Bellator Adds Light Heavyweight Daniel Gracie

Daniel Gracie brings the most legendary family in the sport to Bellator (Photo courtesy of Bellator).

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Gracie to Fight in Bellator’s Light Heavyweight Tournament in 2011

Bellator Fighting Championships officially announced this week that the most legendary family in Mixed Martial Arts will have one of its own fighting in the inaugural Bellator Light Heavyweight Tournament, which gets underway in March of 2011. Daniel Gracie (5-2-1) will compete in Season 4 of the promotion, and the fourth degree Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt will seek to be its first-ever champion in the light heavyweight division.

“The Gracie family has truly influenced MMA as we know it today, and I’m proud to say that heritage continues when Daniel steps into the Bellator cage to try to become our Light Heavyweight Champion,” Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney remarked. “A Gracie back in the tournament format is reminiscent of the days when the Gracie’s dominated MMA, and that’s something I’m excited to see.”

The reference to a tournament format, which Bellator employs to determine its champions and number one contenders, is directed at the legendary Royce Gracie. The first-ever UFC event was held in Denver back in 1993, with the Gracie family creating an eight-man tournament to prove that their self-created Jiu-Jitsu style of fighting was the most dominating discipline in combat sports. Competitors from nearly every established style of fighting were selected to participate, and Royce emerged victorious after winning three non-timed matches in one night. As the event and sport evolved over the years, fighters began to learn multiple disciplines, hence creating the term Mixed Martial Arts.

“This Bellator tournament is the Gracies getting back to our origins,” Daniel stated. “The tournament is the way the Gracies got started in MMA. That will give me extra motivation to win this tournament. I'm imagining myself winning this tournament. I have nothing but winning this tournament on my mind right now. Of course I know that anything can happen in MMA, but one thing I guarantee everyone that tunes in is that I'm going to put on a great show. You can bet on that.”

Fighting out of his cousin Renzo’s academy in New York City, Daniel has fought in such promotions as PRIDE Fighting Championships and the International Fight League. He made the decision to walk away from MMA in 2006 after being plagued by a persistent elbow injury, but he returned to the sport in November and submitted Martin Wojcik at Israel FC: Genesis in the first round via rear naked choke. He has spent most of his professional career as a heavyweight, but the Rio de Janeiro native says he now feels more comfortable in the light heavyweight division.

“I feel faster and like my technique better when I fight at light heavyweight,” he said. “I also feel like my cardio is much improved, and I'm much more explosive at 205 pounds. I feel like I'm just better all around at light heavyweight.”

When Bellator kicks off its fourth season in March, the promotion will be making its television debut on MTV2. It signed a deal to move to the channel earlier this month after a deal with Fox Sports concluded in October.

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