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Royce Gracie

Born December 12, 1966 (1966-12-12) (age 43)
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Nationality Brazilian
Height 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight 176 lb (80 kg; 12.6 st)
Style Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Fighting out of Torrance, California, U.S.
Team Gracie Humaitá[1]
Teacher(s) Helio Gracie
Rank           7th degree red & black belt in BJJ
MMA record
Total 20
Wins 14
By knockout 0
By submission 12
By decision 2
Losses 3
By knockout 3
Draws 3
No contests 0
Other information
Notable relatives Gracie family
Mixed martial arts record from Sherdog

Royce Gracie (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈʁɔjs ˈɡɾejsi]; born December 12, 1966) is a former professional mixed martial arts fighter, a UFC Hall of Famer and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner. He holds the most submission victories in UFC history with 11, which he earned between UFC 1 and UFC 4.

Gracie became a larger than life figure in the mixed martial arts world for his domination in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He became famous for beating opponents much larger than him, and between 1993 and 1994, he was the tournament winner of UFC 1, UFC 2, UFC 4, and fought to a draw with Ken Shamrock in the championship match in the Superfight at UFC 5. [2] Gracie popularized Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and revolutionized mixed martial arts with his results contributing to the movement towards grappling and cross-training in the sport.


Early life

Royce is a member of the Gracie family. He is the son of Hélio Gracie (Helio along with his older brother Carlos Gracie are the originators of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu—Modern Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) and spent his childhood in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. As a toddler, Royce learned Jiu-Jitsu from his father and his older brothers Rorion, Relson, and Rickson Gracie. He began competing at the age of 8 and by the time he was 16 had attained the level of blue belt.

A year later he was invited by his brother Rorion to help teach Jiu-Jitsu from his garage in America. Despite not knowing English, Royce accepted the offer and moved to California. He competed in a number of Jiu-Jitsu tournaments in Brazil and the United States and compiled an amateur record of 51-3. Royce received his black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at the age of 18. Royce is now a 6th degree black belt.


The Gracie Challenge

It has been speculated that soon after he received his black belt, Royce put out the "Gracie Challenge", in which competitors would face him in a No Rules contest, won by submission or knockout, with a prize of $100,000. This claim was nullified in an interview with Royce himself from in which he states, "It wasn't really a $100,000 challenge. My brother had a big problem with one of the big American kickboxers. Somebody was going to do the commentary for the chapter and they called my brother, and asked if he wanted to face him. He said that he would face anyone in MMA. My brother had already faced and beat him before. He told them to ask him if they knew who he was facing as he should know who he was facing." Benny the Jet pretended he didn't know who the Gracies were, so they made a bet to put a $100,000 down each to fight for something. Benny the Jet later backed down on the bet and allegedly said he didn't want to put his money down and instead put his belt in place of the $100,000 and that if Royce Gracie won, he would become the World Champion in kickboxing.

However, there are contradictory versions of the challenge with American kickboxer Benny "The Jet" Urquidez. According to an interview with Urquidez, the Gracies came to his school and challenged him to a fight. Benny agreed to the fight under the Gracies' rules and asked for time to train and for the fight to be held at a neutral location. When the Gracies found out that Benny was a competent grappler and had been training for many years with grappling legend Gene LeBell and Gokor Chivichyan, they, allegedly, backed out of the fight.

Another episode that could be included with the Gracie Challenge occurred when the Gracies challenged "Judo" Gene LeBell. The Gracies wanted to match Rickson Gracie with the American grappling master/professional wrestler/stuntman. Gene LeBell, who was almost 60 at the time, replied that Rickson was much younger than him and that he would instead grapple with Hélio Gracie who was closer in age to him. When confronted with this reply, the Gracies accepted the challenge on the condition that Gene LeBell drop down to the 140 pound weight class of the 80-year old Hélio Gracie. At that point, Gene LeBell allegedly backed out of both the original challenge and his own counterchallenge because he was around 200 pounds and could never make it down to 140 pounds.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship

Brainchild of Rorion Gracie and Art Davie, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was an eight-man single-elimination tournament with very few rules that would award $50,000 to the winner. The basic premise was to find out how different styles of martial arts would fare against each other. Art Davie placed ads in martial arts magazines and sent letters to anyone in any martial arts directory he could find to recruit competitors for the event. Among the takers were kickboxer Patrick Smith, Pancrase fighter Ken Shamrock, and Savate world champion Gerard Gordeau.

While Art Davie felt that Royce's older brother Rickson Gracie, who was stronger and more skilled than Royce, was the obvious choice as the Jiu-Jitsu representative, Rorion Gracie chose Royce to represent the family style. At 175 pounds, and with a frame much smaller than his opponents, the Gracie family felt that Royce would be the perfect fighter to demonstrate the claims that Jiu-Jitsu techniques could be employed to overcome a larger opponent.

In his first match, Royce defeated journeyman boxer Art Jimmerson. He tackled him to the ground using a baiana (morote-gari or double-leg) and obtained the dominant "mounted" position, also pinning Jimmerson's left arm around the boxer's own neck. Mounted and with only one free arm Jimmerson conceded defeat, mostly due to frustration rather than submission.

In the semi-finals, Royce looked to be the underdog against 220-pound Ken Shamrock, who showed excellent grappling skills in his first-round submission win over Patrick Smith. Royce immediately rushed Shamrock, who sprawled effectively and got on top of Royce. Shamrock then grabbed Royce's ankle and sat back to attempt the same finishing hold he used to finish his first match, but Royce rolled on top of him and secured a rear choke that forced Shamrock to tap the mat in submission. Shamrock has later stated that Gracie used his gi suit as a tool for ligature strangulation to perform the submission, protesting the fact that he was not allowed to wear his wrestling shoes because the event organisers had stated that it could be used as a weapon, feeling that the rules for the tournament were created to favor Gracie. However, the choke Royce used is a no-gi choke, meaning that there is no need to use a gi to apply this choke.

In the finals, Royce was again outweighed by 40 pounds, but defeated Savate World Champion Gerard Gordeau (who broke his hand in the first round of the tournament against Teila Tuli), taking his opponent to the ground and securing a rear choke. This victory, along with future UFC events, had a substantial impact on the public image of martial arts and fighting systems.

Over the next year, Royce Gracie continued his winning streak in the UFC, obtaining submission wins over fighters such as Patrick Smith, 250 pound (113 kg) European Judo Champion Remco Pardoel, and Kimo Leopoldo. His final UFC victory was in a match that lasted for 16 minutes (there were no rounds or time limits at the time), during which he was continuously pinned underneath 260 pound (118 kg) wrestler Dan Severn. To end the match, Royce locked his legs in a triangle choke for a submission victory. The match extended beyond the pay-per-view time-slot and viewers, who missed the end of the fight, demanded their money back.

Time limits were re-introduced into the sport in 1995 and MMA legend Ken Shamrock would become the first fighter to survive Royce Gracie's submission attack and earn a draw. The match lasted for 30 minutes and a 5-minute overtime. Fans have been calling for a rematch ever since. The draw sparked much debate and controversy as to who would have won the fight had judges determined the outcome, or had there been no time limits, as by the end of the fight Royce's right eye was swollen shut. However, the swollen eye was a result of a standing punch due to a sudden change of the rules in which both of the fighters were restarted on the feet.[3] After this fight the Gracies left the UFC.

At UFC 45 in November 2003, at the ten year anniversary of the UFC, Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie became the first inductees into the UFC Hall of Fame. UFC President Dana White said;[4]

We feel that no two individuals are more deserving than Royce and Ken to be the charter members. Their contributions to our sport, both inside and outside the Octagon, may never be equaled.

Royce's official UFC record when he left did include one loss. In the second round of UFC 3 Royce was to face fighter Harold Howard in the semi-finals. Although Royce came out to the ring, he was dehydrated as a result of his first round match against Kimo Leopoldo. The announcers of UFC 3 stated that Gracie's shoulder had been hurt in the previous round. Before the Howard match began, Royce's corner threw in the towel.

PRIDE Fighting Championship

With each of his first 11 victories, many in the martial arts world were impressed with Gracie and began cross-training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

However one fighter in particular, Kazushi Sakuraba, a former amateur and professional wrestler who derived his foundation in submissions not from jiu jitsu but rather from catch wrestling, rose up in the years following Royce's final UFC appearance to make a powerful argument for the potency of that particular approach to grappling in the hands of a capable fighter (several practitioners of catch wrestling had previously been defeated by members of the Gracie family, including members of the UWFi, the stable to which Sakuraba belonged). He did this by embarking upon a series of wins over Brazilian jiu-jitsu blackbelts, including Marcus "Conan" Silvera, Vitor Belfort and Royce's brother, Royler Gracie. Sakuraba's victory over Royler constituted the first loss by a Gracie in professional fighting in several decades and as such, sent ripples of shock and controversy through the mixed martial arts community. Some protested that the victory was tainted due to the fact that Royler—although placed in a debilitating submission hold—never conceded defeat and was mere seconds away from the final bell when the bout was stopped. Others countered that Royler suffered a broken arm and several torn muscles stemming from the submission, thus validating the Sakuraba victory, but there is no medical evidence supporting this.

The Gracie family took great umbrage over the incident, feeling that they had been cheated by Pride. Compelled to set the record straight, Royce Gracie returned to the sport of mixed martial arts in 2000 and entered the 16-Man Pride Grand Prix with dominant heavyweights Mark Coleman, Mark Kerr, and Igor Vovchanchyn. However, it could be argued that Royce's main intention in entering the tournament was not winning the Grand Prix crown but rather doing battle with the Gracie family's new nemesis, Kazushi Sakuraba. In fact, a special set of rules were requested by the Gracies that would apply only to the potential Sakuraba-Royce match, including no referee stoppages and no time-limits, the fight ending only in the event of a submission or knock-out.

Royce advanced to the quarterfinals by beating Sakuraba's stablemate Nobuhiko Takada, before finding himself matched up with Sakuraba. Gracie and Sakuraba battled for an hour and a half. Early in the fight, Sakuraba nearly ended things with a knee-bar towards the end of the first round. Later on, Royce returned the favor with a guillotine choke during round 2 which Sakuraba lingered in, but eventually escaped from because of the bell ending the round. As the confrontation stretched on, Sakuraba's wrestling skills and balance nullified Royce's ability to score a takedown. Even Royce's ever-present jiu-jitsu gi became a weapon for the wrestler to use against him as Sakuraba used it to help him protect against Gracie on the instances the fight did come to the ground. However, with Sakuraba escaping Gracie's attempts, instances of ground warfare became increasingly sporadic. After the 90 minute battle, punishing leg kicks showed their effects. Royce's brother with Royce's full acknowledgement threw in the towel during the intermission. Gracie had suffered a broken foot from accumulated damage. Prior to the bout, there was speculation that the fight was largely personal, with Sakuraba looking to atone for his stablemate's defeats and Royce looking to avenge his brother. However, following the stoppage, Royce and Sakuraba embraced in the ring. Gracious in victory, Sakuraba pointed to Royce as the superior ground-technician when questioned as to why he didn't engage him on the ground more frequently. Sakuraba would go on to defeat other members of the Gracie family including Renzo Gracie and Ryan Gracie earning him the nickname "Gracie Hunter."[5]

Royce returned to PRIDE in 2003 to fight Japanese gold-medalist judoka Hidehiko Yoshida in a Judo vs. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu limited rules MMA match. Royce lost that match because of a controversial referee stoppage; the referee believed that Gracie had been choked out on the ground, thus stopping the fight, but Gracie immediately claimed that he was fully conscious. Since that fight Gracie stopped fighting with a gi. The next year, Yoshida and Gracie then fought again in another MMA match which had rules more like the standard PRIDE MMA rules. This match took place at PRIDE's Shockwave 2003 event on December 31, 2003. That match had no judges decision on Royce's request and it ended in a draw after two 10 minute rounds.

In September 2004 Pride tried to reach an agreement with Royce about his participation in the 2005 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix, but Royce had issues with the proposed opponents and rules (Grand Prix fights must have a winner and cannot end in a draw) and so he jumped to the competing K-1 organization. Pride sued Royce for breaching his contract with them. The case was settled in December 2005, with Royce issuing a public apology, blaming his actions on a misinterpretation of the contract by his manager.


On December 31, 2004 Royce entered the K-1 scene at the "Dynamite!" card inside the Osaka Dome, facing off against former sumo wrestler and MMA newcomer Akebono Tarō aka. Chad Rowan under special MMA rules (Two 10-minute rounds; the match would end as a draw if there was no winner after the two rounds). Royce made quick work of his heavy opponent, forcing Akebono to submit to a shoulder lock at 2:13 of the first round. The match was refereed by renowned MMA ref John McCarthy.

Exactly one year later, on the K-1 "Dynamite!" card of December 31, 2005, Royce fought Japan's Hideo Tokoro, a 143 pound fighter, in a fight ending in a draw after 20 minutes. Royce's original opponent was scheduled to be the Korean giant Choi Hong-man, another MMA newcomer.

Return to UFC

On January 16, 2006, UFC President Dana White announced that Royce Gracie would return to the UFC to fight UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes on May 27, 2006, at UFC 60. This was a non-title bout at a catchweight of 175 lb. under UFC/California State Athletic Commission rules. To prepare, Royce cross-trained in Muay Thai and was frequently shown in publicity materials from Fairtex.[6] In round one, Hughes hyperextended Gracie's arm in a straight armbar, but Gracie refused to tap[7] and held on with a calm expression on his face.

In a later interview, Hughes stated that he purposely let Gracie out of the arm lock because he knew that Gracie would not submit and would rather allow his arm to break.[8] Hughes went on to win the fight by TKO due to strikes at 4:39 of the first round.

Rematch with Sakuraba and steroid scandal

On May 8, 2007, EliteXC announced that Royce's opponent for the June 2 K-1 Dynamite!! USA event in Los Angeles, California, would be Japanese fighter Kazushi Sakuraba.

While both fighters fought a largely strategic fight, Gracie defeated Sakuraba by unanimous decision in a fight of three 5-minute-rounds, surprising both commentators and spectators alike that felt Sakuraba won the fight. Sherdog scored the fight 29-28 in favor of Sakuraba .

On June 14, 2007, the California State Athletic Commission declared that Gracie had tested positive for Nandrolone, an anabolic steroid, after his fight with Sakuraba.[9] According to the California State Athletic Commission, the average person could produce about 2 ng/ml of Nandrolone, while an athlete following "rigorous physical exercise" could have a level of around 6 ng/ml. Both "A" and "B" test samples provided by Gracie "had a level of over 50 ng/ml and we were informed that the level itself was so elevated that it would not register on the laboratory's calibrator," said the CSAC.[10] Gracie was fined $2,500 (the maximum penalty the Commission can impose) and suspended for the remainder of his license, which ended on May 30, 2008. Gracie paid the fine.[11]

Royce Gracie disputed the allegations, most recently in an online video interview on May 2009, saying that his weight in the first UFC event was 178 lb and during his Sakuraba fight was 180 lb, thus only gaining 2 pounds.[12] In reality, Royce officially weighed in at a lean 188 lb. He also pointed to his "strict natural diet" and to his "no cigarettes, no alcohol, no drugs" philosophy.

While Gracie does not consider himself officially retired, neither is he actively searching out matches, telling FanHouse, "I get approached all the time. I just have to say, 'Set up a show,' and I can fight. That's easy. But I don't really have that urge to fight, that anger to fight."


  • UFC 1 Open Weight Tournament Champion
  • UFC 2 Open Weight Tournament Champion
  • UFC 4 Open Weight Tournament Champion
  • UFC Hall of Fame

Personal life

Royce is married and has three sons.[13]

He starred in the music video for Attitude by Brazilian band Sepultura.[14]

Royce once said "The Gracie name can be a blessing or a curse. I tell our family (that train/instruct in BJJ) that you don't have to be world champion, but you have to know what you're doing. You know?"[citation needed]

In an interview in early 2009[15], Royce made a series of claims, including:

- "There wouldn't be any legacy, no UFC, if it wasn't by my father's efforts to prove that Jiu Jitsu is the most efficient martial art of the world".

- "I'd never tap, I'd never tap there or any other occasion" -- Referring to both Matt Hughes kimura that almost broke his arm and Wallid Ismail clock choke that put him to sleep.

- "I'm the best paid fighter in the world" -- When questioned if he was worried about the financial crisis in the world, when the reporter mentioned that it is widely believed Fedor Emelianenko has the best contract, money-wise, he complemented, "I make more".

MMA record

Date Result Record Opponent Event Decision Round, Time Notes
2007-06-02 Win 14–3–3 Japan Kazushi Sakuraba K-1 Dynamite!! USA Decision (Unanimous) Round 3, 5:00 Gracie tested positive for anabolic steroids after match
2006-05-27 Loss 13–3–3 United States Matt Hughes UFC 60: Hughes vs. Gracie TKO (Punches) Round 1, 4:39
2005-12-31 Draw 13–2–3 Japan Hideo Tokoro K-1 Premium 2005 Dynamite Draw Round 2, 10:00 Match was a draw due to a lack of judges.
2004-12-31 Win 13–2–2 United States Akebono Taro K-1 Premium 2004 Dynamite Submission (Omoplata) Round 1, 2:13
2003-12-31 Draw 12–2–2 Japan Hidehiko Yoshida PRIDE Shockwave 2003 Draw Round 2, 10:00 Royce lost by choke but outcome was disputed by the Gracies, despite Royce being apparently caught by the choke
2000-05-01 Loss 12–2–1 Japan Kazushi Sakuraba PRIDE Grand Prix 2000 Finals TKO (Corner Stoppage) Round 6, 15:00 Rules modified for unlimited rounds and no referee stoppages.
2000-01-30 Win 12–1–1 Japan Nobuhiko Takada PRIDE Grand Prix 2000 Opening Round Decision Round 1, 15:00
1995-04-07 Draw 11–1–1 United States Ken Shamrock UFC 5: The Return of the Beast Draw Round 1, 36:00 For UFC Superfight Championship. Match was a draw due to a lack of judges.
1994-12-16 Win 11–1 United States Dan Severn UFC 4: Revenge of the Warriors Submission (Triangle Choke) Round 1, 15:49 Won UFC 4 Tournament
1994-12-16 Win 10–1 United States Keith Hackney UFC 4: Revenge of the Warriors Submission (Armbar) Round 1, 5:32
1994-12-16 Win 9–1 United States Ron van Clief UFC 4: Revenge of the Warriors Submission (Rear Naked Choke) Round 1, 3:59
1994-09-09 Loss 8–1 Canada Harold Howard UFC 3: The American Dream TKO (Towel Thrown Before Start of Match) Round 1, 0:00 Fight never got started. Injured during previous match.
1994-09-09 Win 8–0 United States Kimo Leopoldo UFC 3: The American Dream Submission (Armbar) Round 1, 4:40
1994-03-11 Win 7–0 United States Patrick Smith UFC 2: No Way Out Submission (Strikes) Round 1, 1:17 Won UFC 2 Tournament
1994-03-11 Win 6–0 Netherlands Remco Pardoel UFC 2: No Way Out Submission (Lapel Choke) Round 1, 1:31
1994-03-11 Win 5–0 United States Jason Delucia UFC 2: No Way Out Submission (Armlock) Round 1, 1:07
1994-03-11 Win 4–0 Japan Minoki Ichihara UFC 2: No Way Out Submission (Lapel Choke) Round 1, 5:08
1993-11-12 Win 3–0 Netherlands Gerard Gordeau UFC 1: The Beginning Submission (Rear Naked Choke) Round 1, 1:44 Won UFC 1 Tournament
1993-11-12 Win 2–0 United States Ken Shamrock UFC 1: The Beginning Submission (Rear Naked Choke) Round 1, 0:57
1993-11-12 Win 1–0 United States Art Jimmerson UFC 1: The Beginning Submission (Mount) Round 1, 2:11

See also


External links

New championship UFC 1 Tournament winner
November 12, 1993
Succeeded by
Royce Gracie
Preceded by
Royce Gracie
UFC 2 Tournament winner
March 11, 1994
Succeeded by
Steve Jennum
Preceded by
Steve Jennum
UFC 4 Tournament winner
December 16, 1994
Succeeded by
Dan Severn


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