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Rodrigo Medeiros

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Read an exclusive Royce Gracie interview!

"The idea of jiu jitsu is to give the little guy, a chance to beat the big guy." 

Royce Gracie (here with Dan Severn).

Royce Gracie is a legend. He started the NHB world and ruled it as its king. Before his first fights in UFC 1, all traditional strike-oriented martial artists underestimated the importance of grappling. From the days of the first UFC to his return to the ring of Pride and his epic battle against the renowned champion Kazushi Sakuraba, Royce Gracie has lived to defend the family honour and name of Gracie and has managed to show everyone that martial arts can be effective.

Royce Gracie was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 

Royce fighting Dan Severn

  The 34-year-old Gracie is one of nine children, seven of whom are boys. His training in Jiu-Jitsu began at a very early age as a game with his father Helio, now 88 years old. Helio never pushed any of the children to take formal classes until they wanted to do so, however they often went to the Academy in Rio after school and on weekends. 

Royce began competing in tournaments at age eight. He received his blue belt at age 16 and was promoted to black belt in less than two years. Royce moved to the United States at age 18 to live with his brother, Rorion. They began teaching private classes out of their garage, sometimes for more than ten hours a day. Rorion and Royce opened the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy eleven years ago in Torrance, California. Today it is one of the largest martial arts schools in the country. 

Royce's reputable career as a fighter began in 1993 after defeating three opponents in the first Ultimate Fighting Championship. His brother Rorion came up with this innovative challenge as a way to show Gracie Jiu-Jitsu to the world. Discipline after discipline was defeated by the slight 6'1'', 180 pound Royce Gracie. His opponents consistently outweighed him by more than 50 pounds. In the two-hour duration of the UFC I, Royce Gracie steamrolled three skilled opponents and collected $50,000. Several months later, he raked in an additional $60,000 by disposing of four more combatants in the UFC II. By the time the third UFC rolled around, tougher fighters were starting to line up to take a crack at the unbeaten Gracie.    

Royce fighting Ken Shamrock

Royce against Kimo


Six months later Gracie is back at UFC 3 defending his title as the Ultimate Fighting Champion. His first match was against Kimo Leopoldo, a tattooed giant that outweighed Gracie by 80 lbs. Gracie won with an armlock, but had to be helped out of the ring as he was completely exhausted, and did not return to action that night. Three months later he returned to action in UFC 4, tapping Dan "The Beast" Severn in the finals.

 Gracie fought Ken Shamrock to a draw  in UFC 5. Shamrock seemed hesitant to mount an offense, and Gracie seemed content to work from his back for the same gi-sleeve submission and heel-kicks to the Shamrock's kidneys. Royce said for the fight "Shamrock came in for a draw. He knows he cannot beat me. He came in for a draw. He knew he just didn't want to lose, that's why he requested the time limit. He knew he just wanted to have a draw, for him that's a victory".

After his victory in the first UFC 1, Gracie did not boast that his triumph had proved to the world the superiority of his family's style of jujutsu, nor did he brag that it had proved he was the toughest fighter in the world. Instead, he merely said: "It will open everybody's eyes, especially the weaker guys, that you don't have to be a monster to be the champ. You don't have to be the biggest guy or the one who hits the hardest. And you don't have to get hurt in a fight." With those three sentences, Gracie gave hope to thousands of martial artists who, like him, may not be the biggest or the strongest in their dojo, but who depend on perfect technique to overcome their opponents in competition. Royce seems very  proud of the fact that his system of self-defense allows him to neutralize and control any opponent  without injury to either party. 
"That's why [Royce] is doing the Ultimate Fighting Championship to show people he can subdue his opponents without kicking, without punching, without hurting," Helio Gracie said after the UFC 1. "He doesn't need to hit; he doesn't need to hurt." 

Royce Gracie lost for the first time in a grappling-only match with another Brazilian-jujutsu expert, Wallid Ismail, at the Rio Oscars of Jiu-Jitsu at Copacobana Beach on December 17, 1998. 
In the premier match on a card that included 10 other fights, Gracie was defeated with a "clock choke," which Ismail executed approximately five minutes into the fight. Marco Ruas said for that fight: "I think Royce is a great fighter, it just wasn't his day, just like for me in Japan. "

Royce lost a second time (TKO - Towel Thrown Between Rounds) in Pride Grand Prix 2000 - Finals. In this epic battle against the renowned champion Kazushi Sakuraba Royce fought like a lion. 
After the 90 minute battle with Sakuraba, 90 minutes of punishing leg kicks, and 90 minutes without rest or water, Royce Gracie conceded the match and had his brother throw in the towel.  After 90 minutes, Gracie could no longer stand and suffered a broken femur. He would be out of action for a while so that his leg could heal.

Royce Gracie lost these fights,  proving that he is only human. He did not lose against any huge guys but against skilled martial artists, proving that he will not lose against brute force and muscles full of steroids. Even the great Muhammad Ali  lost a few fights but he still is the greatest boxer of all time.

In the ring, the 180-pound Gracie exudes a confidence and single-minded intensity guaranteed to destroy the mind-set of even the burliest brawler. Yet once he steps outside the ring, he metamorphoses into one of the gentlest, friendliest men imaginable. But that unshakable confidence still shows through, at times even seeming like arrogance when Gracie's comments are translated into print. 

The legend of the Gracie family began in Brazil with Royce's father, Helio Gracie. Today Royce is privileged to spread the techniques perfected by his father all over the world. Throughout his busy fighting career Royce has maintained a rigorous travel schedule of seminars and classes. His list of students is enormous. Royce has taught many of the big screen greats like Chuck Norris, Ed O'Neal, Guy Ritchie and Nicholas Cage. He has also been very active with the CIA, FBI, DEA, Secret Service, Army Rangers, Army Special Forces, Navy Seals and many sheriff and police departments.

Royce makes his home in Torrance, California with his wife, Marianne and two sons, Khonry and Khor. He maintains an impressive training regimen, which includes running, weight training, cardiovascular activity, meditation and countless hours of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. He is always up to the challenge and eagerly awaits his next fight. We strongly believe that Royce will win a lot more fights because he is a true warrior.

See some pictures of Royce fighting Wallid Ismael (Thanks to Paulo Ruy Barbosa):

Pic 1: Good sportsmanship between the opponents!
Pic 2: The staredown!
Pic 3: The fight begins. Royce tries to take Wallid down.
Pic 4: Wallid goes for the leg!
Pic 5: Royce drops to his guard!
Pic 6: Wallid goes for Royce's back!
Pic 7: Royce gives his back? Or Wallid gets his back? The eternal question!
Pic 8: Wallid goes for the clock choke!
Pic 9: Wallid sinks the choke tighter!
Pic 10: Royce goes to sleep!