Relson Gracie: Campeao The BJJ Red Belt

Relson Gracie Campeao The BJJ Red Belt

Master Relson Gracie is one of the legendary Gracie brothers who doesn’t get enough respect. Campeao, as Relson was nicknamed, was arguably the most talented between his brothers and cousins.

Here’s the story of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu master Relson Gracie and his life as the wild Gracie brother. Detailing how his father honed Relson’s wild side to become a legendary grappler who helped grow the martial art.

Birth Name:Relson Gracie
Date of Birth:March 28, 1953
Place of Birth:Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Residence:Aiea, Hawaii, United States
Style:Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Teacher:Helio Gracie
Rank:9th Degree Red Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Rorion Gracie
Relson Gracie in Gym

Growing Up with the Gracie Family 

Relson Gracie is the second oldest son of BJJ co-founder Helio Gracie. From the time Relson was a baby, he was on the jiu-jitsu mats learning the family trade.

By the time Relson Gracie was six, he was already competing and winning jiu-jitsu tournaments. Although, Relson was a gifted competitor, he was one of the hardest in the family to control.

He had no interest in school, studying, or even training. What Relson loved more than everything was surfing and hanging out with his friends.

Unfortunately, running the streets led Relson to getting in a lot of trouble. He was in a reported 100 street fights during his childhood running around the Rio de Janeiro beaches.

READ MORE:  UFC Dominance: How Dana White and the UFC Took Over the World 

Helio would bribe Relson Gracie to compete with 100 reais every time he won to control his wildest son. His father saw that Helio had wild energy and needed to focus it on the family trade.

The Relationship Between Relson & Rolls

Relson had a tense relationship with his cousin Rolls Gracie, who was the best in the family. Roll was a mix of a mentor, brother, and enemy to Relson.

Relson’s cousin was the first of the family to start surfing, which got Relson into surfing. The older Rolls also had a fiery personality like his younger cousin.

One time, the two Gracie cousins came to blows as Rolls locked Relson in a bathroom and beat him. The two eventually made up and Relson always gave Rolls his recognition. 

Not only getting him into surfing but helping him realize his potential as a BJJ athlete.

Relson’s Black Belt Graduation

While many BJJ instructors are fast to promote their students, this was not the case with Grandmaster Helio Gracie. Helio made his son Reslon wait seven long years before promoting him to black belt.

Grandmaster always knew that Relson had the best abilities, but he was mentally preparing him to hold the title. This prolonged weight allowed Relson to mature and grow into better grappler and teacher.

Relson Gracie: The Fighter

While many talk about his brothers’ achievements in competition, Relson Gracie was one of the family’s best. Before Royler Gracie became the most successful athlete of the family, Relson was up there.

He was a jiu-jitsu world champion for years, without suffering a single loss. This earned him the nickname “Campeao”(champion).

Relson’s mother would get annoyed when Relson’s friends called her house. When they asked for campeao. She’d angrily reply, “Everyone is a champion in this house! Who do you want?!”


Relson Opens His First School

In 1975, Relson was approached by Brazilian senator Arthur Vigio. Senator Vigio was a black belt under Relson’s family member Reylson Gracie.

READ MORE:  Total Fight Time In UFC History

Vigio came to Relson with a proposition to run his own jiu-jitsu school. Relson would open his very first school in the neighborhood of Ilha Clube Jardim Guanabara. 

His school was located in a sports club, where Relson would teach for the next decade.

Relson Moves to the US

In 1985, Relson Gracie received a letter from BJJ black belt and friend Carlos Sauer(brother of Pedro Sauer.) Carlos invited Relson to teach at the Sauer brother’s BJJ school in Monterrey, California.

For a year and a half, Relson would teach classes at Eseline Therapy Institute before getting another offer. This time, Relson received an offer to help open a school in Hawaii.

The state of Hawaii was one of Relson’s favorite places and somewhere he always wanted to live. In 1988, along with the help of black belt Carlos Valente, Helio began building a jiu-jitsu scene in Hawaii.

By 1992, Hawaii held its very first official jiu-jitsu tournament organized by Master Relson.

Relson Creates One of the First International BJJ Teams

In the 1990s, Brazilians made up most of the world jiu-jitsu championship events. Relson was responsible for bringing one of the first international teams to the mundials(world championships).

This helped open the door for BJJ to become a more globally practiced sport. However, competition became less important to Relson as martial arts and sports kept evolving.

Relson Gracie BJJ

Relson’s BJJ Affiliation

Along with forming one of the first international jiu-jitsu teams, Relson founded his own BJJ affiliation. Today, there are numerous Relson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu-affiliated schools around the world.

Master Gracie Becomes a Red BJJ Red Belt

At the age of sixty, with more than five decades as a jiu-jitsu practitioner, Relson earned his 9th-degree red belt. Relson was awarded this rank by a group of red belts, which included his brother Rorion and other living red belts.

A White Belt Challenges Relson Gracie

Around ten years ago, a video went viral of Relson Gracie rolling with a white belt, who challenged. The video shows an old jiu-jitsu master dominating a white belt half his age.

READ MORE:  Best Submission Wins in UFC History

Some actually believed that this video was a legitimate challenge to Master Gracie, but it was actually a joke. The white belt in the video is a podcaster and an internet comedian named Jake Lannanarino.

Jake plays the role of the cocky white belt, who immediately gets humbled by the jiu-jitsu master.

Master Relson on the Importance of Self-Defense

Relson Gracie has been a harsh critic of modern jiu-jitsu. He believes that it’s continuing to stray from the self-defense roots that BJJ was founded upon

On many podcasts, Relson explains that many new black belts have no idea how to defend themselves—claiming that they know a lot of advanced guards but don’t know how to defend a punch to the mouth.

Relson will forever be in the old-school camp of the jiu-jitsu community.

Commonly Asked Questions

When Was Relson Gracie Born? 

Relson was born in Rio de Janeiro on March 28th, 1953.

Who is Relson’s Father? 

Relson is the second oldest son of BJJ co-founder Helio Gracie.

What Rank is Master Relson Gracie?

Master Relson Gracie is a 9th degree BJJ red belt. The highest rank that a BJJ practitioner can achieve.

Does Relson Have an Affiliation? 

Relson Gracie has his own affiliation called Relson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. There are now various Relson Gracie affiliated gyms across the world.

Where is Relson Gracie’s Gym Located? 

Relson’s home academy is located in the beautiful and sunny state of Hawaii.

What is Relson’s Favorite Activity Other Than Jiu-Jitsu?

Other than jiu-jitsu, Relson has been an avid surfer his entire life. This is the main reason the he chose Hawaii as his home.

The Legacy

Master Relson Gracie dedicated his life to jiu-jitsu and was incredibly influential in it’s growth. Relson traveled the world surfing, competing, and show just how effective and beautiful his family’s art is. 

He is one of history’s most influential BJJ practitioners, who doesn’t get enough credit for his work. Relson helped grow the art of grappling as a whole and helped influence future generations.