Rickson Gracie vs. Hugo Duarte and the Quest for Superiority

Jul 3, 2020

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The two “street fights” between Hugo Duarte and Rickson Gracie ignited a longtime rivalry between Brazilian jiu-jitsu and luta livre and rank among the most important chapters in vale tudo history. Not surprisingly, there are multiple versions of the story.

It started after Marco Ruas (muay thai/luta livre) fought to a draw with Fernando Pinduka (Carlson Gracie jiu-jitsu) and Eugenio Tadeu knocked out Renan Pitanguy (Gracie Academy) on Nov. 30, 1984.

A few months before he moved to the United States, Rickson—along with father Helio, cousin Rillion and Marcelo Behring—visited luta livre headquarters to challenge anyone there in order to establish that Brazilian jiu-jitsu was still the No. 1 style. Duarte accepted the challenge but asked for three months to prepare. Mere weeks before he was to relocate to America, Rickson met Duarte on Pepe Beach and the fight began. It was considered a home-field advantage for Rickson and his followers. Duarte decided to answer one week later and invaded the Gracie Academy while accompanied by several luta livre members.

In this exclusive interview, Rickson and Duarte sat down to tell their versions of their two encounters—the first chapters in the rivalry between luta livre and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Both men revealed their respect for one another.

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