Renzo Gracie returned to MMA competition for the first time in almost three years Saturday night when he fought former UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes at “UFC 112: Invincible”. Gracie fought hard but couldn’t overcome the ring rust; he succumbed to fatigue and Hughes’ fists in the third round to take home a TKO loss.
Gracie is keeping the loss in perspective and he maintains that he still has the ability to put on better performances. After the fight, Gracie spoke to MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani about his feelings on the fight.
“A little sad,” said Gracie in response to being asked how he felt about the loss. “But I knew it was gonna be a tough one. After two years and a half without doing one chin up, I knew it was little time to be ready for Matt. I could manage the first two rounds without a problem but then I got tired for the third one. I just couldn’t keep pushing the rhythm.”
Gracie believes that with a continued dedication to training and conditioning he can return to the Octagon and put on a better show.
“I see that I can fight him again in a much better condition if I keep my training all the way to next year,” said Gracie, who believes that conditioning was the primary reason he lost against Hughes.
“I just ran out of gas,”he said. “I just couldn’t keep the same game as I did in the first and second round.”
The fight was notable in that it never hit the ground. Gracie and Hughes are both grappling specialists but it was Hughes who possessed the wrestling to dictate when and if the fight would hit the mat. Gracie feels like Hughes was wary of engaging in a grappling match against the Jiu jitsu expert.
“Yeah, I think he was a little bit afraid of my ground work,” said Gracie. “Which was very smart from him. He did the right game, he made me go into a game that I’m not strong which is my stand up. That was the right strategy because he made me use more energy than I should.”
Despite showing his age and losing in front of a very pro-Gracie crowd, Renzo is motivated to return and compete in the Octagon again. Gracie said that he “had a great time” and when asked if fans would see him grace the cage again, he replied, “Oh, hell yeah.”
It is impossible not to like Renzo Gracie and to not be entertained by his jovial outspokenness. That said, it is difficult to see Gracie doing much to shake up either of the UFC weight classes that suit his frame. He is much too small to compete against the standard, monster-sized welterweight contenders so a move to lightweight seems to be in the cards for Gracie. But a move to lightweight brings about a couple of questions: “How much will a proper weight cut affect the 43 year old?” and “Can he really keep up with the young guns in the most dynamic division in the world?”. At the very least it will be interesting to see those questions answered and the prospect of Gracie should be welcomed if not for anything other than his stellar pre-fight hype.