The Brazilian Colosseum

By Guilherme Cruz@guicruzzz on Oct 23 2014, 9:00a 22

image Built in 1954, Maracanazinho is one of the most important places in the history of the fighting we see today — bare-knuckle, vale tudo or MMA, whatever you wanna call it.
UFC 179 will feature the last remaining Brazilian champion Jose Aldo in a rematch against featherweight No. 1 contender Chad Mendes, which is dramatic in itself. Yet the venue it will take place in, Maracanazinho, is also historic. It was built in 1954, and a year later, in 1955, was the first connected with vale tudo fights.

image(Courtesy of Marcelo Alonso)
One year after Waldemar Santana defeated his former trainer Helio Gracie in the longest fight in the history at ACM — a brutal clash that lasted 17 minutes shy of four hours behind the goals at the soccer stadium — Carlson Gracie entered a ring looking to avenge his uncle’s loss. In 1956, vale tudo events were legal again, and the two went to war in a historical night at Maracanazinho in front of every Brazilian news outlet going.

That night, Gracie and Santana — two of the greatest fighters alive — battled for nearly 40 minutes. With mere seconds left in the fourth 10-minute round, Carlson avenged his uncle by forcing Santana’s corner to throw in the towel. It was a classic bout, and it set up a rivalrous series between the two. They would go on to fight four more times before it was all said and done. The Gracie family would celebrate another win in 1957, this time on points, while the other three encounters were declared a draw.

“Carlson told me once that there were 30,000 fans at Maracanazinho [that first fight], and 5,000 waited in a line outside the gymnasium, trying to get inside to watch the fight,” Brazilian journalist Marcelo Alonso said. “It was a really tough fight, but he ended up knocking Waldemer out.

Vale tudo would only return to Maracanazinho 23 years later. No-holds-barred fighting was prohibited by the military government since 1964, and it became an instant success when the Gracie family was finally cleared to bring back the martial arts challenges to Rio de Janeiro.

Rickson Gracie, one of the best soldiers of the Gracie army, stepped up to rematch Casemiro Nascimento Martins — better known as “Rei Zulu,” father or PRIDE veteran Zuluzinho — at Maracanazinho. The jiu-jitsu black belt, who tapped “Rei Zulu” four years earlier in Brasilia, was finally back for his second official vale tudo fight.

“They wanted to promote a boxing match, and came up with the idea to do a vale tudo fight,” says Rickson Gracie, who claims to have retired undefeated after 400 fights. “Zulu was challenging anyone on TV, but nobody wanted to fight him. The event’s promoter and Globo TV asked me if I wanted to rematch him. We negotiated, and I took the fight.

“In my mind, this was an opportunity for me to confirm my technique,” he continued. “I was anxious to fight again. The first fight was really tough, my worst fight, since I had no experience at that time. I won, but it was a tough one, so a rematch would be a great opportunity for me to confirm my technique. And everything went as planned.

“In the first fight, Zulu spent most of his energy trying to beat me as quick as possible, and I eventually finished him when he got tired. This time, he used more strategy. He had Vaseline on his body, so he was pretty slippery, and he fought more intelligently. Fighting to a draw after three rounds would be great for him, so I had to be smart.”

Just like in the first match, Gracie finished his rival with a rear-naked choke.

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