In keeping with the Bloody Elbow tradition of belated birthday wishes, a day after Renzo Gracie's 45th Birthday is the ideal time to wish him a very happy birthday. Previous installments of late birthday wishes have included Helio Gracie, his son Rorion Gracie, American MMA pioneer "Judo" Gene LeBell and catch wrestling legend Billy Robinson.
Renzo Gracie is the grandson of Carlos Gracie Sr, the original member of the Gracie family to learn Judo from Mistuyo Maeda. Carlos took to Judo, spending eight years under Maeda and at age twenty-two Carlos opened his own school. His first students were his younger brothers Oswaldo, Gastao, George and Helio Gracie, the youngest and most frail. Together the brothers trained and adapted the art to suit their smaller frames.
Renzo was born on March 11th, 1967. His father was Robson Gracie, a 9th degree black belt in BJJ under his father Carlos. Renzo started training in the family art as an infant under Robson. Growing up he trained under his uncles Rolls Gracie and Carlos Gracie Jr., the founder of Gracie Barra and the man who award Renzo his black belt.
Renzo above all other things is a fighter. At age twenty five he took his first Vale Tudo fight, it was the begninng of a long and storied career.
A true legend, Renzo has competed on the biggest stages in Vale Tudo, competitive grappling and MMA. Ironically several of his most ionic matches have been losses, but this is a testament to Renzo's fighting spirit. He never turned down a fight or shied away from a tough opponent.
We'll get more into Renzo's fight and legacy after the jump but here is Renzo's legacy in his own words.
(renzo gracie legacy via graciemag)
more videos after the jump...
Renzo's fight history is not short of big names; he took on Luta Livre legend Eugenio Tadeu in 1997 in a fight that ended in No Contest when Luta Livre supports and BJJ fighters rioted. Renzo touched off the riot when he punched a Luta Livre supporter who was leaning over the cage and earlier had kicked Renzo through the cage. In the resulting melee Renzo had to fight his way out of the cage and was stabbed at one point.
Later that same year, Renzo traveled to Japan with his family and took place in the first Pride event, were he drew with professional wrestler Akira Shoji. And in 1999, Renzo took on a true MMA pioneer Maurice Smith, an accomplished kick-boxer who was the innovator of the "sprawl-and-brawl" style in MMA.
(Renzo Gracie vs Maurice Smith - RINGS 1999 via santosdelahera)
At Pride 10, Renzo took on Kazushi Sakuraba, who had already defeated Renzo's cousins Rolyer and Royce Gracie. Renzo would loose by technical submission when in the second round Sakuraba broke his arm with a kimura. Renzo handled the defeat with class, and calls it one of the proudest moments of his career because he learned when in that moment of truth he kept fighting and refused to tap.
At K-1 Hawaii, Renzo, age 38 at the time, took on 26-year-old B.J. Penn during the Hawaiian's stint away from the UFC. Renzo gave the UFC Champion a tough fight, but ended up loosing a decision. Renzo has faced several former UFC champions in his career, including his win over Pat Miletich and a win over Carlos Newton and his lone UFC fight, which he lost to Matt Hughes.
One of the biggest contributions Renzo has made to the martial arts world comes from his friendship with the Sheik Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates. The Sheik witnessed the first UFC when he was studying in the United States and he fell in love with grappling. Renzo became the Sheik's instructor and together they came up with a no gi competition with a cash prize to attract the top grappling talent in the world.
In 1998, the Abu Dahbi Combat Club (ADCC) Submission Grappling Tournament debuted and Renzo Gracie became the first 77kg ADCC champion. He cleared a field that included Frank Trigg, Fabiano Iha and in the final he faced Cute Boxe's Luis Brito.
(CHUTE BOXE ADCC 98 - Luis Brito x Renzo Gracie via midiav7)
Now retired from fighting, Renzo runs one of the most successful BJJ academies in the United States and lives in New York City with his wife and three children. He is a grappling coach for many MMA fighters including current and former UFC Champions Matt Serra, Geroges St. Peirre and Frankie Edgar.
So everyone here at Bloody Elbow would like to wish Rezno Gracie a very happy birthday. He is a true legend and one tough dude.