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Legendary Royce Gracie heaps praise on UFC 193's Ronda Rousey: 'She is awesome'

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The legendary UFC Hall of Famer -- who will return to action for the first time in more than seven years when he takes on Ken Shamrock at Bellator 149 in Feb. 2016 -- shared his thoughts on the UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey and women fighting in MMA.

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Bellator MMA announced last Friday (Nov. 6, 2015) at Bellator 145 that Royce Gracie would come out of retirement to face Ken Shamrock at Bellator 149 on Feb. 19, 2016, at Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.

Gracie, 48, last fought in 2007, defeating Kazushi Sakuraba via unanimous decision on the Dynamite!! USA card. HIs last fight in UFC was at UFC 60, where he lost to Matt Hughes via technical knockout. The UFC 1 tournament winner finished his career with a 14-2-3 record, but a third fight with an old rival has now lured him out of retirement.

"When you are a fighter, you are a fighter," Gracie told MMAMania. "It's hard to stop. In anything that you do with passion. It doesn't have to be fighting. Anything you do that you have a passion for, it's hard to stop. It's hard for us to sit still and be retired and do nothing if there is passion involved."

Yes, it's been more than eight years since the mixed martial arts (MMA) legend competed, but that doesn't mean he hasn't been training and staying in shape. And, most important to Gracie, he has gained wisdom.

"Because I haven't fought for a while doesn't mean that I haven't practiced," he said. "I'm on target, my body feels good. I just have to go to war now. I don't drink. I don't smoke. I eat a very healthy rigid diet. Don't party. I'm clean as can be. The body feels good. I will tell you one thing: The Royce today would've beat up the Royce 20 years ago. Back then I had talent. Now I have talent and experience."

Gracie said the trilogy fight with Shamrock has been in the works since "The World's Most Dangerous Man" returned to face Kimbo Slice at Bellator 138, and that he kept the news of his MMA return a "secret" from his family as well.

"Nobody knew it," said Gracie, who has won 12 of his fights by submission. "I had to decide on my own. I didn't talk to anybody. They told me not to say anything so I didn't say anything to anybody. But, when I said, 'let's do it,' everybody jumped in. Everybody wants to go."

According to the three-time UFC tournament winner, his brother Royler will be his main coach for his upcoming fight camp, handling "strategy, training and everything else." As for if we will see the famous Gracie train entrance on fight night, Gracie again mentioned that would be up to Royler. The fight against Shamrock will be at an open weight, and Gracie said "we are still finding out" when asked if the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) would lett him wear his gi in the cage.

Gracie, of course, watched the Bellator 138 main event between Shamrock and Slice and said, "Ken had a very good strategy, but the fight didn't go his way. He had a good gameplan." Even though Shamrock got knocked out, Gracie is not taking him lightly and was very complimentary of his adversary.

"Ken is a dangerous opponent because you never know, he can shoot in, he can stand up, he can grapple," Gracie said. "So, you never know what type of strategy he is going to use. I have to take him out of his game."

Gracie defeated Shamrock in the tournament final at the first UFC event over 22 years ago, and fought him to a draw in their rematch at UFC 5 in 1995, the longest match in UFC history at 36 minutes. Fighting him a third time will allow many of the new generation of MMA fans to see him in action for the very first time.

"Oh yeah, it's going to bring it back like the old days," Gracie said. "Spike TV is going to show this fight live. It's going to be awesome."

As for the current state of MMA, the legendary Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt said there is one thing that is lacking: Discipline.

"A lot of guys now are missing discipline," he said. "Discipline to get up and do what they got to do. A lot of people rely on talent. It doesn't matter If you don't  have the discipline to get up and do what you have to do."

He likes to watch the "champions," he said. "I like to watch them because they have discipline and they train hard and because they know how to use strategy."

One of the most disciplined champions in all of MMA, UFC women's Bantamweight champion, Ronda Rousey, will fight tonight (Sat., Nov. 14, 2015) against Holly Holm at UFC 193 in Melbourne, Australia, and Gracie shared his opinion on the sport's biggest star.

"She is awesome," he said.

Rousey is bigger than ever, headlining pay-per-view events, starring in major motion pictures, appearing on magazine covers and being booked as a guest on morning- and late-night talk shows. She has truly transcended the sport of MMA. Looking back on the early days of his career, he never thought he'd see the day that a woman would be fighting in MMA, let alone carry the sport on her back the way Rousey has.

"I would never think I would see females fighting. I personally like my females very feminine. But hey, if my daughter came up to me tomorrow and said, 'I want to fight, dad.' I would say, 'let's do it.'"