We've covered Rickson Gracie's vale-tudo debut extensively. (Come here if you need a refresher.)
Now we travel twenty years forward in time, to the year 2000, when Rickson had his last official fight, against Masakatsu Funaki.
In our recent group interview, Luca Atalla, a long-time friend, had this question for Rickson: "You were fortunate to have your father and your older brother there in your corner against Zulu. But years later, something happened, and you didn't have the same experience, even though you had Royler and other guys. You lost your vision, and that happened to be your last fight. I was there, but nobody in the stadium knew exactly the problem you were having at that moment, without seeing anything, and just delivering your destiny to nature. Can we go a little further ahead and connect the dots from Zulu to that point?"
Here's part 1 of Rickson's first-hand account of fighting blind against an extremely dangerous opponent:
"After the fight with Zulu, again, I aligned myself to be in one direction only, to be pushing forward—no matter who I'm gonna fight, I'm gonna believe it to the end; if I get killed on the mission, so be it; I will be accepting that... So I was one hundred percent fully forward, doing exactly what I had to do to accomplish my fights, my life.
"So my mindset's ready, my physicality is ready, my heart feels good... motivated. So everything was in place, and I keep fighting, I keep training hard, I keep winning, keep everything fine.
"In my last fight, it was absolutely confirmation of everything I could achieve as a fighter, because I get punched in the face in the middle of the fight; and the nerve, the optical nerve, disconnected from behind; so if you have a punched eye, you stop the vision of both eyes, because you just cannot see with both eyes.
"So I receive that punch, I have an orbital fracture in my eye; so as I start to move my eye, I couldn't look up; just one eye moved up; the other one is stopped, broken; there's a fracture, and the eye could not move anymore."