Friends and family of the late Carlson Gracie gathered last week. | Photo: M. Alonso/Sherdog.com
RIO DE JANEIRO -- Today marks the 10th anniversary of the death of Carlson Gracie, but for the people who knew the Brazilian jiu-jitsu master, there was no reason for tears. In fact, it was quite the opposite.
Last week, Gracie black belt Marcelo Saporito held a large celebration to officially reopen Carlson Gracie Academy in Rio de Janeiro. The historical training grounds, as noted last August on Sherdog.com, was the place where Gracie molded four generations of champions, from its founding in 1970 until his death in 2006. The dojo was in danger of being shut down permanently due to financial problems.
Thursday’s ceremony assembled black belts from many generations, some of whom helped Saporito -- the main trainer at the academy since 1998 -- with financial support to reopen the “Brazilian Kodokan.” Also present was Fernando Pinduka, the man who fought Marco Ruas in Maracanazinho Gymnasiun in 1984 as part of the “King of the Streets” vale tudo debut which ended in a historical draw.
“Before Carlson, the Gracies just taught jiu-jitsu for the high society,” said Pinduka. “He was the man who made jiu-jitsu popular to all classes, and this is the dojo where he built every champion from different generations. This place means a lot to Brazilian MMA.”
Besides students, Carlson’s brothers, Reyson and Robson, were also present, as well as his wife, Marly Gracie.
“This is a real school of samurais where my brother produced many generations of champions,” praised Robson, father of Renzo Gracie the oldest living member of the family.
Crezio Souza, the fighter who faced Dan Henderson in his vale tudo debut in Brazil in 1998, recalled that the importance of his master can be measured in the leading MMA teams of today.
“Wherever you look in the world, you will see an MMA team with someone who already stepped in this place,” Souza explained. “American Top Team, Blackzilians, Nova Uniao, Team Alpha Male, Team Nogueira -- Carlson’s legacy is everywhere, and everything started here.”