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Bellator fighters inspired by the return of Royce Gracie

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The final chapter of the rivalry between Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock takes place at the Toyota Center in Houston, and the return of the legendary Gracie at Bellator 149, on Feb. 19, is enough to excite fellow Brazilian fighters.

What does it mean for them to watch the first UFC tournament winner compete one more time?

The surprise

Patricio Freire: Royce Gracie fighting Ken Shamrock at Bellator, a legendary fight, was a pleasant surprise for me. I’m against older fighters facing young opponents, but in this case they don’t have an advantage over each other. They have similar age and physique, so I believe it’s good for the sport. It will show that aged fighters can compete.

Douglas Lima: I was really surprised. I never thought he would come back. I don’t think he has anything to prove to anyone, but I don’t blame him. I would also take the fight if I were him. We miss it after a long time. I think it’s awesome that he’s coming back, and I hope he wins and retires again.

Rafael Carvalho: Royce started everything, and this is a historic fight. When you’re born with a gift, you don’t want to stop doing it. It’s in his blood, in his family. His family is made of fighters, and he was just waiting for an opportunity. I hope this is a good fight for the fans and an excellent one for Bellator. Age means nothing.

Marcos Galvao: I never thought he would come back, but we’re fighters. It’s hard to stop fighting. It’s a tough decision. I knew he would come back, especially with a great business and marketing opportunity like this one. Everybody has to respect this man’s history. He’s a living legend, and I was thrilled when I heard he’s fighting at the promotion I’m the champion. It’s Royce Gracie! When I was a kid, I watched him fight and looked up to him.

Patricky Freire: I fell in love with the sport, wanted to become a fighter, because of Royce Gracie. He has inspired many Brazilians to become a MMA fighter and go to the U.S. to beat people up. He’s a great guy. He gave us hope and became an idol. I had a dream to meet him one day, and I’m proud to say that I’m fighting at the same promotion he’s fighting today. He’s a living legend.

Goiti Yamauchi: I grew up watching Royce Gracie fighting, and he’s the reason why I decided to train jiu-jitsu in the first place. This trilogy is going to be epic. The whole world will watch it. We know this entire process he’s going through at his age isn’t easy, but he’s there for his honor. He wants to prove he’s in shape. He’s carrying a big name and a responsibility over his shoulders, and it’s nice to watch it.

Neiman Gracie: I didn’t expect this. I saw Royce working for Bellator, helping promote the organization, but when they announced the fight I was surprised because the sport is different today, with weight divisions. I think it’s really cool. Who am I to judge them if they should or shouldn’t be fighting? They are the ones who make the call. I think it’s amazing we’re able to watch this fight.

Vinicius Queiroz: He made history, and this fight will be great for Bellator. The American fan enjoys watching veterans competing so it’s going to be good for the promotion, to see how they perform at this age. They are legends.

The inspiration

Guilherme Viana: If I have a job today, it’s thanks to this man. It’s great to see legends coming back against opponents at their age. Imagine if I had the chance to fight at the night he’s fighting… what a story I would tell my kids and grandkids!

Marcos Galvao: A lot of fighters stop competing when they are 35, say they are old for the sport. No way. Everything depends on how you treat your body and your mind. That’s inspiration for me.

Patricky Freire: I see people criticize older athletes in MMA, and this fight is like a punch to your face saying ‘brother, life is limitless, you make the calls. Your mind makes you a warrior.’

Douglas Lima: I’m 28 and sometimes I feel I’m 50. We train hard, have a lot of injuries, so it’s hard to have a long career. If I’m in shape when I’m 49 I’m happy already.

Patricio Freire: I made my MMA debut in 2003, when I was 16, and I’m fighting for 13 years now. It’s a long time. One of these days I was thinking I’m old for the sport now, and seeing Royce Gracie putting his glove on at age 49 brings us back up. He’s an idol, an example for everyone.

Rafael Carvalho: I want to fight until I’m 50 (laughs). I take care of my body, so that inspires me and the new generation. An athlete depends on his body. If he wasn’t taking care of his body his entire life, he wouldn’t be able to come back at 49 to fight again.

Gleristone Santos: He started all this in the 90s and it’s surreal to know we’re fighting at the same promotion now. It’s a dream coming true. I had the opportunity to meet Shamrock in my last fight and he’s a nice guy. He poses like a cocky guy sometimes, but he’s a nice dude. They will put on a great fight, and that stimulates the new generation of fighters.

The fight

Goiti Yamauchi: It’s an interesting fight at today’s perspective. Nobody knew jiu-jitsu back then. Shamrock was stronger and bigger, but he didn’t know the weapons Royce had. The sport has evolved a lot, so we don’t know what’s going to happen. As a jiu-jitsu guy, I believe Royce wins.

Neiman Gracie: It’s going to be tough. The second fight between them was already tougher than the first one, and I don’t expect this one to be easy. Shamrock learned jiu-jitsu and is stronger than Royce, but Royce will submit him in the end. We’re rooting for it.

Douglas Lima: I think Shamrock has more chances because of his weight. He’s physically stronger. But Royce already fought many heavier opponents, so it’s going to be interesting. I will be rooting for him.

Patricio Freire: Ken Shamrock will start like he always does, putting some pressure, and Royce will use his jiu-jitsu to finish. Ken Shamrock will get tired, will lack technique, and Royce will submit him one more time.

Rafael Carvalho: I believe Royce’s jiu-jitsu will get the job done again. He will take Shamrock down and grapple. Shamrock has aged but his physique continues the same. Royce was always skinny. I believe Royce will use his jiu-jitsu one more time.

Marcos Galvao: Pure jiu-jitsu. I think he will submit (Shamrock). My favorite fighters are the skinny ones that beat up the bigger ones. Royce is one of the fighters I look up to. He’s skinny, let the other use their strength, and always submits in the end. I think he wins via triangle.

Patricky Freire: I’m curious to watch it, but I’m picking Royce Gracie. I think he’s in a better shape. He might not be as explosive as Shamrock, but if he’s able to slow Ken Shamrock in the first minutes, I believe in a submission.

Guilherme Viana: We don’t know how it’s going to be because Shamrock fought Kimbo recently, showed he has cardio only for a few minutes, but if Royce makes it a long fight, he can tire him out and submit. I hope he submits Shamrock. He has the skills, but we don’t know how he is. It’s five-minute rounds now, and I hope he’s well prepared to fight. Whoever has more cardio will win this fight. I’m rooting for Royce.

Vinicius Queiroz: I’m rooting for Royce to win via submission. I have to root for him as a Brazilian. But at this stage of their lives, Shamrock’s physical advantage could make the difference. I’m rooting for Royce. He has the spirit and the technique to win.

Gleristone Santos: Shamrock has an advantage because he’s heavier and stronger, but I believe in Royce’s technique. He will win via submission, like he did many years ago. The technique always overcomes strength, and it won’t be different this time.