Note: When I compiled my notes on George, they totaled around 30 pages. I really tried to honor the spirit of this site and keep it as short and digestible as possible. However, George could easily have and does deserve a book about his extremely full life.
When people discuss the first generation of Gracies, they often focus the conversation almost exclusively on Carlos and Helio. And rightly so. The oldest and youngest of the five Gracie brothers contributed tremendously through developing, teaching, fighting and promoting the art. The second and third oldest brothers, Oswaldo and Gastão junior, usually make up the remainder of the conversation as they sporadically fought, taught or officiated matches but were generally relegated to the background. However, you almost never hear of the fourth born Gracie brother, George.
Why is George so rarely, if ever, mentioned?
It turns out that George was removed from the “Gracie version” of BJJ history for the same reason Jacyntho Ferro, Donato Pires, Geo Omori and Takeo Yano were. George could not be controlled by Carlos and Helio.
It is a true shame that more people are not familiar with George and his many accomplishments. The Red Cat (Gato Ruivo), as he was known due to his hair color and agility, would go on to have more professional matches than any Gracie of any generation.
In 1911, when Carlos was 9, Oswaldo was 7 and Gastão junior was 5 years old, George Gracie was born. Helio would be born two years later. George was still too young to train at Maeda’s academy while the family lived in Belém and the Gracies would move from Brazil’s north to Rio de Janeiro when George was around eleven years old. It was during this incubation period, from the severing of contact with Maeda’s school in 1922 until Donato Pires dos Reis re-connected with Carlos in 1928, that George likely received training in Jiu-Jitsu exclusively from Carlos and his older brothers.
It is possible that George had some degree of an amateur boxing experience, but there is no documentation of any formal matches. He did sign up to compete in an amateur boxing event in 1927 in Rio but did not compete. Interestingly, Donato Pires did compete in that very event. Perhaps the two knew each other through boxing circles or trained together. It is likely that George had some exposure to boxing training as he would go on to teach Jiu-Jitsu at the boxing gym in Rio run by Adriano Malagrini, (also known as Fred Delauney) in the 1930’s.
George appeared to take a liking to training, teaching and most of all, fighting. When Pires opened his first academy in Rio in September 1930, Carlos was hired as the assistant instructor and George was brought on as the monitor (this position would be considered junior to the assistant instructor title, more like a coach). It is significant that George leap-frogged Oswaldo and Gastão junior in standing to become the number two Gracie in the hierarchy and an indication of either his already established relationship with Pires or perhaps a catalyst for the relationship they would develop, as the two would maintain a friendship for many years.
George began his professional fighting career in 1930 at age nineteen and continued fighting until the age of 42 in 1953. It would take several pages to list out the details of his 75+ documented fights (he likely had dozens more), but the key events and the implications are summarized below.
o Tico Soledade (176 pounds) - Vale Tudo: George via rear naked choke within 5 minutes
o Manoel Fernandes (180 pounds) - Vale Tudo: George via armlock
o Geo Omori (148 pounds [12 pounds heavier than George at the time of the fights]):
§ Sport Jiu-Jitsu: Draw after 90 minutes
§ Vale Tudo: Draw after 50 minutes
o Orlando Americo “Dudú” da Silva (182 pounds) - No Gi: Draw after 10 rounds
o Jack Conley (198 pounds) - No Gi: George via armlock in seven minutes
o Wladek Zbyszko (233 pounds) - No Gi: Zbyszko via armlock after 10 minutes. This was the first
loss of George’s career.
o Manoel Grillo (198 pounds):
§ Vale Tudo with Pinfalls: Grillo by pinfall in the third round
§ Vale Tudo with Pinfalls: George by disqualification. George was thrown outside of the ring.
While he was climbing back into the ring, Grillo sucker punched him. As that was specifically
prohibited, George was awarded the victory.
o Jack Russell (231 pounds):
§ No Gi with Pinfalls: Russell by pinfall after twenty-three minutes
§ Sport Jiu-Jitsu: George via Referee’s Decision after forty minutes
§ Vale Tudo: Russel via knockout
o Joe Campbell (216 pounds) - No Gi: George via armlock in the second round
o Benedicto Peres (174 pounds) - No Gi: George via armlock
o Fritz Weber (278 - 296 pounds):
§ No Gi: George via armlock in the sixth round
§ Sport Jiu-Jitsu: George via armlock in the second round
o Sarquiz Budip (240 pounds):
§ Sport Jiu-Jitsu: George via armlock in the first round
§ No Gi: Budip via armlock in the second round
o Angelo Orlando (190 pounds) - Ruleset Unknown: George via choke in the second round
o Euclydes “Tatu” Hatem (Unknown weight, but likely 200+) – No Gi: Hatem by rear naked choke
o Travel to a city: Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Paty do Alfares, Porto Alegre, Recife,
o Begin teaching out of an established fighting academy owned by someone else or at a larger
o Fight the top, half a dozen local fighters and any circus or carnival performers in the area in Gi, No
Gi and Vale Tudo matches. George would then rematch them a handful of times.
o Then relocate to another city and begin the cycle again.
Rivalry with the Ono Brothers
The Ono brothers (Yassuiti and Naoiti) were Japanese Judoka that followed in the footsteps of Mitsuyo Maeda, Geo Omori and Takeo Yano. They were Kodokan Judoka who immigrated to Brazil, performed demonstrations, taught Judo/Jiu-Jitsu and fought professionally. The older brother, Yassuiti, was considered quite accomplished by the time the Onos arrived in Brazil in 1934, while younger brother, Naoiti, was considered relatively inexperienced. Both Onos were smaller than many of the Brazilians, Americans and Europeans they would eventually face with Yassuiti usually weighing around 140 pounds and Naoiti weighing around 120 pounds. Regardless of their smaller size, they quickly made names for themselves in Brazil demonstrating extremely high level Judo against the best fighters of the day. Yassuiti drew with Helio twice in Sport Jiu-Jitsu matches and then George threw his hat in the ring to challenge the elite Judoka. The match versus George was scheduled for six rounds of 10 minutes and occurred on September 11, 1937. In the third round, Ono threw George and he landed outside the ring on the hard floor with Ono on top of him. George was stunned and injured but chose to re-enter the ring and continue fighting. Ono was able to take advantage of George’s state and sink in a choke and win via submission.
Three weeks later, on October 2, George would attempt to earn a rematch against Yassuiti by engaging in a Sport Jiu-Jitsu match against younger brother, Naoiti. George outweighed his opponent by 22 pounds and had a significant experience advantage, but Naoiti proved to be very skilled. George ended up winning by armlock, but it took him 52 minutes to do so.
Two weeks later, George got his rematch against Yassuiti. They both weighed 65 kg (143 pounds) and the match was scheduled for eight 10 minute rounds. The exact circumstances and motivation are unclear, but in the sixth round Ono punched George. As this was a no striking match, Ono was disqualified and George was awarded the victory.
George would go on to have another match with Naoiti on November 12, 1937. While the match lasted the full 60 minutes scheduled, the officials were experimenting with a new points/decision approach to eliminate draws and ruled it a decision victory for George.
On February 4th, 1939 George battled Naoiti Ono in a Sport Jiu-Jitsu match for the third time. George continued to enjoy a weight advantage over the Onos. This time George outweighed Naoiti by 31 pounds and finished him with a choke at the 55 minute mark.
Partnership with Takeo Yano
As discussed in detail in the Takeo Yano article, George and the Japanese fighter’s relationship started as a rivalry. The two, not only represented themselves, but also their respective styles, academies, cultures and even massive political forces in Brazil at the time. They first had a Sport Jiu-Jitsu match in 1935 that resulted in draw after five 20 minute rounds. In 1936, after a 60 minute Sport Jiu-Jitsu draw against Helio, Yano would rematch against George in a No Gi match. George would finish Yano with a choke at the 52 minute mark.
While Yano’s rivalry with Carlos and Helio would continue, George Gracie and Yano would become friends and two would travel Brazil competing against each other on and off for the next twelve years. The two performed in at least seven more matches together, with George winning their third fight by leglock and Yano winning their fourth and fifth matches by judges’ decision. Many of their remaining fights were draws and may have been works (matches with pre-determined outcomes).
In fact, one of the last major matches of George’s career was against Yano. It seems appropriate that George would wrap up his tremendous career with a match with such a long-time training partner, collaborator and worthy opponent. The two friends squared off one final time on November 4th, 1948 for a No Gi submission grappling match. The fight lasted the full thirty minutes and was ruled a draw.
In 1947, George would be back in São Paulo, this time working as the director of a fighting show called Empresa Internacional de Lutas (International Fight Company). This marked a turning point in George’s career as he now worked on the other side of the fight business for the first time. In 1948, he would change organizations and work as the director of Empresa Metropolitana de Esportes (Metropolitan Sports Company). In the early 1950’s he ran a promotion in Recife before returning to Rio and opening another academy in 1953. During this time, he would sometimes book himself as part of the show, but instead of fighting he would demonstrate self-defense techniques to the crowd. In 1956, he started his own promotion, Empresa George Gracie (The George Gracie Company).
While George’s continued to compete as late as 1953, he began fighting less frequently once he turned 30 in 1941. While there were some matches in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, it is likely these were mostly works.
George did have one last match of significance on December 13, 1952. At age 41 and not in the best of shape, George took on Carlos and Helio’s prized pupil, Pedro Hemeterio. This was a continuation of the feud between George and his brothers over disparate approaches to the fight business. In the past, George had agreed to a match against Helio, but Helio did not accept. The rivalry intensified as George had moved back to Rio and opened a “George Gracie Jiu-Jitsu” academy in direct competition with the Rio-based Gracie Academy led by Carlos and Helio. This match was a way for the two camps to fight under acceptable terms. The twenty-nine year old Gracie student (who eventually became the first Non-Gracie to be awarded the 9th degree red belt) was in his prime and took on George in a Sport Jiu-Jitsu match. The match was close, but in the twenty-sixth minute, Pedro mounted George and finished him with a choke.
As George started an era of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with his match against Mario Aleixo in 1931, his loss to Hemeterio in 1953 twenty-two years later would begin another era. While George would maintain a presence in Jiu-Jitsu and the fight world for years to come, his loss to the Gracie Academy’s star student effectively gave Carlos and Helio the mandate and control of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.
George would continue to teach into his later years. His students would often compete against “Gracie Academy” students and George’s rivalry and animosity with Carlos and Helio appears to have remained for many years. By the accounts of some, however, the three Gracie brothers did reconcile later in life.
George was married and had daughters but did not have any sons to continue his legacy. At some point he was promoted to 10th degree red belt, but I cannot confirm if that happened before or after his passing. He died in 1991, two years before the first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). It is a real tragedy that George never got to see the UFC or its impact on the world. I think he would have loved it.
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