Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Team History, Fighter Stats, Biographies and News

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Ricco Rodriguez

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Ricco Rodriguez is a Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt under Jean Jacques Machado, and an important figure in the history of the sport, being the first U.S. national to earn an ADCC gold medal (1998), and the 2nd American to earn a world title in Jiu Jitsu (1997). Rodriguez was also an important figure in the world of mixed martial arts (MMA) where he became the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight Champion, though his career is also a controversial one, being the first MMA fighter ever to be suspended by the athletic commission for the use of cocaine.

Ricco Rodriguez Jiu Jitsu

Full Name: Ricco Rodriguez

Nickname: “Suave”, meaning smooth in both Portuguese and Spanish.

Lineage: Carlos Gracie Sr. > Carlos Gracie Jr. > Jean Jacques Machado > Ricco Rodriguez

Main Achievements:

  • 1st Place ADCC (1998)
  • 2nd Place ADCC (2000)
  • 3rd Place ADCC (1999*)

Main Achievements (Colored Belts):

  • 1st Place IBJJF World Championship (1997* blue)
  • 1st Place IBJJF Pan Championship (1998* purple)
  • 3rd Place IBJJF World Championship (1998** / 1999 purple)

* Absolute
** Weight and Absolute

Favorite Position/Technique: Kneebar from half-guard (top)

Weight Division: Pesadíssimo (+100kg/221lbs)

Team/Association: n/a

Ricco Rodriguez Biography

Ricco Rodriguez was born on August 19, 1977, in San Jose, California – USA. His family soon relocated to Jersey City Heights where he spent his elementary school years, after which he moved to the projects in Paterson, New Jersey.

Being half Puerto Rican/half Mexican in a primarily Italian neighborhood, came with racism, which often went from verbal to actual physical altercations for young Rodriguez. Ricco has also claimed to have been sexually molested when he was 9-10 years old, an episode he mentioned on “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew“, a Reality TV show in 2008.

The hardship of his life in Paterson led him to enroll in wrestling, competing first for Toms River Intermediate East, and later at the Toms River North High School wrestling under Coach Curtis’ guidance, with whom he stayed up to his freshman year. When the family relocated to Staten Island – New York, Rodriguez carried on wrestling, this time for Tottenville High School.

After graduating, Ricco’s family could not afford for him to attend college. Believing he had the talent to succeed in the fighting world, Rodriguez decided to move to the West Coast. Shortly after arriving in California, Rodriguez secured a job at Gold’s gym, in Redondo Beach. It was there that he met and befriended the legendary Erik Paulson, who led Ricco to jiu-jitsu with the Machado brothers.

In 1997 Ricco Rodriguez started raising some heads in the jiu-jitsu community, by becoming the second American to win an IBJJF World Championship in the blue belt division (open weight category). Ricco returned to the competition the following year, losing the semi-final of his weight class and the open weight, this time as a purple belt. But 1998 had bigger plans for the ultra-heavyweight as he would win the ADCC, becoming the first +99kg champion of the Abu Dhabi-based promotion.

His ADCC success brought the attention of mixed martial arts (MMA) promoters, and in 1999 Rodriguez began his MMA career with two wins on the same night, at the Extreme Cage tournament. The attention from the jiu-jitsu and MMA media led Ricco to become one of the main sparring partners for Mark Kerr, who was already a big star in no-holds-barred. Kerr would later assist Rodriguez in signing his first MMA contract with PRIDE Fighting Championship.

In 2000, Rodriguez moved to Japan where he trained with Takada Dojo for Takada-San. With his new training partner, Kazushi Sakuraba, Ricco beat big names such as Gary Goodridge at PRIDE FC.

After 3 straight wins in Japan, Rodriguez moved back to the U.S., continuing his training at Team Punishment, with Tito Ortiz, “Razor” Rob McCullough, “Rampage” Jackson, and a few others. His affiliation with Team Punishment led him to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Rodriguez’s first UFC match was at UFC 32 against former UFC Heavyweight Champion, and formerly #1 ranked pound-for-pound fighter in the world Andrei Arlovski. Rodriguez went on to win his début by TKO.

In 2002 Rodriguez earned the UFC Heavyweight belt. With his fame at an all-time high, Ricco made partying his lifestyle. Unfortunately, this self-indulging way of life led him to drug addiction, which ultimately cost him his title the following year as well as his UFC contract.

Rodriguez kept very active in the MMA world throughout the following years, even while battling with his condition and in 2006, Ricco received his black belt in jiu-jitsu from the hands of Jean Jacques Machado. That year also marked Rodriguez’s professional boxing debut (October 2006) when he beat Brandon Baker by KO. Later that year, following a win in MMA over Imani Lee on November 17, 2006, Rodriguez was put under a 6-month suspension by the California State Athletic Commission for testing positive for both marijuana and cocaine.

The descent from stardom continued and drug-related episodes started piling up. One of the oddest ones was reported by the website “Cage Potato“. According to the MMA site:

“Ricco was driving with his girlfriend, high, when he slammed into an 18-wheeler then smashed into a wall. With his license already suspended for a DUI, he dragged the body of his girlfriend – who he thought was dead – and put her in the driver’s seat. The cops came and fell for the switcheroo; the girlfriend, however, turned out to be alive.” Rodriguez’s drug problems also resulted in a six-month CSAC suspension in 2006, an arrest for a domestic squabble with the aforementioned girlfriend, and their son being taken away by child protective services.”

This incident combined with a few others led Rodriguez to appear on season one of the VH1 reality television show Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. A show that documented his struggle with substance abuse, one he agreed to in an attempt to have his son returned to his custody.

Although Rodriguez had a few more run-ins with the law, he continued active in the MMA circuit.

About Ricco Rodriguez Grappling Record

The grappling records displayed on BJJ Heroes relate to the individual’s careers in the adult black belt division. In Ricco’s case, and although he was not yet a black belt when he entered the ADCC, he competed (successfully) at the highest level of the sport. For this reason, we decided to include the results in his sheet.

Ricco Rodriguez Grappling Record

    6 (40%)
    0 (0%)
    7 (47%)
    2 (13%)
    0 (0%)
  • BY DQ
    0 (0%)


Flying armbar
    4 (33%)
    0 (0%)
    5 (42%)
    1 (8%)
    1 (8%)
    1 (8%)


Heel hook
Inside heel hook

Ricco Rodriguez Fight History

ID Opponent W/L Method Competition Weight Stage Year
352Sean AlvarezLPointsADCCO99KG4F1999
368Hayato SakuraiLHeel hookADCCABSSF1999
458Mark KerrLPointsADCCO99KGF2000
554Mark RobinsonLPenADCCO99KGSF2001
556Marcio CruzMarcio CruzLArmbarADCCO99KG3RD2001
566Vitor BelfortLPts: 2x0ADCCABS4F2001
1214Gabriel NapaoLPts: 2x0ADCCO99KG4F2005
1222Marcelo GarciaMarcelo GarciaLHeel HookADCCABSR12005
2297Alexandre RibeiroAlexandre RibeiroLArmbarADCCABSR12009
10598Fabiano SchernerFabiano SchernerLEBI/OTSUG 3ABSSPF2016
12373Tom deBlassTom deBlassLReferee DecisionF2W 30O100KGSPF2017
21349Lachlan GilesLachlan GilesLInside heel hookKinektic 1ABSR52019
178Yousef ElzienWHeadlockADCCO99KGR11998
182Ricardo MoraesWPts: 5x0ADCCO99KG4F1998
183Firas NakdaliWArmbarADCCO99KGSF1998
185Sean AlvarezWPts: 3x0ADCCO99KGF1998
345Rocky BatastiniWArmbarADCCO99KGR11999
362Kim MasonWPointsADCCABSR11999
367Murilo BustamanteMurilo BustamanteWPts: 3x0ADCCABS4F1999
371Garth TaylorGarth TaylorWPointsADCCABS3RD1999
451Carlos BarretoWReferee DecisionADCCO99KGR12000
453Rodrigo MinotauroWKneebarADCCO99KG4F2000
457Ricardo MoraesWReferee DecisionADCCO99KGSF2000
547Y. YatsoWFlying armbarADCCO99KGR12001
551Roger NeffWKneebarADCCO99KG4F2001
559A. CacarecoWPts: 2x0ADCCABSR12001
1209Halm GocalliWHeadlockADCCO99KGR12005
Bernardo Faria BJJ Foundations

One Comment

  • Bob Butler says:

    Imagine how great he would have been without his drug addiction. I feel like he could have been one of the all time greats

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