Ever since it was announced that the UFC would be returning to Brazil to hold an event for the first time since 1998, it was speculated that MMA pioneer and and Brazilian jiu-jitsu legend Royce Gracie would be returning to action for the card.
In addition to appearing at the preliminary press conference announcing the card alongside other Brazilian UFC stars, Gracie canceled his Spring-scheduled European seminars in order to focus specifically on training for his return to action, which would come in late Summer.
Gracie recently confirmed to UOL Esportes (props to Fighter’s Only for the transcription) that a fight on the card was likely, although no opponent had been determined.
“It would be the perfect place to have my last fight,” said Gracie. “I have never fought in Rio de Janeiro and I couldn’t be more excited [at the prospect]. We are negotiating but we should have it finalized in two weeks. We only had initial contact so far and I don’t even have an opponent yet, but we should have that finalized soon.”
A UFC Hall of Famer, Gracie is a UFC veteran dating back to the promotion’s very first event, which was designed in part by his own family and was intended to prove which single style of martial arts was the most dominant. He participated in the first five UFC events, the first four being tournaments. Gracie won UFC 1, 2 and 4, but was forced to withdraw from UFC 3 after a grueling bout against Kimo Leopoldo. At UFC 5, Gracie fought Ken Shamrock to a draw in a high-profile super fight.
Gracie has competed in both PRIDE and K-1 Dynamite!!, and returned to the UFC in 2006, where he was defeated by Matt Hughes via first round TKO. His last appearance in MMA competition came at Dynamite!! USA in 2007 where he defeated Kazushi Sakuraba via decision, though tested positive for anabolic steroids following that fight. Despite the lengthy absence from the sport, Gracie noted that he has kept in shape and is ready to fight again.
“My weight is the same as it was twenty years ago. I am still training, ‘keeping the blade sharp’. I follow a very strict diet – I never drink, never party, Carnival, none of that… I’m ready to fight.”
UFC: Rio will take place on August 27 at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and will mark the UFC’s second ever trip to the country; the promotion held UFC: Ultimate Brazil, or UFC 17.5, in Sao Paulo back in 1998.