Power Ranking the Gracie Family Fighters
The Gracie family, listed l-r. Back row: Rilion and Royler; Middle row: Royce, Pedro Valente, Relson, Rorion, Hal Faulkner and Rickson; Front row: Renzo, Ryron, Ralek, Rolker (Photo credit: Hal Faulkner)
If you're a history and/or sports buff, you'll know there are few things more fascinating than a family dynasty. Kennedy. Rockefeller. Tudor. Ming. Manning. Genovese. Baldwin. Anheuser-Busch.
You know exactly where I'm going with this. In MMA, the Gracie surname carries massive mystique. Many decades after patriarchs Carlos and Helio Gracie perfected a Brazilian style of jiu-jitsu that allowed the little guy to defend himself against the big guy, and 18 years after Royce Gracie stepped into an eight-sided dog pen to change for good and all the look and essence of hand-to-hand combat, MMA's first family remains the subject of vigorous debate.
How would the Gracies of old fare in today's MMA, which owes them a mountainous debt but may have passed them by? You hear someone say that Royce would never have had success if he hadn't worn a gi. Then you hear someone say that brother Rickson could have been, under the right circumstances, the greatest UFC fighter of all time. A handful of Gracies still competing today provide a steady trickle of gas on the fire.
Herewith is a ranking of all the Gracies who have competed in a sanctioned MMA bout.
Scott Harris is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report MMA. He also just started something called a Twitter account @ScottHarrisMMA.
Honorable Mention: Kyra Gracie
Photo: The Fight Nerd
If Ronda Rousey is Georges St-Pierre, Kyra Gracie is Rory MacDonald. I'm not going to bother to explain the parallels.
Yes, yes, I realize she hasn't fought in MMA yet. But the best female jiu-jitsu player in history is still just 26, and seems almost kind of completely semi-convinced that she'll probably make her MMA debut sooner rather than later.
19. Rhalan Gracie
Official MMA record: 0-2
This old video shows an 18-year-old Rhalan dropping a close decision to Dustin Hazelett. The fight was a main-card draw at a 2006 event organized by Gracie Fighting Championships.
No word on whether Rhalan ever agreed to the terms of a rematch, which would have taken place under the proud banner of Hazelett Fighting Championships.
18. Cesar Gracie
Cesar stayed astride the bucking bronco that is professional MMA for a good, solid 20 seconds. But before he ever saw career second number 21, Frank Shamrock threw an awfully inconsiderate right hook that knocked Cesar out of the fight and the game.
Ultimately, Cesar discovered the same gift that a great many other Gracies did: coaching. Who knows? If not for that right hook, we may never have had the pleasure of hearing Nick and Nate Diaz thank "SEE-zer gracie joo-jitz-oo" after each victory.
17. Carlson Gracie Jr.
A fan sees the phrase "decorated fighter" thrown around a lot. When it comes to MMA, Carlson Gracie, Jr., is the opposite of decorated. He's a one-room apartment with bare walls and a taupe-colored chest of drawers in the corner.
He fought once in 1995 and again in 1999, but couldn't avoid the sister's kiss in each engagement.
16. Robin Gracie
Photo: MMA Core
In his only MMA fight, Helio's fourth and final son KO'd Alexis Manas. Seeing as how it was Manas' only MMA fight as well, it's hard to guage how impressive this was, or how seriously to take it.
15. Crosley Gracie
Photo: Inside BJJ.com
Crosley's high-water mark came in 2004, when as a contractor with the Pride promotion, he submitted the great Hayato Sakurai.
Never mind that Sakurai typically fought as a welterweight, while Crosley fought at light heavy. Never mind that!
14. Charles Gracie
A career not exactly marked by longevity, but hey, he tapped Assuerio Silva in his debut fight. That's pretty good.
13. Daniel Gracie
12. Ryan Gracie
Ryan is known more for his wild life and untimely death than he is for his MMA exploits.
11. Ralek Gracie
Photo: Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy
Ralek's big claim to fame is a win over the fabled Kazushi Sakuraba. Sure, it happened in 2010, when Sakuraba was 40, and there was a weight mismatch, and there was a controversial ref intervention.
But hey, when your last name is Gracie and you're fighting the Gracie Hunter, a win is a win is a win.
10. Rodrigo Gracie
Rodrigo had some good wins in Pride. He was actually undefeated in MMA until 2004, when he ran into some unlikely middleweight who was somehow able to control him on the ground.
That man's name? B.J. Penn.
9. Igor Gracie
Photo: Gracie Mag
Still just 32, Igor remains an active MMA fighter. Last winter, he signed with One FC, but still hasn't fought for them. It'll be interesting to see what unfolds.
He'll need to do something against some respected opposition before getting more propers in an MMA context.
8. Ralph Gracie
Gracie had a decent career, but may be best known for the one black mark on his record. A knockout loss to Takanori Gomi came in only six seconds, making it one of the fastest finishes in the annals of major-league MMA.
On the other hand, he beat Steve Nelson twice. So that's good.
7. Royler Gracie
Photo: Susumu's Gallery
Even by Gracie standards, Royler is an exemplary jiu-jitsu professional. He is one of only two men to win the ADCC world championship—the gold standard of submission grappling titles—three consecutive times.
But in the MMA cage, Royler could never get over the hump, losing to every upper-level fighter he faced, including the aforementioned Gracie Hunter, who is pictured here kicking him.
6. Gregor Gracie
Photo: Gregor Gracie, Nicole Bahls / Junior Samurai via Gracie Mag
Another GEINO (Gracie Essentially In Name Only...I know, another masterstroke!), Gregor is currently competing in Singapore's One Fighting Championship.
Although he initially displays the typical Gracie circumspection when it comes to striking, Gregor is capable of mustering some ruggedness in the ground-and-pound and standup phases. This might make his game a little more sustainable in the modern MMA context.
After his most recent win—his fourth straight—Gregor will face Adam Kayoom on June 23.
5. Rolles Gracie Jr.
Photo: Five Ounces of Pain
His only loss to date came to UFC stalwart Joey Beltran. But that probably means his victories didn't exactly come over Murderer's Row. Wait, let me check...yes. It means that.
Most recently, Rolles got Bob Sapp to tap to strikes, which is a little like saying you got a leopard to have spots.
By the way, not to get too off topic, but I really don't get this ironic "gotta love Bob Sapp" thing. The guy is a disgrace. Why enable it?
4. Roger Gracie
Photo: Five Ounces of Pain
A firestorm of hype met an ocean of doubt when Roger tasted his first MMA defeat against Muhammed Lawal in September 2011.
He hasn't fought since, though apparently he is planning a drop to middleweight.
3. Renzo Gracie
Photo: Nocaute Brazil
OK. Now we're talking. It's not the greatest win percentage in the world, but who else has beaten Oleg Taktarov, Pat Miletich, Carlos Newton and Frank Shamrock? I don't know for sure, because I don't feel like doing two web search. (What am I, a librarian?) But the likely answer seems like it would be "no one."
(All right, I did check, and yes, the answer is no one.)
I know we're not measuring things that happened outside the cage, but it's possible that Renzo expresses that Gracie teaching gene more emphatically than anyone else on this list. Frankie Edgar, Roy Nelson, Matt Serra and Chris Weidman all learned their BJJ at the feet of Carlos Gracie's grandson.
On a final non-cage note, I have to shout-out Renzo's crazy cornering of Ricardo Almeida in 2003, in which said cornerman front kicks Nate Marquardt after a series of wacky postfight shenanigans.
2. Royce Gracie
Photo: Susumu's Gallery
I'm not going to dwell on this one, other than to offer the reminder that Gracie still holds the record for most submission wins in the UFC with 11. And no, I don't care that he was fighting in a tournament format.
Also, if Bruce Buffer's introduction of Royce at UFC 60 doesn't give you a case of the chicken skins, you may want to see a dermatologist.
1. Rickson Gracie
This very good retrospective, including extensive quotes from current and former fighters, captures it better than I ever could. The guy is one of the best fighters ever, and that's all there is to it.