Helio Vigio is 9th degree red belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and an important figure in this martial art’s history. A former instructor of the Gracie Academy in the 1950’s, alongside Carlson Gracie, Robson Gracie and Joao Alberto Barreto, Helio Vigio defended the Gracie Jiu Jitsu name in several “Vale Tudo” (No Holds Barred) fights later turning into one of the best BJJ/NHB/MMA referees in the world, featuring in great events such as UFC 1 and Oscar do Jiu Jitsu (Wallid Ismail x Royce Gracie). Helio Vigio also had a son who earned the rank of coral belt in BJJ (Redley Vigio) while leading the life of a law man, becoming one of the most feared chiefs of police in Brazil, famed for his ruthless attitude towards criminals.
Helio Vigio Jiu Jitsu
Full Name: Hélio Vígio Gomes
Lineage: Mitsuyo Maeda > Carlos Gracie > Helio Vigio
Main Achievements: n/a
Favorite Position/Technique: n/a
Weight Division: n/a (there were no weight divisions in place when Helio Vigio competed)
Team/Association: Gracie Jiu Jitsu
Helio Vigio Biography
Not much is know about Helio Vigio before his Jiu Jitsu life. He started training at the Gracie Academy in the 1940’s and quickly became one of the Gracie’s top students. Training alongside tremendous physical specimens such as Carlson Gracie and Joao Alberto Barreto, Mr Vigio was regarded as one of the most technical fighters of the team who later earned a place as part of the Gracie Academy coaching staff at their 1950’s famous headquarters in Avenida Rio Branco.
Vigio competed often in both Vale Tudo rules (also known as No Holds Barred) and Grappling rules (submission only). It is said that his last fight was against a famous street hustler of Copacabana by the name of Adão. There was much debate between the pair, unfortunately for Vigio, at the time of the fight his opponent sunk in a deep guillotine as Helio shot for a takedown with which put him to sleep. After leaving his competitive career behind, Helio Vigio established his own academy, becoming also a highly demanded referee in BJJ and NHB.
A memorable moment in Helio Vigio’s career as a referee occurred in the famous fight between Marcelo Behring and Flávio Molina. The much anticipated bout occurred on the 30th of April 1984 at the famous venue of Maracanãzinho. Fabio Molina challenged the Gracies but was told to fight their representative instead, Marcelo Behring. During the fight Marcelo ran through Molina beating him without mercy until Fabio’s corner threw in the towel acknowledging the loss. The referee (Mr Vigio) however, decided to throw the towel back at the corner (allowing Behring to throw a few more unanswered blows) only then stopping the fight. This sort of behavior was accepted at the time and Mr Vigio’s reputation was not hindered by this act, in fact he continued being one of the most sought after referees in Brazil. He would be called to referee many of Jiu Jitsu’s and Vale Tudo’s most important clashes of the 1980’s and 1990’s and was called upon to referee in the very first UFC alongside his long time friend “Barretao” (Joao Alberto Barreto).
A facet of Helio Vigio’s life that is less talked about is his work as a police officer. Vigio was the head of the Anti-Kidnapping Police and the Narcotics Bureau in the 1960’s all the way to the 1990’s. Vigio’s reputation, for being a “trigger happy” police officer was often questioned by the general public throughout his career. Vigio’s involvement with the “Esquadrão Le Cocq” (which later gave birth to the famous Esquadrão da Morte – Death Squad) has also been documented. The Le Cocq Squad was an unofficial organization created by police officers in Rio de Janeiro around 1965 with the single purpose of avenging the death of a fellow policeman. After avenging their colleague the group continued throughout 3 decades taking justice into their own hands. In 1994 Vigio was dismissed from the police force, accused of corruption as his name popped up in the documents of a known crook, he was cleared of his involvement with gambling (Jogo do Bicho) in 1998 being allowed to return to the agency.
Master Vigio’s influence in BJJ moved across to many of his family members including his nephew, Julio Vigio (who trained at the Kioto Academy for many years) and Helio’s own son Redley Vigio who fought to earn his rank of a coral belt (black and red). Redley Vigio has an extraordinary life story himself. Redley was shot in his spine and became paraplegic. After this tragic incident, Redley continued his work at the academy coaching from his wheelchair.
Vigio passed away on December 2016 at the age of 82, at his home in Petropolis, Brazil.