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ADCC Classics: three days in ’98, Soca, two Gracies, and a golden dagger for Ze Mario

1998 ADCC competitiors
1998 ADCC competitors

summer promoThe first ADCC event ever took place at the Abu Dhabi Combat Club, in Abu Dhabi, UAE, on March 20-22, 1998.

The champions of the first edition shared a total money prize of over US$70,000.

It was the creation of Sheik Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a Jiu-Jitsu enthusiast since he first got in touch with the gentle art while studying in the USA.

Sheik Tahnoon himself was responsible for coming up with the rules and training the referees.

Renzo Gracie and Sheik Tahnoon. Photo by Luca Atalla
Renzo Gracie and Sheik Tahnoon. Photo by Luca Atalla

A total of 72 fighters were brought in for the first edition of the event, divided in five divisions: 66kg (8), 77kg (16), 88kg (16), 99kg (16) and +99kg (16).

The event featured athletes from Brazil, USA, Russia, Spain, Canada, UAE, Italy, Australia, Porto Rico, Iraq, Iran, Philippines, Jordan, Palestine, Morocco and Egypt.

They represented fighting arts such as Jiu-Jitsu, judo, wrestling, sambo and pancrase.

The event paid almost all expenses of the athletes and a few other people invited.

Zé Mário vs. Cachorrão. Photo by Luca Atalla
Zé Mário vs. Cachorrão. Photo by Luca Atalla

A car and two jet skis were raffled, along with free tickets to several destinations in Europe.

A brand new arena was built in a venue that used to hold horse shows and it included the three mats for the competition.

Besides the money prize, the open class champion was also awarded with an Arabic dagger made of gold.

Robin (66kg), Renzo (77kg) and Rodrigo (88kg) represented the Gracie family at the event.

Five men have the honor of saying they are part of the first class of ADCC champions: Alexandre Soca (66kg), Renzo Gracie (77kg), Rodrigo Gracie (88kg), Zé Mário Sperry (99kg) and Ricco Rodriguez (+99kg).

Sperry doubled his honor with the open class title.

Alexandre Soca. Photo by Luca Atalla
Alexandre Soca. Photo by Luca Atalla

The finals of each division were all thrilling matches.

Soca and Robin Gracie battled for almost 30 minutes including the sudden death overtime. Soca managed a rear naked choke to secure the gold medal. In addition to his gold medal, Soca was also elected the most technical athlete of the event.

Renzo Gracie imposed his game over Luis Brito and finished the match with a choke from the mount to win the first of his two ADCC titles. Renzo competed in the first ADCC only five days after fighting Sanae Kikuta at Pride 2, in Japan.

Rodrigo Gracie faced Russian Karim Barklaev in the final and had to use all his conditioning to beat the strong owrestler. After 30 minutes (including the overtime), he took gold for being more aggressive.

Zé Mário and Ricardo “Cachorrão” Almeida waged the best match of the event. Cachorrão attempted a guillotine from the get go, but Sperry defended well. He eventually got the gold medal for passing Ricardo’s guard. The movement happened before the points started being counted, but the judges considered it enough to award Sperry the victory.

Rodrigo Gracie. Photo by Luca Atalla
Rodrigo Gracie. Photo by Luca Atalla

Ricco Rodriguez wrote his name in ADCC history with a guard pass over Sean Alvarez close to the end of the 20-minute regulation time.

A funny fact regarding the final results of the +99kg in 1998 is that it still is the only male division in history that had no Brazilian among the semifinalists (in 2007, the -55kg female division also had no Brazilians among the semifinalists).

In the open class, eight competitors signed up to compete for $11,000 and the aforementioned golden dagger.

After beating their two opponents each, Sperry and Cachorrão were supposed to meet in the final, but Almeida had a injured elbow and could not compete, leaving the path open for Sperry to win his second gold medal.

After it was over, the athletes were invited for a cruise with the presence of Sheik Tahnoon himself.

Here’s a photo gallery with rare pictures of the event taken by Luca Atalla.

ADCC 1998

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