Inevitably, whenever a compilation or best-of is created, regardless of genre there will always be those disappointed by some omission or inclusion of something they deem inferior. No stranger to releasing their fair share of compilations, the UFC best-ofs are often "imperfect" for one reason or another. Then again, there's that freak release that comes out of nowhere, often nondescript, and shuts up both sides, offering solid entertainment. With the double disc release of "Ultimate Royce Gracie," the UFC serves up a double dose of mixed martial arts action, providing viewers with not only a solid in-ring retrospective of one of the sport's greatest combatants, but an earnest look at the man himself, his family and the genesis of the UFC itself.
The main feature of "Ultimate Royce Gracie" is a breezy all-inclusive documentary that allows fans a look at where Gracie came from and just how fundamental he was to the early days of the sport. Refusing to overshadow the roots of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, the feature feels more like a program on the Gracie Family at large, allowing family members and friends to share stories of the young, sickly Helio Gracie (Royce's father) overcoming the odds to take his family teachings and incorporate multiple diverse fighting styles into what would famously be known as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The respect paid to the roots and tradition of both the family and the art of combat itself sets the stage for the remainder of the program.
The story of Royce itself is best cemented in history when his early days in the UFC are chronicled. There's little grandstanding and shameless promotion although its thoroughly deserved as Royce's first three bouts in one evening lasted a combined total of three-minutes and 59-seconds with Gracie showing the world that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was no joke, forcing each of his opponents, including fellow UFC Hall of Famer, Ken Shamrock into submission. As Gracie's steamrolling of opponents continued in subsequent UFC events, the sport itself rose in fame alongside it's most celebrated athlete and it is undeniable that without the Gracie factor, the UFC might very well not be the multi-million dollar empire it is now.
The only true flaw of "Ultimate Royce Gracie" is the incredibly, often heavy handed, positive outlook of the program. Obviously the steroid scandal that Gracie was caught up in would be a point the UFC would want to avoid, but by and large the portrait painted of Gracie is of a man whose adversities were brief. Granted the 80-minute runtime forces a tighter focus than your average documentary, but ultimately what could have been a perfect look at the legend still leaves viewers with questions to be answered. However, one question that is clearly answered is how much the UFC has evolved from the early days. One needs only look at the physical differences between Gracie and the average UFC fighter to see the emphasis now is one sheer size and muscle; additionally the art of fighting has seemingly morphed from the proud family tradition ushered in by the Gracie's to a more clinical form of education. Either way, the sport owes much to Royce and his family and as a result "Ultimate Royce Gracie" should be required viewing even for the most casual fan.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is a solid effort for documentary program. Colors are natural and crisp, while detail falls a little more on the merely average side. Archival footage is limited by its video origins and there are some issues throughout the entire program with minor compression.
The Dolby Digital English stereo sound track can be a little aggressive when it comes to the usage of music, however by and large, dialogue is clear and distortion free, which is all one can really hope from a narrative driven program.
As good as the main feature is, the extras are icing on the cake. Disc One features a bounty of Gracie's early UFC career (to be more specific his first five UFC events) in the form of the following complete fights:
vs. Art Jimmerson
vs. Ken Shamrock
vs. Gerard Gordeau
vs. Minoki Ichihara
vs. Jason Delucia
vs. Remco Pardoel
vs. Patrick Smith
vs. Kimo Leopoldo
vs. Ron van Clief
vs. Keith Hackney
vs. Dan Severn
vs. Ken Shamrock
The second disc offers a side of Gracie many UFC fans may not know of, in the form of three Gracie bouts for the PRIDE organization. These fights run much longer than the UFC bouts including two Gracie fights at the Pride Grand Prix 2000 where Gracie fought for over 100-minutes!
vs. Nobuhiko Takada (Pride Grand Prix 2000)
vs. Kazushi Sakuraba (Pride Grand Prix 2000)
vs. Hidehiko Yoshida (Pride Showcase 2003)
Last but not least include Gracie's bout with Matt Hughes at UFC 60 proving despite his age, he still had the fight in him and Gracie's induction into the UFC Hall of Fame.
Despite how you may actually feel personally about Royce Gracie, it doesn't take a fan to understand his contribution to the sport of mixed martial arts and his skill as a competitor. "Ultimate Royce Gracie" serves as a testament to the man, his family, and the sport itself and backs it up with a strong bonus collection of the man himself in action. Highly Recommended.