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Rickson vs. Rigan: background and aftermath (part 1)

The third Copa Company, held in 1986, featured a match deemed mind-blowing by many BJJ fans of the time. Not only were two excellent fighters going head to head, but the fight represented a big break in tradition. In a recent interview with Rickson Gracie, Luca Atalla asked this question:

"There was this match against Rigan Machado, who is your cousin. You were very important to the knowledge of his brother Jean Jacques Machado. Many people don't know, but during your career as a fighter, you were always teaching—teaching regular days, and fighting during the weekends. And, as far as I know, you invited Jean Jacques to follow your classes; so you'd teach a private and you'd train a little bit with Jean Jacques between the classes, and that was like this for a while. I'm interested to know how traumatized you were to see Carlos Gracie Jr. pit Rigan against you, and how this affected you in teaching other members of the family after that."  

Here's the first part of Rickson's answer:

"Yes, at one point... I'd always been teaching and training, teaching and training... And then Jean Jacques approached me and wanted to train with me, and it was my pleasure. And for a long period, I'd start my class at 7 o'clock, my first private class, and as I arrived at the school, Jean Jacques was already sitting on the curb waiting for me. So he's very disciplined, very much... Aside from being a gentleman, a sweet guy, a very tough warrior, he's a very special guy in terms of focus and seeking for learning, so I have a lot of respect and admiration for Jean Jacques. 

"And he was coming with good results, because he was practicing always at Barra Gracie. And with a purple belt, we started training; and before he got the brown belt, he was already submitting almost all the black-belts in Gracie Barra. So people started going 'Wow! What did you do?' and he'd been kind of training with me, and coming to me all happy, and getting better and better, and started kicking ass. So I'm very proud of him. 

"And also, sometimes I sparred with Jean, with Rigan, with Carlos Machado—the brothers. So, they were all training a little bit, but not as much as Jean Jacques. And Rigan was a bigger brother, was the heavyweight of the Machado family, very tough competitor with a good level of skills; and he started to become a competitor to be beat around the jiu-jitsu scene. But I was already traditionally winning all tournaments in my weight division and absolute. 

"And one special tournament, which was sponsored by Company—which is a brand that started sponsoring Brazilian sports events, and was a very respectful sponsor—this tournament happens, and then Carlos Gracie Jr., as the president of the federation, comes to me and says I have to fight Rigan, which is completely out of our mentality."


Jay Zeballos Avatar
Jay Zeballos commented:

And that is why I am so incredibly proud to be a black belt under Jean Jacques. His admiration and respect for his Master Rickson Gracie is incredibly inspiring. Wonderful story!

March 16, 2022 12:16 PM