In the early days of the MMA revolution in Brazil, a fierce battle raged between Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners and luta livre artists, a contest of wills that touched on racial and class divides just as much as it did martial arts philosophies.
Jiu jitsu was the art of the elite, luta livre the art of the streets. Kids who couldn't afford a gi or expensive lessons gravitated to luta livre, a wrestling-based art that was essentially free.
It was a battle that lasted for decades, peaking, in a sense, at Pentagon Combat in 1997. This was to be debut of big-time MMA in Brazil. Sheik Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the man behind the Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling events, provided the funding. Top fighters like Jerry Bohlander and Oleg Taktorov came from all over the world.
But it was the main event that was set to steal the show. Eugenio Tadeu repped luta livre. Renzo Gracie stood tall for his family's art of Brazilian jiu jitsu. Neither man would give in a furious fight that inflamed an already intense crowd.
As the show went on, luta livre proponents got closer and closer to the cage. Their BJJ counterparts soon joined them. Eventually, the crowd was pushed up against the cage, poking and yelling at the fighters. Half of Brazil, seemingly, was on the cage apron as the main event hit the 10-minute mark.
The crowd was at a fever pitch, violence in the air. Fights broke out in the stands and then the lights went out. Literally.
Chairs flew. Some say they heard a gunshot. Needless to say, the fight ended in a draw, overshadowed by the horror that surrounded it.