How would Chuck Norris fare in the UFC today?
Chuck Norris epitomised the American tough man during the 80s. With a bulky frame, magnificent beard and legitimate martial arts credentials, Norris was an action hero come to life, and today many believe that he would run roughshod on the UFC if he were born 30 years later.
Despite being best known for roundhouse kicking villains on the silver screen, Norris actually has an impressive martial arts resume, which includes an eigth degree black belt in taekwondo, black belt in judo and a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ).
The martial arts hero even had ties to the UFC in it's earliest incarnation, with initial UFC owner Rorion Gracie wanting him to be a part of the first pay-per-view event, but Norris, who was an established Hollywood heavyweight at the time, wanted no part of this perceived bloodsport.
UFC co-founder Art Davie spoke to MMA Kanvas earlier this week, and recounted the time they tried to bring Norris into the fold.
"My book, 'IS THIS LEGAL?' ...the title comes from Chuck's response to Rorion and me asking him to commentate or just be ringside. He passed. He just kept saying, 'Is this legal?'"
"Rorion and I went to his house in Tarzana (Calfornia). Rorion and Chuck had a falling out over money when Chuck had hired Rorion to work a seminar and Rorion brought his brothers. Chuck thought he was only paying one price not separate fees for each of his brothers. Rorion asked me to wait in the car when he went inside and smoothed things over before he brought me inside. I had written out the points about our (UFC 1) tournament in Denver (Colorado) and Rorion gave some of them to Chuck but he just kept asking; 'Is this legal?'." Davie recalled.
Norris wouldn't hinder his action star image in the 90s by associating with the underground sport that would soon feel the wrath of Senator John McCain, but in hindsight, he believes that both he and Bruce Lee would do some serious damage in the UFC today.
"MMA wasn't in existence when Bruce (Lee) and I were training, and when I was fighting. Even though we fought bare fisted in our competitions and we had a lot of injuries, it wasn't an MMA style fight, but I think, being confident in myself, that I feel I would've done very well in the MMA arena," Norris told BloodyElbow.
"Because of my Judo training - I was a black belt in Judo, and plus I had multiple black belts in krate, taekwondo, tang soo do and so forth. I felt I was pretty well rounded, and I really credit that for the success I had in my competitive days so I felt I would do well, and I think Bruce would too (because) he was a fanatical trainer," he continued.
We can pretty safely rule out 74 year old Norris ever stepping foot into the Octagon for battle at this point, but it's fascinating to consider how the action hero would stack up in the UFC today.
The former United States Air Force representative indicated that he weighs around 155 pounds (71kg) today, but in his heyday was sizeably bigger, with a primed Norris likely fitting in as a welterweight at 170 pounds (77kg). In that weight class, Norris would find himself locking horns with the likes of Johny Hendricks or Georges St. Pierre, tall tasks for anyone in the world.
If we take Norris' well-rounded base, there are really two areas that the taekwondo master would have to work on - wrestling and boxing, and his career at the top of the UFC would hinge on his ability or inability to close those gaps.
Since 1994, wrestlers have ruled the roost inside the UFC. While in today's day and age you need to have a good understanding of every martial arts discipline, wrestling is the one that can make or break a fighter. Simply put, the wrestler dictates where the fight takes place. If he (or she) wants to smother you on the ground, he can. If he wants to keep the fight standing and trade bombs, he can do that too.
Given Norris' background as a high-level judoka, and his training with "Judo" Gene LeBell, who had learned wrestling from six time world champion Ed "Strangler" Lewis since the age of seven (he was also one of the first to implement wrestling into other martial art forms) it's fair to assume that Chuck would have some wrestling training behind him, and could adapt to that facet of the game pretty quickly.
Boxing, on the other hand, might be harder to mix into his game. To this day, there are only a handful of great boxers in MMA, and even fewer taekwondo fighters that have morphed into well-rounded strikers.
While lightweight stars Benson Henderson and Anthony Pettis are notable exceptions to the rule, taekwondo fighters have typically struggled with getting hit, and often crash and burn in highlight reel fashion. So Norris would have to learn the fundamentals of boxing before he even stepped into a cage.
Norris, similarly to his pal Bruce Lee, was ahead of his time. In a generation when martial arts sensei's all believed that their fighting variant ruled the world, Norris learned other disciplines and became a well-rounded machine, who would've been a prime candidate for a UFC fighter if he were active in a different era.
What are your thoughts? Would Chuck Norris have made it in the modern day MMA arena? Have your say below, or over on our Facebook fan page.
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