Talking to Jason Miller and Pat Cummins about their respective experiences in Rio, it does seem to have been the perfect location for the pair.
The difficulty of something like the Sherdog Fighter Exchange is the fact that a mentor and a protege, an established elite fighter and an up-and-comer, in many cases are going to want different things out of a trip...
The Mecca of MMA
Known worldwide as the capital of carnival, Rio de Janeiro is also a place which breathes martial arts. No other city in the world is home to more jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts academies per square mile. Within a 20 mile radius, one can find Brazilian Top Team, Renovacao Fight Team, Nova Uniao, Team Nogueira, X-Gym, Gordo Jiu-Jitsu, Gracie Barra and Tata Fight Team.
In most Brazilian cities, kids get their start in sports through soccer. In Rio, jiu-jitsu and surfing have become equally ingrained in the culture. These days, it’s rare to meet a Rio native (or “carioca”) over 20 years of age who has never trained jiu-jitsu or been surfing. When most tourists visit Rio, they leave with a few distinct things on their mind: surfing, beaches, pretty girls, acai berry, jiu-jitsu and MMA.
Vale Tudo History Tour
If one were to plot out a tour of Rio de Janeiro’s most historic MMA spots, it would start downtown at Gracie Academy, where Helio and Carlson Gracie, along with Joao Alberto, Ivan Gomes and all the early vale tudo legends began their careers.
From there, head to the Tijuca disctrict’s Gilberto Cardoso Gymnasium (known locally as “Maracanazinho”), the place where Helio Gracie faced Kato in the 1950s, Carlson Gracie faced Waldemar Santana in the 1960s, and Rickson Gracie faced Zulu in the 1980s.
Another important stop would be the famous Pepe Beach, where Rickson and Hugo Duarte first fought in the 1980s. One week after their initial confrontation, Duarte would invade Gracie Academy with a gang of 60, igniting a war between Luta Livre and jiu-jitsu which would last for nearly a decade.
In the Copacabana district, you’ll find Carlson Gracie Academy, where Carlson built a legendary army of vale tudo fighters ever: Vitor Belfort, Murilo Bustamante, Mario Sperry, Amaury Bitetti, Allan Goes, Ricardo Liborio, Marcus Silveira, Andre Pederneiras, and others.
Wherever one walks in Rio, one breathes in the history of vale tudo.
Just like the history of vale tudo, pieces of today’s mixed martial arts scene are scattered throughout every district of Rio de Janeiro.
In Recreio dos Bandeirantes, there’s X-Gym, where Strikeforce champions Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante train alongside Anderson Silva. Less than two miles away is the training facility of the Nogueira brothers. Barra da Tijuca is home to the largest jiu-jitsu academy in the world, Gracie Barra, while Lagoa houses Brazilian Top Team. There’s famed boxing academy Nobre Arte in Ipanema, Luta Livre squad RFT in Botafogo, and Nova Uniao in Flamengo.
All told, the city may be home to more than 200 academies which teach jiu-jitsu, MMA, or both. Next week, Sherdog.com will give you the opportunity to get to know a few of these schools in the mecca of mixed martial arts.