WATCH: Damien Riccio defeats the Gracie family representative in a Gracie Challenge

The infamous Gracie Challenge recently resurfaced online, reigniting discussions about the myth of invincibility and the consequences that followed.

The Gracie family, renowned for popularizing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu worldwide and influencing the rise of mixed martial arts, has a storied legacy in the combat sports community. Led by figures like Helio Gracie and his sons, the family showcased the effectiveness of BJJ in real-life scenarios, transforming traditional combat sports.

However, the Gracie Challenge took an unexpected turn in 2003 involving veteran MMA athlete Damien Riccio. Unlike previous challengers who informed the Gracie family beforehand, Riccio appeared uninvited during a seminar in Perpignan, proposing a challenge to Robin Gracie, the operator of Gracie Barcelona and Helio Gracie’s youngest son.

Despite the sudden challenge, Robin accepted, leading to a fierce vale tudo¬† matchup with no gloves, no rounds, and headbutts allowed. Riccio emerged victorious, shattering the long-standing “Gracies undefeated” myth. The video of the match went viral, garnering attention in the combat sports community.

However, the aftermath took a dark turn as Royce Gracie, Robin’s older brother, sent threatening emails to Riccio, vowing revenge. Subsequently, Royce, Robin, and other Gracie family students traveled from Spain to France to confront Riccio at a bar in Perpignan where he worked. Conflicting reports suggest that an altercation ensued, with some claiming that Royce kicked Damien’s brother, prompting Damien to fire a gun into the air to halt the brawl.

Following these events, Damien Riccio faced personal struggles and tragedies, including the loss of his younger brother in a mountain climbing accident. Damien survived two serious motorcycle accidents but eventually succumbed to a heart attack in 2016.

While the Gracie family’s influence on popularizing BJJ is undeniable, there were many lives adversely affected by this larger-than-life family.