Kron Gracie -- part of a storied MMA lineage as the son of Rickson Gracie, nephew of Royce Gracie and grandson of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu inventor Helio Gracie -- made mixed martial arts history last weekend with a splashy victory on UFC on ESPN 1.
The skeptical Internet police were waiting to rip apart Gracie’s UFC debut. Instead, he set the MMA world on fire by remaining cool on the big stage and put the doubters to rest for the time being. Gracie, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu prodigy, was returning to the cage for the first time in more than two years and fought a perfect fight to notch a first-round submission and improve his record to 5-0.
Gracie’s fight was coincidentally the 5,000th fight in UFC's 25-year history. It was the victory was a first by a Gracie in UFC since UFC 4 in 1994, when Royce beat Dan Severn via submission.
Prior to his UFC debut, Gracie fought in Japan, ending each of his four pro fights with a submission. Gracie’s debut caught the attention of Conor McGregor leading up to the fight:
Gracie's first UFC opponent, Alex Caceres, was a veteran of 20 UFC fights and features a unique acrobatic striking style -- a difficult matchup for any fighter, especially a fighter making his debut. Gracie showed he was more than prepared for the moment and showcased his world-class BJJ. Gracie absorbed just four strikes en route to climbing Caceres’ back and cinching in the rear-naked choke at 2:06 of the first round.
Gracie was simultaneously able to protect his family’s legacy and create some headlines. One of Gracie’s corner men was controversial UFC fighter Nate Diaz, who is rarely seen in public and hasn’t fought since UFC 202: Diaz vs McGregor. During his post-fight media scrum, Gracie casually mentioned that Diaz is looking for a fight against UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. Gracie then declared he wants to make a short turnaround and return to the cage at UFC 237 in Brazil in May. The very ambitious Gracie is pleading for a top-10 UFC opponent for his next fight.
I like the ambition and confidence of the current standard bearer for Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Were Gracie to return to where it all started in Brazil and beat a ranked opponent, the roof of Curitiba’s Arena da Baixada may come flying off. This young and marketable fighter is on the path to greatness.