Kazushi Sakuraba and Renzo Gracie faced off all the way back in 2000 at Pride 10: Return Of The Warriors and the pair gave us a vital piece of MMA history. It was just unusual that this piece of history was actually a repeat of something that happened nearly fifty years earlier when Renzo’s Great Uncle, Helio Gracie, fell victim to the exact same submission used by another Japanase grappler who’s name you might recognise: Masahiko Kimura.
The story started not so long after the second world war, back on October 23rd, 1951, when Helio Gracie and Masahiko Kimura faced off in front of 20,000 cheering fans and the president of Brazil. Despite receiving significant negative reaction from the crowd, Kimura was unfazed and scored multiple takedowns on Helio, before locking up the submission that now bears his name, the Kimura. Helio refused to tap and Kimura was forced to break his arm not once, but twice before Helio’s brother, and Renzo’s grandfather, Carlos Gracie, threw in the towel to end the match.
Where the story comes full circle is back in the year 2000 at Pride 10, where Kazushi Sakuraba was already known as “The Gracie Hunter” after defeating both Royler and Royce Gracie, and Renzo had not been finished in 10 professional MMA fights so far. The pair fought on Japanese soil in front of 35,000 fans and for nearly twenty minutes before Sakuraba locked up the exact same submission as Kimura used on Helio. Like Helio, Renzo refused to tap and forced Sakuraba to push the submission to breaking point which prompted the referee to end the fight.
Both matches are now enshrined as key moments in the history of MMA and both Renzo Gracie and Kazushi Sakuraba have gone on to impact grappling and MMA in ways bigger than anyone could have imagined at the time. Renzo has established a gym known around the world as one of the best places to train, he’s gone on to produce one of the greatest coaches ever in John Danaher and subsequently given way to the greatest No Gi grappler in history, Gordon Ryan.
Meanwhile, Sakuraba went on to an extensive MMA career, fighting against the absolute best strikers and grapplers on the planet across multiple weight-classes. In his retirement, he’s also spearheaded one of the most sucessful grappling promotions in Quintet, pioneering a ruleset that is used across the world and even to this day, he still continues to innovate and create new ways to bring grappling to the masses.
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