Renzo Gracie is a legend. As one of the few members of the "First Family of MMA" to truly throw himself into the sport, he was an early star in Japan's Pride and RINGS promotions. He fought numerous stars of the present and future such as Oleg Taktarov, Maurice Smith, Kazushi Sakuraba, Dan Henderson and BJ Penn.
Last month, Renzo told Ariel Helwani of MMA Fighting that he was actively training and looking to make a comeback, saying:
Believe it, there's nothing that I want to do more than to be back in the cage, to be back fighting. I just love doing that. Life has been pushing me everywhere but in that direction, but now I'm getting so tired and frustrated with everything else that I'm going to just bury myself into a mat and train the whole day, and do what I love, which is training and fighting. For sure, I'll be fighting again.
While this may be exciting for some, it truly makes no sense.
At age 46, Gracie owns an incredibly successful string of gyms in the Northeast, has a family, and functions as a coach and trainer to many fighters in both MMA and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. On top of that, he has not fought since 2010, losing a bout to former UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes by TKO.
Reactions were both swift and negative. Gracie, though, would deliver a soundbite for the ages when he explained why he wanted to return, again per Helwani:
For having nothing to prove nor nothing to gain. To fight for what it is without reason, without greed, just for the passion to step once again in the arena and be an inspiration for a future generation of great fighters. To prove that age is only a handicap for the soft ones. And above all, because I love it.
Dana White, like most people, was initially perplexed and reluctant about the veteran returning. Gracie's passionate plea, however, may have just swayed the UFC president. Speaking with Fox Sports Live, White invited Gracie to give him a call so they could discuss things, saying, "He's got my phone number. If Renzo wants to fight, Renzo can call me."
Gracie is undoubtedly well past his prime. He found himself unable to keep up with the previous generation of mixed martial artists like Henderson and Hughes years ago. Mixed martial artists have only gotten faster and stronger since then, making Gracie an underdog in every hypothetical fight with a UFC opponent outside the newest of newcomers.
Still, there are certainly throngs of fighters who would love to step into the cage with a legend like Renzo Gracie.
Upstarts like Gunnar Nelson and Kelvin Gastelum, as well as middling veterans like Josh Koscheck and Dan Hardy (should he get medically cleared to return), would all be well-served fighting him.
All that aside, it is important to remember that Gracie is free to sign with any promotion of his choosing. While he could fight in the UFC again, World Series of Fighting and Bellator would both almost certainly be willing to give him a top spot on one of their cards.
While Gracie certainly won't make a title run, this is going to be very, very fun should it come to fruition. Make sure to keep an eye on how this new saga pans out.
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