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Old 01-19-2010, 10:15 PM   #1
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Default Hall of Fame Inductee: Royce Gracie

There is no shortage of things to say about Royce Gracie. The man is nothing short of an MMA legend. Larger than life, a pioneer, a champion, a warrior, all of these things can be said of Royce Gracie and none would be disingenuous. However, I think the one thing that is most impressive about Royce Gracie's career and legacy is that if you know MMA inside out, you know Royce Gracie well and if you're new to MMA, you still know who Royce Gracie is. Even in the age we live in now where MMA gets more and more coverage, Royce's name is still synonymous with the sport even with the larger than life characters that are ruling the game now

That's enough of Royce's intangibles, let's get down to brass tacks. Royce's career record is 14-3. Even by today's standards, 14-3 is a pretty spectacular record. As everyone knows, Royce won UFC 1, spending only four minutes and fifty two seconds in the ring across three fights. Notably, Royce submitted future legend Ken Shamrock in less than one minute during this fight, starting-up one of the most memorable and important rivalries in the early days of the sport. Gracie returned four months later and once again dominated his competition, with an average bout time of barely over two minutes apiece. Once again, Royce had won the UFC tournament and his legend only grew from there. UFC 3 came highly touted as the rematch between Gracie and Shamrock, however, Royce suffered an injury in his opening round bout and could not continue. Gracie further cemented his legacy at UFC 4, when he once again won the tournament, submitting another future legend, Dan “The Beast” Severn with a triangle choke. Of only four total UFC tournaments, Gracie had yet to legitimately lose a fight, his only loss coming when he was injured and unable to continue. In the beginning of mixed martial arts, Royce Gracie was an institution. UFC 5 saw a departure from the simple tournament format in favour of giving fans what they really wanted to see: a rematch between Shamrock and Gracie. The fight was a grueling 36 minutes, that's eleven minutes longer than a title fight in the UFC nowadays, however, no winner was declared as there were no judges at the time. Gracie then took a five year hiatus from MMA, not fighting again until late January of 2000, (his bout with Shamrock was April of 1995). He never regained the form that brought him his early MMA success.

No matter what you think of his record, the fact remains, Royce Grace is to MMA Jiu-Jitsu what Babe Ruth was to baseball's home run. Yes, the game evolved past their abilities, but what they did in their time was the stuff of legend and they absolutely deserve the credit they received. Royce popularized the underdog spirit of MMA, he was much smaller, and he kept winning, which kept fans watching. Many of the best MMA fighters these days mentioned that they saw Royce fight when they were young and it inspired them. Royce's ability to inspire an entire new generation of fighters, who are now carrying the sport, speaks to just how important his presence and accomplishments were for MMA moving forward.

Royce Gracie's feud with Shamrock helped further carry the sport as it attempted to gain a foothold among sports fans everywhere. Their first meeting was interesting based on the mere fact that both had run over their initial opponents. Shamrock had submitted Patrick Smith with a heel-hook that had apparently broken Smith's leg, while Gracie submitted Art Jimmerson in just over two minutes. Though the first fight wasn't incredibly exciting, people clamoured for more. In fact, the rematch was so sought after that both men were put on the poster to UFC 3. Both men wanted the fight badly, and Shamrock even went so far as to withdraw from UFC 3 because he didn't care about anything but avenging his loss to Gracie. In a time where fighters were not well known, their feud gave the sport and the UFC a face. In a time where pay-per-view was hardly as accessible as it is today, the second Gracie-Shamrock fight resulted in a staggering 260,000 buys. Even though their dispute was never handled as well as people would like, it did its job in making MMA popular at a time where it was simply a high stakes gamble.

MMA and the UFC are what they are today because of Royce Gracie, and that's why he belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Career Breakdown:
- Career Record: 14-3-3

- Notable Wins: Ken Shamrock, Dan Severn, Kazushi Sakuraba

- Accomplishments/Titles: UFC 1 Champion, UFC 2 Champion, UFC 4 Champion

- Defining Moment: Both Gracie's first and last UFC Tournament victories stand out, but his triumph at UFC 1 has to be his defining moment, and one for all of MMA for that matter.
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