This fanpost was promoted to the Front Page by KJ Gould.
A champion on the mats as well as in the cage, there are few as accomplished in martial arts as Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza. Blessed with phenomenal athletic talent and then paired with a blue collar work ethic and mental fortitude, Souza has complied one of the greatest grappling careers ever.
Souza had a hard childhood, growing up in a dangerous slum. His mental release from the extreme poverty and gang violence was the most common among young men in Brazil; he played soccer. Even then his lifestyle was teetering on the brink of falling into the trap of gangs and drugs. But then on his 15th birthday Souza had one of his closest friends gunned down right in front of him.
After that Souza’s mother moved the family to Manaus in the Amazon to get Souza away from the gangs and it was there he discovered Jiu-Jitsu.
Henrique Machado, a double black belt in Brazilin Jiu-Jitsu and Judo, saw Souza playing soccer in town. Souza’s athletic gifts were obvious to Machado and he invited Souza to train at his academy. After his first class Souza declared he didn’t like the martial art, saying it was too much 'man-hugging' for his taste. But after he received a sound beating in his first sparring match a competitive fire lit in him and "Jacare" was born.
Souza's nickname of "Jacare", which is the name of a species of crocodile that inhabits Brazil, was given to him for his aggressiveness and explosiveness on the mats. His physical ability allowed him to quickly learn both Jiu-Jitsu and Judo under Machado. Jacare dominated on the state level in Brazil and became a rising star but was unable to compete at the highest levels because of his lack of wealth.
Machado’s academy, called "Associação Sensei de Lutas Esportivas" (Sensei Fighting Sports Association) or ASLE, was a stand-alone academy and didn’t have the funds to send Souza around the world competition. They sought any aide they could and as a result Jacare has competed under several different banners over the course of his career. But no matter the logo on the gi, it has always been Henrique Machado standing beside Jacare.
In 2001, Souza competed with Equipe III as a purple belt at the Mundials and he won both the Medio weight class and Absolutes. In 2002, ASLE secured a Gracie-Barra endorsement to send Souza to compete at Mundials as a brown belt. Jacare submitted every opponent he faced until the final of the Absolutes, there he met Roger Gracie. Roger defeated Jacare for the gold and a rivalry was born.
When Team Master was formed in 2003, it was marketed towards small up-and-coming teams and ASLE was quick to join. And after his twin gold medals at the brown belt level, Jacare received both his black belt in Jiu-Jitsu and Judo.
After receiving his black belt Souza tried his hand at MMA, taking a fight at Jungle Fight 1 against Jorge Patino. Souza lost via KO and while this loss put off the launching of his MMA career, his natural abilities and budding skills were obvious. In fact it was his confidence in his growing striking skills that proved his downfall, as Jacare did not attempt a single takedown opting to instead box with Patino.
In 2003, Jacare also entered into his first ADCCs. Jacare defeated Ryan Gracie in the first round and then Matt Linland in the semi-finals but had to settle for silver after being defeated by Saulo Ribeiro. Despite coming up just short of gold it was an impressive showing for a new black belt.
In early 2004, still representing Team Master, Jacare entered his first Pan Ams as a black belt. There in the finals Jacare met Gracie-Barra stand out Braulio Estima. Like Jacare, Estima was in his first Pan Ams as a black belt and was fresh off a bronze medal under Jacare and Drysdale at the 2003 Brown Belt Mundials.
Jacare won in an exciting match via armbar off the triangle attempt, winning his first major championship as a black belt. Later that year Team Master dissolved as a team and the remainders formed team Brasa, which Jacare then joined.
Jacare entered the 2004 Mundials as a rising sensation and he cut a path to the finals in the Medium-Heavy division where he again he met Braulio Estima. This time Braulio got the better of Souza and it became the first championship in Braulio’s storied career.
Souza also made it to the final of the Absolutes and there he again met Roger Gracie in a match that would become an all-time classic.
At the start of the match the two lock horns, Roger aware of Jacare’s amazing Judo technique wisely pulls guard to avoid a takedown. After a reset in the center of the mat, Roger plays full guard against Jacare and shoots for a triangle and as Jacare postures out attempts to transition to an armbar. Jacare, however, is ready and is able to slip away and begin to pass Roger’s guard. Roger, not wanting to surrender points, turtles and Jacare is able to take Roger’s back, winning him 4 points.
Jacare spends a good deal of time on Roger’s back, looking for a choke while Roger deftly defends, and when an opening presents itself Roger slickly adjusts his position to threaten a leg lock. Jacare shows no interest in playing foot locks with Roger and focuses purely on escaping. Finally, it is Roger that slips away back to standing, but again pulls guard due to the threat of Jacare’s takedowns.
After this opening exchange Jacare is up 4-0 and inside Roger’s full guard. What would happen next has been called cowardice by some and incredible bravery by others.
In a reversal of roles, it is Jacare who finds himself in the jaws of a beast; Roger locks in a high guard and traps one of Souza’s arms. The Gracie then slips his leg over Jacare’s face to secure an armbar. As Roger cranks on his arm, Jacare tries desperately to escape and his elbow is stretched past its breaking point. Amazingly, Jacare escapes, but as his arm slips free it hangs dead at his side.
Later examination would reveal that the tendons of the elbow had been ruptured, the joint dislocated and the muscle torn from the bone, but the score remained 4-0 and there was almost half the match remaining. In order to win a World Championship and defeat Roger Gracie, Jacare would have to hold the Gracie off one-handed.
It was not the way anyone dreams of winning a World Championship, but Jacare wore the gold around his neck. It became the highlight among a year of highlights for the young champion. That same year Jacare would defeat Fabricio Werdum and Fernando Margarida to win the CBJJO World Cup and make a successful return to MMA, this time sticking to his Jiu-Jitsu to notch a quick victory.
The start of 2005 went very well for Jacare also. He entered in the European Open, one of the IBJJF’s ‘Big Three’ competitions and in the finals of the absolute division he again faced Roger Gracie, who exacted revenge for his Mundials defeat.
Souza then traveled to Long Beach California to take part in that year’s ADCC in both -88kg weightclass and absolutes. In his weight, Jacare made a clean sweep defeating David Belkheiden, Robert Suiski, Dennis Hallman and Demian Maia to claim gold.
In the Absolutes, after defeating David Avellan and Alecandre Ferreira ‘Cacareco’ Souza was faced with master technician Marcelo Garcia.
Despite Jacare’s victory over Garcia, he again was defeated in the absolute finals by Roger Gracie.
Going back to gi competition Souza took part in the Rickson Gracie Invitational, an event with its own scoring rules and was broadcast with decent production values. And then returning to defend his Mundial crown, Souza again faced Estima in the finals of their weight division, this time Souza claimed victory.
Then in the absolutes Jacare faced Estima one more time and beat him again, making it to the finals, where he met his rival Roger Gracie yet again. This time it was Jacare who claimed revenge and gold over Roger, this time with limbs intact.
After this amazing two year run to utter dominance Jacare’s focus shifted to MMA and an amazing grappling career came mostly to an end. Winning the most Absolute golds of any one person in IBJJF history and being the only man to truly stand up to Roger Gracie, Jacare Souza has cemented his legacy as one of the greatest grapplers of all-time.
"ADCC Results | adcombat.com." ADCC News | adcombat.com.
"Results." International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation.
"Ronaldo Souza Jacare | BJJ Heroes." BJJ Heroes: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Souza, Ronaldo. Personal interview. 1 May 2008. Translation Roberto Pedreira & Yoko Kondo March 2010.
Other Articles in History of Jiu-Jitsu Series:
1. Birth on the Battlefield
2. The Meiji Era and the Evolution of Judo
3. Judo Travels the World and Maeda Meets Gracie
4. Baptism By Fire and Luta Livre
5. The Tragedy of Rolls Gracie
6. Coming to America and the Birth of the Ultimate Fighting Championship
7. The Gracies Leave the UFC and Bring Jiu Jitsu Back to Japan
8. Carlson Gracie, The Grandfather of Jiu Jitsu in MMA
9. The Rise of Sport Jiu Jitsu
10. Twist and Shout