The First UFC Champion: the Best Fights Of Royce Gracie’s Career
From the UFC’s initiation, Gracie dominated. Even though UFC was considered “no holds barred” fighting, Gracie imposed his will and style on every opponent and constantly proved to be unrivaled. The UFC had two rules when it debuted on November 12, 1993; no biting and no gouging. It was initially an eight-man tournament that was all completed in one night. No weight classes””all of the fights were one single round and they could only end in a submission, knockout, referee’s stoppage, or a corner throwing in the towel. It was a gladiator-esque sport that even Maximus would have deemed brutal.?Although Gracie stands at 6 feet and weighed only 175 pounds, he was the boss. He routinely fought against opponents who were much bigger and heavier than he was and he still somehow managed to submit them within minutes of the first round.
While the sport was experiencing an incredible infusion of fighting styles, Gracie proved that his Brazilian jiu-jitsu was a superior martial art that could neutralize even the baddest dudes. His extraordinary success led to every single UFC participant being well schooled in the art of jiu-jitsu or they would simply be no match for an opponent in the octagon. Jiu-jitsu was there long before Gracie came to the UFC, but he is the one who exposed it to the masses and changed the whole sport of mixed martial arts forever. These are Royce Gracie’s Top 5 Fights.
5 Gracie vs. Dan Severn (UFC 4)
Severn came into this fight outweighing Gracie by more than 80 pounds and sporting a mean handle-bar mustache that invoked fear into anyone it brushed up against. Severn actually looked to be too big and aggressive for Gracie as he took him down and controlled him using brutal pressure, while his mustache remained completely unharmed. After 14 minutes of this, Gracie slipped a triangle choke on Severn and tapped him out out after struggling mightily in an attempt to get out of the choke. It was a shocking turn of events, but it kept Gracie in control of the UFC throne.
4 Gracie vs. Kazushi Sakuraba I (Pride Grand Prix 2000)
This could have easily been number one on this list as it was a fierce fight that lasted six rounds (15-minute rounds to be exact) and both men never let up until Gracie’s corner threw in the towel. The only reason it’s not number one is because Gracie lost…his first loss. Although Gracie was opposed to fighting in rounds, he went on with it anyway. He wanted to fight in the UFC’s format of just one round (he was a lunatic!) but Pride refused and what ensued was a classic. Gracie seemed to slightly win the first half of the fight but was unable to submit Sakuraba after numerous attempts. Sakuraba took over the second half of the fight as he pounded Gracie to the point where his corner believed he could go out for a seventh round.
3 Gracie vs. Art Jimmerson (UFC 1)
This fight is monumental as it marked Royce Gracie’s first ever UFC fight. And it was vintage UFC as Jimmerson climbed into the cage wearing black boxing shorts, boxing shoes and one red boxing glove on his left hand””yes, it was completely ridiculous, but it is a testament to where the sport was when it first started. He actually believed that he could win with his comical get-up and as he was looking across the ring at a stone-cold fighter wearing a silly a gi with zero emotion on his face, he had to be laughing on the inside! After a brief feeling out process Gracie took Jimmerson down and took ground control. Feeling helpless Jimmerson tapped out before Gracie could do anything to him. It was a tap out as a result of confusion and being helpless. The fight was bizarre from the beginning and it ended the same way.
2 Gracie vs. Ken Shamrock I (UFC 1)
This was a heavily anticipated match at UFC 1 as these two fighters had a bitter disdain for each other and they could not wait to get this fight on. Prior to the fight the referee was forced to keep these two combatants far away from one another in order to avoid a premature start to the fight. Shamrock wore tight red butt-huggers and was visibly more muscular than Gracie, outweighing him by approximately 40 pounds. He looked like a chiseled wise-guy as he gave Gracie a vicious stare seconds before the fight. Gracie paid no mind as he kept a sensei’s focus in his eyes and sporting wearing his infamous gi. The outfits were quite a contrast! The bell rang and these two athletes wasted no time as Gracie went for the takedown immediately. Fifty-seven short seconds later the fight was over as Gracie choked out Shamrock with part of his gi. The result left everyone in attendance staring in disbelief that Gracie was that much better than his hulking opponent.
1 Gracie vs. Kimo Leopoldo (UFC 3)
Leopoldo was an extremely intimidating figure that was easily pounding opponents into submission. His 6-foot-3-inch, 250-pound frame was highlighted by intimidating tribal tattoos, Harley rider’s goatee and a pony tail that was reminiscent of Tong Po from the movie “Kickboxer.” Many skeptics were concerned that Gracie would be hurt by this beast, as he outweighed Gracie by 75 pounds, which was all muscle. The fight started fast as both men came out aggressively. After Gracie landed a huge head-butt that startled Leopoldo, he took Gracie to the ground and it started to look like this was going to end ugly for Gracie. As Leopoldo pounded Gracie on the ground, Gracie was resourceful as ever as he grabbed onto Leopoldo’s ponytail and repeatedly punched him in the face. It looked as if Gracie was in trouble but he remained poised and slipped an arm bar on Kimo that ended the fight at the 4:40 mark of the first round. A modern day David and Goliath, for sure.
Check out the top 5 UFC Knockouts for some hard hitting action.
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The UFC and Brazilian jiu-jitsu will be forever in debt to Royce Gracie. There is no telling where the art of jiu-jitsu and the sport of MMA would be today if Gracie had never graced the cage with his presence. Gracie went over six years before suffering his first loss to Sakuraba, a loss he would avenge in his final professional fight seven years later. There will never be another fighter like Gracie in the UFC, or in any sport for that matter, as all of the particulars that he had to overcome in order to be the best will never be duplicated. Although he was rarely the larger fighter in the cage or ring, nobody ever had a bigger heart than Gracie.