Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock will fight for a third time on Feb. 19. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
As cliché as it may sound, for Royce Gracie, age still ain’t nothing but a number.
Bellator’s recent announcement that the 48-year-old Gracie would face 51-year-old Ken Shamrock for a third time at the promotion’s next tent-pole event on Feb. 19 was met with a collective sigh from much of the mixed martial arts community.
After all, Gracie hasn’t competed in more than eight years, and Shamrock looked to be a bit on the creaky side when he allowed Kimbo Slice to escape a rear-naked choke and knock him out in the first round of their bout this past June.
It’s been 20 years since Gracie and Shamrock dueled to a 36-minute draw at UFC 5 and 22 years since the Brazilian tapped out “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” in 54 seconds at the Las Vegas-based promotion’s inaugural event in 1993.
Still, Gracie scoffs at the notion that Father Time could diminish the luster of a trilogy steeped in history.
“Why shouldn’t it happen? Give me one reason. We have a beef for 22 years; we don’t like each other. So why not finish this one?” Gracie told Sherdog.com. “If they’re talking about age, hey, my strength coach is 52 years old, [in] top shape, [and] just got invited to go and run an ultra-marathon. Most marathon runners are 40 and above.”
Gracie compares his MMA readiness to that of a military marksman who hasn’t seen active combat in some time.
“My drawing is good; my sight is good; I’m on target. I just haven’t been going to battle, but I’m on target. I’m shooting,” he said. “Every day I go to the range and I practice. [Just] because I haven’t been in battle doesn’t mean I’m out of shape.”
Gracie and Shamrock will square off in the headliner of Bellator 149 at the Toyota Center in Houston. The co-main event will pit Kimbo Slice against Dhafir Harris in a battle of former street fighting icons. The main card will air on Spike TV; tickets for the event go on sale Saturday.
While Shamrock expressed an interest in fighting Gracie as far back as last November, the Brazilian was initially reluctant to agree to a third meeting. It wasn’t until after Shamrock lost to Slice and continued to lobby for the bout that Gracie finally acquiesced.
“First I was playing hard to get. I was like, ‘Eh, I’m not interested. I’ll leave it alone,’” he said. “But the whole time in my mind I was like OK, we’re going to have to do this again. I’m going to have to shut him up. That guy talks too much trash.
“[He] hasn’t slept for the last 22 years thinking, how can [he] beat a guy like me, 170-180 pounds, [who] choked him out in less than a minute,” Gracie continued. “The second fight he came in for the draw. He knows he didn’t do a thing. That’s how it came about.”
Gracie says he hasn’t forged much of a relationship with his rival over the course of the past two decades since he and Shamrock first crossed paths. When they appeared at the Toyota Center in Houston last Friday night to announce their bout, Gracie snubbed Shamrock when he attempted to embrace his once and future foe.
“I just don’t like the guy, never liked him. Sorry. He’s one of those guys that we don’t get along. He hasn’t done anything to me; I just don’t like him,” Gracie said. “I try not to hate the guy, but he’s not my friend.
“When they announced the fight he came in and wanted to give me a hug….sorry man, there’s no friendship on this.”
Gracie said he expects to weigh “the same as the last 23 years” come fight night, which is to say somewhere in the neighborhood of 180 pounds. Shamrock, who weighed approximately 204 pounds for the Slice fight, will be significantly larger. Of course, size was never an obstacle in their previous encounters.
“It doesn’t make a difference,” Gracie said. “The bigger, the better.”
Perhaps the most difficult challenge for Gracie leading up to the bout will be cutting back on his hectic schedule enough to put in a full camp. According to the man himself, the actual getting-into-fight-shape part of it shouldn’t be an issue.
“The main part of the camp is slowing down because I travel about seven months of the year all over the world teaching,” Gracie explained. “So the main part is stop traveling, stop teaching and just focus on myself. I’m in shape; I never drink, never smoke, don’t party. So I live a very healthy life.
“I’m in shape; I could do the fight today. It’s not like I’ve been sitting down at home doing nothing for the last nine years.”
As to whether Gracie plans to compete again after Feb. 19 remains to be seen. Much depends on how things go against Shamrock at Bellator 149. The UFC Hall of Famer isn’t ruling out any options just yet.
“Since the beginning, I never sign more than one-fight deals. It’s always a one-fight deal,” he said. “You never know. This might be my last one. I’ll leave it open. If the body feels good, if the performance goes good, if everything goes my way, who knows?”