In August, the world’s premiere MMA organization will return to Brazil after a nearly thirteen-year hiatus from the South American nation. And while rumors abound concerning the anticipated roster – and the inevitable gaggle of countrymen who will populate it – one name has stuck out above all others in terms of wild and reckless speculation. That’s right, I’m talking about Royce Gracie, whose 1993 Octagon debut made such a lasting impression, he is to this very day revered as both a legend and a catalyst for the modern MMA movement. It was, after all, his comparatively small size, prowess in jiu-jitsu and knack for defeating nearly everyone he faced that made the burgeoning sport compelling and palatable to the masses. Gracie fighting at UFC 134 in Rio de Janeiro only makes sense, right? Wrong! Though he is most definitely a legend, Gracie doesn’t belong anywhere near the inside of the Octagon on August 27, and here are five very important reasons why:
- Relevancy – It’s been a long time since Gracie last fought. So long, actually, that his place among today’s crop of middleweights (the weight class in which he’d belong) would best be described by the phrase “Wait, why am I fighting this guy?” Other than a paycheck, there is no reason for anyone to face him. Defeating Gracie, whose last fight was a controversial decision victory against Kazushi Sakuraba back in 2007 (which was made even more controversial by Gracie’s failed post-fight drug test) means that no one has anything to gain from fighting the man. The Brazilian, though beloved, is irrelevant.
– Competitiveness – At UFC 60 in 2006, Matt Hughes so thoroughly dominated the jiu-jitsu fighter, many seriously questioned the wisdom of the match-up. Gracie literally had nothing for the Illinois farm boy. Does anyone anywhere believe the Brazilian has somehow become more dangerous since then? Unless Gracie has figured out how to defy Father Time, he most certainly has not. Against a competent mixed martial artist of today, he is simply no longer competitive.
- Preservation of Legacy – Years ago, the name Ken Shamrock was synonymous with “Yikes, that dude is scary.” Nowadays, though, after Shamrock has continued competing long after his expiration date and accumulated sad loss after sad loss, his name implies things far less flattering. So, too, would Gracie’s fate be if he were to step back into the cage. More than most, Gracie’s legacy in the sport has proven to be everlasting. It should be preserved – not tarnished with another loss.
- Value – What value would Gracie add to a UFC event in Brazil? What does the revered MMA pioneer bring into the Octagon (and to a pay-per-view broadcast) that Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Anderson Silva and young bucks like Luiz Cane and Edson Barboza don’t? The answer is nothing. Other than nostalgia, Gracie brings nothing with him, making the value his presence adds to UFC 134 something between “nil” and “zero”.
- The UFC Brand – When the IFL matched up faded legends against each other (Maurice Smith vs. Marco Ruas, Renzo Gracie vs. Carlos Newton, etc.) it did more harm than good to the struggling promotion. Why tempt fate by bringing Gracie back into the organization that was his first home? By all means, have Gracie sit cageside – on a throne, wearing a crown and wielding a diamond-encrusted scepter. But don’t have him fight. It will only make him, and the UFC, look bad.