Carlson Gracie, Sr. (August 13, 1935 – February 1, 2006) was a practitioner of the Brazilian martial art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He was the eldest son of Carlos Gracie, co-founder of the system with his uncle Hélio Gracie, and learned the art from his father. Carlson Gracie would later split from Hélio Gracie's group. He founded one of the most victorious mixed martial arts teams to date, which spawned many champions; in 2000, following a financial dispute, many of Carlson Gracie's students would split from him to form yet another top MMA team, the Brazilian Top Team, but would remain respectful of the master.
Carlson fought a total of eighteen vale tudo fights, with only one loss to Euclides Pereira in a fight that was held in Bahia. His first fight was against Capoeira practitioner Luiz "Cirandinha" Aguiar in this March 17, 1953. Carlson won after over an hour of fighting. His second match was a draw against Wilson "Passarito" Oliveira in May, 1953. Carlson had a rematch in March 1954 in the longest fight of his career, which he won in the fifth 30 minute round. Most notable are his four matches with Valdemar Santana, who had defeated his uncle Hélio Gracie in a fabled match in May 1955. In October 1955 Carlson fought Santana to a draw in a Jiu-Jitsu match. In 1956 and 1957 Carlson won two fights and in 1959 they fought to a draw. Carlson Gracie trained many top competitors such as Allan Goes, Murilo Bustamante, Mario Sperry, Wallid Ismail, Andre Pederneiras, Ricardo Liborio, Rodrigo Medeiros, Marcelo Alonso, and was also responsible for introducing and mastering Vitor Belfort into Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Carlson Gracie also trained Stephan Bonnar, a finalist in the UFC reality show The Ultimate Fighter. He was in Bonnar's corner during his legendary fight against eventual The Ultimate Fighter winner Forrest Griffin. He is the author of a book on the subject.
He was born on August 13, 1935 in Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and died on February 1, 2006, in Chicago, Illinois, of heart failure, apparently the result of complications of kidney stones (and possibly his pre-existing diabetes), following a hospitalisation of several days' duration. At the time of his death he was a ninth degree red belt and was referred to as Grandmaster.
Carlson Gracie is the man who ushered Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu into the modern era. The oldest son of Carlos Gracie, who founded Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Rio de Janeiro during the 1920s, Carlson reigned as world champion for thirty years covering the '50s, '60s, and '70s. He was never defeated in nineteen professional fights. During this time, he was also considered one of the preeminent teachers of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the world; a reputation he holds to this day.
Carlson catapulted to fame at the tender age of seventeen when he avenged the defeat of his uncle Helio Gracie. A former student of Helio's, Waldemar Santana, had defeated the much older Helio during a match in 1955. That match lasted four hours and is still the longest in modern history. Carlson's match with Santana in 1956 was a much shorter affair: four rounds of vicious vale-tudo combat left Santana bloodied, beaten, and unable to crawl back into the ring.
Riding on his newly found fame, Carlson became the most sought-after Jiu-Jitsu instructor in Brazil. After teaching at his uncle's academy for several years, he opened his own, where over the past thirty years many of the greatest names in Jiu-Jitsu and no-holds-barred fighters have trained as members of the famed Carlson Gracie Arrebentacao Team.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu's conquest of the mixed martial arts world might not have happened without Carlson's lion-harted decision to teach everything he knew at his academy. At the time, Helio's academy taught only the most basic positions to outsiders, reserving the advanced positions for the family elite. Carlson opened up Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to the masses, and the masses responded, hungry to learn everything they could. To compete for students, the other academy was forced to offer all their positions as well. This good-natured competition breathed creativity and invention into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and the sport has never been the same since.
Carlson's influence on no-holds-barred fighting is extensive as well, for the style of Jiu-Jitsu he taught at his academy was distinct from that being taught by Helio. While Helio's brand of Jiu-Jitsu emphasized technical proficiency, Carlson favored a 'warrior style' of Jiu-Jitsu that encouraged physical prowess and barraging your opponent with a series of attacks. Carlson's influence is prominent in all Mixed Martial Arts today.
A big-hearted man who embraces life with a wide smile, an inquisitive mind, and a deep spirit, Carlson Gracie considers his proudest achievement to be the scores of students that he has instilled with his love for the sport that changed his life.