Royce Gracie Joins Muhammad Ali and Tiger Woods Among SI’s 50 Greatest Athletes of All Time

January 10, 2014
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Even a legend can be humbled, especially when that legend is cast amongst 49 other legends.

The first ever winner of the old-school UFC one-night tournament format, Royce Gracie, was humbled on Thursday when he posted to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram about how honored he was to be selected for Sports Illustrated’s 50 Greatest Athletes of All Time list.

Gracie won three of the first four UFC tournaments. Two of those tournament victories included winning three fights in one night, while the other saw Gracie get the better of four opponents in a single evening. He also fought Ken Shamrock to a 36-minute draw in the Octagon.

Kazushi Sakura handed Gracie the first loss of his career during a Pride fight in 2000, but only after the two battled it out in a 90-minute epic and Gracie’s corner threw in the towel. Gracie suffered a broken femur in the fight.

Congratulations to Royce Gracie.

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  • Timothy Malone

    It might be controversial, but I think there are other mixed martial artists that deserve this more. Go back and watch his fights and he isn’t actually that great. He used jiu-jitsu to beat guys who had no idea what jiu-jitsu was.

    • Stefano ‘Zwonimir’ Sega Nogaro

      I think “Greatest Athletes of All Time” title is a bit misleading and their intention is to list athletes that were dominant at the time and that were HUGE stepstones for their sports.

      Of course with the time every sport evolves and even the athletes evolve in performances, especially sports like swimming, cycling, … Mark Spitz and Eddy Merckx had shitty records for todays competition, but they’re legends of those sports.

      • Asd

        But Mark Spitz etc. were beating the best athletes of their era,just like Ali was beating the best boxers etc. Whereas Gracie was beating people who had no clue about fighting!

        • Stefano ‘Zwonimir’ Sega Nogaro

          they were the best competing in UFC at that time … maybe even some boxers Ali beated were not that good if compared to actual boxers, who knows …

          and “was beating people who had no clue about fighting” is a myth, pretty much all Royce opponents were martial arts masters, boxers, wrestlers, etc … maybe not the best in every discipline because at the time there were even Shooto and Pancrase that were full of MA champions and especially in Pancrase every fighter had a clue of the ground game …
          but let no buy those myths so easily, in UFC 2 Gracie beated Pardoel that was a world champion in both Judo and Jujitsu, so he knew something about grappling.

          • Timothy Malone

            You may be right, but they probably shouldn’t have picked a photo for the article that is from his fight with Matt Hughes where he was beaten easily by a true mixed martial artist.

          • Stefano ‘Zwonimir’ Sega Nogaro

            OK, you’re right about that, it was in another era of MMA

  • Panama Rosado

    I totally don’t agree with this.

  • BBC

    Definitely very humbling, buuuuuut the point behind Royce and BJJ is athleticism is irrelevant against skill.

  • Joe

    At the time it wasn’t mma, it was nhb. The sport has evolved, but who could have beat Royce in 93? He was the reason for evolution in the fight world, the reason people learned to fight on the ground, would he do well against any top ten fighter of today, no. But without Royce none of todays fighters would be as good as they are.

  • King Of The Spread

    Let be Honest here – Mike Tyson would destroy Ali in the ring – so how is Ali #2?

    • John Bunch

      I like Tyson, but that’s laughable. Not saying he couldn’t beat him depending on what age Ali was, but man, compare the competition each of those guys faced.

      • King Of The Spread

        Tyson was as fast if not faster than Ali but had the power of Frazier if not more power.

        My belief is if Gus D’Amato doesn’t die Tyson never losses.

  • Charles

    I Think it should just be “Gracies” at 44. They chose Royce because he was smaller than all the other Gracie brothers. if they would have picked any of the other 6 brothers, they would have been the legend.

  • dgs


    Royce was simply in the right place at the right time. He’s not even the best fighter in his family. From what I understand it was supposed to be Rickson fighting in the UFC. But the Gracie family decided last minute to give the spot to Royce because they wanted to prove the effectiveness of BJJ using a “normal” looking man. Rickson is definitely the better athlete however, and I will always wonder what would have happened had Rickson fought in the UFC instead of Royce.

  • Shartnado2, the Sloppy One

    Sorry but Royce was just a one trick pony, and the whole pitch of BJJ is you can win a fight with our techniques without being in shape. Besides Royce tested positive for roids, that should be an automatic disqualifier