Rigan Machado, 1 of 5 brothers, was born on the 2nd of July 1966 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Today he is an 8th degree red and black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under Carlos Gracie Jr. Having notable accomplishments under his belt, such as the 1996 & 1997 Weight and Absolute Pan American Championship. He also holds a record for winning 19 matches in one day by submissions. It’s no wonder he is so highly admired in the sport alongside legends like B.J Penn who says about Machado, “He is one of the best grapplers on the planet.”
It wasn’t always like that for Rigan. As a child he had dyslexia, and speaking/coordination problems. He was in luck though, his mother was super close with the FOUNDER of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the great Carlos Gracie. And as luck would have it, Carlos Gracie married Rigan’s aunt. This fortune would forever change Rigan’s life.
Rigan started his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training with Carlos who gave him his full attention and even helped him fix his dyslexia. From that moment on Rigan was hooked. At 14 Rigan moved out of his family home in Terezoplous, Brazil; a place out in the country where his father chose to raise his sons. Rigan was determined to pursue Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu so, at 14 years old, he moved in to Carlos Gracie’s house in Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro.
The Gracie house was no ordinary house. It was full of like-minded BJJ competitors. These guys were obsessed with training BJJ ALL THE TIME! They were so dedicated that each student had a mattress of his own that they laid down after practice to sleep on. Every day they would wake up early, move the mattresses to the side, put on their Gi’s and train before breakfast. Rigan was competing really seriously at the time. Rigan used to always say, “Any place; small, big I didn’t care. I wanted to compete!” And for ten years this was the life of the future pioneer of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Rigan Machado…
Rigan had another cousin, Cesar Gracie, who lived in the house in Rio for a year. And Cesar told Rigan to hurry up and come to the United States where there was more opportunity for success. So at age 22, in the late 1980’s, Rigan made his journey across the Americas to San Francisco.
During that time in the U.S., there were no Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitions. None at least that would pose any real challenge to Rigan. So in order to “stay sharp”, he competed in other sports like Judo, Wrestling and Sambo.
In Brazil, when Rigan would train with the Gracie’s, he recalls Royce wanted his students to train in all the grappling arts because the more knowledge he could get, the better his grappling would get. This mentality that helped Rigan to WIN 3-Pan American Championships and 4-National U.S. Championships in Sambo!
Something no one else had done at this point!
After living in the Bay Area, Rigan met up with another one of his cousins named Rorion. Rorion and Royce Gracie were teaching out of a garage while trying to grow Brazillian Jiu Jitsu in the U.S. They needed help and Rigan was more than happy to share his knowledge.
Rigan coached there for a year, but ultimately he wanted more control over the structure of the classes. So, with the approval of Master Carlos Gracie Jr, he opened the Machado Jiu-Jitsu Academy. Rigan even had the help of his close friend, Chuck Norris with advertising. (I’m sure there is a Chuck Norris joke there, but I won’t make it.)
Fast forward thirty years, Rigan has a new Academy in Beverly Hills, teaching Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to celebrities like Vin Diesel, Ashton Kutcher, Usher, and many more! In Brazil, Rigan’s view on teaching and training was only to build warriors that competed and went to war. But after being in the U.S. for so many years, he realized the some people had other goals as well. And he began to structure his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to help them too!
Rigan developed a new method of training called “Flow Jiu-Jitsu”. This new style of training has grown out of the increasing numbers of celebrities who ask Rigan to teach them Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu. These new, high-profile clients wanted to learn self-defense but they couldn’t risk getting injured… so Rigan adapted the style that would fit their needs.
“I created a new Jiu-Jitsu system for people who can’t get hurt. It’s technical training. They learn Jiu-Jitsu and train hard, but it’s all safe. I created a type of Jiu-Jitsu for the Beverly Hills clients. Competition, sparring, these guys can’t do that. I can’t even take a 1% chance of them getting hurt. I have 18 celebrities doing the program, some guys have to sign disclosure agreements and other guys like Ashton Kutcher and Mikey Rourke come in regularly,” he says. It took Rigan nine years to put this Flow Jiu-Jitsu system together and there are over 700 techniques that can be drilled and trained, injury free.
Rigan’s latest project is the Jiu-Jitsu World League. Since Rigan has been doing Jiu-Jitsu for 42 years now and has been competing for 30 of them he has his own ideas on what he thinks would make the ULTIMATE competition. He was upset at watching the most talented Jiu-Jitsu fighters practically forced to go over to Mixed Martial Arts, simply because of the opportunity of money, fame, and fortune. In the days when Rigan was growing up, there were no blue chip sponsors, no promises of money. It was about prestige and honor.
However, the game has changed with the explosion of the UFC and MMA. Jiu-Jitsu competitors are getting glimpses of what could be. So the same way he adapted to make a Jiu-Jitsu system for a specific clientele, Rigan is once again demonstrating his passion and love for the sport by helping continue to shape it as it grows.
Rigan Machado is not only one of the greatest grapplers to have walked the planet, but he has arguably done as much for the sport as anyone else. He takes pride in the fact that he will always be a student of the art, and will always make sure his students receive the best from him.
“BJJ is not a sport, it’s a lifestyle” – Rigan Machado, The living legend.
Join us November 12th, 2016. We want to see YOU there!
Professor Mikal Abdullah is a 2nd Degree BJJ Black Belt, veteran, father, philanthropist, and founder of Aces Jiu Jitsu Club. You can find her personal Instagram account with the handle @cerebralbjj or just stop by one of our locations and get a session in!