The MMA Critic: The Tainted Legacies of Royce Gracie and Anderson Silva

GracieShamrockThe legacy of Royce Gracie is a sore spot that has largely gone unseen and unheard of, but quite frankly, it’s ugly. Perhaps never given as much attention because it happened so late in his career or that it happened outside the UFC, but Gracie tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) after his win over Kazushi Sakuraba at Dynamite! USA in 2007 in Los Angeles. He tested positive for nandrolone metabolites. Nandrolone is an anabolic steroid and without a doubt a performance enhancing drug as it a banned substance in all professional sports. Despite the positive drug test, Gracie denies ever using the PED, essentially giving a voice to many fans’ disbelief. History, however, repeated itself via the likes of former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva in a seemingly parallel situation – desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures. Gracie has not competed in MMA since that bout in 2007. He was suspended one year and fined $2,500 for the failed test by the California State Athletic Commission. Gracie is set to make his long-awaited MMA return on the Bellator 149 card tonight (February 19, 2016). It’ll be 49-year-old Royce Gracie against 52-year-old Ken Shamrock in the main event, which will be contested at an openweight in Houston, Texas. Now, more than ever, it’s seemingly appropriate to reopen this can of worms. As MMA fans, we all were a little devastated by the failed drug test of a legend of the sport. However, I don’t know which is more insulting to MMA fans, the fact Gracie tested positive for performance enhancing drugs or Gracie’s continuing denial of the facts that he cheated. Rubbing salt in the wounds, Gracie openly does not believe mixed martial arts, the sport he helped build, has a drug problem. Gracie, like himself, believes the positive test for fellow countryman Anderson Silva will not taint his legacy. First, let’s address Royce’s claim that he did not in fact use PED’s. Basing an argument on Gracie’s physique and traditional background alone, one can make a case for innocence. However, up against the eyeball test, he was clearly more defined in physique for his June 2, 2007 fight against Sakuraba than he was for a May 2006 match against Matt Hughes in the UFC. In the loss against Hughes he weighed in at 175 pounds and for Sakuraba, he was 188 pounds. That’s a 13 pound weight gain over the course of a year at 40 years old considering Gracie never cut any weight for the Hughes match-up. By Gracie’s own admission, “For 20 years since the UFC, I was 178.”  Interesting enough, Royce weighed in at 190.8 pounds yesterday for Bellator 149. The only defence that Gracie could claim is the slimmest possibility of a false positive but that’s highly unlikely when an athlete has over 20x more nandrolone in his system than what a natural human should register. Furthermore, Royce initial response to the failed drug test was also seemingly suspect:

“I have no idea what they’re talking about. Look at my first UFC. 178 [pounds]. Look at my last fight. 180. For accusing me of using drugs…I never gained a pound in my life. It’s not like I went from 178 to 200 pounds. It’s ridiculous”

The very traditions of Gracie jiu-jitsu built their legacy on defeating guys much bigger than themselves. No one but Royce Gracie can say with much confidence that he beat Sakuraba that night. The initial result in itself was controversial even before the ensuing failed drug test. Choosing the twilight of his career to use performance enhancers was brought about by his desire to honor the family name by avenging all his loses. Coming off the heels of being tossed around like a sack of potatoes by Hughes, it’s not a stretch to believe that Royce Gracie wanted to become a stronger athlete in hopes of avenging his loss to Sakuraba. Seeking redemption from a loss is a way of keeping the honor of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Royce Gracie didn’t cheat to stay relevant. He did so with revenge on the mind in hopes of ending the so-called “Gracie Hunter’s” spree after previously defeating Royce, Renzo, Ryan and Royler. At the time, Royce could have been financially strapped as well, but he definitely wanted the fight to honor his family traditions even if it meant possibly dishonoring them in the process. Resuming his fighting career wasn’t something that developed out of necessity, as the failed drug test ultimately resulted in little to no financial hardship. Still to this day, Gracie’s entire focus remains on a rematch against Matt Hughes. Avenging every one of your personal or family’s losses is the way of the Gracie’s, which ultimately led Royce to embody an “anything to win” mentality. If your last name is Gracie, then you don’t take losing lightly. Therefore, winning by any means necessary is a way of life. When Royce Gracie lost to Matt Hughes at UFC 63 his brother Renzo attempted but failed to achieve redemption. Prior to Renzo’s fight against Hughes during a Q&A, he elaborated on the need to return honor to his family’s name.  Now, 23 years later, the tables have turned and Ken Shamrock will get a chance to avenge his loss to Gracie over two decades ago when the pair fight for the third time tonight. After Bellator’s conclusion the focus will shift to UFC Fight Night 84. In the main event, Anderson Silva will return from suspension, embraced by the MMA faithful with open arms. Just like Royce’s legacy, it seemingly doesn’t feel as Anderson Silva is tarnished. Like Gracie, he was caught for using PED’s late in his career and he is taking his fair share of heat for it from opponent Michael Bisping. Unsurprisingly, Gracie said he does not believe the positive test for Silva will taint him and we should not “crucify the guy.” While in contrast when commenting on Jon Jones:

“He forgets sometimes that he’s an example for the young kids.”
Gracie’s denial of the ongoing problems PED’s cause inside the sport of MMA continues to tarnish his reputation. Supporting a fellow countrymen in similar times was almost to be expected. However, Royce is hypocritical of others who use recreational drugs. Look no further than his dislike for Eddie Bravo:

“My issue with him is simple. I don’t like him because he endorses (drugs). It’s nothing to do with (which) jiu-jitsu he uses, gi (or) no gi, it’s because of what he endorses. We teach kids. His message out there is ‘it’s okay for you to do drugs.’ I don’t care (if) you say it was prescription drugs, well get a pound of pot and walk into a police station. You gonna get arrested… Once the guy endorses pot and endorses drinking, to me that’s wrong because I have kids too. I don’t want my kids involved with pot and I don’t want my kids drinking and I did what every man should do if you have a problem, talk face to face with the person.”

Setting an example for children doesn’t involve using performance enhancing drugs. Cheating is not honorable. Both Anderson Silva and Royce Gracie are set for action one weekend from each other. In retrospect, one can’t imagine MMA without either man. Therefore, should they get a pass for their misdeeds of fortune? Not in my books. Mixed martial art’s very premises only exist by creating an equal playing field. If Royce Gracie wasn’t facing another former PED user like himself in Shamrock, I’d be cheering against him.

Written by Betting Bruiser

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