It's been a long time coming, but 18 years after his MMA debut, Renzo Gracie will make his long-awaited UFC debut this Saturday at UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi.
The 43-year-old has competed everywhere from Rings, PRIDE, the IFL, K-1 and EliteXC, but it wasn't until a dinner meeting six months ago with Lorenzo Fertitta and Dana White when Gracie was finally admitted into the UFC.
"I was having dinner with Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta and they (invited me to fight in the UFC)," Gracie said Wednesday at the UFC 112 pre-fight presser. "And right away I pushed my plate away, I gotta start dieting. I was 210 pounds, fat like a pig, so right away I started dieting. And I said, 'Let's shake hands here and you have a new fighter.'"
Gracie, who fought for PRIDE and Rings from 1997 to 2003, revealed that he was actually one of the first to be invited to the UFC under Zuffa.
"I've always dreamed of fighting in the UFC," Gracie said. "Unfortunately, life never allowed me to (do) it. I was always being pointed in a different direction even though I've had this invitation from the Fertittas. When they bought the UFC, I was the first guy they actually asked to join the UFC because they bought the UFC in New York and they came to my academy to train a little bit, and they invited me to fight. But back then I was fighting in PRIDE in Japan and I was setting up a structure in New York where I can bring other Gracies to the academy. So I couldn't move to the UFC."
Now, days away from a meeting with a fellow future Hall of Famer in the sport, Matt Hughes, Gracie called it fate that he would find himself inside the Octagon after all these years.
"... I knew it was a matter of time until I had the opportunity and chance to fight (in the UFC) again. And I think it was fate that put us together and everything came along to happen here. There was nothing planned."