Gracie Era Over: Rolles Gracie Proves Gracie Hope All But Lost At UFC 109
Perhaps those are the best words I can summon after the putrid debut showing from Rolles Gracie at UFC 109 last night. Touted as the next great member of the Gracie family, who taught us all the importance of their fighting art—then known as Gracie Jiu-Jitsu but better known today as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu—Rolles entered the octagon with the hopes of a legion of fight fans on his shoulders, only to be exposed and mercifully pounded out 91 seconds into the second round.
Perhaps we asked too much.
After all, much of the Gracie mystique was lost in the early shows of Pride Fighting Championships during the kokatagi boom in Japan. Renzo Gracie couldn't submit a hapless Akira Shoji at the first Pride event and was submitted by Kazushi Sakuraba at Pride 10.
Royler Gracie had a 5-4-1 run in MMA, despite being a seventh degree red belt. Even the best Gracie, Royce, was picked apart by the well rounded Kazushi Sakuraba in the 2000 GP, and embarrassed by Matt Hughes at UFC 60.
Sentiment is a powerful thing, but the facts should be far more telling. For as long as the Gracie family reigned in the one dimensional era of mixed-martial-arts, they have been the last to adapt to MMA's changing landscape.
The birth of intense full-time training facilities have congealed the sport into four equal slices, all just as inextricable to the game as the next, Boxing/Muay Thai, Wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu, and Conditioning/Performance.
The Gracie's at their best had passed their art in family for generations, they were the best trained, and most skilled at their facet of the sport and as such predictably dominated overmatched competition. When looking at it through that prism, their run was little surprise; however, the area most fans gloss over is the fact the Gracie family has never uniformly embraced MMA as we know it today.
When Rorion Gracie helped found The Ultimate Fighting Championships, he did so only to prove to the world the value of his martial art. It was simply an advertising scheme for him, one that would prove quite lucrative.
As Royce taught the country the basics of BJJ, the Gracie name became a hot commodity. After the Superfight at UFC 5, they didn't have anything left to prove and left the UFC in 1995.
Eventually fan pressure, and a good paycheck led them to take fights with upstart promotion Pride Fighting Championships, simply because the pay was good, and the rules suited their style.
However the hunger had left, the need to prove themselves to the public was no longer necessary and as such the competition slowly caught, and overtook them.
Today, the Gracie age of MMA fighting should officially be laid to rest. However, the knowledge each of them possess' will have it's place in the future of the sport. Cesar Gracie has built a fight camp full of Strikeforce championships, Renzo has helped train some of the best fighters currently fighting, and many present and future Gracie's will continue to have long lasting impacts on the world of competitive BJJ for generations to come.
Perhaps I will eat these words someday, but if I do it will be because a Gracie has taken what the sport has become today more seriously then rolling up a few medals in Abu Dhabi and founding a few schools nationwide.
If history is any indication, it seems highly unlikely.
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