Global Training Report
with Rickson Gracie
Tatame June 2005
breaks his silence and recounts his history with never before revealed details
and analyzes the current scene of Vale-Tudo
by Marcelo Alonso
by Roberto Pedreira*
of 1996 we [Tatame magazine] were in California
at the home of Rickson Gracie for an exclusive interview. That material
provided the banner headline for Tatame edition # 14, "The Temple of
the Samurai". At that time, Rickson has already refuted rumors about his
retirement. Nine years later, Tatame returns to look for Rickson in
California. This time, we were received in his training center, one day before
ADCC 2005. After finishing his last class, Rickson and his wife Kim closed the
academy and talked with us for more than two hours.
candid and relaxed interview, Rickson didn't avoid to answer any questions,
recalled his career and surprised us with many revelations. With 43 years old,
Rickson exhibits excellent physical form and affirms that he still wants to
fight one or two more times before retiring, Alternating between moments of
reflection, predictions, and analyses of the current scenario in the world of
fighting, Rickson surprised us with never before told details and discussed
about the 2005 ADCC.
you were one of the fundamental pieces in the diffusion of jiu-jitsu around the
world. How do you evaluate the jiu-jitsu which is practiced and taught today?
First, I would like to thank Tatame for the opportunity to do this
interview. I feel that it is one of the most important media for the Brazilian
sports, so I feel honored. But, a lot of time has passed in relation to
jiu-jitsu. Much work, much sweat, much blood. It fills me with proud that
today jiu-jitsu has been spread to the four corners of the world. At the same
time many people are competing, and a number of practitioners are giving the
attention to the sports. But I feel that the self-defense part of jiu-jitsu has
been a little neglected in the daily training.
2. How do
you see the explosion of submission initiated by the Sheik Tahnoon after he
learned jiu-jitsu from you?
don't see it as an increase of the sport, but rather as an option launched by
the Sheik who injected financial conditions that had not existed in the sport
until now. Evidently this attracts all sports segments. Jiu-jitsu fighters don't
increase their efficiency by training without quimono. He has to create new
technical situations to adapt his game, but this doesn't mean the sport is
developed. Submission Grappling is just a style that because of financial
incentives is attracting a large number of athletes.
impressed you most in the last edition (tournament)?
I liked very
much the style of Marcelinho and obviously Roger and Kyra who are
producing a fantastic results [que arrebentaram]. The Gracie family has the
advantage of being the font of good technique, but also much dedication,
suffering, a warrior spirit, that goes with the individual. Thanks to God, we
are expecting to have good elements for the future.
4. You have
been away from the fight and ring for some time now. What is the daily routine
of Rickson Gracie?
divide my days between taking care of my family and the things I have to do to
maintain my athletic condition, and my hobbies, such as surfing, and my
profession--giving classes at the academy, and for my son and other people who
need special attention. And also to business negotiations. I have some projects
underway. I balance my life like this, but always keeping in good physical
5. Have you
received any interesting proposal for a fight?
am really enthusiastic about the possibility of fighting again But nothing
definite has been offered.
6. Is it
true that your first Vale-Tudo was when you had 16 years, in the street of
, against the gigantic Hawaiian "Black Trunk"?
This wasn't really a Vale-Tudo, it was a street fight. I was in a situation,
with having not yet 16 years old, to give support to my friend
" Jardim]. A guy had smashed
's surf board, a guy Black Trunk Havaiano .....and thought that he was the
owner of the beach in
. But it wasn’t that way, you know?
Article about Rickson's friend Sergio Malibu here.
The next day
was the day of the championship and they were on the beach. It was then that I
saw them passing in front of the office of the Rico. over there.
A lot of people had gathered there. Black Trunk Havaiano had a bad
attitude [ele estava cheio de marra] and began to
look at me like I was the one he thought he had to deal with. I confronted to
him and with the little English that I knew, I began to cuss him out and I
called to him: "You and me. Come here!". We went to the middle of the
street. I took his back and put him to sleep. It was the beginning of my
trajectory as a fighter.
7. Rolls was
the natural successor of Carlson in the Gracie dynasty. Why were you the one
selected to fight Zulu in 1981?
coincidence, when Waldemar Santana called it was my father who answered. I was
in front of him and remember him saying, "Yo Waldemar, what's up?" And
Waldemar said, "Aaaaa....professor, I have a guy here who no one can beat
here in the North. I want to promote a big event. Do you have any fighter who is
up for it?" My father repeated what Waldemar had said. I said
"Father, let me do it, let me do it, let me do it". I was crazy to
try. And he said, "I have a boy here who has never done anything, but I'll
take a chance and do the business right. He is my son". Waldemar agreed. It
was practically without the knowledge of Rolls, but he supported me and was in
my corner and was an efficient second. I feel that this was possibly my must
difficult fight. It was chaos [foi uma correria danada], soon after the fight
started, I served him with a knee and he lost a tooth, and I thought that I
would win the fight. He shook his head and got up. I was very impressed with his
disposition, his strength, his intensity. He threw me out of the ring three
times which also impressed me. I got tired but I knew when I started the fight
that I would get tired and that my opponent would also get tired. That was big
lesson for me. It was the fight that left the biggest impression on me, because
when it started, I was inexperienced. I had just 19 years at that time.
first round was over, I was very tired. I returned to my corner and said to my
father "I can't continue, I'm dead". My father said, "That's
good. The other guy is more tired than you are." I said "Father, I'm
serious". He said, "No, this is business, that's for sure". Rolls
threw an ice bucket at my head. I took a big breath when I heard the gong and
returned to the center of the ring. Within 3 minutes, he was sleeping. He had 96
kg. [211.2 lbs.] I had 72 kg. [158.4 lbs.].
GTR Note: Zulu gives his side
of the fight here:
8. What is
the story about how you went to Boqueirão and
challenged Hugo Duarte and Marco Ruas?
Hugo wasn't around at that time. It was Fabio Molina, and after his fight with
Pinduka, Marco Ruas, who were the tough luta livre guys. A little before I went
, there was rumor that Ruas wanted to fight with me. Myself, my father, and
Serginho looked for confirmation of this in Boqueirão,
where they trained. I didn't waste time, because Ruas was a guy who I had
always respected as a fighter, and the fact that he wanted to fight me is the
reason I went looking for him. When I got there, the place was full of tough
guys, led by Ruas. I asked him what was his intention, he had already said that
he wanted to fight me. We can fight anytime, right here, before, or after, by
arrangement o que fosse. He told me that he did not want to challenge me but
that if I wanted to challenge him he wanted four months to train and then we'll
see. I said, "Are you crazy? Can you imagine if Pele arrived with Cosmos to
challenge Ferrioviario? I'm not challenging you nothing! I'm here to fight
whoever wants to fight. If you don't want to fight, go home! My father sensed
that the climate was getting strange, and wanted to calm things down, so he
said, "any renown athletes here who want to fight Rickson, collect the
names and we'll make a list for the future". At that moment Hugo made his
first appearance and said "put my name in that list". I said,
"this isn't a jogo do bicho my brother.[jogo do bicho is a form of illegal
lottery. Rickson probably means that he isn’t there
to fight just any chump who wants to take his chances, but only a worthy
challenger, someone with a Name] The list is for jogo do bicho. If you want to
fight, it's now. If you don't want to fight, be quiet and just listen" I
was there to fight, with one or another one. Because of that appeasement, it was
from that day that Hugo, for his own reasons, began to talk about how he was
preparing to fight me. The rumor started and intensified. People, and my
friends, were saying that Hugo was very good, that this, that that [que fez isso,
fez aquilo] I couldn't challenge him because he wasn't famous yet.
..................We meet at Pepê and fought. We settled the matter, but he
9. Five days later, he invaded your academy for revenge. He told Tatame that you
were startled and that superman was something in the movies [Hugo means that
Rickson wasn't the superman that everyone said he was].
wasn't at the academy when he arrived. I was at the apartment of a friend when a
guy came and said, "they invaded the academy". I had long long hair at
that time. I arrived to go up the stairs and meet them coming down.. He said
"Hey, my brother, I'm talking to you! Come
let's talk" I said, "dude [bicho], come down here". They came
down. There must have been 20 students from the academy there, and there were
300 who came with him and Eugenio Tadeu. with them. It was a chaos, bandits
mixed with fighters. The atmosphere was very strange. Before we fought, we
walked a little into the center of the patio of the school. I said, "Hugo,
come here I want to talk with you." Denilson (Maia) and Hugo, and my father
and Royler, came. I said "This is the way it is, my brother. I respect you
as a man. I respect you because you want a revenge. I'll accept the
challenge anytime and anywhere. But if you think someone is going to stop the
fight before it's finished, you are wrong, this is going to be a more
serious matter than you think. I will decide when it's over. [This last
statement by Rickson is a rough translation of what he actually
said" não tem sem avisar. Agora uma parada é certa.
Se o negócio sair do respeito e alguém botar a mão na luta anters de ela
acabar, vai ficar um negocio muito mai pesado do que você está pensando. Uma
parada que eu vou decidir de outra maniera", taking some translational
liberties based on knowing how Rickson thinks about challenges.] Hugo replied
"no, no, only me and you". So I said, "Then come out from the
middle of the crowd and do it now". This fight was finished faster
than the first one. The area was very prejudiced because he was a heavy person
there. The entrance to the academy, which was concrete, was much better. It went
to the ground, and very quickly, he begged to stop. When it was over, he
got up and I said, "My brother, I respect you. Continue training to be a
tough guy". He said, "I also respect you, for sure".
Royler began to grab Eugenio and the police arrived shooting off their guns.
how do you see the new representatives of jiu-jitsu, such as Rodrigo Minotarou
and Fabricio Werdum, in the Vale-Tudos?
jiu-jitsu fighters are training other modalities to be able to fight in Vale
Tudos, but their jiu-jitsu is weak. I'd prefer not to go into details but that
is exactly how I feel.
11, How do
you view your student Cristiano Marcello, who is now teaching the ground game to
the Chute Boxe Team?
think that to be human it is necessary to grow. Not
only as a fighter. The space that Cristiano has in jiu-jitsu is the least of the
possibilities that he has, understand? I don't see it as inimical to jiu-jitsu.
In my opinion, he has some anxiety about his growth. Nowadays, jiu-jitsu doesn't
exist separately. Now there are Vale-Tudo fighters who fight with wrestling
champions, who learn from wrestlers, look for boxers, kickboxers, the same style
that Cristiano is teaching his ground game to. Anyway, jiu-jitsu is everything,
we have the best fighters in the world today. He is doing the work with them
that he thinks is right. I have nothing bad to say. If he produces a Vale-Tudo
champion representing jiu-jitsu, I would be more satisfied. But if he can help
other guys win too, it's good.
12. The sons
of Rorion are training with a representative of Chute Boxe here in
. I would like to know if someday your son Kron is going to fight Vale-Tudo,
would you accept it if he trains in another art outside of jiu-jitsu?
incredible as it seems, the efficiency of Vale Tudo is invisible. People are
distorting the efficiency of Vale-Tudo, making it more complex than it is.
I don't see the necessity to train other arts for Vale-Tudo. Jiu-jitsu is
already a complete concept with all the necessities needed to be good in
Vale-Tudo. But that is exactly the problem. The people of jiu-jitsu think about
competition, think about a little half guard game, think about grabbing the
that is getting away from what I think is the real jiu-jitsu, which is based on
the sense of the distribution of weight, which the major sense for self-defense.
I don't look for to knockout someone standing up, I look for to not be in a
position to be knocked out myself. I look for the position to take my opponent
where I want to be. That is my concept. The day that I think that I have to
train kickboxing to beat a kickboxing champion, that will be the day I lose.
13. So you
don't think that by training in kickboxing, that it can in some way help you to
neutralize the kickboxer's game?
Much to the contrary. Show me a jiu-jitsu fighter who trains kickboxing who has
an advantage over a kickboxer standing up.....and then maybe I'll change my
opinion. But this never happens. They always end up trying to do the technique
wrong., end up clinch anyway) and lose big opportunities.
14. So, if
your son fights, you would like him to do only jiu-jitsu?
is going to do what he wants, but I think that if he wants to win he will follow
my advice. I'm very proud of his work. He is doing everything to be the best
that he can be. At the same time, I don't think that my expectations will change
the rhythm of things. I am a collaborator. I am here to give force and not to
put pressure or to demand results. Up to now, his style has produced big
results. With only 16 years old, he has won the Pan-Americano against 30
competidors. It was a good result.
15. Are you
teaching a lot of lessons especially for him?
train together. We correct everything. I think that is important. In the last
competition he faced competitors that he had faced before and got better
results. Even so, it was long way from perfection. He came back home, for
correction on the bottom, on the top, on stand up, on finalizing, everything has
correction. Good jiu-jitsu is invisible and you have to be precise. It's a
matter of millimeters.
Sakuraba defeated various members of your family. Why didn't you challenge him
at that time?
That fight was certain. But due to an accident, my son died at exactly that time
when the thing was closed. Unhappily, I couldn't make a decision about it out of
respect. I had to dedicate precious time to my family. I couldn't think about
fighting and leave things in the way that they were.
17. Who do
you think will win in Pride GP?
That is a difficult question because today I haven't seen anyone with a superior
technique, a smaller technical fighter who can handle big guys [galo
What happens in these fights is either a fighter does nothing and then throws a
punch and wins, or if the fighter on the bottom has a good control, the top
fighter just tries to hang on. It's difficult to say. But emotionally,
I would like to see Arona win. I like his personality. I think he has a
very good attitude. But really, it's impossible to predict.
Vale-Tudos began, the Gracies promulgated the theory that, without points and
without time limits, technique will always defeat strength. Do you still believe
that is completely antiquated. Those criteria were given when it was jiu-jitsu
versus bigger guys, or jiu-jitsu versus boxing, or jiu-jitsu versus wrestling.
Nowadays there doesn't exist jiu-jitsu versus nothing. Everyone knows
everything, and it depends on the man [e muito vale o individuo]. Guys are
using the drugs and pumping the
irons, have enormous resistance and a modicum of technique. The criterion
that technique will overcome power is true only if the adversary has no
technique, only power. But that doesn't exist anymore. There isn't anyone who
doesn't know nothing anymore [everyone knows something].
19. At the
present time, would you fight a heavier opponent without time limits?
Definitely, I'd prefer it. I wouldn't rely only on technique, I'd also rely on
physical preparation, with a vision of the fight in such a way that I would
capitalize from the top on the errors committed by my adversary. But it isn’t
simply a matter of technique. There is something fundamental and invisible that
sometimes takes time
20. In your
history of 400 fights, where did most of them happen?
of my life I have always fought. Not counting before I was a black belt. All of
the championships that I participated in, not only jiu-jitsu, sambo, Olympic
fighting, challenges, It is difficult to give an exact number. But it was
many more than 400. Since I was 16 years old, ......So if a guy asks
me how many fights I've had, what can I say to that? Ten times,20 times, if you
count only my championships, and the remainder of my life? Can set 500,
1000, 200, 1000....it makes no difference to me. What makes a difference
to me is that I represented jiu-jitsu and thanks to God I got good results. So,
as to how many of fights I had, you can chose a number.. But 80% of my
competition matches have not gone more than 3 minutes.
most difficult fight in competition was against the student of Oswaldo Alves,
Sergio Penha, right?
That's not true. It was the fight in which I was the most intelligent
strategically. We fought twice. Once was in the semifinal on Sunday, the other
was in the finals. I entered as a favor to Oswaldo (Alves). When I
registered for the competition, I was meio pesado and Penha was pesado. I had 84
kg. and he had 93 kg. When I was registering, Oswaldo was there and said
""Professor, I have a good fighter [galo bom] for you there, a very
tough guy [um negocio mais brigador]. I said "I know you have a champion
there, a man of steel, I've heard a lot of good things about him." We
exchanged pleasantries and I registered for meio pesado and absoluto. Oswaldo
said, "Boy, in meio pesado? Serginho is pesado". I said "then I
will register for pesado so we can soon have a double party". The first
Sunday, we were in pesado or absoluto and I won by arm lock. He tapped
quickly and was injured. I think it was bad luck. I'm not saying nothing, he was
a good guy, but I felt that he had never been finalized so fast as that and was
dissatisfied. That was before Rockson was born. My son was born, on Tuesday, and
I was Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday without sleeping. I didn't train that
week.. I stayed in the hospital, didn't sleep at all, and only put on my quimono
on the way to the championship. It was the final Sunday of the peso and absoluto.
In one fight I met Macarrão and in the other I met Serginho. Macarrão said
"I’m not going to fight you”
and conceded.. Serginho was lusting
for revenge and when the fight started I felt like I was out of gas. The whole
crowd was shouting "Courage Sergio, go, go, now, go"......and my quiet
group of supporters didn't
understand what was happening. In the middle of the fight my quimono slipped up
over my head and I got up to fix my belt, and I asked Rolls to say that I wanted
to stop for three minutes. I was already down 7 or 8 points. He had passed my
guard twice, not mounted, but had passed my guard, and attacked but his
finalization attempt was insufficient. He had a good base. The fight
resumed. I thought I pretended to be dead, you know [eu me fiz de morto entendeu?]
He was confident. I pulled guard. When he tried to pass, I reversed him, took
the side, mounted, took his neck and put him to sleep. He didn't tap, he slept.
He was a valiant guy, the first time he yelled and the second time he slept, he
didn't want to tap again.
Sergio Penha talks a little bit about his fight with
22. At one
point your uncle Carlson after he left the
was bringing up fighters to a high level to compete with the
fighters. Was this important for the evolution of the
was a positive rivalry, it was never something negative. There was no dispute. I
have always thought of Carlson as someone who is extremely competitive, someone
who liked to bet on rooster fights, liked to gamble. So for him a championship
was like a rooster fight, he wanted to see his rooster win............... if it
was his cousin, or family, or not, he wanted to see his student win. It wasn't a
question of satisfying his ego. He wasn't interested in politics, the family was
the most important thing, understand? I respect Carlson and have a certain
admiration for his manner of living life. He created the evolution of his guys,
because they felt they had potential and thought "I am with Carlson here so
I can beat a Gracie.. The main strength of the Carlson academy was the guys of
the Wallid type [Wallides da vida]. The Copa Company was really great, they were
things that we feel nostalgic when we remember them.
23. Do you
think that Vale-Tudo will one day reach the level of boxing?
think that as it is now, it isn't going to grow because the level is low, and
might get worse. I think that it was
the confrontation of styles, boxer against wrestler, that was the reason MMA has
gotten to where it has gotten today. Royce did those fights in the Ultimates (UFCs)
that was a sensational thing. Today everyone knows a little about everything. The
drugs problem is getting worse. So it is a crude thing, understand? There's
nothing beautiful about it I would prefer to watch a beautiful K-1 fight
rather than an ugly Vale-Tudo. All of the MMA fighters today are at a low
technical level. There aren’t any stand outs. And
that is something that takes the beauty away from Vale-Tudo, because there is no
artist of the type of Cassius Clay that there was in boxing, for example.
is always difficult for a guy who has reached the status of an idol, like you or
Romario, to think about retirement. How do you face this question?
feel that I don't have anything to prove, but I still have one or two more
fights left in me. Principally due to the fact that with one or two fights, I
could, as people say in
, “botar o meu burro na sombra”
[take it easy, retire in comfort]. I think that to have the comfort that I
expect in my retirement, one more big fight would be good for me, but if this
doesn't happen for some reason, I don't feel like I need to prove anything to
anyone. I am satisfied as it is. God and sports, throughout my whole career,
have given me enough satisfaction. Only a very interesting opportunity is going
to get me to return to the ring with the desire to fight and win. Other than
this, I'm good, not worried about nothing.
For more GTR
interviews with and articles about Rickson and his family (Ralek, Rener, Rockson,
Rorion, Royler, Ryan, Helio, Renzo, Royce) click here.
web site here.
and appreciations to Carlos Eduardo Loddo for input on some of the more
idiomatic and colloquial Portuguese expressions..
Other Rickson interviews on GTR:
(Athra Pt. 1)
(Athra Pt. 2)
(from Herois do Ringue)
(from Gracie DNA)
Sergio Penha talks about his fights with Rickson (but not
alot), in Chapter 8 of Jiu-Jitsu in the South
GTR. All rights reserved.
Small corrections made January 13, 2013.
Additional small corrections made October 6,
the Rickson Choke documentary below. It's pretty good.
This is an unauthorized translation. Unfortunately, we might be violating Tatame's
exclusive right to produce derivative
versions of the original work, assuming that Tatame or the author (Marcelo
Alonso) claim copyrights. We hope they don't object, but if they do, we'll
immediately remove this interview.
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