An important episode in the Rickson Gracie mythology is his vale-tudo debut, a fight with the giant King Zulu. As impossible as a win by Rickson seemed to the audience, it seemed more impossible to the kid himself, who wanted to give up between rounds.
The request, of course, was denied by Helio, who was in his corner alongside Rolls. Dad assured Rickson that Zulu was—somehow—even more tired. Rolls poured a bucket of ice water on Rickson's head, and he was sent back in.
It's a brilliant example of how a fight can be won in the corner. And since then, Rickson has supported fighters from the corner innumerable times. So we asked him whether he felt he had ever been quite as decisive as Helio and Rolls were back in the day. Here's the first part of his answer:
"Not exactly in the same pattern. I feel like situations are different, and every situation kind of changes a little. I've been fighting many times hearing my corners, and I've been on the corner many times trying to make the fighter do what I say. And both ways make me feel like I was there, I was present, I was supportive, I was connected; and sometimes the result doesn't come as I feel like it, but, anyway, it was a good combined effort from the perspective of fighter and coach.
"Something interesting about coaching is a process I lived with Kron; after my son Rockson's departure, Kron became very committed to compete, and I felt like it was a great bond between me and him to help him to become champion, and for him to just represent the jiu-jitsu and feel like he was taking Rockson's legacy for future. So he wanted to be like his brother, even better than his brother. So I started to go to every tournament with him and help him in a very sophisticated way, because I was not there helping him in the fight only; I was there to see who was in his bracket and what the kids do in other fights and what he's gonna do with Kron. So I was already studying the guys before they fight Kron—the kids.
"And then, sometimes, I see Kron approaching to fight another kid whom I already saw fight before, and then I'm gonna say, 'Kron, he will pull you to the guard immediately, so, as he pulls, make sure you keep your connection and push his knee down and already pass.' So I'm capitalizing on the movements I saw the guy do to give advantage for Kron."