29 years ago today: Royce Gracie changed the world of martial arts at the first ever UFC event
It has been 29 years since Royce Gracie made history and changed the world of martial arts. Today is the anniversary of when he won the first-ever UFC tournament at the promotion’s inaugural event on November 12, 1993, at McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado.
The Jiu-Jitsu practitioner competed in three fights and submitted all three opponents to win the tournament. Those competitors include former Golden Gloves champion Art Jimmerson, Pancrase standout Ken Shamrock, and karate champion Gerard Gordeau.
Gracie’s tournament win was significant as it put his family’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu on the map. He demonstrated that it was effective and made it possible for a smaller fighter to submit a much larger fighter. During his post-fight interview after defeating Gordeau in the finals, he mentioned that was thankful for his family:
“I thanks to my brother, my family for teach me this, and for giving me the chance, the opportunity to go do this.”
The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu specialist described his strategy and how he was able to win the tournament:
“My strategy is not to give them a chance to hit me. I don’t want to get hurt, that’s the main thing. I want to win without getting hit – to get in the clinch just don’t let them hit me.”
Gracie eventually became the first fighter to win three UFC tournaments as he also won the tournament at UFC 2 and UFC 4. He has submitted a who’s-who in MMA including Kimo Leopoldo, Dan Severn, Kazushi Sakuraba, and sumo wrestler Akebono in one of the biggest physical mismatches in MMA history.
The three-time UFC tournament winner, along with Shamrock, went into the inaugural UFC Hall of Fame class of 2003.
Check out the highlights from UFC 1: The Beginning:
Royce Gracie competed for the final time in 2016
After being retired for almost 9-years, Royce Gracie returned to the cage for one final fight in 2016. He fought UFC Hall of Famer Ken Shamrock at Bellator 149. The bout took place almost 21 years after their rematch at UFC 5 and was the third and final bout of their trilogy.
The Brazilian submitted the former UFC Superfight champion at UFC 1: The Beginning and their rematch was ruled a draw because there were no judges. It’s important to point out that he likely would have lost via unanimous decision if judges were present.
Gracie was 49 years old at the time of their Bellator bout, while Shamrock was 52 years old, which means they were clearly past their prime. The three-time UFC tournament winner defeated ‘The World’s Most Dangerous Man’ via TKO after dropping him with a knee and finishing him with punches on the ground.
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