Rickson speaks of hardest knockout of his life

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Rickson would only fight once again after this day, against Nobuhiko Takada. Photo: Susumu Nagao.

Undefeated, having won by submission in all his eleven official MMA matches, Rickson Gracie is victorious as an icon living a life of dedication to Jiu-Jitsu. But even the samurai, who exhudes confidence and seems to be unbreakable, nurses wounds slow in healing.

In a can’t-miss interview with the gang at Ragga magazine (read the whole article in Portuguese here, starting at page 76), the Gracie comments on the loss that turned his world upside down. Never before has Rickson spoken so candidly about the death of his son Rockson, found dead in a New York hotel in December 2000. This is how he replied to the question “What’s the worst beating you’ve ever taken?”

“Without a doubt, the loss of my son, ten years ago,” he admits.

“I feel that his passing represented a lot, because I managed to deal with this loss. Nothing is more significant than losing someone you truly love. When you talk about a loss, you may think of strength, perseverance, praying, the belief that there will be a tomorrow, all these factors, when a friend perhaps comes over and puts his arm on your shoulder. All these opinions are relevant, but the truth is that I came to the conclusion that none of that matters. When you lose something truly profound, you have to sit, cry, and accept that you’ve hit rock bottom,” he vents.

“Deep down, you see a reason to shoot yourself in the head, to stop doing the right thing, to stop being a happy person. You may want to fools yourself, thinking “it’s bad, but I can take it,” and that’s the kind of lack of honesty that will never cure the wound. I hit rock bottom and decided, deep down, whether I would come back to the surface or not,” he adds.

Rickson, black belt Renato Barreto, and Rockson. Photo: Renatobarreto.com.br

The Gracie took many years in coming to terms with the tragedy, and changed the course of his life and the way he leads it. Part of his plan was to return to Brazil. Other foundations were family, the gentle art, and learning, even if through suffering.

“I went through the healing process with my family. For practically three years I was focused on recuperating this energy and seeking some reason for me to be happy again. And that reason is my three beautiful kids, my family, Jiu-Jitsu. To put the issue to rest in my head, I spent a long time looking for a bright side to this loss, something I could take away from this tragedy as an advantage. After much meditation, withdrawing to the woods, without feeling any desire to surf, play, train, I reached the conclusion that there was an advantage, a positive side. Up until that moment, I had never really valued time, I always thought I controlled my time, that I could put off talking to my son until tomorrow, that I could put off that trip or class until later, that time was just a question of reworking my agenda. I put off doing a lot of things thinking I’d be able to do them later. With my son’s departure, I understood that there is no tomorrow. We have to do everything as though there were no tomorrow.”

And again Rickson affirms that he is retired, he will not fight again. Indeed, the black belt hasn’t fought since Rockson’s death. The most heavily-anticipated fight at the time was a matchup with Kazushi Sakuraba.

“That fight would have been the biggest payout of all times. They offered me five million dollars, it would have put me on easy street. He beat a number of Gracies, and it would have been a good fight for me, perhaps the best fight. He really was a thorn in the side of all the Gracies.

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There are 29 comments for this article
  1. Larry Quiones at 5:21 pm


    If Rickson is graced with finding something “positive” to take from the loss of his beloved son – after Rickson experienced profound and enduring trials and tribulations of the highest magnitude – he just extended that powerful lesson and message to the rest of us that love jiujitsu and respect the Gracie family. I am very grateful that he shared this with us.

    I have always wanted to partake in a Rickson seminar, as I have greatly enjoyed the ones with Carlos Gracie Jr as he also speaks to the human side of jiujitsu, but reading this interview above placed me not on the mats with Rickson but in the heart and mind of a champion, master and great teacher.

    Thanks for the best roll of all!

    Larry Quinones “de la Barra de Tijuca”

  2. James Harpe at 9:16 am

    Rickson’s comments regarding the loss of his son is at the heart of what we love -Gracie Jiujitsu. He gave us the ultimate lesson regarding Jiujitsu and life. Acceptance of our reality and to continuously grow regardless of what life put’s in front of us on a daily basis. Thank you so much Rickson.

  3. Renanteh at 9:49 pm

    There are men who just exist and then there are men who live, and above that, there a small handful of extraordinary men who live and give life to others; men who are in essence the definition of life itself. Rickson Gracie is one of these few extraordinary men. Rickson, thank you for sharing your life and and in turn bringing me life. You may not know it, but you are connected to me and millions of others who love Jiu-jitsu, and that connection with you give us strength.
    Mahalo and Aloha,
    Ray H

  4. Precison at 11:52 am

    even though ralek beat saburka rickson would have tore him up bad in tournament and i know he would with his anger before with yini anjoi who came to his place and insulted him “coward” he took his ass upside down it would be same thing

  5. Nizaam Karjieker at 2:03 pm

    Glad he is retired and focusing on important things in his life. Money and fame is not everything. We will miss him in the ring but with over 400 fights to watch and enjoy, who needs more!

  6. Jason Storlie at 12:13 am

    Dealing with the loss of a loved one is excruciatingly painful, even for the best of us. There is simply no avoiding that fact. Coming full circle and understanding that "life is to be enjoyed, not endured" is an essential lesson that allows our hearts to "shine" once again. At some point, we have to open the door, walk outside, and begin to take a few steps for ourselves, not for the ones we lost ………

  7. Rikhard Nevalainen at 5:30 pm

    Rickson, I am sorry of your loss. However, the death has been defeated by the Jesus Christ. He died for your sins, as well your sons too. Resurrection is the relief from the death. God Jehovah has promised this. Please take some time and look http://jw.org
    Best regards Rikhard from Finland

  8. Vince Grimaldi at 2:39 pm

    Rickson has proved the world over many times he was the best BJJ or MMA and would have beaten Bruce Lee and Sakaruraba. He took a line black belts put him in naked rear choke and got out in little time like he was a snake. The guy has a skill set that is another dimension decades ahead of all others. JuiJitsu is his life…..He is beautiful. A national treasure just like Pele in Soccer.

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