What Really Happened in the Infamous Rickson Gracie & Yoji Anjo Incident?

What Really Happened in the Infamous Rickson Gracie & Yoji Anjo Incident?

There are numerous stories about the legendary Rickson Gracie. Too many to count actually . We could probably do a whole series of pieces on Rickson stories and only scratch the surface of his legend.

We’re going to detail one of his most famous stories in this piece. The incident between Rickson Gracie and Japanese pro wrestler Yoji Anjo.

For years, there were a lot of different stories about the incident and the details were unverified. It wasn’t until a few years ago when Rickson Gracie went on Joe Rogan’s podcast and told the complete story. Below is every detail Rickson shared about the famous incident.

Short Rickson Gracie bio

For those new to Jiu Jitsu, here is a brief bio on the legendary Rickson Gracie. He is arguably one of the best if not the best BJJ practitioner that has ever lived. If you ask members of the Gracie family, he is the greatest Jiu Jitsu fighter that has ever lived.

Rickson is the third oldest son of Hélio Gracie and has been practicing Jiu Jitsu for well over 50 years.

His official MMA record is 11-0, but according to the Gracie family he is undefeated in over 400 fights. This is a number nobody can verify, so the exact number of fights he had will always be a mystery.

Although his fight record is questionable, none question the legitimate skill of Rickson. 

In 2017, Rickson Gracie’s decade of work was recognized  and he was awarded the rank of red belt. His brother’s Rorian and Relson surprised him at a seminar and presented him with the highest honor in Jiu Jitsu. 

The Yoji Anjo incident

Now that those who didn’t know about Rickson are informed, let’s get into his dojo fight with Yoji Anjo.

It was in 1995 and Rickson had just won a 8 mane Vale Tudo Tournament in Japan. At the same time, there was a new Japanese pro wrestling promotion opening called the Union of Wrestling Forces International(UWFI).

Pro wrestling was big in Japan at the time and champions from the promotion began calling Rickson out. They were going to the Japanese press “cutting promos” on Rickson. Basically calling Rickson out and saying he’d beat him up in order to get attention.

This went on for about 3 months and Rickson was in the US ignoring these call outs. A Japanese friend of Rickson’s urged him to respond, so that he wouldn’t be labeled a coward in Japan.

Rickson finally pinned a letter responding to these pro wrestlers calling him out. He basically said that he would never fight for a pro wrestling promotion.

Saying he doesn’t fight to organizations that put on fake and fixed fights. It was against his personal beliefs to fight under these promotions and that it would never happen.

Although, Rickson then stated if these pro wrestlers ever wanted to fight him in a legitimate promotion he’d do it. Also either at his gym or on the street if they prefer, but not on a worked pro wrestling event.

It would tarnish his legitimacy and reputation if he ever fought on one of their shows.

The initial wrestlers that called kind of backed away from calling out Rickson. There were no new callouts for a few weeks until a Japanese pro wrestler named Yoji Anjo spoke to the press.

Anjo told the press he would go to Los Angeles and personally challenge Rickson at the Gracie Jiu Jitsu Academy. 

Yoji “Mr 200%” Anjo

Here’s a quick backstory on Yoji “Mr 200%” Anjo. Yoji was a Japanese professional wrestler and later an MMA fighter

Anjo’s professional wrestler career spanned from 1985-2009 and his official MMA career was from 1996-2004. Before calling out Rickson, Anjo had done this once before back in 1989.

He challenged a Muay Thai champion to a legit mixed rules fight that ended in a draw. To get publicity and to prove he was a legitimate fighter, he called out another pro fighter in Rickson in 1995.

A decision that Anjo would come to regret.

Anjo shows up at the Gracie Academy

When Anjo went to the Japanese press and called out Rickson it didn’t mean much to Gracie. Rickson wasn’t going to keep himself up thinking about if Anjo was going to show up to the academy.

Then a few weeks later, Rickson receives a phone call from the academy. The front desk told him that a few Japanese men at the academy wanted to meet with him. 

So Rickson grabs his tape, camcorder, and begins driving to the Jiu Jitsu school. When he arrived, he saw a group of Japanese media with cameras waiting in the parking lot.

Once he stepped in the school, he was greeted by the president of the UWFI. The tall well dressed promoter was there to officially invite Rickson to fight in the wrestling promotion.

Gracie immediately told him no and that he already said he’d never fight in a pro wrestling promotion.

But the promoter quoted Rickson that he said he would fight for free for his honor. Then told Rickson that the pro wrestler Anjo was outside and if he could come in.

Gracie obliged and told his relatives to only let Anjo and his translator enter and not let the press enter. He didn’t want the press to take any photos of what could have happened.

Anjo enters the academy

Yoji Anjo then enters the academy with his pro wrestling persona attitude looking like he wanted to fight.

Rickson tells his instructor to bring a gym waiver for Anjo to sign. Anjo looked at the waiver and then spoke to the promoter. 

The promoter asked if Anjo didn’t sign would that mean they wouldn’t fight? Not to give the wrestler an excuse and tell the press Rickson was scared, Gracie told him no Anjo didn’t.

If he was there to fight, then they could fight. So, they went to the mat to have their fight.

The fight

Once they got to the fight, the fight began. Rickson grabbed Anjo in a clinch and took him to the ground and took his back.

In a sanctioned fight this would be the time where Rickson would sink in a choke and finish the fight. Unfortunately for Anjo this was not a sanctioned fight.

Since Anjo had come to Rickson’s Jiu Jitsu academy and disrespected him, Gracie wanted to punish him. He began elbowing Anjo in the side of his head trying to force him to turn.

When Anjo turned, Rickson began raining down punches, breaking his nose and causing blood to pour out of his face.

Anjo then turned  his back and Rickson locked on an RNC putting him to sleep in his own blood.

Rickson then told his relatives to let the press enter and take pictures of what had happened. They began taking pictures as the promoter tried to hide Anjo’s face and carried him out of the school.

Rickson victorious

The Aftermath

A few weeks later, Anjo came back to the academy and wanted to apologize to Rickson. Anjo gave Rickson a samurai helmet as an apology gift and then went back to Japan.

Although, once Anjo returned to Japan, he immediately told the press he was jumped by the Gracie’s. Little did he know that Rickson had taped the fight on a camcorder.

Rickson gave his friend in Japan the tape of the fight and told him to hold a press conference to show the press. His reputation skyrocketed even more, gaining even more respect than he already had.

Where’s the tape?

Rickson never released the recording of the fight to the public. There are only a handful of pictures from the fight that the Japanese press were able to take.

It was only ever shown that one time to the Japanese press and they weren’t allowed to record the viewing.

To this day Rickson has yet to release the recording of the fight. The only way you can see or hear details about the incident is from Rickson himself.

If you have Spotify, he was on episode #584 of the Joe Rogan Experience. Rickson tells the story from the 2hr 11min mark to the 2hr 20min mark of the podcast.

There was a standalone clip on Youtube, but unfortunately someone flagged it and it was taken down.Here is a short video clip of Rickson’s son Kron talking about the incident on a podcast. 

Author – Xavier Sales
Rank – Black Belt
Head Instructor at Alpha Jiu Jitsu Academy Richmond, Sydney Australia