Rigan Machado was one of the most successful BJJ competitors of the 90s and alongside his brothers and cousins, the 8th degree red and black belt is incredibly well-respected in the sport but not many people would know that he was actually a successful Sambo competitor too. Back in the late 80s and early 90s, BJJ rulesets were still in their infancy and the opportunities for competition were very few and far between if athletes only stuck to that ruleset. So much so, that Rigan Machado actually resorted to competing against his own cousin Rickson Gracie back in 1984.
Because of this scarcity of high-level BJJ matches available, it was commonplace among members of both the Gracie and Machado family to test themselves in Judo and Sambo instead. Rickson Gracie is known to have competed several times in Sambo over the years, but Rigan Machado is the family member who has the most easily verifiable impressive record in the sport. In 1993, Machado attended the Sambo Pan-American Championships and managed to come away with a silver medal in the 90kg weightclass and a bronze medal in the open weightclass.
In 1994, at the age of 28, Rigan Machado was seen competing against three different Sambo competitors and showing the kind of skills that allowed him to excel in the sport. These matches also took place after he had been seen competing in several Judo matches in the West Covina Dojo, and just a few years before he would go on to win three editions of the Jiu-Jitsu Pan-American Championships. While this kind of cross-competition was incredibly common back then, it’s not something that happens very often at all today and the vast majority of grapplers will choose to stick to their own style or maybe transition to MMA at the very most.
The footage of Rigan Machado in matches against three different Sambo competitors in 1994 was uploaded to the official YouTube channel of Jiu Jitsu World:
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