The UFC is returning to Brazil, the garden where the vines of mixed martial arts sprang forth.
MMA stems from many other sports, such as judo, boxing, pankration, wrestling and Muay Thai, but the sport as we know it today came from Brazil and the Gracie family. Now, 18 years after Royce Gracie competed in the first UFC, the organization is set to return to the fighting country of Brazil.
The UFC has only held one event in Brazil in its history and that was way back in 1998 before the Fertitta brothers decided to invest in mixed martial arts. A lot has changed since then.
Fighters now train in several of the fighting aspects of the sport and are well versed in all. Royce Gracie has been vocal about wanting to fight again when the UFC returns to Rio.
Although many MMA fans, including myself, are excited about this return, it may be just out of nostalgia. Unfortunately, Royce Gracie has not adapted to the modern nature of mixed martial arts.
He has only competed in mixed martial arts combat seven times in the 15-plus years since 1995. And he has only competed one time after his devastating loss to Matt Hughes in 2006 at UFC 60 and that was four years ago.
This being said, people all around the world will want to see Royce fight again. But, it has to be a fight that makes sense to Royce Gracie. I saw a recent poll on mmajunkie.com that asked whom Royce Gracie should fight if he competes in Rio. There were names such as B.J. Penn and Jon Fitch that were options.
Any fight with Royce Gracie is appealing, but really only one makes sense and that is a rematch with Matt Hughes.
Royce has competed in MMA less than 20 times in the 17 years since the first UFC in 1993. I think it is safe to say that the man picks his matchups. In other words, he only competes in mixed martial arts when there is a reason to fight.
Matt Hughes is very different from Royce Gracie. He is an American wrestler, in direct contrast to the Brazilian jiu-jitsu upbringing. Also, Hughes has competed nine times since his UFC 60 clash with Gracie and 53 times total. Gracie has chosen to only compete in MMA when he deemed it necessary, whereas Hughes made it his career.
However, both men have one thing in common: competitive drive. Gracie will want this fight to avenge a loss and Matt Hughes will want to prove that he can still dominate the old lion.
Hughes is 37 years old and has voiced that he wants to retire soon and with a win. Gracie is nearing 45 years of age and will be salivating at the chance to avenge a loss.
Will a rematch happen in Rio? I really hope it does because it is the only fight that makes sense for both men at this point. It would be an epic battle of champions and legends of the sport. It would draw huge numbers.
I think in the end, Hughes will dominate again and ride off into the sunset as the greatest welterweight of all time. He has already etched himself into history and this is just icing on the cake of a great career.