Gracie Jiu-Jitsu History and The Birth Of MMA - Combat Sport Events

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu History and The Birth Of MMA

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is ranked at the top of the Jiu-Jitsu martial art. The family is known in the world of Mixed Martial Arts as one of the most successful dynasties in the history of MMA.

No other family has left their mark as the Gracie “clan” did. One of the most famous accomplishments by the Gracies is having found Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Not only that, the family has produced several World Champions over many decades and its influence in the world of MMA continues to grow and inspire practitioners of all ages.

The Gracie family started to build its fame from the streets of Rio de Janeiro and has made its way to the top, achieving incomparable levels of success in MMA and combat sports.

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The Story of The Gracie Family

The Gracie family has a long history of exceptional fighters. Let’s take a look at some of them, their history and their contribution to modern BJJ as well as to MMA.

Carlos Gracie


The story of the Gracie dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. Gastao Gracie’s son of Scottish immigrant and born in Belem do Parà. He soon moved to Rio de Janeiro to rise his big family of eight sons, the eldest being the well-known Carlos Gracie, considered to be the patriarch of Gracie’s success in martial arts.

Gastao’s passion for Jiu-Jitsu quickly influenced Carlos, who started following him to the Jiu-Jitsu displays. Being only a teenager, Carlos used Jiu-Jitsu as a way to cope with his fragile body and find the self-confidence needed to succeed in the world. He started to train with the Japanese practitioner Misuyo Maeda and got rapidly promoted to compete.

Carlos quickly developed an efficient technique to fight and beat opponents physically stronger. By 1925, Carlos opened his first Jiu-Jitsu academy and started promoting his style of Jiu-Jitsu that he simply called “the Gracie challenge” by offering fighters to test him with combat.

He successfully beat opponents that were physically imposing and his success gained Carlos’ academy fame and prestige. This efficient marketing on his academy continued for many years and contributing to make Gracie an influential name in martial arts.

Helios Gracie


The passion for Jiu-Jitsu affected all the brothers of the Gracie family, although Helio the youngest struggled a bit. The struggles did not stop Helio who experimented with different technique to overcome his physical inferiority and came up with a different style which prioritized leverage over strength. By working with his brother Carlos, the two perfectioned and mixed their techniques to create a different style of Jiu-Jitsu.

The style turned out to be particularly effective and marked the creation of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Helio established an important name in the world of martial arts.

In the meanwhile, the new generation of Gracie was starting to get trained, taking Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) to a completely different level.

Rickson Gracie

Rickson Gracie

We are already in the 1980s when Rickson Gracie, Helio’s third son, was building his reputation as the best fighter in Brazil. Aged 20, he had already beaten many strong fighters. Rickson competed at the top level throughout his long career, first in Brazil, then in Japan. His victories and successes gained him the fame of being one of the greatest fighters of all time.

However, it was during these years, the Gracies found an important rival in the Brazilian Luta Livre, a combat sport that was starting to gaining major popularity in the country.

The competition with Luta Livre lasted for a long time, for different generations. Some of the outcomes had been quite controversial, such as the banning of MMA in Rio de Janeiro for a while.

Rorion Gracie and the spread of BJJ world-wide

Rorion Gracie

Rorion Gracie, the eldest of Helio’s sons, wasn’t interested in getting involved with the rivalry with the Luta Livre. Instead, he moved to the USA, in California, where he started teaching Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, quickly gaining a large crowd of followers.

Rorion contributed to promoting BJJ worldwide and the connections gained thanks to his expertise eventually made him the co-founder of UFC, the Ultimate Fighting Challenge. He was very intrigued by the idea of filming and transmitting on television a “Gracie challenge” on a bigger scale and available for everyone to watch.

By creating the UFC, Rorion set himself the goal of grabbing the attention of the world to the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu style that had been perfectioned by his family for a long period.

The UFC event attracted fighters around the world and allowed the audience to follow the event comfortably from their home.

Today, Rorion is running a multimillion-dollar business of academies and merchandising.

Royce Gracie

Royce Gracie

The undiscussed start of the first UFC event was Royce, who gained the victory and fame in the martial arts world. Because of his not-so-impressive physique, his success was particularly influential in proving the efficiency of the techniques of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in fighting physically stronger opponents. Royce’s performance introduced the world to Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and initiated Gracie’s enormous empire in martial arts.

The first UFC event had a huge success in making BJJ an integral part of the training in MMA. The Gracie’s rivalry with Luta Livre suddenly become unimportant as BJJ had gained the position of a dominant force in mixed martial arts.

BJJ today

BJJ Today

Today, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is very popular among practitioners.

BJJ is recognized by many as a way to truly know yourself because of the challenging endeavor both mentally and physically required for success. Not only that, BJJ has become an essential part for anyone willing to train in MMA.

Gracie BJJ gyms have popped out worldwide, not only for fighters but also as one of the most effective forms of self-defense. BBJ is the greatest equalizer in combat since it relies on technique and leverage to overcome strength.

The Gracie family is an iconic clan of excellent athletes who have revolutionized the world of Jiu-Jitsu and martial arts thanks to their perseverance, wide expertise and famous successes in MMA. Their rich story and achievements are still inspiring many worldwide and don’t seem to stop, at least not yet.

Thinking of taking up a martial art? check out this article to see which is best for you. Which martial art should I learn first?

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