The greatest Jiu Jitsu fighter within the Gracie family is none other than the great Rickson Gracie BJJ. He is a legend in the BJJ community and considered by many as the greatest of all time.
Rickson is a once in a generation talent that took his own path to success. Going undefeated in every form of fighting he participated in from BJJ, MMA, and Vale Tudo.
For those that are unfamiliar with Rickson’s story, here is a complete breakdown of his life. Everything from how he became one of the greatest fighters ever to his later years coaching his son Kron Gracie.
Rickson’s Early Years
Rickson is the 3rd oldest son of Grandmaster Helio Gracie and since birth he basically lived on the mat. He was a natural in the family trade and his father Helio knew he would be the best.
Once Helio saw potential for greatness within Rickson Gracie BJJ, he began preparing him to be the fighter of the family. His whole life revolved around his Jiu Jitsu training and becoming the head representative of Gracie Jiu Jitsu.
Gracie prided himself on being a Gracie Jiu Jitsu practitioner and never considered himself an MMA fighter. He only trained within Gracie Jiu Jitsu and made it a point to only train within his family’s martial art. Feeling that his family’s form was the perfect style of fighting and didn’t need to train any other styles.
Rickson’s Early Vale Tudo Fights
Waldemar Santana, a former Vale Tudo fighter turned promoter came to his friend and former rival Helio with a problem. Santana had a fighter named Rei Zulu he trained, but could not find a fighter that would fight him.
Helio immediately said that his 19 year old son Rickson would fight Zulu. Rei Zulu was a giant man that outweighed the young Gracie by at least 20KG at the time. He also had an alleged 27-0 no holds barred fighting record at the time.
The match would be in front of a sold out arena in Zulu’s home city of Brasilia. It was a grueling match that lasted more than an hour. Eventually Gracie would submit the bigger fighter Zulu with an RNC.
Winning this fight against such a more experienced fighter gave Rickson national recognition within Brazil. They would fight again 4 years later to a crowd double the size and the outcome would be the same.
Rickson and His Yoga Training
What set Rickson Gracie BJJ apart from every other fighter and what made him a special athlete was his conditioning. He was known for being a spiritual person and really got into yoga.
He learned from his good friend Orlando Canti, the creator of Ginastica Natural, that Rickson also practiced. Gracie really learned to listen to his body and learned advanced breathing techniques along with how to control his heart rate..
Rickson demonstrated his famous breathing techniques in the documentary Choke and again in the Incredible Hulk movie with Edward Norton.
Rickson’s Beach Fight with Hugo Duarte
During the height of the BJJ vs Luta Livre rivalry, there were negotiations for Rickson to fight Marco Ruas. Unfortunately, negotiations fell through for a number of alleged reasons and the fight never happened.
Rickson was then offered to fight a young Luta Livre fighter named Hugo Duarte. Although Rickson was convinced Duarte didn’t really want to fight him and was looking for a way to back out.
He went to a beach in Copacabana to confront Duarte and force him to fight. Gracie slapped Duarte and the fight ensued.
This fight didn’t last long as Rickson took Duarte down, mounted him, and forced him to quit.
Vale Tudo Japan 1
In 1994, Erik Paulson contacted Rickson to take part in an event in Japan called Vale Tudo Japan. A one night 8 man tournament with a big prize offered to the winner.
Rickson made easy work of his competition winning all three fights with little to no opposition. Submitting 2 opponents with an RNC and another with strikes.
The Yoji Anjo Incident
After winning the first Vale Tudo Japan tournament, professional Japanese wrestlers began challenging Rickson. Trying to get publicity for their promotion by getting a big name like Rickson to fight them.
After multiple challenges, Rickson Gracie BJJ finally released a statement that he would never fight for a pro wrestling promotion. However, he did say if any pro wrestler would like to challenge him, then they can come visit his academy.
One Japanese wrestler by the name of Yoji Anjo actually did travel to California to challenge Rickson. Anjo and the promoter were permitted into the academy, but the Japanese press was not.
As soon as the fight commenced, Rickson began to severely beat Anjo. Swelling his face with punches and cutting him before taking his back and choking him unconscious.
Allegedly Rickson has a video of the incident, but has never released it publicly. There are only a few photos of Anjo’s battered face published on the internet.
The Choke Documentary
Rickson would participate in the 2nd Vale Tudo Japan event. This time followed by a documentary crew that would make the popular film Choke. Documenting the competitors leading up to the event with the primary focus on Rickson.
Gracie would beat two pro wrestlers easily before fighting Japanese shoot wrestler Yuki Nakai. The Japanese wrestler fought a good fight, but would also be finished with an RNC
Rickson Gracie in Pride
With the success of the Vale Tudo Japan shows, MMA became widely popular in Japan. This popularity helped with the creation of the Pride Fighting Championship.
The promoters got Rickson to fight in the main event in their inaugural show. Defeating pro wrestler Nobuniko Takada by armbar. He would face Nobuhiko again in Pride 4 and again armbar the Japanese wrestler.
Rickson would fight one more time in Japan in another promotion called C2K. Winning his 11th and final MMA fight before retiring from competition.
He was offered multiple fights after this, but lost his spirit to fight after the passing of his son Rockson.
Rickson Turns to Teaching
After his fighting career ended, Rickson turned his efforts toward teaching Gracie Jiu Jitsu. Specifically training his son Kron Gracie to become a world champion.
Kron would win multiple Jiu Jitsu championships before receiving his black belt. In 2013, competed in and won the coveted ADCC championship in the under 77kg division. Having an all time great match with Garry Tonon and defeating Otavio Sousa in the finals with a guillotine.
For Rickson, watching his son win the championships was one of the most special moments in his life.
Rickson Earns His Red Belt
In 2017, Rickson was bestowed the prestigious honor of receiving his Jiu Jitsu red belt. His older brother Rorion surprised Rickson at a seminar with a few other living red belts.
Becoming only the 50th person to ever receive this Jiu Jitsu rank. An incredible honor that further added to his amazing legacy.
Rickson Gracie is one of the greatest Jiu Jitsu athletes of all time. While his 400-0 fight record is highly disputed, there is nobody that will question the abilities of Rickson.
He has been one of the best representatives that Jiu Jitsu ever had. Practicing and teaching the martial art with honor and respect like his father would have wanted.