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Sage Northcutt and His Magic Flip Signal the End of an MMA Era

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Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

When Rorion Gracie picked his younger brother Royce to represent Gracie jiu-jitsu at the first UFC event in November 1993, he was trying to prove a point: Royce was the runt of the Gracie clan, and Rorion wanted to show the world that size and strength don’t matter when one fighter is trained in the art of jiu-jitsu and the other isn’t. Three quick submission victories over successively larger opponents that night in Denver proved Rorion right, of course, and thus a great precedent was born.

More than any other major sport, the history of MMA is built on identification, understanding, and universality: universality of the attraction to fighting, instinctual understanding of its motivations and deviant thrills, and the identification of those watching with those fighting. Royce Gracie’s victory that fateful night in Denver and the resulting proliferation of Brazilian jiu-jitsu were proof that the biggest, strongest, meanest, grouchiest, most-tattoo-covered guy doesn’t necessarily make for the best fighter, a myth that had existed pretty much forever, and the result was widespread interest not just in watching MMA but in doing MMA. People—normal, decent, otherwise-peaceful people—saw MMA fighters and recognized something in themselves, or at least something they ….View original article