mma / Columns

UFC: Ultimate Royce Gracie DVD Review

May 10, 2011 | Posted by Dan Plunkett

DVD & Blu-ray Release Date: May 10, 2011
Running Time: 337 minutes
Number of Discs: 2

Buy It Here

Royce Gracie will forever be known as the most prominent pioneer of mixed martial arts. His victories in the early days of the Ultimate Fighting Championship sparked a revolution. In the early UFC events, Gracie represented Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, more commonly known as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, an art which his family had heavily developed for decades. Once Gracie became well-known as a dominant fighter because of his prowess on the ground, it became unofficially mandated that in order to be successful at a high level in what was then referred to as NHB (No Holds Barred) competition, you needed to have at least some knowledge of ground fighting, namely Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. That trend continues to this day, as virtually every prominent fighter trains in some form of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, even if it is strictly for defensive means. Now, nearly eighteen years after he strolled through the competition to win the original UFC tournament, the Ultimate Fighter Championship has released a DVD set dedicated to the career of the legendary Brazilian, Royce Gracie. I was lucky enough to get my hands on the item for the purpose of this review, so let’s see if the DVD was adequate for arguably the most important fighter in MMA history.

The Main Feature

The main feature of Ultimate Royce Gracie is the same documentary that was featured on Spike TV recently. With comments from prominent UFC fighters and personalities such as Georges St-Pierre, Chuck Liddell, Matt Hughes, Joe Rogan, Dana White, and many more, the documentary is far and away the best ever featured on a UFC release. It provides a comprehensive look at the beginnings of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, Royce’s early life, the early UFC’s, Royce’s return to competition, and the overall evolution of the sport of mixed martial arts.

After a brief introduction with sound bites from current fighters talking about how important Royce Gracie is, the documentary kicks off with a look back at the beginnings of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. It talks about Mitsuyo Maeda teaching Carlos Gracie Judo as a way of showing gratitude to his father Gastao Gracie. Later, Carlos taught his brothers, including a young and frail Helio Gracie, the techniques that Maeda had taught him. Being a very small statured person, Helio could not pull off some of the moves because he simply did not have the strength, as a result, he tinkered with the moves so that he could do them with the strength that he had. That creativity coupled with further training with his brothers, lead to the development of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.

The documentary goes over the early Gracie Challenges, though there is no mention of the famous Gracie-Kimura bout. Royce tells a story about his uncle placing advertisements in the newspaper challenging all comers. Then, Helio’s children are chronicled, with the focus of course being Royce.

At the age of 17 Royce moved to California to teach Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with his brother. Though the only English word he knew at the time was “stop,” it didn’t matter as fighting is a universal language. A new era of the Gracie Challenges got under way, with the Gracie’s battling black belts from all sorts of disciplines in their garage. Clips from some of these fights are played, presumably from the old Gracie’s in Action VHS tapes.

Original UFC promoter Art Davie talks about the intrigue of finding out which fighting style was the best. He and Rorian Gracie then founded an event called War of the Worlds, later renamed the Ultimate Fighting Championship. They teamed with Semaphore Entertainment Group to bring the event to pay-per-view. The competition would feature eight fighters from different disciplines competing to find out which is best. Royce was picked as the representative of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu because he was the least menacing looking of the group. This came as a surprise to Art Davie, as he surely thought that family champion Rickson Gracie would represent the art.

Royce’s success in the first UFC events is covered. From his first opponent in Art Jimmerson to his UFC 5 fight against Ken Shamrock, each of his Royce’s early UFC bouts are looked at. Nearly all of Royce’s opponents from that time period are interviewed, with the notable exception of Ken Shamrock. It is very interesting to see Royce and the other fighters talk about the match-ups. Art Davie talks about the initial success of the UFC. Current UFC fighters and personalities talk about the impact that UFC 1 had on them.

The documentary then covers the explosion of wrestlers onto the UFC scene with fighters like Dan Severn, Mark Coleman, and Randy Couture. Additionally, the evolution of fighters’ skills evolved. In many cases, fighters were no longer one-dimensional. Then Royce’s five year absence from fighting is mentioned. Over that time he started a family and traveled the world teaching his family’s art.

In 2000, he returned to competition to participate in the Pride 2000 Grand Prix. Unfortunately, the documentary doesn’t go too far in-depth about the 90-minute Royce Gracie vs. Kazushi Sakuraba fight, but at least it is talked about briefly.

Three years later, Royce Gracie was the first inductee into the UFC Hall of Fame. Two years after that, The Ultimate Fighter debuted and the UFC exploded in popularity. Matt Hughes says that the UFC pays him and puts food on his table, and it is all because of Royce Gracie. In 2006, Royce Gracie signed to fight Matt Hughes in his return to the UFC. The fight ended up being largely one-sided in Hughes’ favor, but it did set a new UFC record for most pay-per-view buys.

Today, Royce Gracie travels all over the world teaching Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He talks about his four children. His son Khor is named after Thor, which happens to be Wanderlei Silva’s son’s name.

Joe Rogan calls Royce “the man who revolutionized martial arts,” and that is where the documentary ends.

The Extras

Disc 1:
UFC 1: Royce Gracie vs. Art Jimmerson
UFC 1: Royce Gracie vs. Ken Shamrock
UFC 1: Royce Gracie vs. Gerard Gordeau
UFC 2: Royce Gracie vs. Minoki Ichihara
UFC 2: Royce Gracie vs. Jason DeLucia
UFC 2: Royce Gracie vs. Remco Pardoel
UFC 2: Royce Gracie vs. Patrick Smith
UFC 3: Royce Gracie vs. Kimo Leopoldo
UFC 4: Royce Gracie vs. Ron van Clief
UFC 4: Royce Gracie vs. Keith Hackney
UFC 4: Royce Gracie vs. Dan Severn
UFC 5: Royce Gracie vs. Ken Shamrock

Disc 2:
Pride Grand Prix 2000: Royce Gracie vs. Nobuhiko Takada
Pride Grand Prix 2000: Royce Gracie vs. Kazushi Sakuraba
Pride Shockwave 2003: Royce Gracie vs. Hidehiko Yoshida
UFC 60: Royce Gracie vs. Matt Hughes
Royce Gracie’s UFC Hall of Fame Induction from UFC 45

The UFC really hit a home run with the extras on this DVD set. Every single Royce Gracie MMA fight in the Zuffa library is featured as an extra (unless you count Royce throwing in the towel before fighting Harold Howard as a fight). It’s great to watch the documentary and hear these fights talked about as well as see clips of them, and then you have the ability to go and watch each of those fights. Only three fights from Royce’s entire career are missing here, all of which took place under the K-1 banner, but all of the significant fights are on this DVD set.

As for the quality of the fights, they do vary. Royce’s fight with Kimo Leopoldo at UFC 3 is arguably the best of the early UFC’s. His UFC 5 bout against Ken Shamrock will never be mistaken for an exciting fight, but at the time it was the biggest fight in the short history of the company. His fight against Dan Severn in the finals of UFC 4 is significant because it was the first time a high level wrestler fought a high level jiu-jitsu fighter in MMA. On the second disk, more than ninety minutes is dedicated to the epic Gracie-Sakuraba fight. While the fight itself is slow moving, it may very well be the most important fight in MMA history. It led to MMA’s explosion in popularity in Japan with Sakuraba being the big star. Royce was attempting to avenge the loss of his brother Royler, who was the first Gracie to taste true defeat in modern MMA. To put it lightly, the bout was among the most anticipated in the sport’s history, and is required viewing for any fan.

While Royce didn’t do very well against Matt Hughes, it is nice that basically his entire career is included. That way, you can see the changes he has made as a fighter of the course of his career. For instance, by the time he fought Hughes at UFC 60, Royce didn’t carry his hands at his waist anymore. Perhaps more interesting is the evolution of his competition. All of his UFC 1 opponents were basically one-dimensional, but in the later years, and this is especially apparent with Hughes, his opponents become athletes that have knowledge in every area of the sport.

The Packaging

The first thing that jumps out at you about this DVD set is the packaging. First, Royce’s image on the cover pops out at you, which is really cool. When you open it up, it’s almost like a book. There are pictures with quotes from UFC fighters around them, as well as a mini-biography of Royce’s life and career. There is also a page showing his UFC fight record, as well as the UFC records he holds.

The 411: As I mentioned early on in the review, this is easily the best UFC DVD compilation ever released. From the packaging to the documentary to the plethora of full fights to watch, everything on this set is stellar. I purposely tried not to go too deep into detail in my review in order to not spoil the documentary. Even if you have already seen all of Royce's fights, the documentary alone is with the price of purchase. I do, however, hesitate to give the set a perfect ten because of the way the documentary glanced over the Sakuraba bout like the only thing notable about it was its length. Regardless, if you are a hardcore fan of MMA or even a complete novice, this DVD set is a must own, especially for the latter group.
411 Elite Award
Final Score:  9.7   [  Amazing ]  legend

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Dan Plunkett
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