Following an eight-year hiatus from the sport, Renzo Gracie made his highly-anticipated return to mixed martial arts on Friday, 27 July.
The 51-year-old Brazilian entered the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines, to begin his comeback in his new home, ONE Championship.
He faced three-division King Of Pancrase Yuki Kondo in a Legend versus Legend welterweight showdown at ONE: REIGN OF KINGS. After a measured start, he secured a rear-naked choke in the second round to get the win.
In the opening stanza, each martial arts icon was patient, and looked to established their range.
Kondo opted to maintain distance with a series of leg kicks, while Gracie — a two-time ADCC Grappling World Champion — made an early takedown attempt.
Soon, the sixth-degree Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt turned to his boxing, and expressed caution for the majority of the five-minute session.
As it turns out, the Brazilian’s entire game plan centered around getting the Japanese competitor’s timing down so he could execute his takedown.
That is exactly what happened in the second round, as Kondo threw a series of kicks again, Gracie saw an opening to swoop inside and hit a single-leg takedown.
The grappling wizard quickly transitioned to the Japanese legend’s back, and the three-time King of Pancrase was stuck in the last position he wanted to be in.
It took only a matter of moments for Gracie to find a home for his forearm under Kondo’s chin, as he cinched up the rear-naked choke and forced the tap at 1:40 of round two.
The crowd in the Mall Of Asia Arena erupted afterward, as Gracie sat on the shoulders of his cornermen to celebrate the first win of his comeback tour.
“I did what my family has been doing for over 100 years — choking people,” Gracie told Mitch Chilson in his post-bout interview.
Gracie has repeatedly stated this bout was not his swan song, but the beginning of his mixed martial arts career resurgence.
He moves his lifetime record in the sport to 14-7-1 (1 NC), and may be back inside the ONE cage sooner rather than later.