Any longtime fan of the sport knows the mythical 450-0 record that pioneer Rickson Gracie supposedly holds. Some would call BS, but others do believe that there is some truth to it.
In a recent episode of MMAFighting.com’s Trocação Franca podcast, Gracie, now 63, asserted the truth about such claims. And he explains how it was all possible.
“Every tournament I entered after I turned 18, weight class or open weight division, I submitted every match I had and never lost. I entered Luta Livre tournaments back when Rolles was excited about it, I never lost either,” Rickson said.
“Sambo tournaments in Brazil and in the United States, I also never lost. Street fights against guys that were really tough, professionals, or street fights with surfers … fights with Luta Livre guys, jiu-jitsu tournaments, seminars, any other situation — every time I faced an opponent, he was submitted.
“I never won by points. And counting very superficially, it’s at least 450 fights, so I set that as my record.”
Gracie rose to prominence back in a time when the sport we now know as mixed martial arts wasn’t how it was, yet. There were no YouTube or social media to show any living proof that all of it ever happened, but for Rickson, it’s a fact that no one can refute.
“I never fought MMA in my life. I fought vale tudo,” he said. All my MMA fights had rounds, sometimes 10-minute, sometimes 15-minute, sometimes five-minute rounds, but an undetermined number of rounds until someone lost.
“There was no other rule to determine the winner. There was no judge to raise someone’s hand after a certain point. Someone would win a fight. And that’s not the MMA rule.
“That  number, I think it’s at least that,” Gracie added. “You can double that and it’s hard for people to deny. If you saw it, you saw it. If you haven’t, there’s no YouTube that goes back that much, unfortunately.”
Case in point, Gracie says, was his infamous beach brawl with Luta Livre fighter Hugo Duarte, along with many other undocumented scuffles.
“I can’t leave out the two fights I had with Hugo Duarte, for example, a great fighter I fought once at the beach and another time in the gym,” he said. “That’s not [an official fight] but I can’t leave out such a tough professional like him as one of the times I put myself as a test out there.
“I’ve successfully shown my jiu-jitsu several times. And as for the exact number, on paper, I think I’d be satisfied with at least 450 [fights]. However, you can say 1,000, no problem. I’d be more satisfied.”
Regardless of the validity of his record, Rickson also mentioned the one fight that slipped away and how it went on to haunt him for a while after it fell through.
“In chronological terms, the only fight that should have happened and didn’t was the Sakuraba one,” Gracie said, “because he was on a great run and I had just won at the Colosseum, it was a millionaire offer from a Japanese TV to do this fight, Sakuraba and I. It was Sakuraba’s best moment when he was the Gracie killer and I had just beaten Funaki. It would have been an epic fight.
“Sadly, a month after we started the negotiations, my son was gone and things started to walk backward and fighting wasn’t a priority for me anymore. It would have been good for me emotionally speaking, to keep me focused, etc., but it would have been a tragedy for my family, who would feel helpless, it would feel bad.
“So I decided to cancel the fight and stay as the [leader] for my kids, as the nanny, as the father, a friend, going through the pain together to overcome this crisis.
“And then Sakuraba lost to Wanderlei [Silva] and it started to lose that momentum. And when my personal tragedy got better, they weren’t willing to pay a third of what they initially did to make this fight.”
It’s worth noting that Rickson did lose a match at one point in his career. In 1993, Gracie faced Judo black belt and World Sambo Champion Ron Tripp at the U.S. Sambo Championships in Norman, Oklahoma.
As the story goes, Tripp took Rickson down with an Uchi Mata within 47 seconds of action. Because of this, the American won the match via ‘absolute’ victory under the Fédération Internationale de Sambo (FIAS) guidelines.
Gracie supposedly disputed the result saying he was misinformed about the rules despite claims of being a two-time Pan American Sambo champion.
Today, Tripp serves as the current secretary-general of USA Judo and a board of directors member of the US Olympic Committee.
Rickson (11-0 officially) continues to teach through his online platform. His son Kron (5-1) has carried on the family fighting tradition in the UFC but has so far remained inactive since his first-ever professional loss to Cub Swanson in 2019.