Wallid Ismail and Royce Gracie are two of the greatest BJJ competitors from the 1990s and the two men once met in a superfight on December 17th, 1998. While Royce was born into the Jiu-Jitsu world by virtue of being a member of the Gracie family, Ismail had to struggle for years in order to be able to learn the sport. After first being introduced to the sport by Ary Almeida, he then moved to Rio De Janeiro in order to train under Carlson Gracie. Over the years they spent training in Jiu-Jitsu prior to this match, both Ismail and Royce developed into fantastic grapplers and well-respected competitors.
Royce Gracie had already become a household name thanks to his legendary tournament win at UFC 1, along with both UFC 2 and 4 after that. He had then retired from professional MMA competition for a few years and was publicly challenging famous martial artists without any matches being booked. Wallid Ismail on the other hand was busy fighting across Japan, Brazil, and the United States for several years. A rivalry between him and the Gracie family had been developing too, as Ismail defeated both Ralph Gracie and Renzo Gracie in the years leading up to this match.
Ismail’s success against the Gracie family had earned him the nickname ‘The Gracie Killer’ long before Kazushi Sakuraba became famous for doing the same. He started challenging both Royce and Rickson Gracie, knowing that they were the most popular members of the family and the most accomplished competitors. Royce then agreed to meet him on the mats in a special superfight that had no points and no time-limit, with Helio Vigo serving as referee. The full match between Wallid Ismail and Royce Gracie can be seen below, including a breakdown of it.
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Wallid Ismail v Royce Gracie
Wallid Ismail and Royce Gracie started out their match fighting for grips and both men seemed relatively conservative in their efforts to begin with, likely due to the lack of any time-limit in place. Royce hit a nice little trip that sent Ismail to the floor and although he briefly had a front-headlock opportunity, he couldn’t stop Ismail returning to standing. Royce attempted an ankle-pick and a few more footsweeps but couldn’t get anything with them, when another attempt led him to take the front-headlock this time around. When Ismail drove forward, Royce used that opportunity to hit a throw and send his opponent to his back.
Ismail transitioned to deep half-guard and tried to use it to stand up, but Royce was doing a good job of keeping an arm isolated and staying heavy on him. Ismail worked hard to trap a leg and fought for an underhook, using both to slip out and start to take Royce’s back. Royce stood up and Ismail tried to drop for a single-leg, continuing his drive and eventually forcing Royce onto his back. Ismail got to work over-under passing and although Royce was trying to work for a triangle choke, Ismail’s heavy top-pressure was preventing him from being much of a threat.
Ismail eventually rolled Royce over to finish the pass, where Royce turtled to prevent it. He tried to stand too, but Ismail controlled his leg and used a strong gi grip to force him back to his knees while searching for a grip on his collar with his free hand. He had set up a clock choke and Royce turned to his back to try to escape, but it was too late and Ismail put him to sleep. People rushed over and the referee stopped the fight, as Wallid Ismail had choked Royce Gracie unconscious and won their no time-limit match in dramatic fashion. He continued challenging Rickson after this win, but that match was never booked.