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Feb. 1, 2006: Exactly 15 years ago one of the most important
masters of jiu-jitsu and MMA history was declared dead in a
hospital in Chicago, putting the entire martial arts community in
mourning. Carlson Gracie died due to heart failure as a result of
complications of kidney stones following a hospitalization of
several days.

As a fighter, Carlson was the Gracie who defended the family for
the longest period. He started in 1950, but was only acknowledged
by the press as Brazil ‘s best fighter in 1955, after avenging his
uncle Helio by beating Waldemar Santana. He went on to become an
absolute king, losing just once in 19 bouts until 1973. But it was
as a trainer that Carlson gave his best contribution to the fight
world, turning jiu-jitsu, which until the 70s was regarded as a Rio
de Janeiro elite’s sport, into a popular art.

The only manner a sport can develop is with competitions. And
Carlson made it possible when he left the Gracie Academy and opened
his own gym, producing champions to beat Gracie students. The
high-level competitions after the 1980s made it possible for
jiu-jitsu to develop technically to the point it began to be called
Brazilian jiu-jitsu. His academy in Copacabana was a place where
the poor, rich, crazy and intellectuals all received the same
treatment from Carlson and they gave him what he liked the most:
titles.

And many titles he got: From 1975 to 1994, Carlson Gracie Team won
the main tournaments in every division from white to black belt.
Despite being widely considered the black sheep of his family,
Carlson was, in fact, one of the most important people to develop
the sport to today’s level.

In the 1990s, Carlson migrated his students from jiu-jitsu to MMA,
repeating in rings and cages the success he used to have in
jiu-jitsu dojos with pupils like Vitor
Belfort
, Murilo
Bustamante
, Antonio
Rodrigo Nogueira
, Paulo Filho,
Andre
Pederneiras
, Ricardo
Arona
, Marcus
Silveira
, Carlos
Barreto
, Allan Goes,
Mario
Sperry
, Wallid
Ismail
, Amaury
Bitetti
and many others.

In addition to having all the qualities of a fighter and a trainer,
Carlson Gracie the human being was even greater. He was able to
take the clothes off his back to give to a fan; he allowed pupils
with financial problems to train for free and even live at the gym.
Creating nicknames and slang in a very particular way, Carlson had
a unique charisma and was admired by all members of his
academy.

Even 15 years after his death, Carlson’s DNA is still present all
over the world, not only in jiu-jitsu academies but also in the
most important MMA gyms, like
American Top Team
(Marcus Silveira and Marco Da Matta),

Team Alpha Male
(Fabio Pateta),
Nova Uniao
(Andre Pederneiras) and
Team Nogueira
(Rodrigo and Antonio
Rogerio Nogueira
).

In August of 2018, recognizing Carlson’s impact on the life of so
many Brazilians, Rio de Janeiro’s mayor authorized a statue paying
homage to the ninth degree red belt in front of Copacabana subway,
two blocks away from the academy where he created so many
champions.


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