The Gracies do not exactly have a reputation for a peace-loving family. No wonder how you might perceive them now, BJJ and their legacy came from violent fighting, NHB style. MMA as a whole is a direct result of the Gracies attempts to prove BJJ can overcome all other martial arts, regardless of ruleset or lack thereof. And the Gracie family members from that period is still the same scary fighters they were back then. Perhaps even scarier, in the case of some. As a couple of NYC muggers found out a few years ago, Renzo Gracie actually enjoyed their mugging attempt, twitting the whole thing live as he picked them apart. Ralph Gracie is another example of a Gracie badass, perhaps the scariest of them all. The Ralph Gracie attack incident shows that the spirit of the Gracies is still well alive and kicking (pun intended)!
Ralph Gracie is definitely one of the most interesting Gracie family members, right out there with Rickson and Renzo. He is one scary guy, even if you have no idea about his fighting abilities. If you actually know who he is, Running very fast is the best course of action if you piss him off. Apparently, it doesn’t matter if you’re a fellow black belt that he knows. At the 2018 No-Gi worlds that marked the end of the year, a not very sportsmanlike incident went viral as soon as it took place. In the center of it was, you guessed it, non-other than Ralph. But what really happened? What is the story behind this so-called Raph Gracie attack that left Ricardo Almeida with broken front teeth?
Respect In BJJ
Before we go one with the details about the Ralph Gracie attack and the aftermath that inevitably followed, let’ take a look at a very common subject – respect and BJJ. the image of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu today is one of the honorable martial art that hold respect in the highest esteem. You’ve got bows and “oss” going around at all times and people are smiling and constantly begin (over)polite to each other. It is a picture of a respectful utopia, even extending to high-level competitions among world champions. But is it really so? Is respect really the primary focus of people training BJJ?
A few months ago, Gordon Ryan shed some light on this subject. In fact, “The King” pointed at the elephant in the room, clearly stating what others do not want to admit. “I love how people say “BJJ is built around respect and honor”. No, it’s not! It’s built around savage Brazilians kicking the shit out of people just because they could. Storming gyms of other martial arts and fighting their instructors just to show how superior BJJ was. And while I think that’s fucking awesome, it’s not the fairytale you guys tell about respect and honor. The sport is built around real men who didn’t give a fuck and took what they wanted” – Ryan stated.
To be honest, Ryan is absolutely right. Of course, BJJ would never be what it is if people thought it is all about pure violence. Instead, respect is a much better marketing tool, as practice shows. Do not get me wrong I love the respect among grapplers that has since developed and that exists today. However, you can’t expect someone from the old-school generations to share your sentiments of hugging and saying “oss” repeatedly.
The “Ralph Gracie Attack”
So, let’s look at what took place during the 2018 No-Gi Worlds in California before we explore everyone’s side of the story. The now infamous Ralph Gracie attack took place during the matches of the No-Gi Worlds. Gracie Barra’s North America Executive Director Flavio Almeida was the person on the receiving end of Ralph’s aggression.
As Almeida coached some of his students during the matches in the coaching area, Ralph Gracie approached him. Initially, it seemed like a friendly conversation, that soon took an unfortunate turn. Flavio is shaking Ralph’s hand and talking something before receiving a vicious elbow to the face. The elbow sent Almeida crushing to the ground, where Ralph Gracie proceeded to kick the downed Graci Barra coach a few more times before others intervened. There were also reports that another person also kicked Almeida while on the ground.
At first, the assault was only reported by a few people that were nearby and actually saw the whole thing. While this didn’t cause too much turbulence, a subsequent video that caught the ind9dent did. While you can’t see the complete extent of the Ralph Gracie attack on Almeida, you can clearly witness the elbow that knocked an unassuming Almeida to the ground. The original video is courtesy of Dan Lukehart who filmed it by accident while filming some of the matches. The attack resulted in clearly visible injuries to Flavio Almeida, who suffered cuts to the face and at least 3 broken teeth.
The two “perpetrators” involved in this incident are not strangers to one another. After all, it’s hard not to know people in the BJJ community when they’ve spent their entire life in it. Both Ralph Gracie and Flavio Almeida are household names in the world of BJJ. Ralph is a real legend of the old-school Gracie spirit, wit ha rich MMA background. Flavio is one of the new-school representatives of the old-school style of Gracie Barra, as much as that makes sense. The two know each other pretty good which is why the incident took everyone by surprise, including, as it seems, Almeida himself.
Let’s take a brief look at both BJJ black belts before we go further into the ramifications of the Ralph Gracie attack on Almeida. However, since both are huge figures in the grappling world it means this incident is far from over and will yield more drama in the near future.
Ralph is the brother of Renzo, Charles and the late Ryan Gracie and the son of Robson Gracie. He is part of the MMA generation of Gracies, who dominated opponents in the most vicious of ways. Ralph got his black belt from Carlos Gracie Jr. the founder of Gracie Barra. Currently, Ralph has his own academy in the Bay Area, which is quite famous.
Training since the earliest possible age, Ralph was never a stranger to violence. His generation is the one that really made the name for BJJ in the international fighting circuit. Even as early as 16, a skinny Ralph proved how fearsome he knocked out a much bigger and older guy at the beach of Rio. After fighting in numerous MMA fights where he earned the nickname Pitbull, Ralph settled in San Francisco, where his cousin Caesar Gracie reside. There, Ralph opened an academy that brought about characters like Kurt Osiander, for example.
Flavio Almeida, younger brother of Ricardo Almeida is also a BJJ black belt, also under Carlos Gracie Jr. 8 years junior of Ralph, he was one of the standout Jiu-Jitsu competitors of the ’90s. Flavio, AKA “Cachorrinho”, or “small dog”, was born and raised in Rio. His first encounter with martial arts was at 12 when he discovered Karate. Only a short while later, though, he went on to follow his brother into BJJ where he became a legend.
Flavio actually used to train with Ralphs brother Renzo, who gave Ricardo his black belt. Curiously enough, Flavio had a break from BJJ at a certain point, dedicating himself to an academic career. After succeeding in his non-grappling quest, he returned to BJJ to represent and teach at Gracie Barra. Currently, Almeida is the North America Executive Director of Gracie Barra and has his own GB academy in Dana Point, California.
As you see, the two black belts are no strangers to each other. It is not surprising that the Ralph Gracie attack had massive aftermath that’s still far from over. With the video that clearly shows what, happened, plus the accounts of several eyewitnesses, Ralph could end up in some real trouble. The injuries sustained by Almeida are no joke, as Felipe Guedes (head instructor of GB San Clemente) stated via social media:
” I’m a dentist myself and I was at the dental office a couple of hour after the attack with Prof. Flavio, his two cemented crowns got exploded out of his mouth, shattering the remaining roots, one in six different pieces! His head got punched and kicked by two different attackers while unconscious on the floor. Professor suffered head concussions that left him confused for a few days, not even able to read his books for more than 15 minutes. What the attackers did not know is that they were only making him stronger, and our Gracie Barra Team more united and bullet prove!
The cowards have their days counted in so many ways. We are the land of laws, we are a civilized country where criminals have no room to succeed. I will never, I mean never have in my life a “fodacy” (f*ck off) attitude. I will always care about people, I will always obey the laws and I will never be a coward. My heart is happy to see my Professor Flavio roaring! I would expect nothing less from him. And this is just the beginning. We are the light vs the darkness, and the light will always prevail! We will always fight to improve people’s lives through Gracie Barra Jiu-Jitsu and Master Carlos Gracie Jr’s legacy.”
Gracie Barra Statement
In a statement on their official web site, Gracie Barra also addressed the incident. According to BJJ’s most widespread organization, the ramifications of the Ralph Gracie attack are far from over. They also called upon the IBJJF to take action in the matter.
“The cowardice of these violent acts against Flavio and Gracie Barra represents the collision of two different ideologies: The old-fashioned thug mentality focused on personal gain through fear and intimidation, against a philosophy of respect and professionalism espoused by dedicated Jiu-Jitsu instructors who work hard every day to build better individuals, families, and communities through martial arts.
This assault is unjustifiable, unethical, and unlawful.
Gracie Barra unequivocally condemns any act of violence and declares to every single one of its team members around the world NOT to resort to violence in retaliation against the aggressors or anyone associated with them. We must remain vigilant and united in supporting the authorities, and trust the justice system will do what is right. Our attorney has confirmed the issuance of a restraining order that prevents the main aggressor from coming near Flavio, his family and Flavio’s places of work.
It is also our sincere hope that the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation, the media, and other key players in the Jiu-Jitsu and MMA communities take a strong stance on this matter standing united condemning these individuals and their actions.”
Ralph Gracie’s Legal Team
So far, Ralph Gracie himself has stayed off the radar concerning the assault. The only statement depicting his side of the story came via his legal team. James Cook, a member of Ralph’s legal team stated the following after the Ralph Gracie attack:
“I reviewed the video and I had an opportunity to discuss the incident with Ralph Gracie. Ralph would like to tell his side of the story about events leading up to the altercation. However, I strongly advised him to say nothing.
“I cannot disclose too many details about Ralph’s side of the story given attorney-client considerations. However, I can say that the video does not capture the full spectrum of words and actions leading up to the incident. To view the video within the full context, it is easy to conclude that altercation should be characterized as mutual combat.
It’s worth noting that the incident took place at a combat sporting event. Emotions often run high and disputes materialize off the mats. Regardless, Flavio Almeida and Ralph Gracie are icons of our sport. Because of this, I believe that any further dispute can and should be resolved quickly and without court intervention.”
Ricardo Almeida Statement
Even Ricardo Almeida sounded off via social media to give his support to his brother after the Ralph Gracie attack. How this might potentially affect his relationship with Renzo Gracie further down the line nobody knows.
“Once in a lifetime, something happens that makes you question the very foundation of what you believe in … I feel confused, betrayed and powerless. Thanks to everyone who reached out asking about my brother Flavio, he is recovering under medical care. ” – says Ricardo’s statement.
Renzo Gracie Statement
Of course, Ralph got his own fair share of support as well, with his brother Renzo coming out to his aid. Renzo referred to the post by Felipe Guedes, calling out Gracie Barra as being weak.
The legendary grappler and MMA fighter stated the following: “champ if you are against the Fodacy.. Sorry you couldn’t even grasp the idea..you are weak..and you being one of the main executives in the GB shows how weak it had become..mouth shut, and no questioning about law abiding.. please don’t, and I know what I’m talking about… if you have an f*^%#job today thank me, because my uncle was more worry about growing a vegetable garden in Teresopolis than making sure the GB went forward…Before you talk, lower your head, and show respect…Or I will be the one teaching you the laws that GB was created on… Keep going and selling your joke…but don’t you push my buttons or I will question yours…”
Marco Feitosa Statement
Marcio Feitosa, one of the head figures in Gracie Barra, also wrote on his Instagram, recapping what happened and condemning the Ralph Gracie attack:
“Thank you for your concern and for the messages of support and care. As you may know, while passing instruction to athletes at the No-Gi World Championships, Flavio was cruelly attacked by some individuals. The attack was completely by surprise, was not provoked and did not allow Flavio to defend himself. It was clear that the attack was to hurt Flavio and also to intimidate Gracie Barra. The police are investigating, the doctors who are taking care of Flavio advised him to rest with the family and recover from injuries, as soon as he is able to return to work. We thank you very much for your concern. We’ll share more information when the time is right.” – Feitosa wrote.
IBJJF Official Statement
The IBJJF didn’t take long to get into the mix, not only coming out with a statement but also taking swift action. As per their decision, Ralph Gracie earned an indefinite suspension from all activities involving the IBJJF following the Ralph Gracie attack.
“Traditionally, IBJJF policy mandates that any disciplinary actions are dealt with internally between the Federation and the affected parties. Likewise, any sanctions that ultimately may be imposed are not publicly announced by the Federation. However, given the nature of the alleged incident at the 2018 World No-Gi Championships, the Federation is compelled to take immediate action as follows:
The alleged perpetrators have been immediately and indefinitely suspended from any and all IBJJF sanctioned events. Said suspension includes attending, competing, coaching or in any way participating in IBJJF events. Once our investigation has been completed and a final decision reached, we will update you accordingly. In the meantime, we assure you that the alleged conduct will not be tolerated under any circumstance.” – is the stance of the IBJJF.
Why Did It Happen?
Finally, after we know what happened, and the aftermath of the Ralph Gracie attack so far, let’s try and figure out why it happened. After all, it is beyond a doubt that Ralph had a reason for acting the way he did. Or at least he thought he did.
What we know about the reasons behind the Ralph Gracie attack on Flavio Almeida so far is purely rumors. Reports say that the reason behind the incident is a turf war regarding San Francisco. The claims suggest that there was an unwritten agreement that Gracie academies won’t get in each other’s ways in certain cities. San Francisco is one of those cities. So far, Ralph Gracie’s is by far the most famous BJJ academy there. However, there was a lot of turmoil there in recent months.
Just recently, Ralph brought in a new coach in João “Jerry” Oliveira, a Gracie Barra standout. João moved to the Bay Area and ended up in Ralph’s academy. As a result, two long-serving coaches at the Ralph’s Gracie academy, Kurt Osiander, and Jake Scovel left Ralph’s team along with some students and opened their own academy.
On top of all of this, it seems Ralph got news that Gracie Barra was about to open their own academy in San Francisco. The presumption is that Ralph was actually after Feitosa at the No-Gi Worlds, but ran into Flavio instead, where he demonstrated his opinion on the matter.
Finally, what can we expect to happen? So far, the IBJJF suspended Ralph indefinitely, which is probably just the first of many steps. As Gracie Barra’s statements suggest, there’s also legal action against Ralph Gracie that’s in motion. In that sense and given the grievous injuries on Almeida, the Ralph Gracie attack might cause a lot of serious trouble for Ralph.
Of course, there’s the Jiu-Jitsu community as well. For now, it seems that the Gracie Barra and some Gracie family member are on opposite sides. This is definitely going to put a strain on some relationships in the BJJ world, particularly because Ricardo and Renzo are so close. It’s a case of brothers by blood and brothers by the Gentle Art, and it remains to be seen which bond is going to be stronger.