Royler Gracie, 45, will fight one last time on Sept. 14 in Brazil. | Photo: Jeff Sherwood
Revered as one of the most courageous fighters from MMA’s first family, Royler Gracie has never encountered an opponent he feared. Now, nearly five years since his last appearance -- a unanimous decision loss to Hideo Tokoro at K-1 Premium 2006 Dymanite!! -- the 45-year-old Brazilian has decided to return to the cage one final time against one of Japan’s premier fighters.
Gracie will face former Shooto titleholder Masakatsu Ueda under the Amazon Forest Combat banner on Sept. 14 in his native Brazil. The bout, according to Ueda’s blog, will be contested at 154 pounds, notable in that he was Shooto champion at 132 pounds. A three-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist, Gracie confirmed to Sherdog.com that it would be his last fight, though it would not come against an opponent he desired most.
“Promoters from Amazon Forest told me they called Eddie Bravo,” said Gracie, who lost to Bravo at the 2003 ADCC world championships. “As far as I know, he didn’t even want to know how much the purse was; he said he doesn’t fight MMA, only ADCC. He was the second option. The first name was Tokoro, who I accepted immediately because he was my last opponent and beat me.”
Tokoro, however, won the Dream Japan bantamweight grand prix in July, forcing his withdrawal in advance of his participation in the Dream bantamweight world grand prix, which begins in September. That opened the door for Ueda.
“It will be very emotional for me, as it will be my last fight,” Gracie added. “I really like the people from Manaus. They treat me very well, and there are also many Gracie Humaita affiliates there. I’m preparing my jiu-jitsu as always and working on MMA with Fabricio ‘Morango’ [Camoes], who will be in my corner. I won’t look for a knockout. I’m not a striker, and I’m always looking to honor my art.”
The once-beaten Ueda will carry a three-fight winning streak into the match. The 33-year-old last appeared at Shooto “Shootor’s Legacy 3” in July, when he stopped Rumina Sato on a first-round body kick at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo.
“Ueda is a technical and tough guy. He’s used to facing Brazilians, but he better not leave his face out there, or I will smash him,” Gracie said with a laugh, poking fun at his own limited standup skills.
Nearly 46, Gracie is conscious of the fact that time has taken a toll on his abilities. In order to enjoy a victorious farewell fight against Ueda, he is preparing a clinch strategy that includes taking down the Japanese standout and using the moves that made him a four-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion.
“The world knows my game is based on contact,” he said. “To hit me, my opponent has to approach me and get closer to me. At that exact time, I want to use the clinch, and when he leaves an opening, I’ll take him down.”
Colin Foster contributed to this report.