Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on December 12, 1966, Royce Gracie is one the nine sons of the ‘Godfather of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu’, Hélio Gracie, and the younger brother of Rorion Gracie, co-founder of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), also known as Gracie Jiu-Jitsu (GJJ), is martial art based on the principal that, by applying correct technique, leverage and pressure, a smaller, weaker person can overcome a larger, stronger opponent. As such, BJJ focuses largely on ground-based, close-contact moves, such as choke holds, joint locks and sweeps, with the intention of achieving a dominant position and forcing an opponent into submission.
The early, pioneering days of the UFC featured ‘no holds barred’ contests with no weight classes so, keen to promote the virtues of BJJ, Rorion Gracie recruited his younger brother, Royce – who had been a black belt practitioner since the age of 17 – to maintain the family honour because of his relatively slight physique. Relecting on his decision, Rorion Gracie said later, ‘…I picked Royce is because he’s a tiny, skinny guy, and that would prove that jiu-jitsu is a better martial art no matter who you’re fighting.’
Royce Gracie stood 6’0″ tall and weighed in at 180lb, or 12st 12lb, so to call him ‘a tiny, skinny guy’ was stretching the point a little, but it would be fair to say that Rorion Gracie proved to be a shrewd judge. Royce Gradie won the first three of the first four UFC elimination tournaments, retrospectively named ‘UFC 1: The Beginning’, ‘UFC 2: No Way Out’ and ‘UFC 4: Revenge of the Warriors’, in 1993 and 1994, and went on to become one of the most influential fighters in mixed martial arts (MMA) history.