UFC legend and pioneer Royce Gracie may be the most well known member of the family that put the great sport of MMA on the map. He was a master practitioner of BJJ before anyone really knew what the art was, and he parlayed that knowledge into victories at three of the first four UFC tournaments.
And although BJJ has become a prerequisite for a successful career in MMA, Gracie is still remembered as the first untouchable fighter to ever grace the Octagon canvas. Time tends to change this as we know, but Gracie is a UFC Hall Of Famer that will always be remembered for his deadly submission victories over much larger and stronger men.
There were so many that Royce struggled to pick his favorite when he recently sat down with Fighters Only Magazine for an interview:
“I don’t know, they were all impressive. Look at Ken Shamrock, he was 230lb solid. Look at Dan Severn, he was 265lb and an All-American wrestler."
Look at Kimo, he was six-foot-two and 250lb, chiseled. Akebono was six-eight and 490lb. They were all impressive, they were all important. It showcased the foundations and basics of Gracie jiu-jitsu. It’s a self-defense art. I will win when my opponent makes a mistake.”
That quite the murderer’s row of powerful opponents who Gracie took down, making it look easy all the while. While those behemoths present at the initial UFC tourneys knew virtually nothing about BJJ, it was a very impressive feat nonetheless. So while the sport has changed with leaps and bounds since his heyday, Gracie still keeps an eye on its progression, even describing who his favorite fighters of today are:
“I like Nick and Nate Diaz, Gilbert Melendez, that whole group. They remind me a lot of my family. They don’t take BS from anybody. They are there to fight, they are there to win. They don’t walk away from a fight.”
Indeed Royce and his Gracie clan were never ones to back down from a challenge. It could be argued that his family’s open challenge to masters of any other martial art are what paved the way for MMA to become a cohesive sport.