Manager optimistic on Royce Gracie's UFC return, negotiations ongoing
by Steven Marrocco on Mar 11, 2011 at 7:05 pm ET
The Ultimate Fighting Championship has given fans a voice in deciding who fights at "UFC: Rio," and the promotion has offered 33 Brazilians to choose from.
No. 34 could be a lock.
Three-time UFC tournament champion and UFC Hall of Famer Royce Gracie (14-3-3 MMA, 11-1-2 UFC) is in continuing negotiations with the promotion to appear in a retirement fight at the Brazilian event, which is expected to take place Aug. 27 at HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro.
Mike Kogan, the U.S. representative for the Japan-based Fighting and Entertainment Group (FEG) and Gracie's longtime manager, today informed MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) of the news.
Although negotiations are far from over, Kogan said he and Gracie are talking directly with UFC president Dana White and UFC executive Lorenzo Fertitta about the prospect of bringing the 44-year-old MMA legend back into the octagon one last name against a specific – but undisclosed – opponent.
"I think we're going to make a deal," Kogan said. "We have plenty of time, so there's really no problems. It's just a matter of getting it nailed down."
The manager said his client has talked of a retirement fight for the past year and felt "UFC: Rio" was a natural fit. He said the potential fight could take place at welterweight, middleweight, or a catchweight between the two divisions.
"I think it will create a lot of interest and a lot of [expletive]-talking," Kogan said of the proposed fight. "But that happens with everything Royce has done."
White did not immediately respond when contacted by MMAjunkie.com for comment.
Gracie hasn't fought professionally since June 2007 when he fought fellow legend Kazushi Sakuraba at K-1 Dynamite!! USA in a rematch of an epic, no time-limits bout in the finals of the 2000 PRIDE grand prix. He won by unanimous decision, but the result was later marred by a positive test for steroids and subsequent suspension and fine.
That performance came one year after he returned to the UFC for the first time in 11 years to fight then-welterweight champion Matt Hughes in a non-title fight at UFC 60. Hughes dominated Gracie en route to a first-round TKO victory.
Subsequent talk from Gracie of a return to fighting has often been met by a tepid response from fans and observers who think the sport has passed him by since he dominated in the early days of the sport.
But Kogan believes those doubters are part of what will propel a successful return to the cage, whether Gracie wins or loses.
"Bottom line is this: Gracie came back and fought in the United States at UFC 60 for the first time since 1995, and he drew 650,000 pay-per-view [buys] – at the time the highest number," he said. "That's all I care about. You have your keyboard warriors; you have your white belts and blue belts who know everything that nobody else knows. They want to talk [expletive].
"It's part of being a star. We accept that, and we're very happy with it. There's no bad fan. Any fan is a good fan, so long as you can draw emotion out of them. And as long as they buy a ticket or buy a pay-per-view, I don't care what their intentions are, as far as the outcome of the fight is concerned."
That may or may not be a sentiment shared by the UFC. Kogan said Gracie will attend the UFC Expo during the weekend of UFC 129 in Toronto, and talks may or may not resume at that point.
"As of right now, we don't have a deal in place," he said. "The UFC might yank this fight altogether and be like, 'On second thought, we don't want to do it.' This is not a done deal. We're interested in fighting; we have talked about it a lot. Most of the basic terms are agreed upon. But we haven't signed."
Brazilian MMA fans can visit UFC.com's Portuguese-language website to vote on 12 fighters they think should compete at "UFC: Rio."
For the latest on the "UFC: Rio" card, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of MMAjunkie.com.
kind of weird that he's "only" 44. it seems like he should be in his mid to late 50's.