Rickson Gracie has famously made a number of claims about his combat sports record, most notably that he is undefeated in over 400 fights. These fights would have taken place at a time when video recording was not readily available and the vast majority of matches will have been lost to time. Regardless, some of Rickson’s competitive efforts can still be seen, including a pair of matches he made at a Sambo tournament during the 80s and one of the first public BJJ matches between Gracie family members in 1986 that saw him take on the legendary Rigan Machado.
The majority of the footage and recorded matches does support Rickson’s claim that he was undefeated in competition, except one particular case where he fought World Sambo champion Ron Tripp in a Sambo match. Tripp performed a picture-perfect Uchi Mata takedown after just 47 seconds of the match and was declared the winner under FIAS International Sambo rules. Rickson disputes this loss however as he claims that he was not aware of the rules, despite claiming to be a two-time Pan-American Sambo champion at the time. While it’s clear that Rickson Gracie does not include this within his record, the undefeated aspect of his career isn’t the only thing that’s in doubt.
The actual number of fights that he has claimed to have has also come under intense scrutiny in the past with many members of the combat sports world casting some doubt over the incredible record that Rickson Gracie claims to own. Perhaps most damning is that his own father Helio Gracie has actually claimed that Rickson uses the term ‘fight’ very loosely and is actually including a number of training room matches in this number.
In a recent episode of MMAFighting’s Trocacao Franca podcast, he has not only doubled down on the claim but also expanded on his illustrious record’ although some of his statements do seem to support Helio’s account:
Every seminar I did at the time, 100, 50, 40, 30, 20 seminars, at the end of the six-hour seminars, I’d submit everybody. I did a training [session]. ‘Who wants to train?’ Everybody wanted to. I submitted everybody, one after the other. And every tournament I entered after I turned 18, weight class or openweight division, I submitted every match I had and never lost. I entered luta livre tournaments back when Rolles was excited about it, I never lost either.
Sambo tournaments in Brazil and in the United States, I also never lost. Street fights against guys that were really tough, professionals, or street fights with surfers … fights with luta livre guys, jiu-jitsu tournaments, seminars, any other situation — every time I faced an opponent, he was submitted. I never won by points. And counting very superficially, it’s at least 450 fights, so I set that as my record.
I never fought MMA in my life, I fought vale tudo. All my MMA fights had rounds, sometimes 10-minute, sometimes 15-minute, sometimes five-minute rounds, but an undetermined number of rounds until someone lost. There was no other rule to determine the winner. There was no judge to raise someone’s hand after a certain point. Someone would win a fight. And that’s not the MMA rule.
That number (450), I think it’s at least that. You can double that and it’s hard for people to deny. If you saw it, you saw it. If you haven’t, there’s no YouTube that goes back that much, unfortunately.
I can’t leave out the two fights I had with Hugo Duarte, for example, a great fighter I fought once at the beach and another time in the gym. That’s not [an official fight] but I can’t leave out such a tough professional like him as one of the times I put myself as a test out there. I’ve successfully shown my jiu-jitsu several times. And as for the exact number, on paper, I think I’d be satisfied with at least 450. However, you can say 1,000, no problem. I’d be more satisfied.”
Whether any of the claims that Rickson Gracie has made about his combat sports record are true or not, he did add that there’s one particular fighter who he wished he had come up against during his time as a competitor; Kazushi Sakuraba. According to Rickson, the timing never quite worked out thanks to a combination of personal issues and financial offers:
In chronological terms, the only fight that should have happened and didn’t was the Sakuraba one. Because he was on a great run and I had just won at the Colosseum, it was a millionaire offer from a Japanese TV to do this fight, Sakuraba and I. It was Sakuraba’s best moment when he was the Gracie killer and I had just beaten Funaki. It would have been an epic fight.
Sadly, a month after we started the negotiations, my son was gone and things started to walk backward and fighting wasn’t a priority for me anymore. It would have been good for me emotionally speaking, to keep me focused, etc., but it would have been a tragedy for my family, who would feel helpless, it would feel bad.
So I decided to cancel the fight and stay as the (leader) for my kids, as the nanny, as the father, a friend, going through the pain together to overcome this crisis. And then Sakuraba lost to Wanderlei [Silva] and it started to lose that momentum. And when my personal tragedy got better, they weren’t willing to pay a third of what they initially did to make this fight.