening revealed that Royce had traces of Nandrolone in his system and was stripped of his win.
He ended his MMA career in 2010 but returned briefly in 2016 and defeated Ken Shamrock. In total, in his career, Gracie recorded 15 wins, two losses, and three draws. Kazushi Sakuraba and Matt Hughes are the only fighters who managed to defeat him in an MMA fight.