Rickson Gracie

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Rickson Gracie
Born (1959-11-21) November 21, 1959 (age 64)
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Height5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
Weight185 lb (84 kg; 13 st 3 lb)
Teacher(s)Helio Gracie, Rolls Gracie
Years active1980, 1984, 1994-2000 (MMA)
Mixed martial arts record
By knockout2
By submission9
Notable relativesKron Gracie, son
Mixed martial arts record from Sherdog

Rickson Gracie (Portuguese: [ˈʁiksõ ˈɡɾejsi]; born November 21, 1959) is a Brazilian retired mixed martial artist.[1][2][3] He is a member of the Gracie family: the third oldest son of Hélio Gracie, brother to Rorion and Relson Gracie, and half-brother to Rolker, Royce, Robin and Royler Gracie.[4] In the 1980s and 1990s, he was widely considered to be the best fighter of the Gracie clan, and one of the toughest in the world.[5] In July 2017, he was promoted to ninth-degree red belt, the second-highest ranking in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.[6]


Rickson Gracie, son of Helio Gracie, received his black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu at age 18 in 1977.[6]

Matches against Rei Zulu[edit]

Rickson Gracie in his matches against Rei Zulu

At 20, Gracie was pitted in a high-profile fight in Brasilia against famous Brazilian professional wrestler and fighter Casemiro "Rei Zulu" Nascimento Martins (father of Zuluzinho). Rei Zulu was not a qualified martial artist, having only a background in a supposedly indigenous wrestling style named tarracá, but he weighed 230 pounds (104 kg) and had experience in the vale tudo circuit, being supposedly 270–0 at the time.[7] Despite the size difference, Gracie won the match at the third round by submitting Zulu with a rear naked choke, gaining immediate national recognition.[7]

In 1984, Zulu requested a rematch in Rio de Janeiro, which became a controversial affair. According to Zulu, the Gracie family demanded the rules to be changed just one hour before the event, banning closed-fisted strikes, direct punches to the face, and kicks to a downed opponent.[7] During the match, held in the Maracanazinho before an audience of 20,000 spectators, Zulu himself fouled by trying to eye-gouge Gracie, while Gracie himself gave Zulu a low blow later into the fight. Gracie also claimed Zulu was oiled up with vaseline in order to impede his grip.[8] In any case, Gracie won again, submitting his opponent with another choke in the second round.[7]

In November of the same year, Zulu defeated kickboxing champion Sérgio "Rock" Batarelli in another fight, which was the condition to host another match against Gracie, but it never happened.[9]

Challenges to luta livre[edit]

In 1988, promoters tried to put together an anticipated fight between Gracie and luta livre exponent Marco Ruas. However, Hélio Gracie refused, demanding either that Gracie received a higher payment or that the bout happened inside the Gracie Academy, which were both rejected, so the fight didn't take place.[9] Later, Gracie himself challenged Ruas to an impromptu match during a meeting with luta livre fighters in the Clube Boqueirão do Passeio. The reasons why this second fight fell off too are disputed: Gracie claimed Ruas asked for time to train, while Ruas claimed Hélio shut down the idea by claiming Ruas was not a true luta livre representative.[9] Other names like Eugenio Tadeu and Hugo Duarte were offered, but rejected.

Months later, Gracie was challenged by lutador Denilson Maia, but the latter's father died and he had to be replaced by Duarte. Although Duarte only wanted to fight in an event for a purse, Gracie encountered him on the beach, slapped him in front of his students and demanded him to fight there, so Hugo stepped down and faced Gracie on the sand. Gracie won after making him surrender to punches to the face.[10] Shortly after, claiming that Gracie students had kicked him and thrown sand to his eyes during the fight, Duarte came to Gracie's gym and demanded a rematch. Gracie won again, causing a riot which forced neighbours to call the police.

Shortly after, Gracie challenged Tadeu, who had been entangled in a bout with his brother Royler when the police came. Royler and Tadeu fought to a 50-minute draw.[10] The rivalry between Brazilian jiu-jitsu and luta livre continued without Rickson Gracie, as he left Brazil for the United States after the fight.

Vale Tudo Japan[edit]

In 1994, Gracie was contacted by Erik Paulson to compete in Satoru Sayama's event Vale Tudo Japan. Gracie traveled to Japan and participated in the tournament, firstly facing Daido-juku stylist Yoshinori Nishi. Gracie took him down and Nishi answered with a lockdown from half guard, but Gracie was able to pass his guard and catch him with a rear naked choke when Nishi turned his back. He later faced much larger wing chun practitioner Dave Levicki, but he was an even easier prey once taken down, and Gracie won by TKO after a flurry of punches. Gracie then fought American kickboxer Bud Smith at the finals, winning by the same method in even less time and getting the tournament's victory.

The same year, pro wrestler Yoji Anjo performed a dojo storm to challenge Gracie, after failed negotiations about Gracie wrestling for Union of Wrestling Force International. Gracie was the better in the fight and performed abundant ground and pound on Anjo, who did not surrender, so Gracie choked him unconscious.

A year later, Gracie was invited again to the next Vale Tudo Japan. In the first round he faced shoot style professional wrestler and mixed martial artist Yoshihisa Yamamoto from Fighting Network Rings, who unlike Gracie's previous opponents managed to keep him away from the mat by using the ropes and even tried a guillotine choke. However, Gracie eventually took him down and choked him. He squared against another pro wrestler in the form of Koichiro Kimura, swiftly defeating him, then met shoot wrestler Yuki Nakai at the finals. Nakai, who was almost blind from an earlier match against Gerard Gordeau, put up strong resistance to Gracie, but Gracie managed to take his back and choke him for another tournament win.[11]

Pride Fighting Championships[edit]

In 1997, Gracie signed up to a fight against Yoji Anjo's superior Nobuhiko Takada in the Pride 1 event. Before the Tokyo Dome's 47,860 spectators, Gracie defeated the inexperienced Takada, mounting him and locking an armbar in 4:47.

Now enjoying a growing popularity in Japan, according to Gracie he was proposed to fight Mario Sperry at Pride 3, but the process was stopped due to Carlson Gracie's disavowal.[12] Pride management also offered him to take Royce Gracie's place in his cancelled match with Mark Kerr, but he refused, citing one month to be a too short time to prepare.[12] Fighting Network Rings's chairman Akira Maeda also challenged Gracie and proposed a fight as his own retirement match, but it was rejected.[13] Gracie only agreed to sign up to a rematch against Takada at Pride 4, stating: "I feel Takada is a warrior and deserves the chance to try and redeem himself."[12]

In their rematch, Takada had improved and was able to wrestle Gracie to neutralize his groundwork advantage, but Gracie used a failed leglock attempt from the Japanese to sweep him and mount him. Nonetheless, Takada kept fighting under the jiu-jitsu master, dismounting him and threatening with a heel hook attempt, but Gracie, who was waiting until the end of the round to prevent Takada from capitalizing should he miss his opportunity,[14] applied an armbar and submitted him again.

In May 2000, after Takada understudy Kazushi Sakuraba defeated Royler Gracie in the Pride 8 event, he took the mic and challenged Gracie, who was in the Gracie corner, but nothing came of it.[15] Gracie preferred to face Pancrase's retired ace Masakatsu Funaki at Colosseum event. The event almost got cancelled, as Gracie demanded special rules which banned headbutts, elbow strikes, and strikes to the head both standing or on the ground, but an agreement was reached when the Pancrase management conceded to ban headbutts and elbows.[16]

At the event, held at the Tokyo Dome and broadcast to 30 million TV Tokyo viewers, Gracie and Funaki started the fight clinching to the corner. Masakatsu appeared to have secured a guillotine choke, but the hold was loose and Gracie managed to go to the mat. They traded kicks to no effect, until some well timed upkicks from Gracie blew out Funaki's gravely injured knee. They clinched again, but the Japanese's injury rendered him unable to wrestle Gracie correctly, and he was taken down by the Brazilian, who promptly mounted him. Masakatsu looked stunned while Gracie bloodied his face with ground and pound, and finally Gracie forced his way into a rear naked choke.[16] During the post-match interview, Gracie claimed that one of the hammerfists delivered by Funaki made him lose his eyesight for a few moments.[17]

After the Colosseum event, Gracie expressed interest in fighting judo medalist Naoya Ogawa, who was signed up for the next Colosseum event. He was also proposed by Pride management to fight Kazushi Sakuraba, who had already defeated Royce Gracie as well, but Gracie refused saying that Sakuraba "didn't have the spirit of a warrior".[16] Gracie further said he didn't want to fight a wrestler who was so much smaller than him.[16] Thus, New Japan Pro-Wrestling invited him to face Shinya Hashimoto, Manabu Nakanishi or Kazuyuki Fujita, but they were refused. The fight against Ogawa was set to the next year, with Naoya vacating his NWA World Heavyweight Championship to focus on training for the bout.[16]

However, tragedy struck when Gracie's son Rockson was found dead in January 2001. Affected by the loss, Gracie contemplated retirement, and the event fell off after some negotiations.[16] Months later, he stated he was willing to fight again and evaluating propositions, but nothing came from it.[18] When the matchup with Sakuraba was brought up again, Gracie expressed disinterest.[18]

Other appearances[edit]

In August 2002, Gracie had a special appearance in Japanese media helping out Ogawa before his bout against Matt Ghaffari at the UFO Legend event, in which he assisted. After the event, Ogawa talked again about a fight against Gracie, which Gracie considered as possible return match. Gracie also mentioned Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira and Kazuyuki Fujita as candidates to fight him in said return.[19] However, nothing of it came to fruition, even after UFO president Tatsuo Kawamura proposed creating an event in order to hold the match.[20]

In 2003, Antonio Inoki offered Gracie USD$5 million for a fight against Fujita,[21] but it had no answer.

After the match between Royler Gracie and Genki Sudo in 2004, the latter challenged Gracie. Producer Sadaharu Tanikawa tried to put together a bout between both, but he was unsuccessful.[22] Three years later, after Kazushi Sakuraba defeated Masakatsu Funaki, Tanikawa also tried to promote a bout between Sakuraba and Gracie in 2008, with the same results.[23]

On July 21, 2014, Gracie appeared on episode #524 of The Joe Rogan Experience podcast hosted by Joe Rogan.[24]

In November 2014 he became an inductee of the Legends of MMA Hall of Fame, alongside Big John McCarthy, Pat Miletich, and Fedor Emelianenko.[25][26]

In other media[edit]

Gracie was the subject of the 1995 documentary, Choke, by filmmaker Robert Goodman. The documentary followed Gracie and two other fighters (Todd Hays and Koichiro Kimura) as they prepared and fought in Tokyo's Vale Tudo Japan 1995. Released by Manga Entertainment, the film has been distributed to 23 countries.[27] Gracie had a small role in The Incredible Hulk as Bruce Banner's aikido instructor, despite his jiu-jitsu background. He has appeared on National Geographic's television programme Fight Science.[28][29]

On May 8, 2020, news surfaced that a Netflix film about Rickson Gracie in production. The film is directed by José Padilha and the role of Gracie is played by Cauã Reymond. The film was targeted for release in the second half of 2021.[30] It is yet to be released and no additional information has been given.


Criticism of other fighters[edit]

Gracie raised the ire of some in the MMA community by criticizing the abilities of top fighters. In 1996, speaking about Ultimate Fighting Championship tournament winners, he labelled Don Frye and Mark Coleman as "very weak", and said that the latter "would offer no danger."[31] He also saw Wallid Ismail as an "average fighter," Kazushi Sakuraba as "not a fighter that has a great expertise in anything" and "lucky all the time,"[18] and Marco Ruas as "nothing special" and "basic".[31] Ruas, who was known for challenging Gracie to a fight several times in his career,[32] was quoted in return as: "Talk is cheap. He has to step up in the ring and prove what he says."[33]

Though he had not fought in a sanctioned MMA contest in eight years, Gracie claimed in 2008 that he could still beat the current top fighters easily. In an interview with Tokyo Sports, Gracie argued that Fedor Emelianenko was a great athlete, but possessed "so-so" technical ability, and that he (Gracie) was "100% sure" that he could defeat him.[34] Two years after, Gracie stated that he disagreed with those who view Emelianenko as "somehow special" and that he believed Emelianenko deserved to lose the decision in his fight with Ricardo Arona; described Brock Lesnar as having "zero defense from the bottom" in the fight against Carwin; and criticized Shane Carwin for what he perceived were deficiencies in Carwin's jiu-jitsu game, characterizing him as "strong as a bull but flimsy like a paper tiger."[35] Previous critical comments that Gracie made about Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira (claiming that Nogueira had "no guard") prompted Wanderlei Silva to say that Gracie is "living in a fantasy world" and launch a new challenge to him.[32]

Fighting record[edit]

His father Hélio Gracie disputed Rickson's claim to have had over 400 fights. According to Hélio, Rickson has only competed in fights that are commonly known and reported: the two against Rei Zulu and those that took place in Japan. Helio Gracie alleged that Rickson uses practice and amateur bouts to obtain a number over 400, and that if he counted his fights like Rickson does, he would have in excess of one million.[36]

Footage does exist of Rickson competing against his cousin Rigan Machado in a jiu-jitsu match in 1986, in what was one of the first public matches between members of the family.[37] He also competed in sambo and submitted several competitors in a tournament.[38] However, these were not no holds barred or mixed martial arts fights, and as such would count towards his records in jiu-jitsu and sambo instead of his fighting record.[36]

Rickson's only official loss in martial arts competition was at the 1993 U.S. Sambo Championships in Norman, Oklahoma. Rickson, claiming to be a gold medalist at 1980 Pan American Sambo Championships at 74 kilograms,[39] faced judo and sambo champion Ron Tripp. Tripp threw Gracie to the canvas by uchi mata in 47 seconds, thus giving Tripp absolute victory under FIAS international sambo rules. Rickson disputed this loss, claiming he was misinformed of the rules of the event, despite claiming to be a two-time Pan American champion in sambo.[40][41][42]

Personal life[edit]

Gracie has four children; Rockson Gracie (deceased), Kauan, Kaulin and Kron Gracie. His son Rockson died of a drug overdose in December 2000;[43] Gracie was scheduled to fight Kazushi Sakuraba that year but the event was canceled and Gracie never fought professionally again.[44]

Gracie announced in an interview on June 21, 2023 that he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2021.[45]

Mixed martial arts record[edit]

Professional record breakdown
11 matches 11 wins 0 losses
By knockout 2 0
By submission 9 0
Res. Record Opponent Method Event Date Round Time Location Notes
Win 11–0 Masakatsu Funaki Technical Submission (rear-naked choke) C2K: Colosseum May 26, 2000 1 12:49 Japan Special rules: Knee and elbow strikes were forbidden.
Win 10–0 Nobuhiko Takada Submission (armbar) Pride 4 October 11, 1998 1 9:30 Tokyo, Japan
Win 9–0 Nobuhiko Takada Submission (armbar) Pride 1 October 11, 1997 1 4:47 Tokyo, Japan
Win 8–0 Yuki Nakai Submission (rear-naked choke) Vale Tudo Japan 1995 April 20, 1995 1 6:22 Tokyo, Japan
Win 7–0 Koichiro Kimura Submission (rear-naked choke) 1 2:07
Win 6–0 Yoshihisa Yamamoto Technical Submission (rear-naked choke) 3 3:49
Win 5–0 Bud Smith TKO (Submission to punches) Vale Tudo Japan 1994 July 29, 1994 1 0:39 Urayasu, Chiba, Japan
Win 4–0 Dave Levicki TKO (Submission to punches) 1 2:40
Win 3–0 Yoshinori Nishi Submission (rear-naked choke) 1 2:58
Win 2–0 Rei Zulu Submission (rear-naked choke) Independent promotion January 1, 1984 1 9:00 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Win 1–0 Rei Zulu Submission (rear-naked choke) Independent promotion April 25, 1980 1 11:55 Brasília, Brazil


Jiu-jitsu record[edit]

Result Opponent Method Event Date Round Time Notes
Win Brazil Joe Moreira Submission (Choke) V Copa Company - Absolute 1988
Win Brazil Joe Moreira Submission (Choke) V Copa Company - Light Heavyweight 1988
Win Brazil Rigan Machado Submission (Rear-naked choke) Independent promotion 1986
Win Brazil Murilo Sa Submission (Armbar) Copa Cantao 1986
Win Brazil Rigan Machado Submission (Exhaustion) III Copa Company 1986
Win Brazil Otavio Peixotinho Submission (Armbar) LINJJI 1984
Win Brazil Sergio Penha Submission (Choke) AABB 1981
Win Brazil Sergio Penha Submission (Armbar) AABB 1981

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1] Archived July 5, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "Rickson Gracie's Budo Challenge". Budochallenge.com. 1959-11-21. Archived from the original on May 3, 2013. Retrieved 2013-09-15.
  3. ^ "Official Federation Belt Rankings of Gracie Members Teaching in the U.S." Gracie USA Jiu-Jitsu. Retrieved 2010-10-16.
  4. ^ "Gracie Family Tree". International Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Federation Family Tree. Archived from the original on September 17, 2009. Retrieved 2006-04-08.
  5. ^ "Rickson Gracie: His Views on No-Holds-Barred Fighting May Surprise You!". Black Belt Magazine. 36 (5). Active Interest Media: 32–35. May 1998 – via Google books.
  6. ^ a b "Rickson Gracie Promoted to Red Belt - FloGrappling". flograppling.com. July 6, 2017. Retrieved 2023-12-14.
  7. ^ a b c d Fred Melo Paiva, Rei Zulu: "Isso de Carate, Kung-Fu, essa coisa de Jiu-Jitsu, eu arrebento é na porrada", Trip magazine, April 1999
  8. ^ The Brazilian Colosseum, mmafighting.com
  9. ^ a b c Fellipe Awi, Filho teu não foge à luta, 2012, Editora Intrinseca
  10. ^ a b The riot over Renzo Gracie vs Eugenio Tadeu, Bloody Elbow, May 8, 2013
  11. ^ Blackett, Todd. "Throwback: Rickson Gracie vs Yuki Nakai At Vale Tudo Japan 1995". Jitsmagazine. Retrieved 14 February 2024.
  12. ^ a b c Rickson Gracie interview 2, Onthemat.com
  13. ^ Jonathan Snowden (2012). Shooters: The Toughest Men in Professional Wrestling. ECW Press. ISBN 978-17-709022-1-3.
  14. ^ "The first time I mounted him, about two minutes were left in the first round. I began striking him, and immediately an opportunity to attack his arm became available. I didn't take it initially because there was too much time left and I believed there was a possibility that Takada wanted me to attack his arm so he could trick me and reverse the situation to his advantage. So I waited until nearly the end of the round to prevent him from having enough time to counter. Then I ended the fight with an armbar." Rickson Gracie, In the ring with Takada at PRIDE IV, p.16, Black Belt Magazine, February 1999.
  15. ^ Jonathan Snowden (2010). Total Mma: Inside Ultimate Fighting. ECW Press. ISBN 978-15-549033-7-5.
  16. ^ a b c d e f "Wrestling News - Colosseum 2000 Puroresu News Archive". www.quebrada.net.
  17. ^ "Rickson Gracie Interview after Funaki Masakatsu Fight". www.global-training-report.com.
  18. ^ a b c Robert W. Young, Rickson Gracie: The Legend of No-Holds-Barred Fighting Speaks Out on the State of Grappling Arts, Black Belt magazine, March 2001
  19. ^ "August 2002 News Archive". www.ichibanpuroresu.com. Archived from the original on January 16, 2016.
  20. ^ "November 2002 - March 2003". www.ichibanpuroresu.com. Archived from the original on January 16, 2016.
  21. ^ Rickson vs Fujita, Fightsport, September 28, 2011
  22. ^ K-1 Romanex, boutreview.com (in Japanese) (Translated)
  23. ^ Monty DiPietro (January 1, 2008). "Sakuraba Still Dynamite!!". Onthemat. Retrieved November 15, 2019.
  24. ^ "Joe Rogan Experience #524 - Rickson Gracie & Eddie Bravo". Joe Rogan. July 21, 2014. Archived from the original on 2014-12-25. Retrieved November 23, 2018.
  25. ^ "Legends of MMA Hall of Fame Award Ceremony" (Press release). Silver Legacy Reno. 2014-10-20. Archived from the original on February 23, 2016. Retrieved 2016-02-16.
  26. ^ Inside MMA Legends of MMA Hall of Fame Feature (video). Silver Legacy Reno: AXS TV Fights. November 2014.
  27. ^ "Choke (1999)". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2013-09-16.
  28. ^ "Martial Arts vs. Crash Test Dummies: National Geographic's FIGHT SCIENCE". Kung Fu Magazine. Retrieved 2010-01-29.
  29. ^ "BAS RUTTEN ON 'FIGHT SCIENCE', KIMBO & IFL". MMA Weekly. Archived from the original on 2008-08-23. Retrieved 2010-01-29.
  30. ^ Marcelo Alonso (May 8, 2020). "Jose Padilha to Direct Netflix Film on the Life of Rickson Gracie". sherdog.com.
  31. ^ a b Rickson Gracie interview 4, Onthemat.com
  32. ^ a b "Wanderlei and Marco Ruas Challenge Rickson Gracie". AD Combat. July 6, 2005. Archived from the original (Reprint) on June 4, 2016. Retrieved 2016-04-30.
  33. ^ Marco Ruas interview, Reocities
  34. ^ Wrestling Observer Newsletter, May 12, 2008
  35. ^ "Portal do Vale Tudo - Noticias sobre as artes marciais, novidades sobre UFC | tudo sobre o MMA | eventos de Jiu-Jitsu | lutas de Muay Thai | combates de Wrestling | Wanderlei Silva | Rodrigo Minotauro | Junior dos Santos | José Aldo | Anderson Silva | Dana White | UFC RIO". Portaldovt.com.br. Retrieved 2013-09-15.
  36. ^ a b "Helio Gracie: Rickson 400-0? I Don't Think So!". www.youtube.com. July 2, 2009. Archived from the original on 2021-12-12. Retrieved 2014-11-12.
  37. ^ "Throwback: Watch Rickson Gracie v Rigan Machado in 1986". 19 March 2022.
  38. ^ "Throwback: Watch Rickson Gracie Compete in Sambo Tournament". 11 April 2022.
  39. ^ Gracie jujitsu by Don Beu, Black Belt, August 1989, vol. 27, no. 8, p. 31.
  40. ^ "Rickson Gracie interview: part one". FreeFight magazine. December 12, 2005. Archived from the original (Reprint) on September 27, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-02.
  41. ^ "Rickson Gracie interview: part two". FreeFight magazine. December 12, 2005. Archived from the original (Reprint) on September 27, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-02.
  42. ^ "Ron Tripp, The Only Person to Defeat Rickson Gracie in Official Competition". Bjj Eastern Europe. 2020-11-02. Retrieved 2021-10-16.
  43. ^ Rockson Gracie BJJ Heroes
  44. ^ "Rickson speaks of hardest knockout of his life". Gracie Mag. November 20, 2010. Retrieved November 24, 2022.
  45. ^ Burne, Kathrine. "Rickson Gracie Reveals Parkinson's Disease Diagnosis". Jitsmagazine. Retrieved 22 June 2023.
  46. ^ Sherdog.com. "Rickson Gracie". Sherdog. Retrieved 2023-12-27.

External links[edit]