Royce Gracie Went Through Ridiculous 41 mile runs and 3 hour cold water swims to prep for UFC1

In the early days of the UFC, when martial arts styles clashed and stars looked to prove the effectiveness of their discipline, Royce Gracie utilized a training approach that emphasized endurance over sheer strength and muscle-building. During his guest spot on the Joe Rogan experience, Royce Gracie revealed a peculiar routine.

As a practitioner of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Gracie understood that grueling matches could quickly deplete a man’s gas tank if they lacked the cardiovascular conditioning to go the distance.

In Gracie’s own words, his training prioritized “endurance before strength and power.” He engaged in rigorous endurance work like long-distance runs, swimming sessions that could last hours, mountain hikes, and other grueling conditioning drills. The idea was to build an engine that could outlast his opponents before layering on strength and explosiveness.

For example, Gracie recounts running 41 miles in a single session and swimming across Tampa Bay, a 3-hour endurance feat in cold water conditions. He also tackled the arduous “Cactus to Clouds” hike, covering 21 miles and over 10,000 feet of elevation change. These challenges helped forge mental and physical durability.

While the early UFC had timed limits like 15-minute rounds, the unpredictable nature of the contests demanded a fierce aerobic capacity to keep pushing. Gracie’s endurance-first approach served him well, allowing his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills to shine as muscular opponents wilted from fatigue.

In an era before modern strength & conditioning, Gracie recognized cardio as the combat base to maximize his family’s martial art. His endurance mindset epitomized the “coach” from the mat – out-lasting the opposition through sheer physical and mental toughness.