UFC legend and MMA pioneer Royce Gracie surprised many when he recently signed on to become a spokesman for rival promotion Bellator MMA.
Gracie voiced his respect for the UFC and what they had done for the sport over the past twenty years, but he also made it clear that he wants to help Bellator put on exciting fights and enable fighters to make a living for their families.
According to the Brazilian jiu-jitsu master, much of that philosophy is embodied by two fighters who look to make each bout exciting and battle for better fighter pay.
Speaking at recent media event (via MMA Fighting) to promote November 15’s Bellator 131, Gracie said that the Diaz brothers are his favorite fighters currently fighting in MMA today:
“I like their attitude. Their attitude. Their style. If they stand you up, they can exchange fists with you. If you go to the ground they are super dangerous. They respect jiu-jitsu. They know how to fight from the bottom. They know how to fight from the top. They are finishers. They go for the finish, they don’t go to score points. Their fights are what this sport should be.”
Gracie has extremely high praise for the Diaz brothers, who both have huge fights coming up in the near future. Nick will of course face former middleweight champion Anderson Silva in the main event of January 31’s anticipated UFC 183, while Nate will take on surging No. 3-ranked Rafael dos Anjos in the co-main event of UFC on FOX 13 on December 13.
Neither one has appeared in the octagon since 2013. Nick was last seen getting smothered by former UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre way back at UFC 158 in March 2013. Nate fared much better in his last UFC fight, starching Gray Maynard in the main event of last November’s The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 18 Finale.
Despite their recent inactivity, it’s hard to argue with the reasons why Gracie loves enjoy their fighting style. They’ll both be faced with some tough opposition in the near future, but there’s no doubt that win or lose, the Diaz brothers will come to fight.
Gracie also has respect for his countrymen that are finding success in MMA, a suddenly dwindling contingent. The UFC great named UFC interim heavyweight title challenger Fabricio Werdum and Bellator featherweight champion “Pitbull” Freire among his favorite Brazilian fighters:
“[Fabricio] Werdum is up there. Pitbull [Freire] is up there. Damian Maia, I love the way he fights. He was off-track for a little while, trying to do some standup, he ties them up just like Gracie jiu-jitsu, what it is.”
As the first man to truly implement Gracie jiu-jitsu to great success in the octagon, it’s no surprise to hear Gracie praise several ground wizards. Like his initial groundbreaking bouts, Gracie wants fighters to go for the finish rather than score points.
So while MMA has evolved in many ways since his heyday in the UFC’s “dark ages,” Gracie’s fighting philosophy has largely stayed the same, and today’s fighters could learn from his relentless pursuit of the finish.
Gracie may not be working with the UFC right now, but his impact upon the promotion and the sport will last forever.