It has been heavily rumored in recent weeks that UFC 134 in Rio de Janeiro may seek to include the legendary Royce Gracie, the man who introduced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to the world by winning the very first UFC event. Gracie himself has made it clear that he wishes to compete, but is there anybody in the UFC Gracie would be able to beat?
I’ve seen a number of suggestions for a prospective Gracie opponent, including Matt Hughes, Matt Serra, Ken Shamrock, Frank Shamrock, Dan Severn, and James Toney. Given the regulatory standards set at UFC events, let’s suppose the UFC would want the following for a Royce Gracie fight:
- An opponent of similar weight – presumably a current welterweight fighter
- An opponent that would make for a reasonably competitive fight
Now, if we allow for the UFC signing a fighter not currently in the Zuffa umbrella, it would be nearly impossible to narrow the list of potential candidates to fight Gracie. So, for the sake of making things easy, let’s look at only fighters who have thus far been given a SILVA score. Here are the bottom 10:
Fighter – SILVA
- Matt Brown 7.09
- Peter Sobotta 17.50
- James Wilks 19.81
- Mark Scanlon 21.11
- Carlos Rocha 22.08
- Kenny Robertson 22.08
- Greg Soto 24.30
- Duane Ludwig 25.05
- T.J. Waldburger 25.48
- Kris McCray 25.80
Looking at this list doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in a potential Gracie victory. Does anybody think Royce Gracie would beat Carlos Rocha, a man who may well have better Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu than Gracie himself at this point? The only men here I would subjectively give Gracie any chance at all against are Matt Brown and Peter Sobotta.
“But”, you may ask, “what is Royce Gracie’s SILVA score?” Keep in mind that Royce Gracie is a perfect example of a fighter SILVA was not meant to measure. The most important component of SILVA is Fight Level. Fight Level is based on a fighter’s last ten fights. Gracie’s opponent ten fights ago was none other than Keith Hackney, and he hasn’t competed in professional MMA since his 2007 decision victory against Kazushi Sakuraba, a win that was tainted when Gracie later tested positive for steroid abuse.
If you want to ignore all of these reasons that a SILVA score for Royce Gracie shouldn’t be considered valid, then here you go. Royce Gracie’s current SILVA score is 26.86, completely based on that win over Sakuraba. If that win is thrown out (and I would throw it out), Gracie’s SILVA score falls to 12.78, based on the ancient (but epic) win over Dan Severn at UFC 4. Care to have him rematch Matt Hughes (SILVA score of 43.66)? The rematch would be a more brutal beating than the first time.
More statistical analysis would be silly. Royce Gracie would be an underdog to every welterweight in the UFC. Yes, he is a legend of MMA, and maybe even the legend of MMA, but his time to shine was in 1993 and 1994, not 2011. Perhaps the UFC will find a suitable opponent for Gracie, but the reality is that, to answer the question posed in the title of this post, Royce Gracie cannot compete in today’s UFC.