Japanese pro wrestling superstar Nobuhiko Takada had been calling out the legendary Brazilian fighter Rickson Gracie, who did not even acknowledge him.
Yoji Anjo, a famous pro-wrestler back in Japan, headed down to LA to challenge Rickson Gracie to a fight. Yoji showed up at the academy while Rockson (Rickson’s eldest son, RIP) was there, asking where Rickson was, and refusing to leave if Rickson did not fight him. The students called called Rickson who was at home, and Rickson arrived soon after. There were tons of Japanese reporters outside, and Rickson did not allow them inside his academy.
Anjo then questioned Rickson’s honor and the two went into a room.
Rickson famously said later “If we fight for money, I’ll stop hitting you when you ask me to. If we fight for honor, I’ll stop hitting you when I feel like it.”
Only one of his students filmed the fight, which has never been available.
Anjo was a bloody mess after the fight. This is what Rickson looked like afterwards.
The only copy of the tape is held by Rickson, and he has never released it. However, long timer UGer Gordon Hester (Momentum) has watched the tape with Rickson, and offers a narrative of what happens.
MMA.tv member ‘Momentum’ watched the tape and he give s a detailed account of what happened:
“I watched the video, the lead up video where Anjo announced in a large stadium he was going to LA to fight Rickson to the death and also the video afterwards where some small guy who was a reporter showed up with a sign reading “I want to fight Rickson Gracie”. I watched them with Rickson at his home.
As for the lead up, if I recall there was bad blood between Rickson and some fight group in Japan called “Rings”. Rickson beat their top fighter and they sent Anjo to avenge that fight. I would guess he made the announcement at some Pro Wrestling event since there were probably about 10,000 people at the event. If I recall, Rings did Pro Wrestling and MMA.
As for the fight, Rickson was home when Anjo and a big crew showed up at his school. Rickson got the call and drove over. The kicked all the media out of the room and then Rickson’s group filmed the fight. Anjo was bigger than Rickson. No refs and a real fight. Rickson traded some kicks and then eventually went in and got the clinch. He immediately went to the mount and never lost that position. From there he just beat up Anjo with punches. One time Anjo turned over and Rickson kept pounding him in the neck instead of choking it. Rickson told me he wasn’t done punishing him. He rolled back over and took a massive beating including one shot that looked like his nose split in half. He rolled over again and Rickson choked him unconscious and left him in a pool of blood. Rickson didn’t have a scratch on him.
I remember discussing the violence of the fight with Rickson. I felt like he really gave that guy a much bigger beating than necessary. He explained to me that when he let the media back in, there needed to be no doubt who won. Anjo went to the hospital. Rickson celebrated with his students. I was told this was big news in Japan and there were certainly lots of pictures that floated around of Anjo being a beaten mess. If I recall, he later sent Rickson a gift to apologize, sort of a Samuri thing.
As for the small guy that showed up afterwards, it was just a goof. Some reporter came to Rickson’s school and was meet at the door by Lemon and Rockson. The funny part of the video is Rockson telling the little reporter he had to beat him before he got a shot at his dad. As usual, Rockson had to be controlled because he was always ready for a fight. I think Rockson would have destroyed the little reporter since he was not a fighter. RIP Rockson. I miss you.
I do hope the video comes out some day. It wasn’t like an MMA fight. There were no rules and no refs. It was basically a street fight in a dojo. People and fans of MMA today don’t realize that this is how Rickson and many fightr of his time grew up. Vale Tudo fighting is way different than MMA.
I also remember Rickson having absolutely no emotion about the fight. He was sort of odd to see someone in that situation or talking through the fight when we were watching it and explained it without the least bit of emotion. He also showed no emotion before or during the fight. It supported my belief that one of Rickson’s greatest gifts was his mind. He sorted reminded me of a socio path when he fought, only thought and no emotion regardless of the situation. Anyway, that is the story as I remember it.
Why do you think Rickson has kept the video so guarded over the years?
Joe, I am not sure why he keep it so guarded. Maybe he had a plan for it but the plan changed after Rockson’s death. I assume he still has it but maybe Kim or one of the kids has the video. My guess is that he has it tucked away somewhere. It would make a great video story if all the pieces were pieced together. The fight is even better when you know the story before and after it. He had all 3 of the videos I noted above because I watched them with him at his home in Pacific Palisades. That has been a lot of year ago.
Do you have any other Rickson fights off the top of your head that you saw that we might get a kick out of?
There used to be great matches of him in the dojo with top guys. I wish those would come out. So much of Rickson was grappling with people at seminars that didn’t have any experience. I saw him many times beat his top instructors and guest BJJ champions who came to the school just as easy as he did the people at the seminar. As someone once said, everyone was a whitebelt to Rickson. In all the times I saw him train or trained with him, I never saw anyone even given him a hard time, let alone a good match.
One of my favorite stories is one that Soneca told me. He said Rickson showed up to train and teach on Blackbelt day at the school in Rio. He said it was guys like him, Renzo, Ralpf, and many older top guys names most people wouldn’t know. Soneca told me he took one person after another and tapped them. Then he went back through the line and asked them how they wanted to be tapped and then tapped them all that way. Rickson was just that much better than everyone else.
I NEVER talked to a top level Blackbelt that trained with him that didn’t say Rickson destroyed them. Many said they felt like they didn’t understand anything about BJJ after rolling with Rickson. I suspect Father Time has taken a lot of Rickson’s gifts away but I suspect he is still pretty tough on the mats. I think Rickson is about 58 or 59 now?
I have forgotten, did you get your black belt under Rickson? I’m just now remembering how long it has been since you’ve posted on here about your experiences with Rickson. It was a good surprise way back when, when I first saw “Choke” and recognized you in there!
I did not get my Blackbelt from Rickson. After I had my son Connor I didn’t get out much to visit or train with Rickson.
Momentum did he talk to you about the offer to fight Sak after his son died? Did he talk to you about fighting Sak at all? Can you confirm that fight would have come off with no issue for the right price prior to Rockson’s death?
I actually went to Rockson’s funeral. As you can imagine, the entire family was devestated. I recall Rickson going into his own place (I think he built a bird house or something) just to deal with his own grief. I honestly believe the pain of losing Rockson for both Kim and Rickson will never go away :(. I never talked much with Rickson about it but spent lots of time with Kim. Rickson had a very private way of dealing with internal issues and it would have been disrespectful for me to grill him on Rockson’s death. Kim was like a sister so she felt better talking to me. Plus she knew I would have share our conversations with anyone.
As for Sak, well I was one of those people who wanted Rickson to fight everyone. Back then he was the man and everyone wanted him to fight whoever was considered the best. As strange as it might sound, he treated his MMA fight career like a business. He felt he did not need to fight for his brother’s honor and that they all could fight on their own. I don’t think he felt he had to honor the family by beating anyone that beat one of them. As for Sak, I think had Rockson not died and the money was right, Rickson would have fought him or anyone else. He was never afraid to fight anyone. It was really about getting paid for his brand.
For fans, that might sound horrible. However, he was a smart business guy who got paid more money back in the 90s because of his brand than most top name fighters get paid today. He made millions from fights and other businesses related to his brand, especially in Japan. In the end, I always respected he had the right to get paid on his brand on his terms, even if I didn’t agree with them. I hope that answers your question.
I think the only fighter to beat Rickson would have been a great striker that could keep the fight standing. Rickson seem to get every fight to the ground. As he would say, once on the ground it was “checkmate”. He had the best clinch I had ever seen in terms of getting in without taking damage. I think time limits and the right fighter could have had someone beat him in an MMA fight. Take the time limits and rules away, I think Rickson would win even if it took him hours to do it. He was a physical fitness machine that I never saw get tired or confused in a match.
Back then I think Ruas & Bas were the biggest challenges for him in MMA. I’m not sure how the fights would have gone, I’d have taken Rickson though.
With no time limit then one would need to KO Rickson IMO. Anything is possible, but again I’d not bet against Rickson.
Look how impatience people are in MMA. Rickson would take an hour looking for the right clinch opportunity if that is what was necessary. He had a patience and focus in a fight like I had never seen before or after.
So much of my life has been surrounded by brilliant, high achievers, especially in business. I can tell you that Rickson is one of the most brilliant people I ever meet. He had the same gift I see in other brilliant people – the ability to take anything complex and make it simple. I never seen anyone that had such a massive understanding of the fundamentals of BJJ and their application. He could sit there for hours and explain the details of a simple arm lock. I think when you had that mind to such a gifted and deterimined athlete, you get something special.
As an instructor, I think the greatest gift he ever game me was the simplicity of fundamentals. The more I understood the fundamentals, the more I would find technique. Students loved when I teached fundamentals through details because most get more and more chaos of the mind as they learn more and more technique. Now I am 51 and have pretty much retired from BJJ. I still have a few people I train with for fun because they have a love to learn and I feel like giving them the love of BJJ. One is a local couple named Kelli and Adam Jaco. They are both physical machines and Adam was a pro boxer. Both are quick learners and I love sharing the art with them.
Between age and all the BS politics of BJJ, I don’t miss being that involved anymore. I think the only BJJ guy I even talk to on a regular basis these days is Robert Drysdale. I had the pleasure of training with him last fall when he visited me in Sarasota(or should I say getting my butt kicked by him) and also his wife (who is a very talented and technical female BJJ Blackbelt?. I have so many great memories and friendships from BJJ. Guys like Bill Murphy, Pat McDonald, Dave Gatke, Steve Hall, Mike Lee and many more are truly lifetime friends. Despite the chronic pain from injuries, the memories and friendships keep me around a bit these days. At my age I don’t have much left to offer the sport but I haven’t forgotten everything :).
RUMOR is that Rickson fought dirty.
Eye gouges, hair pulling, biting etc. I respect Rickson very much, which is why I think that the truth should come to light. It is a NHB fight after all, so it can be expected.
Why didn’t he fight Sakuraba?
Rickson sat on the sidelines while Sakuraba de-limbed his entire family tree like they were a 12 piece pizza hut chicken wing batch.
It is nice to hear from you. I am not sure where you heard Rickson fought dirty. I think the only dirty incident I remember from the Anjo fight was Anjo trying to gouge Rickson’s mouth. Then again, maybe hammering someone in the neck with vicious shots when they are on their stomach might seem dirty to some people. Rickson definitely fought aggressively, sort of what you would expect in a real fight.
I think people forget that Rickson didn’t grow up doing MMA as it is today or grappling tournaments. He fought people because that is what they did back then. It was a different time. If you look at the early Vale Tudo videos out of Brazil you can see it was basically a brutal street fight in a ring. Personally, I didn’t enjoy watching it because I felt it was too brutal. I am glad the UFC and other bodies stepped in to create rules that allowed MMA to become the fastest growing sport in the world. It would have never happened had they not developed rules around safety. Fans that think it is the same should go look at some of the old Valu Tudo videos from Brazil.
Hope life is treating you well. Nice to hear from you.
I had heard a rumor that Rickson fought very violently and punishingly and that’s why the video was not released, because in the heat of the moment in a NHB dojo challenge fight from that era things might happen that don’t look good when you are a role model for many.
To this day Rickson is considered the greatest jiu jitsu fighter ever and arguably the best pure grappler of all time.
There could be some merit that he didn’t want to put it out for that reason. He certainly demonstrated how vicious he can be in a real fight. Given the evolution of the sport at that time, maybe it would have hurt the sport. That is a great theory. I will always believe Rickson was the best at BJJ. Then again with fighter like Marcelo Garcia, Roger Gracie, and many, many other great fighters, maybe the evolution of the sport would produce a more even playing field. It is hard to compare athletes that were at their prime in different periods, this applies to all sports.
In your opinion, lets say Rockson didn’t die and Rickson fought Sakuraba in 2001, Pride 13 – how would you say that fight would have gone down and why ?
There were already discussions going on to book this fight. I think Rockson not have passed away (I think he funeral was in January 2000 but he died in December 1999), Rickson would have fought a few more fights. The market was still huge for him in Japan because it was still the early days of Pride.
As for Sak, first let me say I am COMPLETELY biased toward Rickson. However, I have no problem sharing my thoughts. I think Rickson would have taken him down. I never saw any fighter stop him from getting a fight to the ground. I do not believe Sak could have survived on the ground against Rickson because I never saw anyone survive on the ground with him. If I recall, Rickson was bigger and in awesome shape. If Royce had the ability to get Sak to the ground, I think Rickson could get him there. His ability to clinch without damage was something he understood like no fighter I have ever seen. He had a clear understanding of when to take away the aspects of a striker and would wait (vs force) for his opportunity. Rickson doesn’t move back much when he walks down a fight which rushes a fighter’s mind to deal with the clinch. That being said, Sak proved to be an incredible fight and legend in Japan so it was a fight that everyone would have enjoyed watching when he was in his prime. I am a fan of Sak but I do not think he could have beaten Rickson. I certainly respect that others see things an entirely different way.
Yoji, a famous pro-wrestler back in Japan, headed down to LA to challenge Rickson Gracie to a fight. Yoji rocked up at the academy while Rockson was there, asking where Rickson was, and refusing to leave if Rickson did not fight him. The academy called Rickson who was at home, and Rickson arrived soon after. There were tons of Japanese reporters outside, and Rickson did not allow them inside his academy. Only one of his students filmed the fight, which has never been available. Rickson took Yoji down, mounted him, and proceeded to punish him with strikes. Rickson did not take it easy on him, as Yoji showed disrespect. Here is a pic of the aftermath from a Japanese mag:
I hope that answers your question. I wish so many of Rickson’s critics got to spend time with him or train with him. It seems like everyone that got that oppportunity was a massive fan. I think he was just that special, sort of an icon for BJJ.
I got a chance to talk with Rickson for almost 90 minutes on the phone last night. It was a private conversation so I won’t share the details. It was definitely one of the best conversations we have ever had and we have had many over the years.
I was happy as a friend to see him in such a good place in life. He seems so happy and at peace. He is definitely a different person that when I knew him as a competitor.
I know many high level athlete struggle when Father Time gets the best of them. It was great that Rickson didn’t suffer that fate. He is back in the States and I look forward to spending a few days with him in a couple months just to hang out. I will always cherish our friendship although at heart I will always be his #1 fan.”