Rorion Gracie: Red Belt & Gracie Jiu-Jitsu US Founder

Rorion Gracie: Red Belt & Gracie Jiu-Jitsu US Founder

Master Rorion Gracie is one of the most influential figures who helped the growth of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Not only was he responsible for spreading Gracie Jiu-Jitsu across North America, but also co-created the UFC.

Here’s a short bio of Master Rorion Gracie’s life and how helped shape modern-day martial arts. Starting with his life growing up in the Gracie family and how he helped grow the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu brand.

Birth Name:Rorion Gracie
Date of Birth:January 10, 1952
Place of Birth:Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Residence:Torrance, California
Style:Gracie Jiu-Jitsu
Teacher:Hélio Gracie
Rank:9th deg. BJJ red belt
Spouse:Silvia Gracie
Notable students:Rener Gracie, Ralek Gracie, Chuck Norris, John McCarthy, Ed O’Neill, Michael Clarke Duncan, Eve Torres, Javier Vazquez, Tito Ortiz

Rorion’s Early Life Growing Up with the Gracie Family 

Rorion Gracie is the oldest son of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu co-creator Helio Gracie. The oldest Gracie son spent his childhood on the mats, learning from his father.

When Rorion was eighteen, he traveled to the US for an extended vacation. He spent most of 1969 soaking up the sun in southern California, a place that would play a special role in Rorion’s life later.

Rorion Travels to The US 

During the early 1970s, Rorion studied law at the Federal Rio de Janeiro University. When Rorion wasn’t studying law, he was on the mats of his father’s gym teaching jiu-jitsu.

After earning his law degree, Rorion moved to California in 1978. He dreamed of opening the first Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in the US and sharing his family’s martial art.

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While living in southern California, Rorion worked on different film and television sets as an extra. At the same time, Rorion offered private jiu-jitsu lessons at his home.

He laid down mats and invited anyone and everyone to come learn Gracie Jiu-JItsu. In 1985, seven years after the eldest Gracie left Brazil, his younger brother Royce joined him in California.

Along with Royce, Rickson Gracie also moved to California to teach with his brothers.

Rorion Gracie

Rorion Gracie’s Work on Lethal Weapon

One of Rorion’s biggest successes outside of jiu-jitsu came in 1987. He received a huge opportunity to work as a fight choreographer and consultant for the hit action film Lethal Weapon.

Rorion Gracie and his brothers taught private lessons to the movie cast. This led actor Mel Gibson to fall in love with grappling and become a lifetime practitioner.

The depiction of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in the film gained a lot of publicity for Rorion, which led to more students.

The Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in Action Self-Defense Instructional

In 1988, Rorion Gracie produced and released a self-defense instructional video called “Gracie in Action.” This video was not only a self-defense instructional video but also showed the techniques used in real fights.

During this period, gymstorming was common within the martial arts world. On occasion, the Gracie brothers received challenges by people wanting to test the legitimacy of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.

Many of these challenges would result in Vale Tudo rules fights taking place in the gym, which were recorded. Every time the Gracie brothers or their students were challenged, they would win.

The Gracie in Action instructional was a huge success for Rorion and helped him get closer to his dream.

Gracie Academy in Torrance, CA, Opens

In 1989, Rorion would realize his dream of opening the first Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in the US. The first Gracie Jiu-Jitsu school was opened in Torrance, California, which is still there today.

Rorion, Rickson, Royce, and Royler would all work day and night to grow their family’s first American academy. 

The opening of the jiu-jitsu school was followed by the release of another instructional produced by Rorion. He called this video “The Basics of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.”

While gaining more attention from this video, Rorion continued working on the Lethal Weapon Franchise.

Rorion Gracie BJJ

The Creation of the Ultimate Fighting Championship

For years, Rorion Gracie worked on bringing his family’s martial art to an audience of millions. His idea was to organize a Vale Tudo, a no-holds-barred style of fighting tournament, to promote Gracie Jiu-Jitsu to the world.

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Of course, it was hard for Rorion to find backers for his idea. Many companies that he approached didn’t want their brand connected to violence.

That was until Rorion made a connection with businessman and promoter Art Davie. Art loved the idea and partnered with Rorion to realize this dream. 

Rorion and Art then got in contact with Bob Meyrowitz, who was the head of a pay-per-view platform. The three businessmen struck a deal and began organizing their no-holds-barred event.

They would call their event the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

Issues Leading Into The UFC

The three businessmen were met with numerous problems, while organizing the first UFC. No state commission wanted to touch this event, nor did most states want to host it.

Finally, they were allowed to rent a venue in Colorado called the McNichols Sports Arena. This would be the home of the very first UFC event.

But Rorion Gracie himself faced another problem leading into the event. He had trouble choosing a representative from the family to fight.

Royce Gracie, who ended up representing Gracie Jiu-Jitsu was actually not the family’s first choice. It was actually supposed to be Rickson Gracie, who was supposed to represent the family.

Unfortunately, there were some issues between Rorion and Rickson. One of the biggest issues was when Rorion discovered Rickson teaching his students privately.

These events led to Rickson being taken out and putting young brother Royce into the tournament.

This choice would actually benefit the family as the undersized Royce dominated his bigger opponents using jiu-jitsu.

When Royce won the first UFC tournament, it helped further the global expansion of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. The event also created what would become the biggest MMA promotion in the world.

Rorion Gracie’s Patent Attempt 

Being a lawyer, Rorion Gracie is a very legal-minded person. He likes to have legal ownership of things he believes belong to his family.

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Rorion caused bitter tension within his family when he attempted to patent Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. This patent attempt made it illegal for any other member of the Gracie family to open a school with Gracie in the name.

Many of Rorion’s family were offended by this attempt of legally control the Gracie name. His cousin and long-time rival Carley Gracie took Rorion to court over this issue.

The litigation took years and cost both sides lots of money, but Carley won the lawsuit. Carley’s win allowed any member of the Gracie family to use the name for their jiu-jitsu school.

Rorion Gracie’s Promotion to BJJ Red Belt 

Rorion Gracie is one of the eldest Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructors in the world. After sixty years of practicing his family’s martial art, Rorion was promoted to 9th degree BJJ red belt.

He would go on to promote his brothers Relson Gracie and Rickson Gracie years later.

Rorion Gracie Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

The Best Selling Author

Along with being a jiu-jitsu instructor and lawyer, Rorion is also a best-selling author. In 2010, Rorion wrote a book called The Gracie Diet.

The Gracie Diet is a diet guide of the Gracie family, which was developed by Helio Gracie. Rorion organized all of the details of his father’s dietary guidelines into a book.

This book became a best-seller and added another success in Rorion’s life.

Rorion’s Children 

Rorion Gracie still co-runs the Gracie Academy in Torrance but has passed most of the responsibilities to his sons Rener and Ralek. Both of whom are world-renowned Gracie Jiu-JItsu instructors and practitioners.

Commonly Asked Questions

When Was Rorion Gracie Born? 

Rorion Gracie was born on January 10th, 1952, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Who is Rorion’s Father? 

Rorion’s father is Helio Gracie, the co-creator of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.

What Gym Did Rorion Co-Found?

Master Rorion co-founded the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Torrance, California in 1989.

What Other Jobs Has Rorion Had? 

On top of being a world-renowned jiu-jitsu instructor, Master Rorion is also a successful lawyer and businessman.

Who Are Rorion’s Sons? 

Rorion has two sons, which are Rener Gracie and Ralek Gracie.

What Rank Does Rorion Hold?

Rorion Gracie is a 9th-degree BJJ red belt. The highest degree a jiu-jitsu practitioner can earn.

The Legacy of Rorion Gracie

Master Rorion Gracie is one of the most influential martial artists in modern history. He is responsible for helping bring jiu-jitsu to the US and for co-creating the UFC.

Without Rorion, the UFC would not exist, jiu-jitsu would be less practiced, and modern MMA may not have formed. Everyone who loves MMA or BJJ owe a thank you to Rorion Gracie.