Recalling Dan Henderson’s MMA Debut

By Marcelo Alonso Aug 5, 2014
Dan Henderson on the night of his MMA debut in 1997. | Photo: M. Alonso

Today, Jorge Guimaraes is known as the owner of Black House gym and manager of fighters like Anderson Silva and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, together with Ed Soares. But old-school MMA fans in Brazil recognize him as the guy who started bringing vale tudo to Brazilian television.

Nineteen years ago, Guimaraes created a program called “Passando a Guarda” (“Passing the Guard”) and introduced the idea to the director of SporTV, Guilherme Zattar. “Passando a Guarda,” along with the magazines Tatame and Gracie Mag, became the biggest channels of communication with the growing number of vale tudo and jiu-jitsu fans at the time. In 2002, thanks to the success of “Passando a Guarda,” the channel Combate was created.

Last month, the show “Sensei SporTV” launched a new segment recalling the best moments of “Passando a Guarda,” titled “Repassing the Guard.” In the second edition, the program showed backstage scenes from Brazil Open ’97, where Dan Henderson made his vale tudo debut by beating two opponents in the same night. Guimaraes recalled riding in the same van as Henderson while going to the event, when “Hendo” told him, “I want to prove the efficiency of Greco-Roman [wrestling], and I want to make money with that.”

Henderson went on to defeat one of Carlson Gracie’s toughest black belts, Crezio de Souza, with ground-and-pound after 5:25, and then faced Eric Smith, who was coming off a decision win after 20 minutes against Jose “Pele” Landi-Jons. In the wrestlers’ confrontation between RAW Team and Hammer House, Henderson picked up a quick win via guillotine choke and began one of the most prodigious careers in MMA history.


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