Originally Posted by by Eli Jordan
Who Will Royce Gracie Face at UFC 134
Royce Gracie hasn’t fought in the UFC in almost five years. His last official MMA action was a victory in 2007 that eventually ended with Gracie testing positive for steroids. Even after all this the UFC hall of famer and winner of three of the first four UFC tournaments, has expressed interest in the possibility of once again entering the octagon when the UFC heads to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil later this year for UFC 134. Gracie, who is an MMA legend and the winner of the first ever UFC tournament back in 1993, wants desperately to represent his home country when Brazil hosts the UFC for the second time. Brazil also played host to UFC: Ultimate Brazil way back in 1998, a card that Gracie was not a part of.
Gracie’s last official fight, against Kazushi Sakuraba in Los Angeles in 2007, was a victory for the Brazilian jiu-jitsu legend. In the aftermath of that fight, however, Gracie tested positive for Nandrolone, which is an anabolic steroid banned by the California State Athletic Commission. As a result of the positive test, the Commission fined Gracie $2,500 and voided the remainder of the Brazilian’s license, which subsequently expired in 2008. Gracie has often stated that he is not officially retired, yet doesn’t have the desire to seek out fights.
While Gracie may not be actively seeking fights anymore, as of March of 2011, Gracie’s profile was added to the UFC’s official website as a middleweight, possibly signifying the return of the former champ to action. Gracie’s manager has publicly stated that the promotion is in negotiation with Gracie about a possible match at UFC 134 in the legends birthplace of Rio de Janeiro.
Many questions arise with regard to Gracie’s possible return to the cage. Who will he fight? Would it be an honor to lose to a legend? Would any fighter risk getting beat by a 44-year-old? The biggest question of all may have arisen this week when several of MMA’s elder statesmen added their name to the list of those who want a piece of Gracie. Included in those names are those of Art Jimmerson, who lost to Gracie at UFC 1, and Dan “The Beast” Severn, whom Gracie submitted to win UFC 4. Both have expressed interest in taking on Gracie again, but neither is likely to happen.
All of these questions will no doubt be answered in the coming weeks if the UFC announces the possible Gracie opponent. But until then, let’s take a look at some suitable matchups for the MMA legend.
Kazushi Sakuraba – The 41-year-old Sakuraba has long been known as “The Gracie Hunter”, having beaten Ryan Gracie, Royler Gracie, Renzo Gracie and Royce Gracie in his career. Sakuraba and Royce are especially familiar with one another having fought twice. In the first of the two fights, Sakuraba beat Gracie by referee stoppage after round 6. That’s right, round 6. They faced each other in the 2000 PRIDE Grand Prix Finals and the rules were modified for unlimited rounds and no referee stoppages. What ensued was a 90 minute battle that will always be known as one of the greatest bouts in the history of MMA. Gracie won the second match by unanimous decision in 2007 and tested positive for steroids after the victory. Although this matchup may not be a fan favorite, it will be difficult to find someone that has a past with Gracie that MMA fans will recognize. Gracie would no doubt like to face the man that has had so much success against his family and cement the Gracie name as MMA royalty.
B.J. Penn – Although Gracie is on the UFC website as a middleweight, he usually walks around at close to 175 pounds. That would make a drop to fight at welterweight a strong possibility. If he were to choose to fight at 170, as he did against Matt Hughes at UFC 160, a match against B.J. Penn could be a possibility. Penn is a fan favorite and has always been known as one of the best jiu-jitsu practitioners in MMA. Penn got his nickname “The Prodigy” after he earned a BJJ black belt in just over three years. If Penn were to want to keep this fight on the feet, it could be over quickly. However, I feel like Penn would love the chance to add a feather to his cap by submitting the most famous of all the Gracie family. This may not go down as the most exciting fight in MMA history, but true fans would love the irony of Penn vs. Gracie. That being said, I would find it hard to believe that the UFC would anger every Brazilian on the planet by feeding Gracie to a fighter that still has some life left in him and would more than likely make quick work of Gracie on the feet.
Matt Hughes – Gracie fought Hughes the last time he stepped into the UFC octagon back in 2006 and didn’t last one round. Hughes hyperextended Gracie’s arm early in the fight but in true warrior’s form, Gracie refused to tap. Soon after Hughes took Gracie’s back, flattened him out, and began raining blows down until the referee was forced to wave the fight off. The rematch may not be much better, but the UFC could put the USA vs. Brazil and hall of famer vs. hall of famer spin on this one to get fans behind it. However, the same applies as the possible fight with Penn, except in this one, we’ve already seen an example of what can happen when Gracie fights someone who has fuel left in the tank.
Ken Shamrock – This would be more of an homage to early UFC than any of the other potential matchups. Shamrock is way past his prime as a mixed martial artist, but let’s be honest, so is Royce Gracie. Shamrock knows how to promote a fight and it would provide a familiar face for fans. The two have met once before back at UFC 5 and the result was the first draw of Gracie’s career. The only question for this matchup is if Shamrock could lose enough weight or Gracie could gain enough weight to make the requirements for the divisions. Remember that to fight at light heavyweight, Gracie would only have to get to between 186 and 205 pounds to make the division.
Matt Brown – Matt Brown is a welterweight fighter that has some fan appeal from his appearance on The Ultimate Fighter: Season 6. Brown has had some trouble with submission fighters in the past, with eight of his ten career losses coming by submissions. If Gracie could avoid getting knocked out and get this one to the ground, anything is possible. Brown is 14 years younger than Gracie, but once again, the UFC would love to put the USA vs. Brazil spin on this fight.
Nate Diaz – Diaz is not known for his spectacular stand up, so this fight could end up being another battle of jiu-jitsu. Diaz is certainly qualified to hype this fight with his mouth, so this could be an opportunity to let some hatred build between the fighters leading up to the fight. Diaz would be wise to use his length to keep Gracie on the outside and take him apart on the feet, but with Diaz, he might let his ego get in the way and see this as an opportunity to beat a legend and prove that he is a true jiu-jitsu thoroughbred.
I really feel that the rubber match with Sakuraba would be the best option for the 44-year-old Gracie. That matchup makes sense for both fighters. Both are in the twilight of their careers, and they could finally close the book on one of the best rivalries in the history of the sport.
The final say on who Royce Gracie fights will be up to UFC matchmaker Joe Silva and UFC President Dana White. Whatever matchup eventually materializes, expect a truly electric atmosphere in Rio when Gracie finally steps into the octagon August 27th. Royce Gracie will always be known as an Ultimate Fighting legend. He is rightfully a UFC hall of famer and the man that helped make the UFC and in the process introduced the American public to jiu-jitsu, and for that, true mixed martial arts fans will forever be grateful..