On November 12, 1993, a skinny 26-year-old Brazilian, wearing a karate gi, became a combat sports legend; defeating three daunting opponents in one night to win UFC 1. No one — other than his family — expected Royce Gracie to submit everyone he fought that night in under three minutes.
The famous victory at UFC 1 catapulted both Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) and the Gracie family into martial arts notoriety.
Almost ten years after UFC 1, Royler Gracie (Royce’s brother) competed with a relatively unknown brown belt named Eddie Bravo at an ADCC world championship. The match was expected to be a walkover for Royler. However, Bravo, who was under the tutelage of Jean Jacques Machado (a maternal cousin to the Gracie family), submitted Royler with a triangle choke — a move made famous by the Gracie family.
Bravo went on to become a pioneer in his own right, founding the 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu system. The system has been developed primarily for no-gi grappling and MMA.
However, this was not the end of the rivalry between Bravo and the Gracie family. Over a decade after their first match, Eddie and Royler competed again at Metamoris 3, a submission-only event founded by Royler’s nephew, Ralek Gracie. This time both men fought bravely to a draw. However, it was a post-match altercation with Bravo and Royce Gracie that grabbed headlines.
Recently, former UFC middleweight Chael Sonnen had the opportunity to spend some time with Royce and explore the background of the altercation with Bravo.
“[Royce] goes, ‘Man, it had nothing to do with what you think and everybody else thinks’,” Sonnen said, paraphrasing Royce’s sentiments. “[Royce] said, ‘People think I have a problem with Eddie because he came to Jiu Jitsu and created a rubber guard, or because he renamed moves, or because he did so well in business.’ He said, ‘It’s none of those things’. He said, ‘I didn’t like some of the images that Eddie was portraying towards the community of Jiu Jitsu and were spilling over to me.’
According to Sonnen, Gracie spent five years looking to confront Bravo on ‘stereotypes’ he believed Bravo was perpetuating about the community. He also, reportedly, wanted to discuss a comment he believes Bravo made about gis.
“‘Eddie doesn’t like the gi – I do,’” said Sonnen, quoting Gracie. “‘Eddie made a comment that he cleans his mat with a gi... that bothered me.’”
While the video of the altercation has been removed, the fall out of the incident meant that Machado and Gracie do not speak. The 49-year-old Bravo has publicly expressed his confusion at the hostility from Gracie and this too was addressed in the conversation with Sonnen.
“This is how the [Gracie] family works,” said Sonnen adding that Gracie told him that, “if you think [the Gracie family is] civilized, just know - [they] are keeping track.”
Despite the bad blood, Gracie seemingly still respects Bravo for what he has done in the realm of BJJ. Bravo, too, has openly expressed his admiration for the Gracie family. Only time will tell if these two pioneers can put their differences behind them.