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Why Did Skinny Little Royce Gracie Explode Mixed Martial Arts?

It was the damnest thing I ever saw. I first saw this guy, Royce (pronounced like Hoyce - hey, dont ask me, the guy is Brazilian!) Gracie at the first ever Ultimate Fighting Championship. I was kind of underwhelmed, I must say.

First off, let's go back in time a bit. The Gracies go way back in the world of Jujitsu. When young Royce was just a kid, his grandfather Helio taught him everything he needed to know to excel at jujitsu. At age eight, little Royce started competing in tournaments. And he started winning all the time.

So, here I am at the first ever UFC tournament seeing this dude I never heard of choke out men so much huger than he was, they looked like they could take his lunch money. I remember thinking, is this hombre for real? He is 180 pounds, but a rangy 180, you know? He was skinny and did not look too strong. He certainly was not muscular or anything.

You see, I always heard you get two guys, both of them good and the bigger hombre wins, hands down. That is how it is supposed to work, right? Not with Royce. I saw him get beat down one time against this behemoth Dan Severen. He must have outweighed Gracie close to a hundred pounds! Severn picked Gracie up and slammed him back down to the mat a dozen times. He was on top of him the whole match. But right when Royce looked dead for sure, old Danny boy taps out! I and the rest of us onlookers freaked out. Gracie got him in an arm bar and the fat lady was singing. Victory for Gracie and Brazilian Jujitsu. A Hero was born.

Up until then, no one really understood the importance of submissions and ground attacks in martial arts. No one had done the types of things Gracie did. No one knew them. But after Gracie captured three UFC titles, people were paying attention then, believe you me! It changed mixed martial arts completely. Technique was vital from that point on. Everybody was pressuring their coaches to figure the next best arm bar to get their opponents to tap out like Royce was doing to everyone. The smaller man now had an advantage if he was well versed in submissions.

So serious martial arts took notice of a fighting style that had been perfected by the Gracie family for seventy years. Watching him fight with guts and skill made me a big fan of the sport. The sport received publicity and legitimacy the day he hit the scene. When he won the tournament and starting setting records, it was like everyone else came on board and the sport blew up in popularity from there. The world of mixed martial arts would not be what it is today without Royce and his family doing what they did for the sport.

About the Author: Yoshi Kundagawa is a writer covering the MMA world. You can download his free MMA reports at

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