Waldemar Santana was one of the biggest names in the jiu jitsu/grappling and vale-tudo (no holds barred) Brazilian circuit during the 1950’s decade. Originally a student of Helio Gracie at the Gracie Academy, Waldermar would later turn against his former instructor and become a bitter rival of the team, fighting Helio Gracie in 1955, in the longest no holds barred fight ever recorded (almost 3 hours) when he defeated the iconic member of the Gracie family. Santana would also fight Carlson Gracie on 3 occasions.
Waldemar Santana Jiu Jitsu
Full Name: Waldemar Santana
Nickname: ‘Baiano’ which is a name often given to people from Bahia, a city on the coast of Brazil, where Santana was originally from.
Main Achievements: n/a
Weight Division: (no weight divisions at the time) weighed varied from 85 to 94kg.
Favourite Position/Technique: ‘Baiana’
Association: Academia W Santana
Waldemar Santana Biography
Born in Bahia, Brazil and famed for his wars against the Gracie family, not much is known of Waldemar’s childhood, though it is often mentioned that it was a humble and deprived one. Santana started working as a cleaner at the Gracie Academy in the 1930’s, training with the rest of the team occasionally. Noticing the young man’s athletic abilities, Hélio Gracie, started introducing him into the more advanced students classes, making him eventually a co-instructor at the gym. He was also made a Gracie jiu jitsu representative in vale tudo matches.
This ‘honey moon’ period between Waldemar Santana and Helio lasted five years, and it abruptly came to an end when Waldemar, while performing his cleaning duties at the gym, forgot a tab on, on a weekend which left the academy soaked. When The students arrived on the following Monday, Helio did not measure his tone when reprimanding Waldemar, and the pair had a heated exchange of words ending in Helio dismissing Mr Santana from his post at the academy.
Waldemar Santana then joined another Jiu Jitsu Academy, from another dissident of the Gracie Jiu Jitsu Academy, Mr Haroldo Brito.
After a period of hard training at his new home, Waldemar came out and challenged his former mentor, Helio Gracie promptly agreed and the fight was arranged. Waldemar Santana was 26 years of age at the time of the fight, contrasting the 42 years of Helio Gracie and the fight made history for lasting almost 3 hours. It also made history as the underdog Waldemar Santana defeated the all mighty Helio Gracie with a soccer kick to the head.
After the Helio Gracie fight, Waldemar Santana was challenged by Helio’s older brother and leader of the Gracie clan Carlos Gracie to fight his son Carlson Gracie. Carlos even promised to hand out a huge money purse to Santana if his son Carlson didn’t finish him. Unfortunately for Master Carlos Gracie’s pocket, Carlson Gracie didn’t manage to get the tap out he so eagerly fought for and the fight was declared a draw as no point system was in place.
They arranged a second fight to remove all doubt between whose Jiu Jitsu was better, Carlson Gracie’s or Waldemar Santana’s. The fight was arranged for the 21st of July 1956 in Maracanãzinho, a famous Rio de Janeiro venue, and it sold out every one of its 40,000 tickets. This second fight went rather differently from their previous encounter and Carlson beat his opponent repeatedly until Waldemar Santana´s corner finally threw in the towel to the ring.
Waldemar Santana pursued his fighting career elsewhere, but never did he fight again in such a high profile fight in the MMA circuit of the 1950’s. Even when the pair fought again a couple of years later, the glamour and hype had passed away and the 3rd fight was a lacklustre draw once again.