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How Sakuraba changed MMA - The Story of the Gracie Hunter
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How Sakuraba changed MMA - The Story of the Gracie Hunter

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With a career 46 fights over a span of 19 years, Kazushi Sakuraba is one of the handful of truly legendary pioneers of MMA.

He has contributed more to the sport of MMA than most people even realize. But his largest contribution by far, was becoming the Gracie Hunter.

Going into UFC 1, everyone claimed that their style was the best. Boxing, Karate, Wrestling, Kung Fu, Kickboxing, even Sumo had a representative. But Royce Gracie would come out and introduce the world to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, an art that at the time almost no one in the US new about. Then prove that it was the best by submitting everyone that he fought. That started in 1993, the Gracie family would go on to reign over the MMA world for the next 7 years. Until they eventually met Kazushi Sakuraba.

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Fast forward to 1999 were Kazushi Sakuraba would fight his first member of the Gracie family. He goes on to submit Royler Gracie with a Kimura, at the 13:16 mark of Round 2, during their fight at Pride 8. Prior to that fight, Royler was undefeated and had won all of his matches by submission. Clearly living up to the Gracie family name. Sakuraba submitting him sent the MMA world into complete chaos. The Royal family of MMA, was being dethroned.

This lead to a grudge match with the legendary Royce Gracie. Royce needing to defend the family honor. Sakuraba needing to prove that his submission over Royler wasn't a fluke. Going into the fight, Royce was undefeated with 13 wins. 11 of which were by submission. Winning the UFC 1, UFC 2, and UFC 4 tournaments. As well as a single bout at UFC 3 and the opening round of the Pride Grand Prix 2000. The Gracie family at the time was the crown of the MMA world. They not only introduced the world to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but had also proven through combat, that it was the best art in the world.

But on May 1st 2000, in the finals of the Pride Grand Prix, Sakuraba would beat Royce and cement himself in MMA history. The fight lasted 90 minutes (Yes that says ninety. It's not a typo.), until Royce's corner was forced to throw in the towel due to the amount of damage he was taking from Sakuraba. Sakuraba’s mix of unconventional Catch Wrestling, Striking, and Pro Wrestling moves, proved to be too much for Royce to handle. Sakuraba’s Mongolian Chop from inside Royce’s guard, is one of the most memorable/craziest moments ever to happen in MMA. To this day, it is still the longest fight in MMA history, and should be remembered as one of the key moments that shaped what MMA is today.

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In the following 7 months, Sakuraba would go on to defeat two more prominent members of the Gracie family. Renzo Gracie by Kimura at Pride 10 (dislocating Renzo's arm), and Ryan Gracie by decision at Pride 12. This would alter his nickname from the Gracie Hunter to the Gracie Killer. It would also mark the beginning of an era of discovery in MMA. An era that proved, Jiu Jitsu alone would not be enough.

Sakuraba's wins over the Gracie family would show that MMA was still growing into itself. It was it's own form of fighting and no single style would be enough. It was evolving, and if you didn't adapt to keep up with its evolution, you would be left behind. This was the gift that Sakuraba gave to the world of MMA. The spark that started the revolution.


Check out the highlights below to watch the Gracie Killer in action.

Kazushi Sakuraba is a grappling legend with a unique style. Now, you can learn his favorite techniques, and get an edge on the competition! Check our his DVD Anti Jiu Jitsu, and get to work! Check it out here!

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