Back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Mike Tyson was seen as “the baddest man on the planet,” and perhaps with good reason. Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion in history. “Iron Mike” became known for his aggressively forward style and his amazing knockout power.
The boxer won the WBA, WBC, IBF, and The Ring heavyweight titles during his career. With that resume, it’s hard to imagine the champion denying anyone a fight. But so it happens that that’s exactly what happened.
When Iron Mike was preparing to come back to boxing after a three-year layoff in prison, the Gracie family was arranging the first MMA event that would later become the world-famous organization, the UFC.
The first UFC featured several fighters from different martial arts. The goal was for the Gracie family to showcase the efficiency of Jiu-Jitsu as the “best” martial art for self-defense. The Gracies were successful, as Royce Gracie became a multiple-time UFC champion during the first editions of the tournament. Royce defeated several opponents from different martial arts and different weights.
Later, in an attempt to promote their martial art even further, the Gracie family attempted to challenge the boxing legend Mike Tyson to a fight. In the book about the Gracies, “The Top: Enter the Octagon, the Ring and Entertainment” written by sportswriter Fiaz Rafiq,’ it is revealed: “[Tyson] was challenged by the Gracie Brothers, in particular Royce, back in the early 1990s.”
“The UFC champion’s perception was that Tyson was the best boxer in the world, but he refused to accept that Tyson was the best ‘fighter’.”
“Royce wasn’t going to rest until he did everything within his means to provoke the heavyweight champion into accepting a real fight in a no-holds-barred setting.”
“To settle the matter once and for all, Royce formally challenged the most feared boxer of our time to a fight to the finish, and so did his elder brother Rickson.”
At the time, it was reported that Tyson denied the challenge stating that “there is no way he would win”, however, years later Royce Gracie shared that, in fact, Tyson was willing to fight him, but the lawyers and managers on Tyson’s staff were against it.
‘I heard that my brother tried to bring him in [to the UFC]’, Royce explained. ‘He had accepted, but people around him—the lawyers, managers, and the Commission—said no way, because boxing had too much to lose.
“But he had accepted and wanted to do it. I talked to him before and he was like, ‘I’d love to try this stuff out, man’. But the people around him did not allow him to do it. If he lost a fight, if it happened, well, boxing was already in decline in America, so it wouldn’t be good for boxing.”