I’ve been to several live UFC events and I’ve never stood up, panned the crowd and thought to myself, “Wow, look at all these intelligent people.” I’m usually too busy planning my escape route in case something like this happens.
But they certainly exist, and we can thank MMA pioneer Royce Gracie for bringing them to us. That’s according to UFC color commentator Joe Rogan, who spent some time chatting with Snoop Dogg on a recent edition of his Spotify podcast.
“He was the guy that introduced everybody to the idea that you could be a smaller person with superior technique and win a huge, no-holds-barred competition with giant people,” Rogan said. “What he did by showing people that you could win with technique. Not with being big, not with being strong but with knowing something the other people don’t know changed what a martial art was. All of a sudden martial art became interesting to really intelligent people. He’s probably the most important martial arts figure ever.”
Gracie (15-2-3) won his first 11 fights in just four events across a span of 13 months, thanks to the tournament style of early UFC events. After setting sail for Japan in early 2000, Gracie would suffer his first loss against Kazushi Sakuraba in PRIDE.
The Brazilian made his return to UFC in May 2006 but was summarily destroyed by welterweight champion Matt Hughes. The sport had caught up to (and eventually surpassed) the jiu-jitsu icon, but his legacy remains undiminished.