As we approach UFC 100, I'm thinking not only of the great matches that we're about to witness, but also the impending selection of two more Hall of Fame inductees.
As I was thinking about it, I began wondering what the criteria for being in the Hall of Fame was. As it turns out, I think it's pretty simple.
Someone who is in the Hall of Fame has to have advanced the UFC (and by extension, MMA) in some important way and helped it evolve beyond being seen as just two meatheads pounding each other in the face in the middle of a cage.
In the spirit of inducting two new members, I want to look at the first man that was ever put in: Royce Gracie
What really needs to be said? Without the Gracie family, there wouldn't be a UFC. They got this whole MMA thing rolling in the United States and I am forever thankful to them for that.
Royce advanced the UFC because he showed, right from the beginning, that you didn't need to be 6'5'' and 250 pounds to be a fighter. You could be 175 pounds soaking wet and still beat guys that outweighed you by 60-70 pounds by using pure skill.
Without Royce showing that at the very start of the organization, I severely doubt it would have been able to claim any legitimacy in the martial arts world and would have folded long before Zuffa came along. We have Royce to thank for showing the world that, more often than not, skill would beat brute force in the cage.
Now, obviously, no one can really top Royce as far as early UFC accomplishments go. Not necessarily because of his win-loss record, but because without him, the UFC probably wouldn't exist today. His influence in MMA in incalculable. No one will be able to go back in time and do the things that he did.
As far as I'm concerned, he's in his own little Hall of Fame even compared to the other greats that surround him in that five-man club.
Of course, it will soon be a seven-man club. And I pray to the gods of MMA that people like Mask and Evan Tanner are not put in. Yes, their deaths are tragic. Yes, they died too early and had more productive years ahead of them. But they are not legends. To put them in the same company as Royce, Randy, Mark, Dan and Ken is blasphemy.
So I hope that the correct criteria is used when determining who the next two men will be. As a fan, I'm genuinely excited to see who they are and I sincerely hope that the UFC will not piss in my Cheerios and let me down by putting men in that do not deserve the spot.
Choose wisely, Zuffa...