|Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports|
My first live UFC was UFC 4, which happened in December 1994, several months after I started studying kung fu. Many of the guys in the school had seen the three previous UFC contests. UFC 3 took place in September 1994, and the next day the guys who watched it tried out their takedowns and ground-and-pound techniques on those of us who had no idea what had happened!
As a 44-year-old martial artist, I was probably able to relate to Gracie and Shamrock better than most of the regular UFC and Bellator audience. After watching the earlier Bellator fights Friday night, I couldn't imagine the stamina needed to fight 3 five minute mixed martial arts rounds at age 49 (Gracie) or 52 (Shamrock). At the Air Force Academy I took mandatory boxing training my freshman year, and was drafted for the squadron boxing team my sophomore year. Collegiate boxing involves three rounds of two minutes each. I remember being exhausted at age 18 and 19, so I was amazed to see two fighters, 30 years older, potentially fighting much longer rounds.
Of course, the fight ended with 2:38 left in the first round. Vice Fightland has a good synopsis, but suffice it to say the referee missed a Gracie knee to Shamrock's groin, and then ended the fight while Gracie pounded Shamrock, now pinned on the ground.
Tweeted to that effect, and was thrilled to see Ken Shamrock reTweet what I posted shortly afterward!
I was also interested in seeing how Gracie used kicks to control the distance between himself and Shamrock. Kicking isn't what comes to mind when most people think about Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, but it reminded me that Gracie and his clan are some of the most complete fighters you will see in martial combat events.
I was impressed by the warrior attitudes of both fighters. It takes amazing willpower to get in that ring, at whatever age and experience.
On a related note, if you want to see a fight where Royce really pushed himself to the limit, I recommend Royce Gracie vs Kimo Leopoldo from UFC 3. It puts the current rules involving weight classes, prohibited strikes, and the like in perspective.