Robson Gracie: Remembering a BJJ Legend

Last updated on 30.04.2023 by

You’ve probably heard the news that we lost the legendary Master Robson Gracie. The Gracie family broke the news that their beloved Robson passed away last Friday at the age of 88.

Robson Gracie’s Life Growing Up as a Gracie 

Of course, being a member of the Gracie family, Robson Gracie would grow up on a Jiu Jitsu mat. Nanico as Robson was lovingly called was a person of small stature, but had tenacity and heart.

Robson Gracie
Credit: Facebook

Every time that Robson trained, he gave it his all. Some of his training partners included his brothers Carlson Gracie, Carley Gracie, Joao Alberto Barreto, and Helio Vigio. Then of course his father Carlos Sr. kept a watchful eye over his son’s development.

Needless to say that Robson would develop into an exceptionally talented grappler.

Robson’s Fighting Career 

Like many in his family, Robson would compete in Vale Tudo matches during the 1950s and 1960s. One of his most notable wins came against Artur Emidio.

Robson’s tenacity was on full display in this match. When he locked on a submission, he refused to let go until the referee pulled him off of Emidio. His family did not approve and forced him to publicly apologize to the audience after the match.

Robson Gracie Vale Tudo
Credit: Wikipedia

Another one of his more notable matches was against Waldo Santana. The brother of famous Vale Tudo fighter Waldemar Santana.

Robson actually took the fight on fifteen days notice and hadn’t trained for months. Santana was in fighting shape and would win the fight.

But during their bout, Robson displayed his grit and toughness. After getting hit with a hard punch, he decided to swallow his tooth rather than show Santana that he was hurt.

A trait of toughness that he was known for and also something his sons would be known for. (Renzo, Ralph, and Ryan)

Robson Gracie’s Arrest and Torture 

During the 1960s, Robson worked as a bodyguard for Leonel Brizola. The brother in law of former president of Brazil Joao Goulart.

While Robson had no political affiliation he would get caught up in a political scandal. The family that he worked for would be removed from power in a military coup on April 1st, 1964.

It was said that Robson assisted a group of militants called ‘Acao Libertadora Nacional’(ALN) in an arms deal. This would get the attention of the group from the Brazilian secret service.

A group of secret service agents would arrive at the home of his brother Rolls Gracie, where he was visiting. The secret service would arrest Rolls, Robson, and his wife Vera Lucia.

Rolls would be released, but Robson and Lucia would be tortured by the police. His father Carlos Sr attempted to get them released, but to no avail.

Rose(Robson’s sister) would enter the DOPS headquarters to demand their release, but was also imprisoned. She would be quickly released along with Vera shortly after, but Robson was forced to stay.

His imprisonment would last for over sixty days and was told by the government police that he would die. In preparation for his possible death, Robson wrote a message on the soles of his shoes.

“Carlos Robson Gracie, unjustly killed by the army.”

Fortunately after sixty days of incarceration, Robson Gracie would get his release.

Robson Becomes a BJJ Red Belt 

For his entire life, Robson lived and breathed Jiu Jitsu. After his fighting career was over, he would teach at the Gracie Academy with the rest of his family.

During the 1980s, Gracie would become the President of the Superintendence of Sport in Rio de Janeiro(SUDERJ) in 1983. Later on, he would become the president of the Jiu-Jitsu Federation of Rio de Janeiro(FJJER).

Robson Gracie President of Jiu-Jitsu Federation of Rio de Janeiro
Credit: Facebook

Throughout his entire life, Robson lived and breathed his family’s martial art. He would receive the honor of receiving the 9th degree BJJ red belt. The highest honor that a BJJ practitioner can receive.

Robson Gracie’s Family 

Robson and Renzo Gracie
Credit: Instagram

Robson fathered over eleven children in his lifetime. His most famous sons include the legend Renzo Gracie, Ralph Gracie, and his adopted son Ryan Gracie(RIP).

Two of his more famous grandchildren are BJJ world champion Kyra Gracie and Bellator MMA veteran Neiman Gracie.

The Passing of Robson Gracie

On April 29th, 2023, Robson’s granddaughter Kyra Gracie announced on Twitter the passing of her beloved grandfather. He was 88 and no cause of death was announced.


Who was Robson Gracie’s Father?

Master Robson was the second oldest son of BJJ co-founder Carlos Gracie Sr.

What was Master Robson’s Nickname? 

Robson was lovingly called “Nanico” by family and friends. In English, this word translates to small or short person.

Where Did Robson Make His Home?

Robson lived his entire life in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

What Academy Did Master Robson Represent?

Of course, Master Robson represented the Gracie Jiu Jitsu Academy. Training and teaching at the original school for most of his life.

Who is Robson Famous For Fighting? 

Master Robson Gracie fought in a handful of Vale Tudo matches. Most notably beating Arthur Emidio in 1957 and losing a tough match to Waldo Santana. The brother of famous Vale Tudo fighter Waldemar Santana.

What Rank Did Master Robson Hold? 

Master Robson was one of the few to hold the 9th degree BJJ red belt.

Who Are Some of Robson’s More Known Children and Grandchildren?

Master Robson was the father of Renzo, Ralph, and Ryan Gracie. Two of his more famous grandchildren include former world champion Kyra Gracie and Bellator veteran Neiman Gracie. 

What BJJ Federation was Master Robson Gracie President of?

Master Robson was the president of the Jiu-Jitsu Federation of Rio de Janeiro(FJJER).

Master Robson: Forever a Legend

Master Carlos Robson “Nanico” Gracie lived and breathed Jiu Jitsu his entire life. He was an example of what we should all strive to be as martial artists.

While he may be gone, Robson Gracie will be remembered forever. RIP Master Robson.