By Professor Marco Perazzo
9 years later I still think in awe about when Jacare and Roger Gracie faced off in one of the most exciting BJJ matches in modern history. Roger Gracie has been known as the epitome of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu’s efficiency creating opportunities for the simplest of chokes despite competing at the highest level. Something I talk about in class all the time, mastery of the basics can win you titles. Jacare on the other hand is comparable to the modern day Rodolfo Vieira. Explosive take downs and a non fancy approach in Jiu-Jitsu are some of his trademarks. Relentless attacks always hunting for the submission, rarely wanting to let the referee or points decide the outcome of his matches. Before becoming the Strikeforce Middleweight champ, he was a BJJ black belt that showed not only talent and skills but also heart that trumps them all.
The 2004 absolute finals started off with Roger playing guard and Jacare trying to posture up. It was Roger’s patience and use of his legs that broke Jacare’s posture more than a couple of times. An initial triangle attempt let Jacare shake off Roger’s guard and forced Roger to fight from turtle guard. Jacare’s relentless attacks and attempts to take Roger’s back eventually succeeded, Fredson Alves (a well respected mundials competitor and Gracie Humaita Black Belt) was the referee and awarded 4 points for the back take. Unable to finish the Gracie representative, Roger as is his trademark patiently works his escape and is able to stop Jacare’s back attack and get to the 2004 version of 50/50 guard. The referee not wanting the match to proceed outside of the legal and regulated competition area has Roger and Jacare restart from Roger’s 50/50 guard in the center of the mats. Roger and Jacare neutralizing each other, attempts to pass and sweep don’t get very far. As Jacare tries to prevent a sweep, Roger was able to get to his feet and immediately pulls closed guard. It was from this position that will forever define Jacare but also Roger Gracie. This was their Ali vs Frazier moment. But honestly i think both walked away more like Ali than Frazier.
You can watch the match here. http://njmaonline.com/roger-vs-jacare-2004/
Roger a truly world class competitor knowing that he is down on points starts to work relentlessly from his guard. Rogers attacking is finally paying off, Jacare is stuck in an armbar, at this point the match should be over. But to many peoples surprise Jacare just eats the armbar and allows his arm to be broken. A decision that puts him rare company of fighters and competitors that literally risked not life but limb to win. There was much controversy that the referee didn’t stop the match but instead allowed Jacare to continue fighting with just one arm. In my mind Fredson allowed the most important match of that year to be decided by the participants and not the referee. Jacare danced and was called for stalling, but ultimately he was declared the winner. Jacare had just won what may be the most important historic match of the mundials.
From this match, a lot of questions are worth asking for any person whether or not practicing BJJ or MMA. Things like, what are you willing to give up just for you to make history or perhaps reach even the simplest of goals? There are moments in history when a limb is worth giving in exchange for achieving legendary status. Jacare, more than winning the absolute finals, cemented his legacy for finishing a fight despite a broken arm. Life will bring us challenges and even some things that could warrant quitting for good. It takes a tremendous amount of heart in order to wiggle out of adversity and even a bit of craziness to risk a few limbs in the process.
From an observer’s perspective, grappling or any combat sport for that matter may look rough and brutish. But for anyone, who has been involved in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Mixed Martial Arts, Judo, Wrestling, Boxing and any other reality based martial art, they can attest that it takes more than just superb talent to reach your goals. When talent is faced with even bigger challenges, it takes heart to get you to where you want to be, in Jacare’s case he wanted the top of the podium more than he wanted an intact arm. When someone is willing to give an arm for the absolute title, what are you willing to give up to achieve your life goal? (as a disclaimer i don’t recommend allowing limbs to break on a regular basis, but what sacrifices and pain are you willing to endure to achieve what you have said are your goals)