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Who turned off the lights in the middle of the fight between Eugenio Tadeu and Renzo Gracie in Pentagon Combat on Sept. 27, 1997? It remains one of the biggest mysteries in Brazilian vale tudo history. Sherdog correspondent Marcelo Alonso in this exclusive interview sat down with Robson Gracie, Hugo Duarte and the two combatants to pull back the curtain on the most combustible chapter in the rivalry between luta livre and jiu-jitsu.
Motivated by the enormous success of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Sheik Tahnoon Bin Zayed in 1997 set out to stage an event in Brazil. He recruited jiu-jitsu master Nelson Monteiro to build the fight card, as Oleg Taktarov, Ricardo Morais, Murilo Bustamante and Jerry Bohlander were all invited to compete. The setup was ideal, except for the main event: Monteiro chose his Gracie Barra teammate to meet Tadeu, luta livre’s top representative.
Of course, it did not end well. Eager to avenge jiu-jitsu’s wins in the famous Grajau Vale Tudo in 1991, the luta livre team invaded the Tijuca Tenis Clube the evening of the event and transformed it into a powder keg.
“That night was the revenge of luta livre,” Duarte said. “We did to jiu-jitsu in 1997 exactly what they did to us in 1991.”
The bout between Renzo and Tadeu resulted in a no contest after fans rioted.
“I would have finished the fight with or without light,” Renzo said, “but Eugenio escaped to the locker room.”
Even though Pentagon Combat ended in shameful fashion and resulted in Rio de Janeiro’s governor forbidding vale tudo in the city, it was a landmark event. Due to its failure, Tahnoon decided to create the Abu Dhabi Combat Club the following year, a move which helped revolutionize the sport.