First off let us begin with a "Merry Christmas!" if it is a holiday you celebrate. If you are on Bloody Elbow today it is likely you are either in the eye of a merry making storm or of another denomination enjoying a peaceful day off of work. In either event here a compilation piece that will provide links and summaries of all the Gods of Wars written in the past year. The full stream can be found right here and includes some Jack Slack pieces as well.
The title "Gods of War" is inspired by the ancient Greek and Roman belief that mortals who accomplished feats in combat would be deified and brought to live among the gods. This series will profile fighters that have transcended their martial art, be it grappling or striking, to become modern day Gods of War.
Published just under a full year ago, this follows the story of acclaimed UFC Middleweight Jacare Souza. Born into poverty in Brazil, Souza was exposed to gang violence very young and his family moved him to the Amazon to get him away from the city and its violence. There he began to learn jiu jitsu from one of the Machado brothers.
Jacare went on to become one of the best submission grapplers in the world, defeating all-time greats such as Roger Gracie and Marcelo Garcia. After conquering the world of jiu jitsu, Souza then became one of the most successful jiu jitsu-to-MMA crossovers, adding competent striking to his grappling prowess. Souza competed first in Brazil, then Japan, and then in Strikeforce (becoming their middleweight champion) before coming to the UFC in the merger.
Another jiu jitsu luminary, Terere also came from poverty and grasped jiu jitsu as a way out of the slums. An impressive physical talent, Terere quickly became a technical master of grappling. The competitive jiu jitsu scene was just beginning to take shape and Terere's talent, combined with his ability to pump up a crowd, made him become the sport's first superstar.
Terere would win championships, train future champions, and open a school in the slums where he grew up to give children the same opportunity he had - to escape through grappling. But for all that success, battles with depression and an addiction to crack cocaine cut his career short and to this day Terere is still attempting to stave off his addition long enough to make a competitive comeback.
Gods of War welcomed its first boxer in the Cincinnati Cobra back in March. Under appreciated in his own time, Ezzard Charles was one of the true sweet scientists in boxing history. A master of footwork, angles, slips and counters Charles is likely the greatest Lightin the long history of pugilism.
At Heavyweight Charles carved out his own legacy - boxing circles around the great Joe Louis, becoming heavyweight champion of the world and giving the great Rocky Marciano the most closest fight of his undefeated career. Reviled in his own time for his less than thrilling style, history was kinder to Charles and his now recognized as the master technician he was.
A legend of American wrestling, John Smith is the United States' most successful international wrestler in the history of their participation in the sport of freestyle wrestling. He is known for his toughness, single leg takedowns, and explosive athleticism.
A child of the wrestling-obsessed state of Oklahoma, Smith attended Oklahoma State, a wrestling powerhouse, competing in both NCAA and international competition. He would finish his career a two-time NCAA champion, a two-time Olympic champion, and a four-time world champion. After he retired, Smith became the head wrestling coach at his alma mater and has lead to OSU to five national titles, becoming one of the more successful coaches in the NCAA.
A true scholar-warrior, Kurinnoy was an engineer in the Soviet Space program in addition to being one of the best Sambo competitors in the history of the Russian-based sport. Born in Ukraine during the Soviet Union's domination of the country, Kurinnoy attended one of the toughest schools in the USSR that combined intensive studies with competitive Sambo training.
A world champion, Soviet Army champion, and an international Judo competitor, Kurinnoy also became very involved in Sumo wrestling. Owner and coach of one of the most successful Sambo gyms in the world, Kurinnoy is a towering figure in Russian grappling
No introduction is needed for "Iron" Mike Tyson, the face of boxing's heavyweight division in the 1980's and 90's. A knockout artist for the ages, Tyson's troubled childhood resulted in buried rage that he unleashed both in and out of the ring.
The story of how Tyson first harnessed his inner demons, then slowly handed them control of his life is both fascinating and horrific.
One of the most beloved fighters in MMA history, Sakuaba was a veteran of the Japanese pro wrestling circuit and a talented catch wrestler. His greatest dream was to be a pro wrestling star, and he got to live out his dream as a true warrior in the rings of Pride FC as the promotion went from Japanese oddity to the largest MMA promotion in the world.
One of the first grapplers to have consistent success against the Gracie family, Sakuraba became a champion of the catch wrestlers and the Japanese pro wrestlers. While he never won a major title, Sakuraba qualified based on his willingness to take any fight, anywhere, and at any weight.
The final addition this year to the Gods of War pantheon was one of the heroes of the jiu jitsu world. Marcelo Garcia's devotion to pure technique over strength resulted in one of the most amazing careers in the history of submission grappling.
Garcia bounced around between teachers and gyms before finally settling at the original headquarters of Alliance jiu jitsu with Fabio Gurgel. Garcia burst on the scene as a purple belt and quickly became one of the prime prospects in the grappling world. He would grow into the greatest ADCC competitor in the history of that no gi championship, a multiple time world champion in the IBJJF, and one of the great grappling innovators.
That concludes our year recap, there are plenty more coming. I am already working on a Peter Aerts article for early next year, and plan to cover a great boxer or two, work in a few Judoka this year, a few MMA fighters, and an old school Brazilian Jiu Jitsu champion.