Recently we became aware through JJGF’s post “First American to Compete in a Jiu Jitsu Tournament in Brazil” (here) that this person was a former student of Rolls Gracie who went by the nickname ‘Cowboy’. BJJ Heroes went to a few of Rolls’ most famous students to enquire about this important American figure, forgotten by time.
In speaking to these former Gracie students we established that Cowboy was in fact his surname, full name Scott Cowboy, who was called by his Brazilian teammates simply as “Americano” (American). Scott Cowboy taught English at a language school in Rio de Janeiro with his sister and trained with Rolls during the 70’s era. According to Roll’s second black belt, Mario Tallarico:
He got very close to Rolls as he saw him almost like an American as well. – Mario Tallarico
(Editor note: Rolls spoke English very well and had spent long periods in the US).
Although it was unanimously said that Scott was not a gifted athlete, what he lacked in technical ability he made up in hard work, with all interviewees agreeing on Cowboy’s hard working ethics and impeccable physical condition, Jacare Cavalcanti mentioned:
he must’ve been the first American competitor, he was a very friendly guy, always stayed behind after training to work on positions, I used to stay back with him doing chin ups push ups and stuff. He also liked running in the Copacabana beach, he’s physical conditioning was amazing. – Romero Cavalcanti
It was this mentality that earned Cowboy his brown belt by Rolls. Unfortunately it seems as though Scott’s Jiu Jitsu journey came to a halt at brown belt, with Rolls Gracie’s death on June 1983 due to a paragliding accident. Marcio Stambowsky remembers:
Scott took our Master’s death very badly and got deeply depressed, even started drinking for a while. He completely disappeared off the radar I haven’t heard from him since those days. – Macarrão Stambowsky
Mr Cowboy’s path in Jiu Jitsu and life is a complete mystery since Master Roll Gracie’s passing. We hope he is alive and well, and if he ever reads this article, would be great to know more about this historical figure for the history of sporting Jiu Jitsu.