Dana White is known as the "face" of the UFC,but it was the Gracies themselves that started it all. It was Rorian Gracie who had the vision of bringing Gracie Jiu-Jitsu to America as well as the Gracie Challenge and later developed the idea for the UFC.The Gracies had a long tradition of challenge mixed martial arts matches & Vale- Tudo competitions long before the UFC debuted in 1993.It was the Gracies who after learning Japanese Judo & Jiu-Jitsu, modified the Art adding different elements and focusing on the techniques that seemed the most effective & practical.BJJ or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu's origins begin solely with the Graice Family.
The concept of the UFC was to provide a competition that was about as close to a real unarmed fight as you could get without actually being in one.The Gracies believed in their System and had proved it's effectiveness time & time again and wanted to use the UFC as a vehicle to bring their Art to a larger audience. And with Royce's domination of early UFC events, they did just that as well as exposing some weaknesses in other methods of fighting that simply were not known at the time. Whether someone wants to admit it or not, the UFC has influenced every aspect of self-defense & the Martial Arts in general in one way or another.The same could be said of Gracie/Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu since there is not an MMA fighter or self-defense exponent that doesn't employ at least some of it's methods & techniques.Even Military Combatives programs were redesigned with what we learned from the UFC.The Gracies along with Matt Larson have been instrumental in designing what is our current Military Combatives program.
The problem with the Gracies original UFC is that the lack of rules scared the crap out of people.The UFC started out with only eye gouges & biting not being allowed.Everything else was legal, but then Politicians got involved and pretty much banned the Sport banned in just about every State. The UFC was virtually dead until Dana White(a boxing promoter)came in along with some financial backers & bought out Rorian with the idea of mainstreaming the UFC by instituting weight classes, a laundry list of rules and getting the sport sanctioned by the Nevada boxing commission.His planned worked and Politicians were appeased,but the new Dana White version of the UFC bears little resemblance to Rorian Gracies original vision.
Rorian recently said he doesn't even watch the UFC,but hopes it succeeds since it is his "Child" even though it has developed in a direction He has no interest in being involved. The Gracies are primarily interested in real fighting.They do mainly focus on unarmed street defense,but do delve into armed defense although that is not their forte IMO. The Gracie System is not a complete system for Real World defense, but there are so many elements in it that anyone interested in reality-based systems really should & understand & for that contribution,the Gracies deserve our thanks & respect.