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With a fighting history that can be traced directly back to the origin of mixed martial arts nearly two decades ago, the legendary Gracie family will now bring its unique Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu influenced fighting style to the Bellator cage in 2011. Bellator Fighting Championships announced today the signing of fourth degree BJJ black belt Daniel Gracie to the Season 4 Light Heavyweight Tournament.

Daniel is a cousin to Renzo Gracie, Ralph Gracie, and the late Ryan Gracie. The two-time Jiu-Jitsu World Champion is currently set to enter the next chapter of his professional MMA career in Bellator’s first Light Heavyweight Tournament slated for March 2011. Gracie enters the tournament with a professional record of 5-2-1, recently ending a four-year hiatus due to a plaguing elbow injury with a comeback submission victory over Martin Wojcik just 2:17 into the first round.

“The Gracie family has truly influenced MMA as we know it today and I’m proud to say that heritage continues when Daniel steps into the Bellator cage to try to become our Light Heavyweight Champion” said Bellator Chairman and CEO Bjorn Rebney. “A Gracie back in the tournament format, is reminiscent of the days when the Gracie’s dominated MMA and that’s something I’m excited to see”.

The decorated submission grappler and PRIDE Fighting Championships veteran has competed primarily in the heavyweight division for much of his career but feels strongly that he will be better than ever at 205 lbs.

“I feel faster and like my technique is better when I fight at light heavyweight. I also feel like my cardio is much improved and I’m much more explosive at 205 lbs.,” said Gracie. “I feel like I’m just better all around at light heavyweight.”

Signing with Bellator is not only a return to MMA for the submission specialist but also a return to the tournament format for the Gracie family.

“This Bellator tournament is the Gracies getting back to our origins,” said Daniel. “The tournament is the way the Gracies got started in MMA. That will give me extra motivation to win this tournament.”

Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Gracie first began training Jiu-Jitsu at six years of age, eventually earning his black belt under Carlinhos Gracie at the ripe age of 23. Following two world championships in the sport, Gracie decided that he had done all he set out to do in Jiu-Jitsu and set his sights on MMA. Daniel began traveling to the United States to train alongside Renzo Gracie ten years ago and decided to make the move a permanent one in 2004. He currently operates his own Gracie school in Stamford, CT while training to fight out of the Renzo Gracie Academy in New York, New York.

Gracie says that although his eye is on the prize, he’s also focused on putting on good fights.

“I’m imagining myself winning this tournament, I have nothing but winning this tournament on my mind right now,” said Gracie. “Of course I know that anything can happen in MMA, but one thing I guarantee everyone that tunes in is that I’m going to put on a great show. You can bet on that.”

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