by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com

Frank Shamrock, Pat Miletich, Carlos Newton, Maurice Smith, and Oleg Taktarov. What do all these mixed martial arts pioneers have in common? Renzo Gracie has defeated them all. 

The same Renzo Gracie who, slightly more than 18 years after his first professional bout, will finally be making his UFC debut when he steps in the Octagon opposite Matt Hughes in April. 

On a three-fight winning streak, it will have been more than three years since Gracie last fought. 

Come fight time, he’ll be 43 years old. 

But he still maintains the hearty laughter of his youth when he talks about the challenge set before him. 

“I can’t wait. (Hughes is) a very worth opponent, a very tough guy. For sure I’m looking forward to see how I do against him,” said Gracie. 

His wife claims it is more than a challenge; it’s a crisis. 

“My wife claims my middle-age crisis, instead of me buying a motorcycle or sports car, I go back to the UFC ring,” he quipped. 

“(I do it for the) love for the sport. I was in this sport when I was making $200 to fight. It was never about the money. It was actually for the sport.” 

Gracie’s family helped found the Ultimate Fighting Championship when its premise was to determine which martial art was the best. Back when it was boxing vs. jiu-jitsu vs. karate. Back when his cousin, Royce, ruled the roost, winning three of the first four UFC tournament championships with his family’s brand of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. 

Renzo was one of the first Gracie’s to ditch his gi when he fought. He was also one of the first in the family to really focus on adding striking to his mixed martial arts repertoire. 

Royce dominated the style vs. style format, but Renzo has succeeded in later years when MMA evolved into an art form of its own. 

Where Royce failed – Hughes TKO’d him in the opening round of their fight three and a half years ago – Renzo looks to redeem the family name. 

“I’m looking to get back where my cousin, Royce, came up short,” he told MMAWeekly.com. 

And that is what’s important to him as heads into the twilight of his fight career… family.  

Asked how he wants people to remember Renzo Gracie when he is done fighting, his answer was simple, “As one more link in my family. I want you guys to forget my name when I’m done. Just remember the Gracie name because we gonna be here forever.” 

(Watch the full video interview with Renzo Gracie talking about Matt Hughes, his UFC debut, the Gracie Family, and more.)