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Tag: Helio Gracie

Who’s the Real “Father of MMA”? — 10 Fighters More Deserving of the Title Than Bruce Lee


(Dat. Pizza. Dough.)

By Seth Falvo

Though current bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw will not be a playable character in EA Sports UFC when it hits the shelves two weeks from now, Bruce Lee will be. Perhaps equally ridiculous is that Bruce Lee isn’t being treated as a novelty addition to the roster, but rather as “the father of Mixed Martial Arts,” something Dana White has also called him. Giving credit to only one person for the creation of MMA is absurd enough, but painting Bruce Lee as that person is just preposterous.

Then again, it really isn’t hard to understand why Zuffa would want to make someone like Bruce Lee an ambassador for our sport. Lee was — and still is — an instantly recognizable celebrity. His body was ripped and athletic. He knew how to wrestle, sure, but also understood that most people would rather watch him throw flashy kicks. His affirmations were deep enough to look good on playing cards and posters, but not too profound for the bros curling in the squat rack to comprehend. In other words, he appeals to a much larger audience than Edward William Barton-Wright and Tommy Tanaka do.

Even with all that in mind, there are figures in combat sports history who not only did more to mold modern MMA than Bruce Lee, but can also be worked into the charmingly revisionist Zuffa account of history just as well. The following list will focus on the accomplishments of these individuals, as well as the arguments for why they should be repackaged as the fathers of MMA. Let’s start with the oldest candidate, and work our way towards the modern era…

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Friday Link Dump: A Tribute to the Godfathers of Ass-Kickin’, Shogun Explains His Glover-Ducking + More


(Mike Tyson, Urijah Faber, and Snoop Dogg discuss the influence of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Props: RootsofFight. From now until Sunday, you can get 15% off their new Helio Gracie shirt — or anything else in their store — by entering Coupon code FD2012JB when you check out.)

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And the Winner of the Roots of Fight ‘What the Gracies Mean to Fighting’ Contest Is…


(Video courtesy of YouTube/RootsofFight)

After some careful consideration by Helio Gracie’s grandson and one of the co-creators of The Gracie Breakdown series, Rener Gracie, we have a winner from last week’s Roots of Fight ‘What the Gracies Mean to Fighting’ Contest. Amazingly, none of the entries we sent in from our troll Twitter accounts won.

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The Roots of Fight ‘What the Gracies Mean to Fighting’ Contest


(Video courtesy of YouTube/RootsofFight)

If you were to ask 100 MMA fans to define mixed martial arts in a word, their responses would differ greatly. If you asked the same census group to define the sport in a name, nearly all would give you the same answer: Gracie.

While some would likely say that Rorian and Royce — having respectively founded the Ultimate Fighting Championship and won three of its first four tournaments in decisive fashion — were the impetus behind their answer, most would likely point to Gracie jiu-jitsu originators Helio and Carlos Gracie as the reason for their response.

Carlos and Helio were innovators, who, although they didn’t invent the art of jujitsu, or it’s “successor,” judo,  they did arguably revolutionize the hybrid fighting art, making it more effective than both, especially when used by smaller combatants against larger opponents.

To the brothers, their variation of the centuries old  Japanese martial art form, now known universally as “Brazilian” or “Gracie” jiu-jitsu, was not just simply efficacious in competition; it was equally as useful in self-defense and street fighting scenarios — a point they have stressed since introducing it to the masses more than 80 years ago.

Decades before Rorian and Royce made history with the UFC, their father Helio represented the Gracie name and defended its honor in scores of challenge matches designed to prove that GJJ — an offshoot of Kodokan judo, which was taught to them by Japanese immigrant and judo master Mitsuyo Maeda, was more effective than any other form of martial art.

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On This Day in MMA History: The Godfather of North American MMA, ‘Judo’ Gene Lebell Was Born in 1932


(Video courtesy of YouTube/TheFightNerd)

If the first MMA fight you ever watched was Stephan Bonnar versus Forrest Griffin, chances are you have no clue who “Judo” Gene LeBell is, but pull up a chair because you’re about to learn about the man in the pink gi.

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Helio Gracie Buried in Petropolis

Rolker Royce Gracie Helio funeral Brazil MMA BJJ jiu-jitsu
Rolker Royce Gracie Helio funeral Brazil MMA BJJ jiu-jitsu
(Rolker and Royce Gracie pay their last respects to their father. Photos courtesy of Sherdog.)

Less than 10 hours after he passed away at the Beficência Portuguesa Hospital after contracting pneumonia, Helio Gracie was laid to rest in a modest ceremony in Petropolis, Brazil, witnessed by about 70 relatives, close friends and students. As Sherdog writes:

Sons Royce and Rolker led the procession, a kilometer in length, from the chapel to the tomb where Gracie was buried. At the tomb, Royce asked for a round of applause for his father and placed a black belt over his coffin.

Speaking on behalf of Helio’s son Rickson Gracie, who was unable to reach Brazil in time for the funeral, Mario Aielo said:

“Thanks to this man, there are thousands of teachers around the world making a living from jiu-jitsu and thousands of fighters making a living from MMA. Without Helio Gracie, Rorion could not have brought Vale Tudo to the US and MMA would not exist, giving jobs to many fighters, promoters and managers and fun to millions of fans around the world.”
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BJJ Co-Founder Helio Gracie, 95, Passes Away in Rio


(Rest in peace.)

Sad, sad news for students and fans of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. From IntheGuard.tv:

Legendary master Helio Gracie died at age of 95 years old this morning, January 01/29, at his home in the mountain region of Rio de Janeiro. In preliminary information, Master Helio had not been well for the past two days and likely passed with complications from a general infection, as we were informed by an acquaintance close to the family members. The burial of the man responsible for the creation of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is scheduled for 5:00 PM today in the Petropolis cemetery.

According to Tatame, the funeral may be postponed, as Helio’s sons Rickson, Royler, and Rorion were out of the country when he died. In addition to those three, Helio is survived by his wife Vera, his sons Relson, Rolker, Royce, and Robin, his daughters Rherica and Ricci, and an army of grandchildren, nephews, and niecesAccording to GracieMag, Helio’s last words were "I created a flag from the sport’s dignity. I oversee the name of my family with affection and nerves of blood." Wow.

Born October 1st, 1913, Helio and his older brother Carlos developed Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu circa 1929-1930, refining the techniques of their judo instructor Otávio Mitsuyo Maeda so that smaller fighters would be able to overcome larger ones through leverage. In 1932, Helio began competing in challenge matches, in which the Gracies would take on fighters of all styles to prove that their jiu-jitsu was the most superior method of ending a fight. These "vale tudo" (everything allowed) contests were popularized in the U.S. decades later when Helio’s son Rorion co-founded the Ultimate Fighting Championship, selecting his brother Royce as the representative of their art. Today, knowledge of BJJ is generally thought of as a requirement for competing as a mixed martial artist. A moment of silence for one of the sport’s true godfathers…

Related: The Top Ten Gracies of All Time

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