A UFC tournament champion dating back to three victories in one night at UFC 7 in 1995, Marco Ruas secured his name in the history of MMA when he introduced the sport to cross-training in various disciplines. A competent fighter both on the mat and standing up, the Brazilian broke the one-dimensional way of thinking in regard to the Mixed Martial Arts, which until then was dominated by grapplers. Precisely for this reason, Maurice Smith’s recent nomination for the UFC’s ‘Hall of Fame’ bothered him.
That’s not necessarily because he feels like Smith, who beat him twice, doesn’t deserve the honor. What bothered Ruas more is the reasoning, praising Smith as a pioneer of modern MMA while ignoring his own accomplishments for the sport.
“They’re calling the guys from the old times, from the beginning”, Ruas told AG. Fight. “They put Don Frye (into the Hall of Fame), who deserved it, and now Maurice Smith. I don’t know. He deserves it, he was a champion, too, I just think he was not the pioneer of it. I was the first to demonstrate other techniques, I did it before him, but okay, the guy deserves it, he was a champion, we already fought and he beat me.”
As it has become tradition, the inclusion of new Hall of Fame members will be held in July in Las Vegas as part of the UFC’s ‘International Fight Week’. Joining the likes of Don Frye, Bas Rutten, Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock, Maurice Smith will be added to the list of pioneers who have helped building MMA as a major sport around the globe. And, in Ruas’ opinion, there should be room for his name, too.
“I think there’s politics”, Ruas claimed. “They’re Americans, it’s a clique, it’s not a fan vote. It’s the UFC, they choose who they’re going to add. The Americans want the event for them to be the champions, to have more belts and to be the best.”
Smith defeated “The King of the Streets” on two occasions, in 1999 and 2007. Still, his name appears time and time again in his home country when athletes point him out as the ‘Father of MMA’, a pioneer who practiced and demonstrated different martial arts at once in a time when the Gracie family dominated their fights using almost exclusively jiu-jitsu techniques.
“I’m aware of this, I don’t want to make waves, but I fought a lot against it,” Ruas said. “In my time, it was jiu-jitsu. I battled that much earlier – in 1984, I faced (Gracie student Fernando) Pinduka, already thinking that jiu-jitsu was not the only way to win a fight (…). I always trained other things (as well): wrestling, muay thai, boxing…”
Ruas competed for promotions such as the UFC, Pride and the IFL, compiling a 9-4-2 record as a professional fighting names such as Smith, Oleg Taktarov or Gary Goodridge.