Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza is the ultimate grappler with world class ground game and fantastic stand up takedown game. He is a BJJ and Judo black belt formed at ASLE academy with his first instructor Henrique Machado. Contrary to popular belief, Jacare did not have a classical Judo background where one would start training Judo and then transition to BJJ (Saulo Ribeiro for example). He was always training BJJ and Judo at the same time at ASLE academy with Machado who believed in his students having a complete game. His priority was always BJJ.
Souza was born in Vila Velha, Brazil, was raised in Cariacica, Brazil until the age of 15, and competed in football as a goalkeeper. Souza had a rough upbringing, and on the day he turned 15, he saw one of his good friends get shot to death. After this event, Souza’s mother moved him to Manaus to go live with his brother and started training Judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu when he was 17. He is a five-time World Jiu-Jitsu Champion, including gold medals in the Openweight class in 2003, 2004 and 2005. His other credentials include the 2005 77–87 kg ADCC Champion and the 2005 ADCC Absolute Division runner-up, only losing to Roger Gracie who outweighed him by approximately 25 lbs. Along with Roger Gracie and Marcelo Garcia, Souza is widely considered to be among the greatest BJJ practitioners of his time.
Jacare’s takedown game was so dominant in high level BJJ competitions that many wondered if he could have the same success if he transitioned to high level Judo. In 2004’s there was talk of organising a grappling superfight between Brazil’s Olympic bronze medalist Flavio Canto and Jacare, who was then the world bjj champion. The project never came to life.
Jacare decided to transition to MMA after Roger Gracie broke his arm at the 2004 jiu-jitsu world championship in Rio de Janeiro. Jacare didn’t tap and ended up winning the epic fight on points.
He told MMAFighting.com about how he was disappointed by the BJJ federation, since the only thing he ever received from them was a symbolic medal.
Many things have changed since then, IBJJF now offers the winners of the IBJJF rankings 10,000$ and there are many professional IBJJF events all over the US and Brazil. The UAEJJF also offer significant prize money and there are many professional Jiu-Jitsu events.
“They take too much money from us and simply don’t give anything back. I left jiu-jitsu for MMA because those f—— never came to me asking if I needed anything. I was starving in Rio with a broken arm. My physical therapist was on the same street of IBJJF in Rio. I met them all the time and they never asked if I needed a glass of water. I always fought MMA for love, something I wanted to do. When I first saw the Jungle Fight, I knew I wanted to do that.”
About his MMA debut against Macaco in Jungle fight in 2005, which he lost by tko:
“‘Macaco’ was really tough, he’s still winning fights today. He had fought 25 MMA fights and it was my debut, man. I was stupid enough to fight him, but I learned a lot with that. I realized that MMA was different from jiu-jitsu.”
“I always knew I needed to leave jiu-jitsu to focus on MMA and I heard a lot of critics from the jiu-jitsu practitioners. But today they know that you wasted a lot of time trying to do both.”
Documentary about his transition:
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