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Global Training Report 




"Quebra Silêncio"


Interview with Rickson Gracie

From Tatame June 2005


Rickson breaks his silence and recounts his history with never before revealed details and analyzes the current scene of Vale-Tudo

Interviewed by Marcelo Alonso

Translated by Roberto Pedreira*

In September 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.

During the 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.


1. Rickson, 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?

Rickson: 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?

Rickson: I 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.

3. Who 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?

Rickson: I 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 shape..

5. Have you received any interesting proposal for a fight?

Rickson: I 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 Rio , against the gigantic Hawaiian "Black Trunk"?

Rickson: 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 Malibu [Sergio " Malibu " Jardim]. A guy had smashed Malibu 's surf board, a guy Black Trunk Havaiano .....and thought that he was the owner of the beach in Rio . But it wasnt that way, you know?

GTR Note: 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?

Rickson: By 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.

When the 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: (Português)  (English)

8. What is the story about how you went to Boqueirão and challenged Hugo Duarte and Marco Ruas?

Rickson: 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 to the USA , 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 isnt 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 wasn't satisfied. 

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].

Rickson: I 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.

10. Today, how do you see the new representatives of jiu-jitsu, such as Rodrigo Minotarou and Fabricio Werdum, in the Vale-Tudos?

Rickson: The 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?

Rickson: I 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 America . 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?

Rickson: As 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 quimono.  But 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?

Rickson: 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?

Rickson: He 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?

Rickson: We 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. 

16. Kazushi Sakuraba defeated various members of your family. Why didn't you challenge him at that time?

Rickson: 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?

Rickson: 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 magro]. 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.

18. When 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?

Rickson: No, 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?

Rickson: 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 isnt 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?

Rickson: All 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, 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.

21. Your most difficult fight in competition was against the student of Oswaldo Alves, Sergio Penha, right?

Rickson: 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 "Im 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.

GTR note:  Sergio Penha talks a little bit about his fight with Rickson here.

22. At one point your uncle Carlson after he left the Gracie Academy was bringing up fighters to a high level to compete with the Gracie Academy fighters. Was this important for the evolution of the sport?

Rickson: It 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?

Rickson: I 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 arent 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.

24.  It 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?

Rickson: I 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 Brazil , 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.


Tatame's web site here.

Many thanks and appreciations to Carlos Eduardo Loddo for input on some of the more idiomatic and colloquial Portuguese expressions..


Other Rickson interviews on GTR:

Rickson  (after Funaki)

Rickson (Athra Pt. 1)

Rickson  (Athra Pt. 2)

Rickson  (from Herois do Ringue)

Rickson (from Gracie DNA)

Rickson (from Tatame)

Sergio Penha talks about his fights with Rickson (but not alot), in Chapter 8 of Jiu-Jitsu in the South Zone.



(c) 2006, GTR. All rights reserved.

Small corrections made January 13, 2013.

Additional small corrections made October 6, 2013.


Order the Rickson Choke documentary below. It's pretty good.










Note: 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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