Kazushi Sakuraba “The Gracie Hunter”

Kazushi SakurabaDOB: July 14th, 1969 Nickname: The Gracie Hunter Gym: Takada Dojo/Laughter7 Location: Tokyo, Japan Martial Arts Records: 26-17(MMA 1-1-4(BJJ) Notable Championships: N/A Kazushi Sakuraba’s pro wrestling aspirations Kazushi Sakuraba grew up with aspirations to be a pro wrestler. Every week, he would religiously watch New Japan Pro Wrestling to see his favorite wrestler Tiger Mask.  […]

Kazushi Sakuraba

  • DOB: July 14th, 1969
  • Nickname: The Gracie Hunter
  • Gym: Takada Dojo/Laughter7
  • Location: Tokyo, Japan
  • Martial Arts Records: 26-17(MMA 1-1-4(BJJ)
  • Notable Championships: N/A

Kazushi Sakuraba’s pro wrestling aspirations

Kazushi Sakuraba grew up with aspirations to be a pro wrestler. Every week, he would religiously watch New Japan Pro Wrestling to see his favorite wrestler Tiger Mask. 

Sakuraba would read all of the Tiger Mask Mangas and dream of flying around the ring like his idol. His sole focus was on becoming a pro wrestler and was considering quitting school at 15 to pursue his dreams.

But his family asked him to reconsider this and instead go out for his school’s amateur wrestling team. Then he would already have wrestling skills to pursue pro wrestling after he finished school.

Kazushi Sakuraba would excel at amateur wrestling and became one of Japan’s best young freestyle wrestlers. Ranking 2nd in the country and earning a spot on the Chuo University wrestling team.

He would continue to be successful at the collegiate level winning the East Japan Freshman Championship. In his final year of wrestling, Kaz would rank 4th in the country.

Kazushi Sakuraba becomes a pro wrestler

After keeping his promise to his family to finish school, Sakuraba would begin his pro wrestling training. Learning under pro wrestler and catch wrestling expert Billy Robinson. Also Japanese wrestlers Nobuhiko Takada and Yoji Anjo, who are both known for having MMA careers.

Pro wrestling training was brutal as Kazushi would train multiple times a day and be physically beaten down. Learning a shoot style of pro wrestling, while having to perform thousands of calisthenics and run miles every day.

The first wrestling promotion that Sakuraba worked for was the Union of Wrestling Forces International(UWFL) from 1993-1996. 

After the UWFL closed its doors in 1996, Sakuraba moved to the promotion Kingdom Pro Wrestling in 1997. This promotion would only last a year due to the rise of MMA in Japan.

Kazushi Sakuraba’s entry into MMA

Sakuraba initially had his first experience in MMA, when he fought UFC vet Kimo Leopoldo. Although many considered that the fight was fixed it was never proven.

He also had a mixed rules match against Dutch kickboxer Rene Rooze that he won by toe hold. But since the bout technically wasn’t MMA, the win didn’t go on his record.

Kazushi Sakuraba’s 2nd pro fight would be at UFC Japan against future ATT coach Marcos Silveira. This was a controversial match, because referee Big John McCarthy stopped the bout prematurely. Ending the bout in a no contest.

The two would have another match that night, which Sakuraba won by arm bar in the first round.

Kazushi Sakuraba’s early Pride run

After his two bouts in the UFC, Sakuraba would make his debut on the Pride 2 show in Yokohama, Japan. Beating UFC vet Vernon “Tiger” White by armbar.

Being native to Japan, the fans of Pride quickly embraced Kazushi Sakuraba as the face of the promotion. He would win his second bout with the promotion at Pride 3 beating former UFC champion Carlos Newton by kneebar.

His 4th fight would be a hard fight against Allan Goes that would end in a draw. Sakuraba would win his fourth fight in Pride beating another former UFC champion in Vitor Belfort by decision.

He would continue finding success as he would go on to beat Ebenezer Fontes Braga and Anthony Macias. Sakuraba was quickly becoming one of the biggest stars in MMA.

Kazushi Sakuraba’s early bouts with the Gracie’s

Kazushi Sakuraba would face the biggest test of his young career at Pride 8. Where he would face Royler Gracie, who was highly favored going into the bout.

Sakuraba would stun Royler as he repeatedly kicked Royler’s legs and would go into his guard. Instead he would play to the crowd and win the striking battle.

The fight would end in controversy as the ref stopped the bout after Sakuraba locked in a kimura. Royler and his family protested, because he clearly never tapped.

This made Kazushi enemy #1 to the Gracie family and they vowed to beat him.

His next bout would be in the opening round of the 2000 Pride GP against Guy Metzger. He would win the match by TKO to set up a match with UFC champion Royce Gracie.

Before their fight, the Gracie family demanded that the rules be changed for this bout. They demanded that the match be unlimited 15 minute bouts until a winner was determined.

Their match would go for 90 minutes, where Kazushi Sakuraba defended most of Royce’s sub attempts, while landing punches and takedowns. After the 90 minute mark, Royce’s corner threw in the towel.

Kazushi was now 2-0 against the Gracie’s, but he couldn’t continue the tournament due to exhaustion.

Kazushi Sakuraba becomes The Gracie Hunter

The Gracie family was still looking to even the score with Kazushi Sakuraba. They would send Renzo Gracie to fight the Japanese MMA star at Pride 10.

Renzo had better striking than his other relatives, but Sakuraba’s wrestling and striking were better. He would play a similar game against Renzo and would win most of the fight until locking on a kimura.

Once he locked on the submission, they would fall to the ground. Renzo’s arm was clearly broken, but did not tap and the referee was forced to stop the fight. Putting Sakuraba up 3-0 against the Gracie family.

Kazushi would peat Shannon Ritch by achilles lock before meeting Ryan Gracie at Pride 12. Once again, he dominated another Gracie and would win the bout by unanimous decision.

With his fourth win against the Gracie’s, Sakuraba earned the nickname, “The Gracie Hunter.”

Kazushi Sakuraba’s decline in Pride

After his win against Ryan Gracie, the Gracie Hunter would face Wanderlei Silva for the first time. This would be a brutal KO loss for Sakuraba that would mark a decline in his time in Pride.

He would bounce back with a submission win against Quinton Jackson and face Silva in a rematch. This time for the Pride Middleweight Championship.

Even though the crowd was behind him, Kazushi Sakuraba would suffer another brutal loss to Wanderlei. This would be followed up by a hard TKO loss to Mirko Cro Cop.

During the end of Sakuraba’s run in Pride, he would go 6-6 in the promotion. 5 of the losses were by devastating knockout.

The end of Sakuraba’s MMA career

The Gracie Hunter was a shell of himself in the later years of his MMA career. Riddled with injuries and damage from over 3 decades of wars.

Sakuraba would fight in various promotions between 2006 and 2015. From K-1, Heroes, Dream, and Rizin.

He would lose 5 in a row before retiring from MMA after a TKO loss in 2015 to Shinya Aoki.

Kazushi Sakuraba’s return to pro wrestling

Towards the end of Kazushi Sakuraba’s MMA career, he would go back to his first love, pro wrestling. He would make his return to New Japan Pro Wrestling for the first time in 20 years.

Kazushi would be in various programs for the company between 2012 and 2016. Generally performing in tag team matches and most notably feuding with MMA legend Minoru Suzuki.

The two would feud throughout 2014 and would meet at Wrestle Kingdom 9 in front of 50k people. 

Sakuraba is currently working for another Japanese pro wrestling promotion called Pro Wrestling Noah.

Kazushi Sakuraba UFC Hall of Famer

In 2017, Sakura was honored by the UFC by being inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. A much deserved honor that both fighters and fans agreed on.

Kazushi Sakuraba creates Quintet

Since retiring from MMA, Sakuraba has gone on to create the grappling promotion Quintet. A tournament based grappling event where different teams compete against each other to crown a champion.

Sakuraba has competed at 4 Quintet events and is the team captain of his team. He had also previously competed in 3 other grappling matches against Renzo Gracie, Wanderlei Silva, and Frank Shamrock.

Kazushi Sakuraba’s legacy

Kazushi “The Gracie Hunter” Sakuraba is one of the most beloved figures in the history of MMA. He is a showman with incredible ability that made millions instant fans of him.

Sakuraba may have not won every bout, but he put his soul into every match and gave it his all. This is why he is an all time great, who is still loved by MMA fans across the world.

The Machado Brothers

The Machado BrothersWhen talking about Jiu Jitsu families, the Gracie family is generally the family brought up most. But they are not the only family of Jiu Jitsu practitioners that helped advance the martial art. Their cousins, the Machado brothers are also some of the best Jiu Jitsu practitioners that have ever lived. They like the Gracie’s […]

The Machado Brothers

When talking about Jiu Jitsu families, the Gracie family is generally the family brought up most. But they are not the only family of Jiu Jitsu practitioners that helped advance the martial art.

Their cousins, the Machado brothers are also some of the best Jiu Jitsu practitioners that have ever lived. They like the Gracie’s had a profound impact on the martial art as they helped expand it internationally.

Here is the story of the legendary Machado brothers. We’ll go through the four brothers’ journeys through Jiu Jitsu and how they became top ambassadors for the sport.

The Machado brothers

There are 5 Machado brothers within the family that created their own Jiu Jitsu school. Carlos, Roger, Rigan, Jean Jaques, and Rigan. Each brother has been practicing Jiu Jitsu for around 40 years or more and have won countless titles.

Carlos Machado

The oldest of the brothers that started his training under Rolls Gracie. Carlos is an 8th degree BJJ black belt. former world champion, and has run his academy in LA for 4 decades.

Roger Machado

Roger Machado is the second oldest of the brothers and is a 7th degree BJJ black belt. He is the yogi and vegetarian of the family that runs his school Roger Machado Jiu Jitsu in Pasadena, California.

Rigan Machado

Rigan Machado is the third of the five brothers and is an 8th degree BJJ black belt. He was actually the first of the five brothers to travel to the US. Also known for having numerous celebrity students that train with him at his academy.

Jean Jacques Machado

Jean Jacques Machado is the fourth of the five brothers and is a 7th degree BJJ black belt. He is probably the most known of the five brothers. From being a former ADCC champion and giving black belts to Eddie Bravo and Joe Rogan.

John Machado

John Machado is the youngest of the five brothers and is also a 7th degree BJJ black belt. He runs his own school in Allen, Texas and when he isn’t teaching, John is also a part-time actor. Getting numerous small roles in action movies through the brother’s connection with Hollywood actors.

Machado Brothers

How are the Machado brothers related to the Gracie family?

The Machados brothers are cousins to the Gracie family through their Aunt Layr, who married Carlos Gracie Sr. Through their Aunt’s marriage, the brothers were exposed to Jiu Jitsu and training at an early age.

The Machados time training with the Gracie’s

Carlos Machado first started learning Jiu Jitsu at the Gracie Academy learning from his Uncle Helio. He would train there for a brief time before moving to Copacabana.

In Copacabana, Carlos was joined by his brothers and began training at Rolls Gracie Academy. They would train under Rolls and Carlos Gracie Jr.

After Rolls’ tragic accident, Carlinhos moved the school to the Tijuca area of Rio de Janeiro and the Machados joined him. They would help Carlos Jr form Gracie Barra and began being molded into some of the best BJJ athletes of the era.

Going on to win every major championship within Brazil at the time including the Mundials.

Rigan Machado moves to the US

Out of the five brothers it was Rigan who was the first to make the journey to the US. Rigan wanted to help his cousins, the Gracie’s, to expand Jiu Jitsu within the United States.

He first traveled to San Francisco to live with his cousin Cesar Gracie. Since there was no Jiu Jitsu in the Bay Area during the mid 1980s, Rigan moved south to Los Angeles.

There he would work at the Gracie Academy in Torrance for Rorion Gracie. His brother Carlos would join him a little later on, but their stay wouldn’t be long. They had ideological differences with Rorion about training and would part ways. 

Rigan would then leave the Gracie Academy and go to open his own school. He initially wanted to open another Gracie Academy, but Rorion owned the rights to the name.

Rigan recruits his brothers

In 1990, Rigan’s would travel back to Brazil to visit his family. When he came back, Rigan came to his four brothers with a proposition.

He said that they needed to come with him to California to run a Jiu Jitsu school together. Rigan believed that there was so much potential for him and his brothers to do great things there.

Since the brothers had already accomplished everything competition wise in Brazil, this was the next big step in their lives.

With the blessing of their professor Carlos Gracie Jr, the Machado brothers would move to California and start a BJJ school. They would call it Machado Jiu Jitsu.

Like their cousin’s the Gracie’s, the brothers began doing Jiu Jitsu out of their new home in Redondo Beach.

The Machados and Chuck Norris

One day when the Machado brothers were training out of their garage, Roger came with a visitor. That visit was action star and Karate champion Chuck Norris.

Roger had actually met Chuck Norris prior in Las Vegas at one of his martial arts conventions. It was one of the first times that Jiu Jitsu was demonstrated in front of Norris’ Karate federation.

As fate would have it, Chuck would come back into Roger’s life years later in California. Chuck spent a short time training at Rorion’s school, but now wanted to train with the Machado brothers.

During this time, Norris was taking 6 months off after filming a movie. While he was off, Chuck trained Jiu Jitsu all day and night with the Machado brothers.

They became really good friends during this time and Chuck would constantly invite the brothers out to eat between training sessions.

A few months after Norris began training with brothers, he had a surprise for them. They got in Chuck’s car and he drove them to a shopping center near Ventura Blvd in LA.

At this shopping center, there was a large unit full of Jiu Jitsu mats. As a gift Chuck Norris bought the Machado brother their own academy as a way of saying thank you.

The Machado brothers were stunned and said there was no way they could afford the rent. But Chuck told them that he was the owner and they didn’t have to pay rent.

He also jokingly said that he didn’t want to drive from Encino to their house in Redondo Beach to train anymore. 

To this day, the Machado brothers are still lifelong friends with Chuck Norris and forever grateful to him.

The Machado brothers compete in Sambo

In the early 1990s, there were no Jiu Jitsu competitions to compete in. This would lead to a few of the Machado brothers to begin competing in Sambo competitions.

Since they already had Judo training and were Brazilian world champions, they would dominate in Sambo.

Rigan would win 4 national championships and 3 pan championships in Sambo. Jean Jaques would win 3 titles and John Machado would win 2 titles along with numerous competitions in California.

The Machados in film and television

Through their friendship with Chuck Norris, the Machado brothers got lots of work in film and television. Everything from making a cameo on Walker Texas Ranger to doing choreography work in other action movies.

This connection with Hollywood would lead the brothers to get more high profile students. Rigan most notably who teaches Ashton Kutcher, Wiz Khalifa, Vin Diesel, and Charlie Hunnam.

Keanu Reeves has also been working with the Machado brothers the last few years for his John Wick films.

The Machado brothers latter years competing

During the late 1990s when the sport of Jiu Jitsu began taking off, the Machado brothers were still competing. When the IBJJF and ADCC created their world titles, a few of the Machado brothers would compete before retiring.

Carlos Machado would win the middleweight and absolute divisions at the Campeonato Internacional de Masters e Seniors before retiring from competition.

Rigan Machado would win at the 1996 and 1997 Pan Championships and earn bronze at the 2000 ADCC Championship. He competed at the next two ADCC events in 2001 and 2003 before retiring from competition.

Jean Jacques Machado would win first place at the 1999 ADCC Championship and place second at the next two events. He would continue competing until 2006 before retiring from competition to run his school full time.

The Machado brothers get heat in Brazil

During the 1990s, the Machado brothers got a little bit of heat from BJJ practitioners in Brazil. Practitioners in Brazil did not like that they were teaching “gringos” the Brazilian martial art.

Especially gringos that competed in grappling. In particular former ADCC champions Mark Kerr and Ricco Rodriguez, who the Machado brothers taught and would later beat Brazilian grapplers.

The brothers would ignore these criticisms as the times were changing and soon everyone would have access to Jiu Jitsu.

The legacy of the Machado brothers

The Machado brothers are some of the most influential BJJ practitioners that have ever lived. Like their cousins in the Gracie family, they traveled to the US and helped spread the art of Jiu Jitsu.

Today, the Machado’s are in separating places running their own academies in affiliations with schools all over the world. They may be training in separate places now, but they’re still brothers and their bond is forever.

The Machado Brothers

The Machado BrothersWhen talking about Jiu Jitsu families, the Gracie family is generally the family brought up most. But they are not the only family of Jiu Jitsu practitioners that helped advance the martial art. Their cousins, the Machado brothers are also some of the best Jiu Jitsu practitioners that have ever lived. They like the Gracie’s […]

The Machado Brothers

When talking about Jiu Jitsu families, the Gracie family is generally the family brought up most. But they are not the only family of Jiu Jitsu practitioners that helped advance the martial art.

Their cousins, the Machado brothers are also some of the best Jiu Jitsu practitioners that have ever lived. They like the Gracie’s had a profound impact on the martial art as they helped expand it internationally.

Here is the story of the legendary Machado brothers. We’ll go through the four brothers’ journeys through Jiu Jitsu and how they became top ambassadors for the sport.

The Machado brothers

There are 5 Machado brothers within the family that created their own Jiu Jitsu school. Carlos, Roger, Rigan, Jean Jaques, and Rigan. Each brother has been practicing Jiu Jitsu for around 40 years or more and have won countless titles.

Carlos Machado

The oldest of the brothers that started his training under Rolls Gracie. Carlos is an 8th degree BJJ black belt. former world champion, and has run his academy in LA for 4 decades.

Roger Machado

Roger Machado is the second oldest of the brothers and is a 7th degree BJJ black belt. He is the yogi and vegetarian of the family that runs his school Roger Machado Jiu Jitsu in Pasadena, California.

Rigan Machado

Rigan Machado is the third of the five brothers and is an 8th degree BJJ black belt. He was actually the first of the five brothers to travel to the US. Also known for having numerous celebrity students that train with him at his academy.

Jean Jacques Machado

Jean Jacques Machado is the fourth of the five brothers and is a 7th degree BJJ black belt. He is probably the most known of the five brothers. From being a former ADCC champion and giving black belts to Eddie Bravo and Joe Rogan.

John Machado

John Machado is the youngest of the five brothers and is also a 7th degree BJJ black belt. He runs his own school in Allen, Texas and when he isn’t teaching, John is also a part-time actor. Getting numerous small roles in action movies through the brother’s connection with Hollywood actors.

Machado Brothers

How are the Machado brothers related to the Gracie family?

The Machados brothers are cousins to the Gracie family through their Aunt Layr, who married Carlos Gracie Sr. Through their Aunt’s marriage, the brothers were exposed to Jiu Jitsu and training at an early age.

The Machados time training with the Gracie’s

Carlos Machado first started learning Jiu Jitsu at the Gracie Academy learning from his Uncle Helio. He would train there for a brief time before moving to Copacabana.

In Copacabana, Carlos was joined by his brothers and began training at Rolls Gracie Academy. They would train under Rolls and Carlos Gracie Jr.

After Rolls’ tragic accident, Carlinhos moved the school to the Tijuca area of Rio de Janeiro and the Machados joined him. They would help Carlos Jr form Gracie Barra and began being molded into some of the best BJJ athletes of the era.

Going on to win every major championship within Brazil at the time including the Mundials.

Rigan Machado moves to the US

Out of the five brothers it was Rigan who was the first to make the journey to the US. Rigan wanted to help his cousins, the Gracie’s, to expand Jiu Jitsu within the United States.

He first traveled to San Francisco to live with his cousin Cesar Gracie. Since there was no Jiu Jitsu in the Bay Area during the mid 1980s, Rigan moved south to Los Angeles.

There he would work at the Gracie Academy in Torrance for Rorion Gracie. His brother Carlos would join him a little later on, but their stay wouldn’t be long. They had ideological differences with Rorion about training and would part ways. 

Rigan would then leave the Gracie Academy and go to open his own school. He initially wanted to open another Gracie Academy, but Rorion owned the rights to the name.

Rigan recruits his brothers

In 1990, Rigan’s would travel back to Brazil to visit his family. When he came back, Rigan came to his four brothers with a proposition.

He said that they needed to come with him to California to run a Jiu Jitsu school together. Rigan believed that there was so much potential for him and his brothers to do great things there.

Since the brothers had already accomplished everything competition wise in Brazil, this was the next big step in their lives.

With the blessing of their professor Carlos Gracie Jr, the Machado brothers would move to California and start a BJJ school. They would call it Machado Jiu Jitsu.

Like their cousin’s the Gracie’s, the brothers began doing Jiu Jitsu out of their new home in Redondo Beach.

The Machados and Chuck Norris

One day when the Machado brothers were training out of their garage, Roger came with a visitor. That visit was action star and Karate champion Chuck Norris.

Roger had actually met Chuck Norris prior in Las Vegas at one of his martial arts conventions. It was one of the first times that Jiu Jitsu was demonstrated in front of Norris’ Karate federation.

As fate would have it, Chuck would come back into Roger’s life years later in California. Chuck spent a short time training at Rorion’s school, but now wanted to train with the Machado brothers.

During this time, Norris was taking 6 months off after filming a movie. While he was off, Chuck trained Jiu Jitsu all day and night with the Machado brothers.

They became really good friends during this time and Chuck would constantly invite the brothers out to eat between training sessions.

A few months after Norris began training with brothers, he had a surprise for them. They got in Chuck’s car and he drove them to a shopping center near Ventura Blvd in LA.

At this shopping center, there was a large unit full of Jiu Jitsu mats. As a gift Chuck Norris bought the Machado brother their own academy as a way of saying thank you.

The Machado brothers were stunned and said there was no way they could afford the rent. But Chuck told them that he was the owner and they didn’t have to pay rent.

He also jokingly said that he didn’t want to drive from Encino to their house in Redondo Beach to train anymore. 

To this day, the Machado brothers are still lifelong friends with Chuck Norris and forever grateful to him.

The Machado brothers compete in Sambo

In the early 1990s, there were no Jiu Jitsu competitions to compete in. This would lead to a few of the Machado brothers to begin competing in Sambo competitions.

Since they already had Judo training and were Brazilian world champions, they would dominate in Sambo.

Rigan would win 4 national championships and 3 pan championships in Sambo. Jean Jaques would win 3 titles and John Machado would win 2 titles along with numerous competitions in California.

The Machados in film and television

Through their friendship with Chuck Norris, the Machado brothers got lots of work in film and television. Everything from making a cameo on Walker Texas Ranger to doing choreography work in other action movies.

This connection with Hollywood would lead the brothers to get more high profile students. Rigan most notably who teaches Ashton Kutcher, Wiz Khalifa, Vin Diesel, and Charlie Hunnam.

Keanu Reeves has also been working with the Machado brothers the last few years for his John Wick films.

The Machado brothers latter years competing

During the late 1990s when the sport of Jiu Jitsu began taking off, the Machado brothers were still competing. When the IBJJF and ADCC created their world titles, a few of the Machado brothers would compete before retiring.

Carlos Machado would win the middleweight and absolute divisions at the Campeonato Internacional de Masters e Seniors before retiring from competition.

Rigan Machado would win at the 1996 and 1997 Pan Championships and earn bronze at the 2000 ADCC Championship. He competed at the next two ADCC events in 2001 and 2003 before retiring from competition.

Jean Jacques Machado would win first place at the 1999 ADCC Championship and place second at the next two events. He would continue competing until 2006 before retiring from competition to run his school full time.

The Machado brothers get heat in Brazil

During the 1990s, the Machado brothers got a little bit of heat from BJJ practitioners in Brazil. Practitioners in Brazil did not like that they were teaching “gringos” the Brazilian martial art.

Especially gringos that competed in grappling. In particular former ADCC champions Mark Kerr and Ricco Rodriguez, who the Machado brothers taught and would later beat Brazilian grapplers.

The brothers would ignore these criticisms as the times were changing and soon everyone would have access to Jiu Jitsu.

The legacy of the Machado brothers

The Machado brothers are some of the most influential BJJ practitioners that have ever lived. Like their cousins in the Gracie family, they traveled to the US and helped spread the art of Jiu Jitsu.

Today, the Machado’s are in separating places running their own academies in affiliations with schools all over the world. They may be training in separate places now, but they’re still brothers and their bond is forever.

The Gracie Family Tree

Gracie Family TreeThe first family of Jiu Jitsu, the Gracie family, have been practicing their martial art for over a century. There are over 4 generations of Gracie’s that are practitioners of Jiu Jitsu and the number is still growing. Let’s see if we can list every member of the Gracie family tree that practices Jiu Jitsu. […]

Gracie Family Tree

The first family of Jiu Jitsu, the Gracie family, have been practicing their martial art for over a century. There are over 4 generations of Gracie’s that are practitioners of Jiu Jitsu and the number is still growing.

Let’s see if we can list every member of the Gracie family tree that practices Jiu Jitsu. We’ll list every generation of Gracie family and give a short bio on each member detailing their work in BJJ.

The first generation of the Gracie family tree

Here is a list of the first generation of the Gracie family that developed the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as we run through the Gracie Family Tree.

Carlos Gracie Sr.

If Carlos Gracie Sr did not begin taking Judo lessons from Mitsuyo Maeda, there would be no Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He along with mainly his brother Hélio Gracie began developing their martial art based on the Judo techniques Carlos learned.

Carlos would develop and teach his martial art for over six decades. Passing the art of Jiu Jitsu to his 21 children that would also practice their father’s martial art.

Hélio Gracie

Along with Carlos Sr, his younger brother Hélio Gracie, the two would develop Brazilian Jiu Jitsu together. Hélio was actually the inspiration for developing the martial art to give smaller people an equal advantage against larger opponents,

Master Hélio would fight to prove the legitimacy of the Gracie family’s martial art for 4 decades. He and his brother are considered sports heroes within Brazil and respected by all in Jiu Jitsu.

Gastão Gracie Jr

Named after his father, Gastão Gracie Jr learned Jiu Jitsu from his brother Carlos Sr. He would go into business with his brothers to open the first Gracie Jiu Jitsu academy in the 1920s.

He was a beloved instructor to early students and is one of the 6 10th degree black belts.

Jorge(George Gracie)

George Gracie was the second youngest son of Gastão Sr and was the most active fighter of the Gracie brothers. Known for his short temper and reddish hair would earn him the nickname Gato Ruvio or red cat in English.

He was also the fittest of the Gracie brothers and assisted Carlos Sr with developing the Gracie diet.

The second generation of the Gracie family tree

Carlson Gracie Sr

Carslon Gracie Sr is the eldest son of Carlos Gracie Sr and is a legend in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. After learning from his father, Carlson went out on his own to form his own affiliation, Carlson Gracie Jiu Jitsu.

He would train numerous world champions within BJJ and later within MMA. Many of his students would also go on to create their own successful affiliations. From André Pederneiras with Nova União, Mário Sperry with Brazilian Top Team, and Ricardo Liborio with American Top Team.

Robson Gracie

9th degree black belt, Robson Gracie is the second oldest son of Carlos Gracie Sr. He earned his black belt in the 1950s and began teaching and fighting.

Robson was known for his tenacity as a fighter, which his sons Renzo, Ralph, and Ryan adopted. He currently still lives in Rio de Janeiro and is the current president of the Jiu-Jitsu Federation of Rio de Janeiro.

Reyson Gracie

Carlos Sr’s 3rd oldest son, Reyson has been training for nearly 70s and is one of the few BJJ red belts. Reyson is credited with introducing BJJ to the Amazonas states of Brazil, as well as the state of Bahia.

Through his work bringing Jiu Jitsu to the Amazon region, many top grapplers were able to learn Jiu Jitsu. Including the multi time world champion Ribeiro brothers, Saulo and Xande.

Reylson Gracie

Reylson Gracie is the fourth oldest son of Carlos Sr and has been extremely influential in Jiu Jitsu’s growth. He was one of the first Gracie’s along with Rorion Gracie to introduce Jiu Jitsu to the US.

He would also come of with many of the technique names used in Jiu Jitsu including the mata leao.(Rear Naked Choke) Gracie would also be the first Jiu Jitsu practitioner to introduce colored kimonos into the martial art.

Rolls Gracie

The late Rolls Gracie was considered the best in the family. Before his paragliding accident in 1983, Rolls was considered one of the leaders of the family, who was very influential.

To further develop the family’s grappling skills, Rolls encouraged them to cross train with other grappling arts. By doing this, he and the rest of the family were able to evolve their games. Become better wrestlers and leg lock specialist to go along with their Jiu Jitsu abilities.

Carley Gracie

Before Reylson and Rorion, Carley Gracie was actually the first Gracie to introduce BJJ to the US. Carley was able to do this, because he enlisted in the US military.

Gracie taught Jiu Jitsu in Connecticut, Maryland, Florida before opening a Jiu Jitsu school in California. He is also the father of Clark and Ralston Gracie.

Carlos Gracie Jr

Carlos Gracie Jr is one of the most influential people in modern Jiu Jitsu. He is the creator the powerhouse BJJ affiliation Gracie Barra and the Confederação Brasileira de Jiu-Jitsu.(CBJJ)

The CBJJ would later turn into the International Jiu Jitsu Federation.(IBJJF) Carlos Jr has taught countless world champions that would go on to teach even more world champions.

Crolin Gracie 

Crolin Gracie was considered just as good as his brother Rolls. Unfortunately, a health condition would cut his time as a competitor short and he then became a full time instructor.

Along with Carlos Gracie Jr, Crolin helped found Gracie Barra and the famous GB gym in Florianopolis. He would help numerous students become world champions and later gym owners.

Rilion Gracie

Rilion Gracie is the youngest son of Carlos Gracie Sr and is considered the best guard player in the family. He helped progress the families guard game and further developed many of the techniques from the position.

Roger Gracie gives his Uncle Rillon credit for helping him develop his guard game. Rillion would also found his own affiliation Rilion Gracie Jiu Jitsu that has affiliate schools across the world.

Rorion Gracie

Rorion Gracie is the oldest son of Hélio Gracie and the founder of the Gracie Jiu Jitsu Academy in Torrance, California. He introduced the Gracie Challenge and helped spread Gracie Jiu Jitsu the most through the Gracie In Action Tapes.

But probably what people know Rorion most for is co-founding the Ultimate Fighting Championship. If you love MMA, you can thank Rorion for starting the UFC and jumpstarting the sport of MMA.

Relson Gracie

Relson Gracie is Hélio Gracie’s second oldest son and his wild child. As a kid, Relson was incredibly talented and was nicknamed campeão, but also loved to surf and have a good time.

He would settle in Hawaii and bring one of the first American Jiu Jitsu teams to compete in Brazil in 1997. Gracie also created his own affiliation, Relson Gracie Jiu Jitsu with schools all over the world.

Rickson Gracie

Rickson Gracie is Hélio’s 3rd oldest son and is still considered the best fighter of the family. He is said to have never lost in any competition in over 400 bouts. (allegedly)

Even though many question the legitimacy of his fight record, nobody criticizes Rickson’s skills. He is considered a BJJ and MMA legend that is respected by everyone within these communities.

Roller Gracie

Rolker Gracie is the 4th oldest son of Hélio Gracie and is the head of Gracie Humailta along with Royler Gracie. He and Royler of the school and affiliation since Rickson moved to the US to start his own school.

Under Roller, Gracie Humailta continues to be successful and is still producing top level athletes.

Royler Gracie

Within the Gracie family, Royler Gracie is the most accomplished competitor of all of them. Royler is considered the king of the featherweight division that won 4 straight world titles and rarely lost a match.

On top of being one of the best competitors of all time, Royler is also an accomplished coach. He is still one of the current heads of Gracie Humailta along with his brother Roller.

Royce Gracie

MMA legend and UFC Hall of Famer Royce Gracie was the face of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Royce represented the Gracie family in the inaugural UFC tournaments and won UFC 1,2 and 4.

He was the ambassador for Jiu Jitsu and showed its effectiveness against other martial arts. Without Royce Gracie, Jiu Jitsu and MMA may not have exploded in popularity.

Gracie Family Tree

The 3rd generation of the Gracie family tree

Carlson Gracie Jr

Carlson Gracie Jr is the oldest son of Carlson Gracie sr and is the current head of Carlson Gracie Association. From the time he was born, Carlson was on the mat with his father training.

Carlinhos is a 5th degree black belt and coaches at the Carlson Gracie US headquarters in Chicago, Illinois.

Renzo Gracie

Renzo Gracie

A major member within the Gracie family tree, MMA and BJJ legend Renzo Gracie is the son of 9th degree black belt Robson Gracie. During his time as a competitor, Renzo would go 14-7 in MMA and won two ADCC championships.

Aside from being a top athlete, Renzo is the owner of the world famous Renzo Gracie Academy in New York City. He has trained numerous champions in BJJ and MMA in the 20+ years his gym has been open.

Ralph Gracie

Ralph Gracie is Renzo Gracie’s younger brother and is considered the pitbull of the family. He has had his fair share of trouble and some of it is still ongoing.

As a fighter, Ralph had a stellar career going 6-1 before retiring. Gracie is also an accomplished gym owner and has run his school Ralph Gracie Jiu Jitsu for years in San Francisco.

Ryan Gracie

Like his brother Ralph, Ryan Gracie was as talented as he was ill tempered. He had a successful MMA career, but didn’t reach his potential due to problems with the law and drugs.

Unfortunately for Ryan, his demons caught up to him and he passed away in a Sao Paulo Jail in 2007. There are still many unanswered questions lingering about Ryan’s untimely death.

Rolles Gracie Jr

Rolles Gracie Jr is the son of Rolls Gracie who is a 4th degree black belt in Jiu Jitsu. After having a successful BJJ career, Rolles would move to MMA.

His career would span from 2007-2015 and earn a record of 8-4. Since retiring from competition he runs a Renzo Gracie affiliate school in Old Bridge, New Jersey.

Clark Gracie

Clark Gracie is the son of Carley Gracie and has been one of the more active competitors in the last decade. Known for his good looks and expertise with the omoplata.

He has his own academy located in San Diego, California and travels frequently to compete and give seminars.

Roger Gracie

Roger Gracie is the son of Reila Gracie, the daughter of Carlos Gracie Sr. He is the greatest BJJ competitor of the last era, who won 10 world championships in a decade of competing.

In his retirement match, he beat rival and the best heavyweight Gi player of the new era Buchecha Almeida. Since retiring, Roger has moved to London, England where he runs his academy Roger Gracy Jiu Jitsu.

Rodrigo Gracie

Rodrigo Gracie is the son of Reylson Gracie and is a retired competitor, who is a sixth degree black belt. During his time competing, Rodrigo won gold at the first ADCC tournament and earned an MMA record of 6-2.

Since retiring, he has worked at academies owned by Royce and Renzo. He is now the head instructor at his own academy in Palos Verdes, California.

Igor Gracie

Igor Gracie is the second son of Rolls Gracie and the younger brother of Rolles Jr. Just like his brother, he dedicated his life to the family trade and still competes in various competitions.

When he isn’t competing, Igor is an instructor at Renzo Gracie’s school along with his own affiliate school. He is also a part time male model that you may have seen in ads for cologne and clothes.

Gregor Gracie 

Gregor Gracie is the half brother of Rolles Jr and Igor Gracie. Their mother Angela remarried years after Roll’s death and had Gregor.

Just like his brother’s, Gregor became passionate about BJJ and has competed at the highest level. He is also an instructor at Renzo Gracie Academy in New York City.

Ryron Gracie

Ryron Gracie is the oldest son of Rorion Gracie and along with his brother runs the Gracie Breakdown Youtube channel. For those that don’t know, Ryron and Rener breakdown the techniques of different current fights on the channel.

When he isn’t making videos for his channel, Ryron is currently running the Torrance Gracie Academy with his brother Rener.

Rener Gracie

Rener Gracie is the middle brother to Ryron and Ralek Gracie. As we already mentioned he is the co-owner of the Gracie Breakdown Youtube channel and the Gracie Academy in Torrance.

He is also the co-creator of Gracie University and is currently married to ex WWE wrestler Eve Torres.

Ralek Gracie

Ralek Gracie is the third son of Rorion Gracie and the older brother of Rener and Ryron Gracie. What Ralek is famous for is helping start the pro BJJ show scene.

His promotion Metamoris was one of the first pro grappling shows that got a lot of recognition. He also had a short MMA career and most notably submitted Sakuraba at Dream 14.

Cesar Gracie

Cesar Gracie

Cesar Gracie is the grandson of Carlos Gracie Sr. He would join the US Marines after moving to the country. Once he finished his service he would continue training Jiu Jitsu and would be given his black belt by Robson Gracie.

What Cesar Gracie is most known for is being an MMA coach to some of the best fighters ver. Including the Diaz brothers, Jake Shields, and Gilbert Melendez.

Kron Gracie

Kron is the second son of Rickson Gracie and was a BJJ athlete and current MMA fighter in the UFC. As a BJJ competitor, Kron is most known for winning a gold medal at the 2013 ADCC Championship.

Then like his dad, Kron would move to MMA and earn a 4-0 record before making it into the UFC. He is currently 1-1 in the promotion and is waiting for his next bout.

Crosley Gracie

Crosley Gracie is the grandson of Carlos Sr and his mother is Rosley Gracie. His Uncle Reylson started teaching him in 1988 when he was young.

During his competitive years, Crosley was successful in national tournaments before opening his own school. As an instructor, Crosley would find more success and help a few students become world champions.

Rose Gracie

Rose Gracie is the daughter of Rorion Gracie. She grew up along with the boys in the family training Jiu Jitsu.

Like her father Rorio, she got her education and works in various areas along with Jiu Jitsu. She is most known for her ongoing feud with Renato Laranja.

Reylan Gracie

Reylan Gracie is another one of Rorion Gracie’s sons and is a black belt under his father. He is one of the lesser known members of the family, but he had high level skills like his brothers.

Roggan Gracie

Roggan Gracie is the son of Rilion Gracie and teaches at Rilion Gracie HQ in Miami, Florida. For a short time, Roggan fought professionally in MMA before turning to teaching BJJ full-time.

The 4th generation of the Gracie family

Kyra Gracie

Kyra Gracie is the granddaughter of Robson Gracie and the only female Gracie to earn a black belt. (so far) She is also one of the most talented female BJJ athletes of all time.

In her time as a competitor, Kyra won 4 world championships and 3 ADCC gold medals. She is now retired from competition and married to Brazilian actor Malvio Salvador.

Neiman Gracie

Neiman Gracie is the son of Renzo Gracie and currently fights for Bellator MMA in the welterweight division. His record as of now is 11-2 with 9 submission wins.

He is currently one of the top ranked welterweights in the promotion and is working towards earning a title shot.

Khonry Gracie

Khonry Gracie is the son of Royce Gracie and currently fights for Bellator MMA in the welterweight division. He currently has a record of 2-2 and is looking to bounce back from a loss in 2020 on the Bellator 252 card.

The Machado Brothers

While they aren’t technically members of the Gracie family, they are cousins of the Gracie’s and are highly respected BJJ practitioners. Here are some short bios on the Machado brothers.

Carlos Machado

The oldest of the 5 Machado brothers and is an 8th degree Jiu Jitsu black belt. During the 80s and 90s, he was one of the best BJJ athletes in the world. 

He now has numerous BJJ academies all across the world.

Roger Machado

The second oldest of the brothers is a 7th degree BJJ black belt and is also a yoga practitioner of many decades. Roger’s brothers refer to him as the zen master of the family.

Rigan Machado

Rigan Machado is the third oldest of the brothers and is an 8th degree BJJ black belt. As a competitor, Rigan is famous for winning the Brazilian Nationals at every BJJ rank.

But what he is probably most known for is teaching numerous celebrities at his academy in Beverly Hills, California. A few years ago, Rigan awarded Ashton Koucher with his BJJ brown belt.

Jean Jacques Machado

JJ Machado is the 4th of the five brothers and arguably the best of the bunch. Even with his disability, he was able to develop a high level BJJ game.

As a competitor, Jean Jacques won multiple ADCC championships and Brazilian National Championships. He is also a highly regarded instructor that has giving black belts most notably to Joe Rogan and Eddie Bravo.

John Machado

John Machado is the youngest of the 5 brothers and is a former World Sambo Champion. He currently runs his school in Allen, Texas and has other affiliate schools across the US. Machado also works as an actor from time to time getting bit roles in different action movies.

Mayssa Bastos – Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt Prodigy

mayssa bastosDOB: October 23rd, 1997 Nickname: Pequena Notável Gym: GF Team/Unity JJ Martial Arts Record: 66-7 Notable Championships: IBJJF World Champion, 2x IBJJF No-Gi Champion, 2x No-Gi Pan Champion, 2x IBJJF Pan Champio, Brazilian National Champion, American National Champion, WNO Champion Mayssa Bastos early years in BJJ Maysa Bastos lived most of her childhood living in […]

mayssa bastos

  • DOB: October 23rd, 1997
  • Nickname: Pequena Notável
  • Gym: GF Team/Unity JJ
  • Martial Arts Record: 66-7
  • Notable Championships: IBJJF World Champion, 2x IBJJF No-Gi Champion, 2x No-Gi Pan Champion, 2x IBJJF Pan Champio, Brazilian National Champion, American National Champion, WNO Champion

Mayssa Bastos early years in BJJ

Maysa Bastos lived most of her childhood living in the city of Maricá before moving to Niterói near Rio de Janeiro. Before she got into BJJ, Bastos trained in Judo along with her older brother.

She first started learning Jiu Jitsu in Maricá with Jair Court at a GFTeam school. Bastos quickly grew a passion for Jiu Jitsu and would spend most of her time on the mat.

While training within the state of Rio de Janeiro, Bastos would routinely make trips to different GFTeam schools. Frequently going to the GFTeam headquarters in Meier to train with Julio Cesar.

Her dedication would lead her to being one of the best juvenile blue belts in all of Brazil. In just a short time, Bastos would prove she was one of the best in the world.

Mayssa Bastos runs through the colored belt divisions

When Mayssa was still at the juvenile blue belt, many saw her potential to become one of the world’s best. At this belt, Bastos began making her name on the international scene.

Winning double gold at both the IBJJF Juvenile Pan and European Championship. Then earning second at Juvenile Worlds right before she earned her purple belt.

At purple belt, Mayssa Bastos would continue making a name for herself on the world Jiu Jitsu stage. Her time at purple belt would last two years between 2015 and 2016.

In that time, Bastos would win her first two BJJ world championships. Also winning the European and Pan Championships twice in those years, as well.

Mayssa would continue winning at brown belt as expected. She would spend 1.5 years at brown belt and would come up short of winning the IBJJF World Championship.

But Mayssa Bastos would win the Abu Dhabi World Pro and UAEJJF Grand Slam in Abu Dhabi and Los Angeles.

Mayssa Bastos trains at multiple gyms

Bastos has never been afraid to train at different gyms to improve her skills. While in Brazil, she would travel around training at different GFTeam schools.

Once she was able to travel and train in the US, Mayssa would train at even more gyms. Including GFTeam Orange County on the west coast and also Unity Jiu Jitsu in New York.

At Unity Jiu Jitsu, while training with Murilo Santana. This would become the predominant gym that she would train at to prepare for tournaments in the US.

Mayssa Bastos’ nickname

Mayssa’s nickname is the “Pequena Notável.” This name translates to English as the remarkable little one.

She was dubbed this by a FlashSport photographer named Marcos Furtado. Bastos is small in frame, but she would frequently win absolute divisions throughout competitions in Brazil. 

Mayssa Bastos would live up to her nickname in the black belt division and win absolute divisions at black belt.

Mayssa Bastos early black belt run

When Mayssa Bastos won the Abu Dhabi Pro at brown belt in 2018, she would earn her black belt. Julio Cesar would promote her on the podium after 9 years of training.

Bastos didn’t waste any time and would get right back to winning competitions. Her first tournament at black belt would be the American Nationals.

She would go 3-1 at her first black belt competition winning the 48 kg division and 2nd in absolute division. Most notably beating Patti Fontes by advantage and losing by advantage to former world champion Karen Antunes.

After that loss, Mayssa Bastos would not lose again in 2018. Going 18-0 and winning numerous championships. Including EBI 18 and the No-Gi World Championship.

At both events, Mayssa beat Patti Fontes in the finals twice to put her up 4-0 against her rival.

Mayssa Bastos 2019 run

Fresh off of winning her first No-Gi World Championship and EBI 18, Bastos continued proving she was an elite competitor.

Mayssa Bastos would come up short in her first tournament of 2019, losing in the finals of the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam.

The loss didn’t really affect her as Mayssa would go on to win the European Open and the Netherlands Pro. She would continue her tour of Europe and compete in a few more tournaments.

Winning all of her matches by submission at the European Continental and Grand Slam London tournament.

Mayssa Bastoswould then add another Pan American Championship to her collection along with two wins on different BJJ pro shows.

Her next 2 tournaments would be world championship tournaments. The Abu Dhabi World Pro and the IBJJF World Championship.

Pequena Notável would continue to make a name for herself. Going 7-0 in these tournaments to add two more world titles to her resume.

She would end her impressive 2019 by winning the Abu Dhabi Pro Rio de Janeiro tournament and the $20k grand prize.

Mayssa Bastos 2020 run

Due to the global pandemic, Mayssa Bastos wasn’t as active in competition in 2020 due to restrictions. Although in the competitions she did participate in, Bastos went a perfect 6-0.

Winning the Grand Slam Abu Dhabi, European Open, and another Pan American Championship. But arguably her biggest win came against Grace Gundrum at WNO 5.

Gundrum at this point had just reached the rank of black belt. Having gone undefeated in Jiu Jitsu competitions since she was 12 years old.

Bastos would use her experience and shut down Gundrum’s high level guard game to win a referee decision. Topping off her 2020 and started to prepare for a busier 2021.

Mayssa Bastos 2021 run

Bastos’ 2021 did not start how she wanted as she lost in the finals of the World Pro to Brenda Larissa. She would bounce back to win the No-Gi Pan American and Grand Slam Miami tournament before losing at the Pan American.

In normal fashion, Bastos would bounce back from her loss and get ready for two big tournaments. The first would be the WNO 52 kg championships.

Mayssa was in this tournament that included Danielle Kelly, Tammi Musumeci, Alex Ngyuen, Jessa Khan, and Grace Gundrum.

She would win two referee decisions in her first two matches to meet Grace Gundrum again in the finals. Once again, Bastos would use her experience to stop Gundrum’s game to win the inaugural WNO 52 kg title.

Her last tournament of 2021 would be winning her 2nd No-Gi World Championship. Beating both of her opponents with ease with one submission and a 9-0 win.

Mayassa Bastos’ game

Mayssa has one of the most technical guard games in all of Jiu Jitsu. She is a back take wizard that loves to use berimbolo rolls to get there.

Along with her elite back taking skills, Mayssa Bastos’ No-Gi game is actually a heavy top pressure game. Her ability to mix up her style has made her one of the best grapplers in the world.

Mayssa Bastos’ legacy 

At only 24 years old, Mayssa Bastos is already one of the most accomplished grapplers in the world. Winning multiple world championships in both the Gi and No-Gi.

She has yet to peak as a competitor and will most likely stay on top for years to come. Bastos’ next goal will be to add an ADCC title to her impressive resume.

Rickson Gracie “The Last Samurai” Gracie Jiu Jitsu Legend

rickson gracieDOB: November 21, 1958 Nickname: The Last Samurai Gym: Gracie Jiu Jitsu Location: Los Angeles, California Martial Records: 11-0(MMA) Notable Championships: 2x Vale Tudo Japan Champion Rickson Gracie’s childhood Rickson Gracie grew up in Rio de Janeiro and is the third oldest son of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu co-founder Hélio Gracie. From a young age, Rickson […]

rickson gracie

  • DOB: November 21, 1958
  • Nickname: The Last Samurai
  • Gym: Gracie Jiu Jitsu
  • Location: Los Angeles, California
  • Martial Records: 11-0(MMA)
  • Notable Championships: 2x Vale Tudo Japan Champion

Rickson Gracie’s childhood

Rickson Gracie grew up in Rio de Janeiro and is the third oldest son of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu co-founder Hélio Gracie. From a young age, Rickson was picked as the next representative of the family.

Although before he began to train Jiu Jitsu seriously, Rickson Gracie almost took a bad path in life. During his pre-teen years, Rickson would routinely skip school and hang out in a favela in Ipanema.

In this favela, Gracie befriended some older kids that like to smoke marijuana and surf. Being young and wanting to impress the older kids, Rickson began getting pot for them.

This allowed him to be part of the group, but once they began stealing and using drugs, Rickson Gracie had second thoughts.

He knew staying would lead him down a bad path, so he decided to dedicate his life to training Jiu Jitsu.

Rickson Gracie’s early training 

When Rickson was young, his father was his main trainer, until he was a teenager. At this time his older relative Rolls Gracie took over as his teacher.

Rolls was a tough teacher that pushed Rickson hard. Every training session was like a fight and Rolls instilled a finish the fight approach into Rickson Gracie.

Forget about winning by points and always aim to finish his fights by submission. The young Gracie took this mindset to heart and it helped him succeed in Jiu Jitsu competitions.

In Jiu Jitsu competitions, it is said that Rickson never lost a match. He would almost always win his matches by submission and rarely get scored on.

Many at a young age already considered him among the best in the family.

Rickson Gracie’s fights with Rei Zulu

Rickson would have his first vale tudo fight when he was just 19 years old. One day his father’s ex opponent and then friend Waldemar Santana came to visit the gym in Rio.

Santana was working as a fight promoter and was having problems finding his client Rei Zulu a fight. Zulu was allegedly 270-0 in vale tudo fights and was a mountain of a man with an indegionous wrestling background.

Hélio got excited and volunteered Rickson to challenge the undefeated Rei Zulu. Gracie was undersized and less experienced, but his father knew he would win.

His first fight was a grueling war in front of 20k spectators. Rickson Gracie weathered the storm of his bigger opponent for two rounds to the point Zulu was completely exhausted. This would lead to Rickson submitting Zulu with a Rear Naked Choke in the third round.

The two would have a rematch years later in a controversial match, where both men landed illegal blows. Their rematch would also end in Gracie choking out Zulu again.

Rickson Gracie and the beach fight with Hugo Duarte

During the 1980s, Gracie Jiu Jitsu was at war with a rival Vale Tudo school. The Vale Tudo school led by Marco Ruas won the initial meeting and negotiations began for Rickson to fight Ruas.

The fight never happened, but a bout with Hugo Duarte was offered and Rickson accepted. Although there were rumors that Duarte would back out.

So to prevent Duarte from avoiding the fight, Rickson confronted him at a beach in Copacabana. Rickson slapped Duarte to force him to fight and then proceeded to control Duarte on the ground.

This would continue the war between BJJ and Luta Livre, but Rickson would move to the US.

Vale Tudo Japan 1994

After moving to the US in the late 80s to work at the Gracie school in LA, Rickson mainly coached. Although he still stayed in shape and would still compete in various types of grappling tournaments from Jiu Jitsu to Sambo.

Then in 1994, he was contacted by catch wrestling expert Eric Paulsen. Eric was matchmaking for an early MMA tournament to be held in Japan called Vale Tudo Japan 1994. 

He asked if Rickson would like to be the Jiu Jitsu representative in the tournament and Gracie gladly accepted.

At the tournament, Rickson would make easy work of his 3 opponents. Finishing his first fight by RNC and his last 2 by punches to win the inaugural tournament.

Rickson Gracie and Yoji Anjo dojo storm

When Rickson won the first Vale Tudo Japan tournament, he began getting challenged by Japanese pro wrestlers. They were trying to make a name for themselves and trying to get publicity and attention on their promotion.

Rickson stated that he would never fight in pro wrestling, where the fights were a work. But if any Japanese wrestler wanted to fight him, they were welcomed to come to LA and try.

One young wrestler by the name of Yoji Anjo would make the trip to the US with members of the Japanese media. He and the promoter of the pro wrestling federation met Rickson at the Gracie academy in LA.

Gracie permitted Anjo and the promoter into the school, but not the Japanese press. When they got to the mat, the fight commenced and Rickson made Anjo regret his decision.

Anjo was brutally beaten for minutes before being choked out. There is a video of the incident, but Rickson has never released the video to the public.

He only showed it to the Japanese press one time to show them what really happened.

Rickson Gracie’s Choke documentary

After winning the first Vale Tudo Japan tournament in 1994, Rickson was asked to fight again at the 1995 tournament. This time, his training would be documented on the famous documentary Choke.

This documentary showed Rickson’s preparation for the tournament along with two other competitors. Just like the previous tournament, Rickson won with ease by submitting all 3 opponents in one night again.

Rickson Gracie and the creation of Pride FC

Through the Vale Tudo Japan tournaments, Rickson Gracie had helped create the early MMA scene in Japan. He helped promote the inaugural Pride Fighting Championship event held at the Tokyo Dome in 1997.

Rickson would fight in the main event against Yoji Anjo’s teacher Nobuhiko Takada. Gracie made easy work of Takada submitting with an armbar in the first round.

Even though Takada lost, Rickson respected his spirit and gave him a rematch at Pride 4. The rematch would have the same result as the first with a win for Rickson by armbar.

Rickson Gracie’s last match and retirement

Rickson’s last match would take place in 2000 against Masakatsu Funaki for the promotion CK. For this fight a special rule set of no elbow or knee strikes were added right before the contest.

Although this new ruleset didn’t really make a difference as Gracie took his opponent down and submitted him.

After this match, Rickson’s oldest son Rockson Gracie died of a drug overdose in December of 2000. The death of his oldest son broke Rickson’s heart and he no longer had the desire to fight.

Instead choosing to teach Jiu Jitsu and spend time with his family.

Rickson Gracie as a teacher

Kron Gracie was his father Rickson’s pupil from the time he could walk. In the early 2010s, Kron wanted to be a world Jiu Jitsu champion just like his dad.

He would get his chance after qualifying for the 2013 ADCC Championship. With his father Rickson in his corner, Kron made his way to China to compete at the event

The young Gracie easily won his first match against Andy Wang before meeting Garry Tonon in an all-time classic match. Kron was down on points before getting Tonon’s back and submitting him in the last few seconds.

Then in the finals, he met Otavio Sousa in the finals. He would win the tournament with a standing guillotine choke as Rickson watched on in his corner. 

Rickson considered it one of the most special moments of his life to see Kron win at ADCC.

Rickson Gracie & Ginastica Natural

One of the keys to Rickson’s success was his strength and conditioning. His friend Orlando Conti taught Rickson his style of training called Ginastica Natural. 

Ginastica Natural is a mix of natural movements, yoga, and breathing exercises. Rickson Gracie became a master of controlling his breath and heart rate.

He is well known for his famous breathing techniques that he has demonstrated frequently in films and documentaries.

Rickson Gracie earns his red belt

In 2007, Rickson Gracie became only the 50th person to ever receive their red belt in Jiu Jitsu. He was surprised by his older brother Rorion at a seminar along with a few other red belts. Cementing his already great legacy.

Rickson Gracie Legacy

There really isn’t anything to say about Rickson Gracie that hasn’t already been said. He is one of the greatest martial artists that have ever lived.

Not only being one of the best fighters ever, but also one of the best teachers. Rickson Gracie continues teaching the art he loves and has recently created his own federation. The Jiu Jitsu Global Federation.