On December 7th, 1994, one of the craziest incidents in pro wrestling/MMA history happened in Torrance, CA. In 1993, with the rise of the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship), the name “Gracie” became a household name to the public, as Royce Gracie won fight after fight, beating much bigger opponents, with moves that the general public had never seen before, such as being on the bottom of a fight, yet able to control the match and come back and win. However, anyone with inside knowledge of MMA knew there was one name that was even bigger and tougher than Royce, his older brother Rickson Gracie.
In the summer of 1994, the UWFI (Union of Wrestling Forces International), primarily their former world champion, Nobuhiko Takada (who lost the title to Leon White, known in UWFI as “Super Vader”), started making public challenges to Rickson Gracie. For the most part, these were simply “grandstand” challenges, to further Takada’s name with the Japanese public, and to make himself equal with the great Rickson Gracie. Now do remember that Takada is a pretty tough guy, with great skill and great technique. However, UWFI is a worked shoot promotion, and the fights are predetermined ahead of time. But according to the Japanese public, UWFI and Takada’s fights are treated as the “real deal”. So Takada wanted to take this reputation as far as he could, and challenge the “toughest of them all” in Rickson.
From his gym in Torrance, CA, Rickson was well aware of the challenges that Takada had issued. But he also made it clear that any fights that were going to happen, were not going to happen in an environment that would benefit Takada in any way. He wasn’t about to fight him in UWFI, nor also just fight Takada without some kind of financial agreement at all. Takada, nor anyone from the UWFI promotion, never sent anyone over to sincerely discuss the potential of a fight. So from where Rickson sat at his gym in Torrance, it was all talk and nothing more.
The morning of December 7th, 1994, that all changed. While Rickson was at home, he received a phone call from one of his staff members at the gym, telling him that a bunch of Japanese photographers were at the gym, along with a big Japanese guy “shooting off his mouth”. At first, Rickson thought it was Takada himself. So Rickson, preparing for a real life fight, drove over to the gym with his son, and got his fists taped while driving over there. Once Rickson arrived with his son, he noticed the number of press there, and looked around for Takada, but instead, it was UWFI top star, Yoji Anjo, who greeted Rickson with rude and stern words, talking about wanting to fight Rickson right then and there.
Immediately, Rickson’s people let Anjo and one of Anjo’s assistants in, but did not let any of the Japanese press into the gym. Note that one of Rickson’s assistants did videotape what transpired, but only one person owns this tape, and that’s Mr. Rickson Gracie himself, and to this date, he has never released it. Apparently, the first thing that happened was Anjo challenged Gracie to a fight “for honor”. Rickson had an assistant grab a waiver that if Rickson were to hurt Anjo, that he wouldn’t sue. Anjo then said that if he didn’t sign it, would Rickson fight him? Rickson thought about it, and destroyed the waiver, made sure no photographers or press were in the room, and then called out Anjo to the mat.
Note that Anjo was a much bigger person than Rickson, but Rickson controlled him with absolute ease. Remember this was a real fight, with no refs to make any type of calls. They traded kicks for a minute or so, but then Anjo was taken to the ground and was punched repeatedly in the face. At one point, Anjo rolled over onto his stomach and Rickson repeatedly punched him in the neck instead of choking him out. Rickson was out to punish Anjo so there was no doubt at all who won this fight. After Anjo was a bloody mess, Rickson stood up and allowed the media to enter the room. Several pictures exist of Rickson being lifted up by his students, and even more of a bloody Anjo, face puffing up, lost and worse for the wear.
A couple days later, Anjo returned to the Gracie dojo, and presented a samurai sword to Rickson, and thanks him for the fight. However, when he returned to Japan, the story completely changed, and he said that he was “jumped” and it wasn’t a fair fight. Immediately upon hearing about this, Rickson sent a representative over to Japan, and brought a copy of the fight (which Anjo didn’t know was taped) and a press conference was called, and the fight was shown to the public, which showed this fight was a fair fight, man against man.
The fallout of this fight has many angles to it. First of all, Anjo became one of the most hated men in the business. Known by “Mr. 200%”, Anjo was booed to new levels, and used this to his benefit, becoming a “heel” fighter, and was a top name when the UWFI invasion of New Japan happened in September of 1995. And also, the doors were finally opened for Rickson to talk to Takada’s people about having a fight in Japan, but it was agreed it wouldn’t be done in the UWFI either. So a new promotion was created once the UWFI folded in 1996 for good, which was known as “PRIDE”.
On October 11th, 1997, Rickson and Takada finally had the long awaited fight on PRIDE 1 in Tokyo, as the main event that night. In less than three minutes, Takada was taken down and was put into an armbar, which forces him to tap out. The two would have another rematch at PRIDE 4, which lasted longer (9:28) but had the same result of the armbar, ending Takada’s attempt at looking as a “tough guy” in the fans eyes against the immortal Rickson Gracie.
This incident could also be tied to a man later known as the “Gracie Killer”, Kazushi Sakuraba, who beat Anjo on the last UWFI show in December of 1996, and went on to fight and defeat almost every single Gracie he was put in the ring with, even Royce Gracie, in a 90 minute fight in the Tokyo Dome, when Royce’s corner through the towel into the ring. However, Sakuraba never fought the “toughest Gracie of them all”, Rickson Gracie. In fact, Rickson never lost one fight his entire career, having a professional record of 11-0, and obviously fighting and winning many more fights that weren’t recorded as well on his professional MMA career