Welcome back to the ongoing series covering the most important and influential Brazilians in MMA history that ultimately lead to the nation being a stronghold for talent. Yesterday I spoke about the Gracie family and the creation of Gracie Jiu Jitsu. Something I failed to cover was the heated rivalry with the Luta Livre practitioners that resulted in many street fights all over Brazil. Fraser Cofeen in the first of his nightly series brought up the fight between Renzo Gracie and Luta Livre fighter Eugenio Tadeu at Pentagon Combat in Brazil. While Tadeu was a recognizable name in Brazil, it was one of his contemporaries in Marco Ruas that became famous in the United States.
Before getting into the career of Marcu Ruas it is important to understand that the training and sporting aspects of MMA were much different in Brazil back in the 80s and 90s. Where in the United States disagreements were quickly squashed by coaches in the gym, in Brazil, the fighters would brawl until someone lost. It is why there are fighters such as Rickson Gracie who have unofficial records of 400-0. The Vale Tuto aspect essentially meant that fights could and would break out anywhere. Fighting was big business and cousin', business was a booming.
Ruas was the self-proclaimed "King of the Streets". In fact, Ruas means "streets" in portuguese. It would be appropriate to split this post into halves of the things we can confirm about Ruas and the things we are unable to confirm about Ruas. I say this because there is a considerable portion of his history that has never been recorded so people have to take his word as gospel.
Like his rivals from Gracie Jiu Jitus, Marco Ruas was incredibly talented not just at fighting but also at marketing himself. Of all the supposed fights that occurred in Brazil, only two have ever been verified. One in 1984 against Fernando Penduka and the other against Francisco Francisco at Ruas' school in 1992. The Penduka fight ended in a draw while Francisco was finished within 25 seconds. Despite only two verifiable wins, Ruas is considered a Vale Tudo legend. When he finally made his way to North America he was 34 years old for UFC 7.
His fighting style was revolutionary in terms of the North American market. Never had American fans witnessed a fighter able to integrate Muay Thai kickboxing with competent takedowns and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He dominated the field and all but crippled Paul Varelans in the finals with vicious leg kicks. He returned at the Ultimate Ultimate 95 tournament which sported one of the deepest rosters of NHB fighters. He quickly defeated Keith Hackney with a rear naked choke before losing a decision to Oleg Taktarov in the semi-finals.
He reappeared eight months later in Brazil at WVC 1 where he quickly dispatched Steve Jennum within the first two minutes of the fight. He'd be granted a rematch against Oleg Taktarov at WVC 2 later in 1996. Unfortunately, the fight ended in a draw and is widely considered one of the dullest fights in No Holds Barred history. He'd fight and win once more in WVC in a match against Patrick Smith at the promotion's fourth show before making his way over to Japan to fight in PRIDE.
Unfortunately, by the time he made his way to PRIDE, his body was already breaking down from years of fighting. He was 37 when he made his debut in the organization against Gary Goodridge, a fight that ended in victory by heel hook. His second fight in the promotion is considered the biggest embarrassment of his career. He fought pro-wrestle Alexander Otsuka at PRIDE 4. Ruas was taking anti-inflamatory medication for his knees which caused him to be lethargic the entire fight. His corner finally threw in the towel and thus ended Ruas' PRIDE career.
He'd return to the UFC a year later to fight Maurice Smith at UFC 21 in the main event of the evening. His knee slipped out in the first round and at 38 years old, it essentially marked the end of his MMA career. He'd return to fight Maurice Smith at an IFL event in 2007 and again his corner was forced to throw in the towel.
Ruas' official MMA record is the very definition of underwhelming which may raise to eyebrows as to why he's considered on of the most influential Brazilian fighters in the history of the sport. While his record in MMA may not have been the greatest, his contributions to training fighters is inarguable. He is credited with creating what has become THE Brazil style of MMA. His ability to blend BJJ and Muay Thai has made him a legend in the sport. He is responsible for developing Pedro Rizzo into a force in MMA. Tomorrow I will break down the career of another Vale Tudo legend in MMA, Jose Landi-Jons.