Art Jimmerson admits he completely underestimated Royce Gracie at the historic UFC 1 event.
Jimmerson famously sported one boxing glove in his scrap against Gracie, the latter of whom would go on to win the inaugural event. Jimmerson spoke with MMA TRUFAN and revealed the one glove was a misguided attempt to protect both Gracie and himself.
“What scared me more than anything was the fact that they say there are no rules and then they say there are no gloves. I’m in the ring sparring at home and I’m going around the country sparring. I’m knocking cats out with six-ounce gloves on. I’m going to kill this guy with no gloves on at all so I felt bad for him," Jimmerson said in the audio documentary about Gracie. “It was more to protect him (and) also of course my hand. I had a big fight coming up. So, I wanted to make sure I didn’t break my hand on this guy’s face because (I was) having this fight for a lot of money in the near future. So, this was like easy money. I was like, ‘Man, this is the easiest time I’ll have in the world.’”
"The first thing I thought about with Royce was childish. He looked like a child. He did. I mean, he was so young in the face... It was just funny. It was like a joke because back then there was no Google. There was no Internet. There was no Yahoo! So, basically I couldn’t really like lookup who Royce Gracie was or what he [was] involved with," he added. "He wouldn’t look at me at first. I’m a boxer. I’ve been in fights all my life. I’ve been in hundreds of fights. So, I know when I look in a guy’s eyes I can see their heart. Royce didn’t really look at me when we were getting ready to fight. He kind of shied away from me. Not saying he was scared of me. It’s just I like to look a guy in the eyes to see the guy’s soul.”
The child-like, dismissive expression of Gracie evolved into something that would have Joe Exotic on the edge of his seat.
“On the night of the fight he just like turned into a tiger. He had to win. His dad was there. His family was there. So, when he came out he was going to do whatever he had to do to win," Jimmerson recalled.
“Royce came out (fighting) southpaw and then he started kicking at me. That’s what threw me off. I was kind of expecting some things they were trying to show me before the fight. I was expecting takedowns (and) a choke and a mount. I never knew what a mount meant or what a choke out meant," the veteran fighter concluded. "After the fight, we hugged each other and he said something really weird. He thanked me for being a part of it knowing that I had no idea what I was doing or getting into. He felt kind of bad knowing that I had a big disadvantage getting in there.”
Jimmerson would go on to lose in just over two minutes, and would never compete in MMA again. He returned to boxing before retiring in 2002.