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Renzo Gracie, Eugenio Tadeu and the riot that got MMA banned in Rio de Janeiro

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

MMA is a popular sport in Brazil today, but that wasn’t the scenario back after Pentagon Combat in 1997.

The sport was still growing, and the events basically matched fighters to defend their martial arts inside a ring. Jiu-jitsu dominated the scene, but the luta livre competitors wanted their revenge for their losses six years before. Pentagon Combat was created to feature more classic battles between jiu-jitsu and luta livre on Sept. 27 of that year, but the night didn’t end well.

Murilo Bustamante and Oleg Taktarov won both their fights by knockout, but the main attraction was the bout between jiu-jitsu’s Renzo Gracie and luta livre’s Eugenio Tadeu.

Before the event started, the promoters decided not to hire extra security for the show, counting only with a few police officers. The luta livre guys got less tickets than their rivals, but they managed to get into Tijuca Tenis Clube gymnasium before the police arrived.

That couldn’t end well – and wouldn’t.

Renzo Gracie was undefeated in MMA with five wins and was coming off a 62-second knockout over Taktarov. Gracie quickly took Tadeu down and passed the guard, coming close to finishing the fight from the mount. He eventually got tired, and Tadeu started to take control of the action.

At this moment, most of the luta livre guys invaded the stage and got closer to the fence. Gracie and Tadeu kept fighting, but referee Paulo Borracha was forced to stop the bout when one of the fans climbed the fence while Tadeu was dominating the bout.

Someone kicked Gracie in the face from the fence when he was down. When he got up, another fan climbed the fence and punched him in the face. Gracie punched back and it all started.

Fans started a riot, chairs flew all over the gymnasium. Someone turned off the lights moments later and shots were fired. When the lights were back on, it was over. Renzo Gracie vs. Eugenio Tadeu was interrupted seconds before the end of the first round and the fight ended without a winner.

"Before I entered the ring, someone told me the luta livre guys had invaded the stage and were around the ring," Renzo Gracie told about that night. "They told me I had the option to not fight, but I said ‘no way, I will be inside the cage when they close the door. I’m here to fight’.

"They started to brawl," he continued. "Someone punched me in the face, so I punched him back and the riot started. The luta livre guys planned to do that as soon as they got there, it didn’t come from the jiu-jitsu community." called Eugenio Tadeu for his side of the story, and he believes the riot was good for the sport, despite the fact that it forced the government to ban every MMA event in Rio de Janeiro for almost ten years.

"That was a historical moment for the sport in Brazil," Tadeu said. "Every MMA event before that was cloudy, suspicious. It was not about the sport, it was about one martial art. The other martial arts were part of a context. After that night it was over, the events were no longer created for jiu-jitsu to win."

Tadeu knew the fans around the cage were rooting for him, but he was scared when chairs started to fly.

"I was scared, but what happened back then is exactly what’s happening now in Brazil politically," he said, mentioning the public reaction against corruption in the country. "We were fighting for freedom. We were coerced by a modality benefited financially. We were respected after that night. For every peace we need a war, so that was important.

"UFC was created to promote the Gracie family and the jiu-jitsu, for example," he continued. "When they sold the organization, it has changed for the best fighter, not the best martial art. There’s no secret. No matter what you train now, the best fighter will win. In the past, they fought some weak fighters and won and said jiu-jitsu was better."

"He’s an ignorant," Renzo Gracie said about Tadeu’s theory. "Which hegemony? They never got anywhere closer to us. If that was because of jiu-jitsu’s hegemony, they failed because jiu-jitsu is still here, and nobody hears about luta livre. I wouldn’t expect anything more stupid from a guy like him. If he was a noble and intelligent guy, he would have become a jiu-jitsu fighter, not luta livre."