UFC Co-Founder Rorion Gracie Claimed: “Rickson Gracie Stole My Students”
Art Davie is the creator and co-producer of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, first televised in 1993. He is currently conducting interviews for the promotion of his book, ‘Is this legal?’.
In a recent discussion, Davie shed light on why Royce Gracie, the younger member of the Gracie family, was chosen over the family champion Rickson Gracie. Royce Gracie represented the family and spread the popularity of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu worldwide.
Davie revealed that Rorion had accused Rickson of stealing students by teaching them in his garage.
“Rickson was the family champion. Relson was more of a street fighter. Rorion had discovered that Rickson was stealing students and teaching them in his garage so that it would be Royce.”
In a dialogue with Jeff Wagenheim from SI, Davie touched on the tense relationship between Rorion Gracie, a co-founder of UFC, and his younger half-sibling, the family’s champion, Rickson.
“Jeff Wagenheim: Despite the Gracies viewing this as a platform to display their jiu-jitsu skills, they didn’t even employ the family’s top fighter.
Art Davie: Indeed, that’s correct. During the preparatory phases, I was convinced that Rickson Gracie would be one of my competitors. He was the family’s champion, the jiu jitsu expert, a title he took over from his cousin Rolles. He had previously participated in professional fights in Brazil.
However, one day, Rorion informed me that it would be Royce, not Rickson. I was taken aback. Little Royce, who only weighed 170 pounds? But I came to understand that Rorion and Rickson were having disagreements centred around power and finances. Rorion was the elder sibling, but Rickson was the superior fighter, so who would be the nominal leader of the family?
The family, indeed, functioned as a single entity. All the brothers would hand over their bills to Rorion, who would settle them. At one point, Rickson’s wife presented a bill for a therapeutic massage, which Rorion rejected. This led Rickson’s wife to question her husband, “Are you allowing your brother to dictate whether I can get a massage or not?”
Moreover, Rorion discovered that Rickson had stolen two students from the Gracie Academy and was instructing them in his garage. So, the issue boiled down to finances. I believe Rickson felt that he was in control of his own fate to some extent.
JW: However, Rickson did take on the role of coach for his younger brother Royce before the first UFC.
AD: Indeed, he became even more engaged later on. The book doesn’t mention this, as it primarily concentrates on UFC 1. Nonetheless, I had a conversation with Rickson, Rorion, Royce, and their father, Helio, between UFCs 3 and 4. Following Royce’s performance in UFC 3, he emotionally and physically exhausted himself (and had to withdraw before the final). He consented to step down at the request of Helio and Rorion. Next, they reached out to Rickson, expressing their desire for him to take part in UFC 4.
Consequently, we all convened in my office on a Saturday. As we were seated around a large meeting table, Rickson expressed his desire for a million dollars. I had anticipated this request. We had dined together a few nights prior, where he had stated, ‘Mike Tyson is earning 10 million, so I should get at least one million.’ I informed him that no one in the UFC was earning a million dollars — neither was I, nor Rorion, nor any fighter.
‘You’re aware of what your brother received,’ I reminded him.
JW: So, what happened when Rickson entered the meeting and put forth his demand?
AD: Well, the usually silent elderly man finally broke his silence.
‘In my day, this wasn’t about money; this was about putting forward the family art and defending it,’ he said. ‘Me and my brothers, we did this to defend Gracie jiu-jitsu.’ Helio looked at Rickson and said, “You’ve become too much of a Norte Americano.’
Rickson remained silent towards his father. He simply acknowledged with a nod. He didn’t glance at Rorion. Then he acknowledged me with a nod and exited the room.
He eventually traveled to Japan, where he predominantly fought against men with more losses than wins. He earned substantial earnings fighting opponents many purple belts could have defeated.”