Legends of BJJ: Rickson Gracie
When it comes to legendary Brazilian Jiu Jitsu artists, Rickson Gracie is near the top of the list. Rickson is among the key figures in spreading Jiu Jitsu and the popularity of Mixed Martial Arts.
Additionally, Rickson helped establish Brazilian Jiu Jitsu’s reputation as an effective martial art in no holds barred rulesets.
To this day, Rickson’s style and teachings have made him one of the most respected ‘Old School Masters’ in BJJ.
Born in 1958, Rickson is the third oldest son of Grandmaster Helio Gracie, and brother to Relson and Rorion Gracie.
Rickson received his BJJ black belt from Helio Gracie at the age of 18 and is considered to be among the toughest BJJ fighters of his era.
Rickson Gracie in MMA
In pre-UFC days, Rickson made a name for himself by competing in Luta Livre ‘No Holds Barred’ fighting events, which were the precursors to modern MMA fights.
In the 1990s, Rickson competed in Vale Tudo Japan, a brutal combat circuit with many of Japan’s famous fighters. Rickson defeated everyone with near-unstoppable grappling abilities. Notable opponents include Yoshihisa Yamamoto and Koichiro Kimura. Of all Rickson’s fights, Yoshihisa Yamamoto was the only one to go past the first round.
Following his successful run in Vale Tudo, Rickson competed in PRIDE, another MMA promotion, defeating shoot wrestler Nobuhiko Takada in two successive fights, both via submission.
Rickson’s final sanctioned MMA fight was in May 2000, where he defeated Masakatsu Funaki via rear naked choke.
Rickson’s official record in MMA is 11 wins, 0 losses, with all 11 wins coming by way of submission.
Rickson Gracie’s Impact on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Rickson Gracie is currently a 9th degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Despite his successful competitive career, Rickson is now more focused on the positive impact of Jiu Jitsu across society itself, as opposed to only focusing on the competitive fighting aspects.
Rickson views BJJ as a means to positively impact the lives of everyday practitioners through building confidence, self-esteem, and community while practicing real self-defense schools.
In a quote from his website, Rickson states:
“I have devoted my entire life to Jiu Jitsu and recently had a revelation larger and more profound than the techniques and all of my accomplishments combined. The art’s most beneficial aspects cannot be seen or taught because they are mental, not physical. Jiu Jitsu changes an individual’s perception and the way one deals with life’s opponents. Despair, low self esteem, and a lack of motivation can all be defeated by the Invisible Jiu Jitsu.”
“Jiu Jitsu teaches you how to survive on the mat and thrive in the world.”
In the last two decades, Rickson established himself as an elite instructor on top of his world famous competitive record. Notable students of Rickson’s include black belt master Henry Akins as well as current UFC fighter Kron Gracie, who is Rickson’s son.
Rickson Gracie Controversies
As with many high level fighters, Rickson has a history of making controversial statements about his opponents as well as other contemporary fighters competing in MMA.
For example, speaking of early UFC competitors, Rickson claimed Don Fry and Mark Coleman were “very weak” and would offer little danger.
Additional targets of Rickson’s criticism included fighters such as Fedor Emelianenko and Brock Lesnar.
A final note of controversy associated with Rickson is disputing his claim to have won over 400 fights. In fact, his father Helio stated that Rickson counted practice and amateur matches in his fight record, and famously stated in the video above that “if I counted fights like Rickson I would have over 1 million fights.”
Regardless of these minor disputes among elite martial artists, Rickson remains one of the most respected practitioners of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in the modern era.
Rickson’s impact on Jiu Jitsu cannot be understated, and his legacy carries on through his world-class black belt students and competitors, as well as the overall flourishing of BJJ across the globe.