Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Royce Gracie Reminisces as UFC Celebrates 20 Years of Cage-Fighting at UFC 167

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Royce Gracie Reminisces as UFC Celebrates 20 Years of Cage-Fighting at UFC 167

Article excerpt

UFC 167 celebrates 20 years of cage-fighting

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LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Royce Gracie made a career proving that size doesn't matter.

Twenty years ago, Gracie won UFC 1 by defeating opponents of all shape, size and discipline. But making it look easy doesn't mean it was.

"Like when I fought Akebono -- six foot eight, 490 pounds," said Gracie, recalling his 2004 K-1 showdown with a sumo wrestler the size of a mini-van.

"Before the fight, everyone's like 'Man, you're crazy. You're out of your mind. How are you going to fight a guy that big, there's no way you can take him down. You cannot punch him out. You're out of your mind.'

"After the fight, everybody was like 'Oh come on, he's big and fat.' Really? Walk up to a six-foot-eight 490-pound (man) and slap him on the face. You see how slow he is."

Gracie took the big man down twice, pulling guard each time and eventually forced him to tap to a painful shoulder lock submission.

Two decades after UFC 1, the 46-year-old Gracie was rolling on a mat Wednesday with current UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre ahead of UFC 167, which is being billed as the UFC's 20th year anniversary card.

St-Pierre normally treats the obligatory public workouts in fight week like a trip to the dentist. In his mind, the real work has already been done in the gym and his focus is on the looming fight. He has no time for sham shadow-boxing.

But St-Pierre was beaming after rolling with Gracie.

"He's my idol," St-Pierre said later.

The reason for that dates back well before GSP took up fighting for a living.

"I got bullied when I was young at school, by bigger and older people," said the 32-year-old from Montreal. "The first UFC I saw Royce, he was the smallest (fighter). The least intimidating of all, but the smartest. The way he won the tournament really inspired me. That's why I'm here right now, fighting for the title."

The Gracie family, he said, "influenced the whole world. Not only me. Without them, the sport wouldn't exist."

Gracie, a slim six-foot 175-pounder, was chosen to carry the Gracie family colours in UFC 1. His secret weapon was Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

There were no rules, other than a gentleman's agreement not to bite or eye-gouge. …

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