BJJ legend Rickson Gracie discloses 2-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, calls it ‘gift from God’

BJJ legend and MMA pioneer Rickson Gracie tries to stay positive while dealing with his condition.

By: Lucas Rezende | 2 months ago
BJJ legend Rickson Gracie discloses 2-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, calls it ‘gift from God’
Rickson Gracie. IMAGO/PanoramiC:

Hello, boys and girls! It is Thursday again, which means it’s time for yet another edition of the Brazil Beat! Your weekly roundup of Brazilian fighting news that took place in the last seven days, all conveniently put together in one place by yours truly.

This week, we’ve got some sad news involving BJJ legend Rickson Gracie, the aftermath of UFC Fight Night: Vettori vs. Cannonier, some PFL heavyweight hype and much more. So let’s dive right into it!

BJJ legend Rickson Gracie’s reveals Parkinson’s disease battle

In this week’s top story, we’ve got an unfortunate update on MMA pioneer and 9th-degree Brazilian jiu-jitsu red belt Rickson Gracie, who recently disclosed a personal struggle that has been affecting his personal life for the past two years. Currently at age 63, the ‘Last Samurai’ revealed he is battling Parkinson’s disease.

In a conversation with family member and five-time world champion Kyra Gracie on her YouTube channel, the BJJ legend addressed his condition in a rather positive way, trying not to focus on the negative aspects of the the issue. The way the veteran grappler sees it, the problems stemming from his disability just give him more motivation to keep on working on a better version of himself.

“I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s two years ago.” Gracie said (transcribed by Combate). “Therefore, I’ve been decreasing the number of physical things I’d like to be doing. It was nothing dramatic for me. I’m ready for anything in my life. I accept my mistakes and my wins. I accept my life well, so I’m happy today. This neurological disability has opened my eyes about my age and my reality, which did not change a lot since then.

“My hand kind of shakes, I have movement disability that wasn’t there before. It doesn’t bother me too much, because my motivation to wake up tomorrow and keep on working is the same. So I see it as a gift from God to see what I can do. If I give you a lot of money and you do wrong things, then served you no purpose. But if I give you money and you do good things, then I’ll be proud.”

“God put me in situation which I need to make it good.” Gracie said. “The most important reaction I can have in my life today is to express my gratitude through jiu-jitsu. To keep on working for jiu-jitsu in order to make people stronger and transform it so it becomes more accessible to people who need it the most. I see myself swimming beautifully in a perfect blue ocean, just waiting for the next day and not worrying too much.”

UFC’s Alessandro Costa only used 10% of his skills

Moving on from BJJ legend Rickson Gracie to UFC Fight Night: Vettori vs. Cannonier , we’ve got some big promises from a flyweight who has finally scored his first Octagon win last weekend.

In an interview with Combate, 27-year-old Alessandro Costa was thrilled about his TKO victory over Jimmy Flick in the preliminary portion of the card, but wants fans to know he could do much better. Although he did finish his opponent with some powerful elbow strikes early into the second round, ‘Nono’ warns the MMA community that he still has a lot more to demonstrate in his next outings.

“My goal was to finish it in the first round, to be a hungry athlete, aggressive all the time. It went over the second round, but the goal stayed the same. All I did was 10% of what I did in my camp. There’s 90% more of what you saw.”

“Every fight is different, obviously. Tonight was my night, I made it so it was. I would think about that win every day and I would tell people I was going to win. Some days I was hurt, tired, but I would still go to practice just thinking about that win. I wanted it and I worked for it. I want much more. It’s only the beginning.”

Raoni Barcelos wants to waste no time

Seasoned veteran Raoni Barcelos did not have the same luck as his fellow countryman Alessandro Costa at UFC Fight Night: Vettori vs. Cannonier. In fact, it seems that unfortunate turn of events have been quite the pattern for the Brazilian wrestler in his Octagon career.

Though he was expected to take on Miles Johns last weekend, Barcelos saw his fight fall through when his opponent was forced to withdraw from it just one day before their match. Last-minute or unexpected withdrawals have been a part of the Brazilian’s career as he has suffered with them in his pairings against Raphael Assuncao, Trevin Jones and Merab Dvalishivili.

In an interview with Ag Fight, Barcelos explained that he still wishes to compete in the near future, though he would like some time to rest before he can get ready again. Ideally, the 36-year-old would not like to sit out for too long and believes a match in the late Summer would be a perfect fit. In fact, the Brazilian would not mind being paired up against Johns again.

“Next month would be too close for comfort. I’ve done it before and it didn’t work so well for me. These are some things we’ve been through. Late August or early September would be a much better date to fight. I’d still be hyped up, I wouldn’t let it go away. I need to rest now, because the (fight) week is painful. I’ve got nothing booked yet, but it could possibly be on August 12, against Johns again.”

Amanda Ribas reveals her social media secrets

Moving on from UFC Fight Night: Vettori vs. Cannonier and looking at the future, we’ve got a fan-favorite in the women’s MMA department talking about her upcoming co-main event spot at UFC on ABC 5.

Yes, as flyweight Amanda Ribas makes the final preparations to take on Maycee Barber. The Brazilian who has a big presence on social media (2.3 million followers on Instagram) explains why she makes an effort to post even more on fight week. In her experience, it is the best time of the year for a fighter to promote sponsored content and get more views or likes than usual.

“For sure, that’s what I try to do (ride the hype).” Ribas told Ag Fight. “(Fight week) is when I most post sponsored content. Fight week is when people are looking at you the most. Sometimes fans of Maycee’s check out my stories just to see what I’m up to. I try to take advantage of that on social media to show who’s with me.”

Now paired up against a once highly-touted prospect in Barber, Ribas explains she feels no pressure ahead of the match. Having fought other promising young athletes such as Paige VanZant and Mackenzie Dern before, the 29-year-old feels comfortable facing yet another one.

“I fought Paige (VanZant) who was also really hyped up. Mackenzie Dern, too. I’ve fought plenty of hyped up girls who were good, too. I don’t see it as an obstacle, but as an advantage. Not just for me as an athlete, but for the UFC. They want people who want to watch a fight. So there are only upsides to it.”

Carlos Leal ready to secure his spot in the PFL playoffs

Leaving the UFC behind. we’ve got some intriguing matchups taking place at tomorrow’s PFL 6, one of them involving Brazilian welterweight Carlos Leal, who plans to secure his spot in this year’s playoffs with an impressive win against Dilano Taylor.

Having already scored six points by knocking out David Zawada in the first round in his last outing, the Brazilian intends to earn six more against Taylor. In an interview with Combate, the 29-year-old explained how winning by stoppage is always in his plans, though you have to plan carefully how to get there without taking too many risks.

“I’ve been studying everything about my opponent all the time. We’ve created strategies based on some specific points of his style. We’ve also watched my last fights so we know what he could do to beat me. We’re closing the gaps.”

“The fans can expect my best version yet.” Leal said. “I’ll be looking for the knockout or the submission right from the start. As my career went on. I learned that leaving a fight to the judges is a complicated thing. Sometimes the result can be unfair and for either one. So I think about getting quick finishes, but in a smart way. Plus, if I finish him in the first rounds, I’ll secure my place in the playoffs.”

Renan Ferreira is looking at you, Francis Ngannou

Though he is not fighting tomorrow, PFL heavyweight Renan Ferreira made the news once again by mentioning the name of the biggest fighter to ever sign with the promotion: former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou.

Having knocked out Matheus Scheffel in just 50 seconds at last week’s PLF 5, ‘Problema’ is within contention to win this year’s tournament should everything go according to plan. However, the Brazilian also would not mind being the one to welcome the ‘Predator’ to the promotion.

“Having him (Ngannou) in the organization raises the bar even more.” Ferreira told Combate. “I’m hungry and I know I will become champion. I want to fight him.”

Since Ferreira knows every single heavyweight under the PFL umbrella and even ones outside of it are looking at Ngannou at the moment, he knows he cannot lose focus of the task at hand while thinking about the big money fight.

For this reason, Problema guarantees he is entirely focused on improving himself in order to finally win the PFL belt after coming up short in the 2022 final match against champion Ante Delija.

“I feel like I’m back in the game. We’ll keep working hard to get to the final. I’ve been improving myself. I was more confident and prepared for this fight. It’s the result of all the work we’ve been doing. I’m confident. I’ll keep on working to become champion.”

“I know my potential.” Ferreira said. “I worked really hard for it. You better believe it everyone is afraid of my hands. You can expect an even more aggressive fighter. Well-rounded, who’s looking for the knockout and to put on a show for the fans.”

The Miyao challenge

In order to make this week’s Brazil Beat go full circle, we can go back to another Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner and cap off this edition on a fun note.

I’m talking about 32-year-old blackbelt Joao Miyao, who has been garnering some attention on social media due to his constant delivery of tutorials and BJJ challenge videos.

Last week, the Brazilian took to the streets of Hoboken, New Jersey, and offered 100 dollars to anyone who could submit him under a minute in a video that went viral on both Twitter and Instagram then. Now, Miyao followed that up with a flexibility video to his fans.

It’s the soda can challenge, an exercise that will test the balance, flexibility and patience of anyone who decides to try it. Do you think you can do it?

A Brazilian Beat

This week, I’d like to pay tribute to one of the biggest music movements to emerge from the 90’s. Straight from the state of Pernambuco, in the Northeast region of the country, we have the band who became the face of the manguebeat style, which mixes regional sounds such as maracatu and forro with rock, soul and even electronic music.

The band in case is none other than legendary Chico Science and Nacao Zumbi, which was led by the iconic Chico Science, who tragically passed away at age 30 in a car accident in 1997. However, his sharp lyrics full of social commentary and the band’s heavy sounds still live on to this day as the group remains active, just under the name of Nacao Zumbi now.

Check their unique sound below in one of their most popular songs.

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About the author
Lucas Rezende
Lucas Rezende

Lucas Rezende is a Brazilian journalist and writer from Belem, Para. He has been covering MMA since 2012 and contributing with Bloody Elbow since March 2015. When not writing, Lucas also teaches English. In his free time, he enjoys reading, slapping the bass guitar and traveling.

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