The 4 most influential names in Brazilian MMA
It all began with the creation of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu by the Gracie family and their quest to promote
their fighting style as the greatest. It started with Helio and the Gracie Challenge in the 1930’s and
since then generations of Gracie’s have lived the fighting life all over the world. Rorion Gracie
created the UFC and his brother Royce would go on to win 3 of the first 4 tournaments. Other
notable careers in modern MMA include Renzo, Royler and Ryan. Most recently Roger (Strikeforce)
and Ralek (Dream) have carried on the family tradition.
The Gracie Family history
Royce may be the most famous Gracie but Rickson, his half-brother, is the uncrowned family
champion. At the height of the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu rivalry with the Luta Livre fighters Rickson carried
the torch for the Gracie’s and BJJ. While his official MMA record is 11-0 he claims his unofficial MMA
Vale Tudo ledger is more like 400-0. While its hard to back these figures up, you can find grainy
footage on YouTube of Rickson beating Hugo Duarte on the Pepe Beach in Barra, which suggest not
all his fights were at official events. In the lead up to his confrontation on the beach, Duarte had
stated he would need 3 months to prepare for a fight. Rickson, who trained 24-7-365 replied “I’m
here to fight people who like fighting”, tracked Duarte down and the rest is internet history.
Chute Boxe Academy
Admittedly this inclusion in our top 5 is a catch all as you could not talk of Brazilian MMA without
mentioning the likes of Jose Landi-Jons, Rafael Cordeiro, Wanderlei Silva and the Rua brothers,
Murillo and Mauricio to name but a few from Chute Boxe. It began as a Muay Thai academy in 1978
in Curitiba, Brazil under head trainer Rudimar Fedrigo but morphed into the most devastating Vale
Tudo gym in the world in the 1990’s and MMA powerhouse early 2000’s. Chute Boxe fighters were
compared to berserkers due to their extremely aggressive and physical fighting style with a penchant
for devastating kicks.
Bursting onto the Brazilian Vale Tudo scene in the mid-1990’s Chute Boxe fighters captured three of
the four title belts in the dominatant International Vale Tudo Championship promotion. This served
as a spring board for the Chute Boxe into the Japanese MMA and the world’s largest MMA
promotion at the time, Pride FC. Wanderlei Silva would follow up his IVC belt with the Pride
Middleweight (200lbs) title after winning the 2003 Pride FC Middleweight Grand Prix, which he
would hold for 6 years. Shogun Rua would follow this up winning the 2005 Pride FC Middleweight
Grand Prix as Silva stood aside to allow his team-mate take the spoils.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira began his fighting career at the tender age of 4 in judo classes. Having
survived being run over by a truck when he was 9, and being in a coma for 25 days he added boxing
at 14 and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu when he was 18 to his list of skills. By the time he was 25 he won the
RINGS King of Kings 2000 Tournament title. He backed this up with winning the Pride heavyweight
title belt later that year. During his time in Pride FC he battled and beat the top names in the game -
Randy Couture, Tim Sylvia, Heath Herring, Josh Barnett, Fabricio Werdum, Sergei Kharitonov, Ricco
Rodriguez, Mark Coleman and Jeremy Horn. After the Zuffa purchase of Pride FC he won the UFC
interim Heavyweight Championship with a ‘Fight of the Night’ performance making him one of only
four men to have held Championship titles in both Pride FC and the UFC. Unfortunately most of
Nogueira’s title winning 40-fight career was while nobody was watching as MMA was still in its
infancy. Its only fitting that the legend gets an opportunity to showcase his career in front of his
home crowd at UFC 134 against Brendan Schaub.
If fighters like Nogueira laid the path for MMA to get mainstream media acceptance, Anderson Silva
is proof that it has got there. Since becoming the most dominant UFC and MMA champion in the
history of the promotion and the sport he has now reached the level commonly afforded to more
recognised sports. In the lead up to UFC 134 new sponsorship deals with Nike, the Brazilian branch
of fast-food giant Burger King and Brazilian soccer team Sport Club Corinthians Paulista have all
joined the Anderson Silva bandwagon.
UFC Middleweight Champion, and he is also the last Cage Rage Middleweight Champion and former
Shooto Middleweight Champion. Besides the UFC and Cage Rage, Silva has fought for a number of
other MMA promotions including the Pride Fighting Championships, Shooto and Rumble on the Rock.