It may not have been the fight people expected, but Royce Gracie scored his first victory in a pro mixed martial arts bout in nearly nine years on Friday night. He defeated the 52-year old Ken Shamrock in their trilogy fight at Bellator 149 in Houston, capping off a rivalry that began all the way back at UFC 1 in 1993. It marked the first time the Brazilian jiu-jitsu pioneer Gracie won via knockout.
Yet it didn't come without some controversy.
While delivering a knee in an early exchange, Shamrock had a delayed reaction to what he considered a groin shot. In the sequence that he was demonstrating he was hurt, the referee only appeared to see him taking punishment without returning fire while holding his groin. The fight was called off, and Shamrock immediately protested that he had been struck low.
Though Shamrock screamed at the referee and Gracie in anger in the cage afterwards, Gracie himself contended he never connected with Shamrock's groin.
"I'm very happy, that was my first knockout," the 49-year old Gracie said during the post-fight press conference. "But, I was telling Ken, we come from an era where there was no time limit, no weight division, no gloves, no rules, groin shots were allowed. But it did not catch his groin."
Gracie landed another knee in the subsequent sequence, which was nowhere near the groin -- yet that's when Shamrock doubled over to demonstrate he'd been hit low.
Shamrock later apologized for his outburst in the cage, and said he felt lost after dropping his third bout in a row. Since 2005, Shamrock has gone 2-9. The last time he and Gracie stepped in the cage together was back at UFC 4, when they fought to a draw.
For Gracie (15-2-3), it was his second win in a row, even if the fights came nearly a decade apart.
When asked about the possibility of a fourth fight with Shamrock, Gracie shrugged his shoulders.
"My father did not make fighters," he said. "He taught us how to teach, not how to fight. We fight to prove that our style is the best. It's up to Scott Coker. I thought I was out, and he pulled me back in."