The most famous family in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the Gracie family, have been connected to a controversy within the Brazilian government, headed by Jair Bolsonaro. The news was first reported in Congresso Em Foco, who pored through a number of payments that were made to several members of the Gracie family from government funds specifically designed to help ‘socially vulnerable’ citizens.
According to the Congresso Em Foco, the biggest beneficiary in the Gracie family was Reyson Gracie, son of Carlos. They have reporting that he received a total of 37,710 reais (approximately $7,467 USD at the time of writing) across 15 different installments. The money came from a program called Beneficio de Prestacao Continuada (BPC) that is designed to benefit citizens who were either over 65-years-old or disabled and with an income equal to or smaller than a quarter of the country’s annual minimum wage.
Questions have been raised because this amount is only 303 reais a month (approximately $60) while the 80 year-old Reyson is apparently the owner of the Reyson Gracie World Association according to social media posts. The Reyson Gracie World Association has gym affiliates spread across Brazil and in several other countries like Spain, Australia, USA, and French Polynesia.
The Brazilian Ministry of Citizenship, who are responsible for the BPC program, explained that Reyson has been a part of the program since November 2007 but he has no formal income registered and isis listed as a “family of one person”. They explained that, provided both of these pieces of information are true, Reyson does actually qualify to receive the payments from that program.
Nine other members of the Gracie family benefited from a separate program provided by the Bolsonaro government, Auxilio Brasil. This program is designed to assist individuals whoreceive the same or less than half the nation’s minimum wage (606 reais or $120 a month) and families who’s household income is not more than three times the nation’s minimum wage (3636 reais or $720 a month). Congresso em Foco raised questions about these nine family members benefiting from Auxilio Brasil based on their employment histories and business holdings.
Reyson’s brother, Reylson Gracie, received 3,000 reais ($594) between June and November in 2020 but the report indicates that 600 reais ($118) has already been returned to the government. Reylson owns a gym in Rio de Janeiro and he claims that the money was necessary for him to survive during the Covid-19 pandemic, something that many gyms struggled with across the world.
Reylson told Congresso em Foco:
“I had no income during the pandemic. I’ve been without an income for two years now. Things are tight. My gym has been closed for two years. I saw myself as in need. Sometimes I would go to the gym and I would teach lessons to one or two people. The government has never given me anything but that spare change. It was 2,400.”
Another son of Carlos Gracie, Rosley, received 4,200 reais ($813) from the program between April and December of 2020 despite being the director of operations at Gracie Nutrition, in Rio de Janeiro. Flavia Gracie, the sister of ADCC Hall of Famer Renzo Gracie, is also involved as she received a total of 3,900 reais ($772) between May and December 2020 despite operating a consultancy and business management company called FGX Assessoria e Consultoria de Eventos.
Perhaps two of the most concerning pieces of information to glean from the investigation is the alleged involvement of both Ricci and Jenifer Gracie, both of whom don’t even live in Brazil. Both of them are registered on the program as living in the city of Teresopolis despite the fact that Ricci is a United States citizen and Jenifer lives in Oregon. They apparently received the amount of 3,300 reais ($663) and 3,900 reais ($722) respectively.
Ricci’s husband, Patrick Benedek, spoke to Congresso em Foco and said that his wife had neither applied for nor received any the money from the program. He actually claimed that his wife was victim of a scam, and another person had been using her name to receive the money in her place. He is quoted by the outlet as saying:
“Ricci lives in the United States and was unaware that such program even existed.”
Three extended family members and siblings; Stephania Cunha Gracie Corte Imperial, Juramidam de Iemanjá Gracie Corte Imperial and Tintuma Omicaia Gracie Corte Imperial, were also reported to have received the total amount of 4,200 reais ($831) each. Finally, Carlion Grace, another son of Carlos Gracie, received a total of 1,200 reais ($238) and Carla Gracie, another sister of Renzo Gracie, received a total of of 3,600 reais ($718).
In fairness, the report does indicate that Carlion had cancelled all of those payments before he could receive the funds and Carla had already returned most of the payments she received.
The allegations have not gone over well in Brazil, most likely also because several members of the Gracie family were high-profile supporters of Jair Bolsonaro during the run-up to the 2018 election. In fact, Bolsonaro was given an honorary black belt by Robson Gracie, the President of the Jiu-Jitsu Federation of Rio de Janeiro, while he was actually campaigning. Since being elected, Renzo Gracie has been one of his most vocal supporters and has been publicly tied to the president on several occasions.