Brazil’s Gracie family, the inventors and spiritual guardians of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, are currently under fire in their home country for allegedly receiving government payouts that they may not have been eligible for.
The allegations come from independent news outlet Congresso em Foco, which analyzed a number of payments made to Gracie family members from two funds set-up by the Federal government to benefit ‘socially vulnerable’ people.
The biggest beneficiary among the Gracies, according to Congresso em Foco, was Reyson Gracie—son of legendary BJJ inventor Carlos Gracie. Their reporting states that Reyson received 37,710 reais (approximately $7,467 USD) in 15 different instalments.
Reyson received that money from a program named Beneficio de Prestacao Continuada (BPC). That program was set-up to aid citizens who were over 65-years-old or disabled. Additionally, to qualify for this support, citizens must have an income equal to or smaller than a quarter of the country’s annual minimum wage (303 reais a month, approximately $60).
Reyson is 80-years-old, but reports in have Brazil questioned whether he meets the income qualification for the BPC program. Congresso em Foco explained that social media posts revealed Reyson is the owner of the Reyson Gracie World Association, which has gym affiliates across Brazil as well as in Tahiti, Spain, Australia and the United States.
The Brazilian Ministry of Citizenship, who are responsible for the BPC program, told reporters that Reyson has been a part of the program since November 2007. The Ministry said that Reyson has no formal income registered with the Cadastro Nacional de Informações Sociais (National Registry of Social Information) and that he is listed as a “family of one person”. The Ministry argued that, if this information is true, then he was eligible to receive those payments from the BPC program.
The other program that has cut a lot of cheques with the name Gracie on it is called Auxilio Brasil. This federal program is designed to assist individuals who are living on an amount equal to or lower than half the nation’s minimum wage (606 reais or $120 a month). Families can also apply to the fund. To qualify their household income cannot be any higher than three times the nation’s minimum wage (3636 reais or $720 a month).
Congresso em Foco reported that nine members of the Gracie family accessed this fund between March and December 2020. That outlet has also questioned, based on their employment histories and business holdings, whether these recipients should have been eligible for the fund.
Reylson, another son of Carlos Gracie, who owns a gym in Rio de Janeiro, is listed as having received 3,000 reais ($594) from June to November of 2020. However, the investigation reports that 600 reais ($118) amount had been returned to the government.
According to Reylson, the money was necessary for him to survive during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I had no income during the pandemic,” he told Congresso em Foco. “I’ve been without an income for two years now. Things are tight. My gym has been closed for two years. I saw myself as in need. Sometimes I would go to the gym and I would teach lessons to one or two people. The government has never given me anything but that spare change. It was 2,400.”
Rosley Gracie, another son of Carlos Gracie, also received funds from the Auxilio Brasil program. Rosley is the director of operations at Gracie Nutrition, in Rio de Janeiro. He has received 4,200 reais ($813) from the program between April to December 2020.
Flavia Gracie, the sister of former UFC fighter Renzo Gracie, was also registered as receiving money from the program. She received 3,900 reais ($772) between May and December 2020. Flavia operates consultancy and business management company called FGX Assessoria e Consultoria de Eventos.
Reylson’s niece Jenifer Gracie, who lives in Oregon, USA, has also been listed as benefiting from the program. According to the investigation, Jenifer received 3,900 reais ($722), too.
Another United States citizen, Ricci Gracie, the daughter and youngest child of Helio Gracie, received the amount of 3,300 reais ($663) in 2020.
Both Ricci and Jenifer are registered on the program as living in the city of Teresopolis, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Ricci’s husband, Patrick Benedek, told Congresso em Foco that his wife had never applied for, nor received the money from the program. Furthermore, he said his wife was victim of a scam, with another person using her name to receive the money in her place.
Benedek told the outlet “Ricci lives in the United States and was unaware that such program even existed.”
Extended family members and siblings Stephania Cunha Gracie Corte Imperial, Juramidam de Iemanjá Gracie Corte Imperial and Tintuma Omicaia Gracie Corte Imperial were also registered on the program. Per the investigation, each one had received the total amount of 4,200 reais ($831).
Carlion Grace, yet another son of Carlos Gracie, received a total of 1,200 reais ($238) and Carla Gracie, another sister of Renzo Gracie, received a total of of 3,600 reais ($718). However, Carlion appears to have cancelled all of those payments before he could receive the funds. Carla returned most of the payments she received.
High-profile members of the Gracie family receiving funds from the Federal government of Brazil hasn’t gone over well with some segments of society. And it’s not the first time the name Gracie has appeared in headlines involving Jair Bolsonaro and his government.
During the lead-up to his 2018 election win Bolsonaro received incredible support from the mixed-martial-arts community in Brazil. This included a number of Gracie family members.
During the campaign trail Bolsonaro was given an honorary black belt by Robson Gracie, the second son of Carlos Gracie and President of the Jiu-Jitsu Federation of Rio de Janeiro. Since Bolsonaro was elected, Renzo Gracie has been one of controversial presidents most vocal supporters.
In 2019 Renzo Gracie, who lives in New York, NY, was invited by Gilson Machado—Bolsonaro’s former Minister of Tourism—to be an ambassador for Brazilian tourism. When Bolsonaro visited New York in 2021 Renzo gave him a tour around the city.
More recently Renzo entertained Mario Frias, Brazil’s Secretary of Culture. Frias is currently under a cloud of controversy Brazil for using public money to fund his trip to New York. The trip occurred in December and, according to financial disclosure documents, involved a 26,000 reais ($5,148) first class plane ticket and 12,800 reais ($2,534) hotel stay. Brazil’s public finance tracking website Portal de Transparecia shows that Frias’ expenses for this trip were labelled as “urgent”.
Frias defended the trip, saying he went to New York to discuss video production opportunities with Renzo. He also refuted the costs of the trip.
“All those reports are lies.” he claimed—despite the expenses being listed on his own government’s website. “I did not pay that amount for that trip. I did not travel first class and the purpose of the trip was not how those untruthful reports described.”
Despite his support from Renzo and many other high-profile fighters and grapplers Bolsonaro is currently projected to lose his re-election bid in October. Bolsonaro’s disastrous handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has seen his poll numbers tumble and now a number of high profile politicians are vying to take his place. Among the favourites to replace him is Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva aka ‘Lula’, who served as President between 2003 and 2010.