Before I get started on this article I am going to go against everything I have learned in all my mass communications and journalism classes and say I am fan of Royce Gracie. Not just a normal fan, this guy was my child hood hero; my brother Mike and I broke so much furniture trying out the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu moves I saw Gracie do back when you had to rent the UFC tapes. I didn’t even know what Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was but I was trying it, there on my living room floor trying to be exactly like that 170 pound Brazilian man in a gi that was submitting all these guys twice his size.
I became an instant fan of Royce Gracie and The UFC, renting all the VHS cassettes from 2 Day Video and then trying the moves out with my older brother. I remember telling all my friends about him, but they were more impressed with guys going out there throwing punches like two drunk guys at an Irish Pub on St. Patty’s Day. Don’t get me wrong that did impress me, but I saw through the brawling and saw Gracie show how technique can always beat power. So when I saw on Twitter that Royce Gracie was in Texas for the week I figured let me see if I can get this guy to respond to me on here, and sure enough he did. We set up an interview at Sugarland MMA where Mr. Gracie was for the day doing a couple seminars, I got there introduced myself to the owner of Sugarland MMA Chad Kight and watched in amazement as Royce Gracie himself, a UFC legend was there in front of me signing all the kids belts who just took his seminar. I was completely stars truck, but I knew if I was going to do this I had to do it the right way, so I got into journalism mode and tried my hardest not to act like his biggest fan when I interviewed him. Mr. Gracie is a busy man, I had to interview him in between seminars while he was signing autographs and taking pictures with fans, but he still took time to chat it up with me.
For those of you that do not know who Royce Gracie is you should probably stop reading now and go back to that rock you were living under. Royce was the first and second UFC Tournament Champion, and if you have ever seen any of the old UFC videos you know the rules were a little different than they are now. In UFC 1 in Denver, CO back in 1993 it was an eight-man tournament with no weight classes, no gloves, and no rounds. Back then there were no judges or split decisions, the match was won by submission, knockout, or towel stoppage; I mean there were some rules, you couldn’t eye gouge or bite but that was about it.
There were thousands of questions I could have asked Mr. Gracie, but my time was limited and the crowd for the second seminar was getting larger as the autograph line was getting shorter. Royce Gracie was 26 years old when he made his UFC debut in Denver, CO. He wasn’t much of a favorite being only 170 pounds and not a power puncher or brawler. I feel that night Royce Gracie created mixed martial arts. He made giants realize being choked and almost having your arm broken were as effective as their brawler styles. Gracie says he, “ Doesn’t feel responsible for changing MMA, I feel more like a vehicle to show my father’s technique.” His father started Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and he was very confident in it. He used to put ads in the newspaper inviting anyone who thought they could defeat them in a fight, and never lost a fight. They did that for many years in Brazil, which we are now finding out is a hot spot for UFC fans. The events there always have an insane crowd, Gracie joked, “That’s why you don’t see baseball in Brazil. You give Brazilians sticks and they will start hitting each other.” I brought up the subject of the difference in the sport now as opposed to then when you were either a boxer, or wrestler, or karate guy now it’s vital for fighters to learn multiple martial arts techniques before stepping into the cage. (Unless you’re James Toney) I asked Mr. Gracie out of all the martial arts used in today’s fighting did he still believe Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was the best technique to know. He said, “Of course….I mean wrestling, they don’t have any submissions, they don’t have any strikes. Karate, they have good striking, but they don’t know what to do on the ground grappling. That was proven in the beginning when it was style versus style; my family proved….that jiu-jitsu is the most complete style of self-defense.”
The moves Royce Gracie used in the beginning days of the UFC are still used today at every fight the UFC puts on. So I would say those moves are pretty effective, you don’t see anyone doing the one boxing glove thing anymore. Gracie will always be remembered in The UFC; his family’s name is plastered on almost every fighter’s shorts or banner showing they have trained under The Gracie Family. They have gyms all over the U.S. now, but Royce himself has stepped out the spotlight. He now trains a lot of law enforcement and does seminars all over for about 7 months a year before returning home to California. I asked Mr. Gracie what was the one lesson he wanted his students to get out of his seminars. He said, “It’s to learn self-defense…..I want them to know how to always defend themselves.” Gracie still watches UFC Fights and favors the fighters who use a great strategy like Anderson Silva, but says, “he has been there, done that” as far as competing ever again.
Gracie says his father didn’t create the car or the wheel, he showed technique and skill and that someone smaller could do what the big guys were using. He invented the jack that provided the leverage, and no matter how big you are leverage and technique will get the wheel off the car.
Follow Royce on Twitter @realroyce
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