DESAFIO VALE TUDO (MMA CHALLENGE)
Luiz Augusto Alvarenga had respectable credentials: he was 6 times South American champion in full contact (or kickboxing) and held the title of Grand Master, being at that moment the greatest Brazilian authority on the style.
Kickboxing, a cross between karate and muay thai (or Thai boxing), created in Japan in the 1960s as a hybrid martial art, was introduced in Brazil in 1978 by Grand Master Markus Tullius, of whom Alvarenga was one of the first students. After mastering the style, he spread it across the country through his classes, fights and exhibitions, having participated and won a series of international tournaments.
Full contact came about because karate fighters resented not being able to apply direct blows to the opponent's body during championships, having to stop the action shortly before contact. Mixed with Thai boxing, it presented itself as the alternative for fighters who wanted effective action. It was characterized by the application of kicks, punches, knees and elbows, and it was a fight fought standing up. Seen at the time as the most violent form of martial art, it didn't seem capable of being defeated by any other style.
On the night of January 1, 1992, the effectiveness of full contact was put to the test at DESAFIO VALE TUDO (MMA CHALLENGE), taking place at the Ibirapuera Poliesportivo Gym in São Paulo.
Renzo was 25 years old at the time. He was 5.9 feet tall, weighed 149 pounds and was Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu champion.
Lee Wen, kung fu master, was appointed as the referee.
The time had come for the world of martial arts in Brazil to know the result of the confrontation between the stand-up fight, represented by one of its greatest national exponents, and the ground fight, represented by a young man on the rise, hungry to impose himself in the universe of MMA tournaments – and interested, mainly, in proving the superiority of his fighting style. It wasn't just Renzo who was being tested that day: it was Jiu-Jitsu and, as a direct consequence, the name and legacy of the Gracie's.
Broadcast by TV Gazeta, in front of a stadium full of fans and athletes of both martial styles, the fight was surrounded by a tense atmosphere: in those days, security issues were a problem in this type of tournament, with the permanent risk of invasion of the ring and general confusion. Episodes like this had already occurred in Rio de Janeiro... Because of this, it was established that no one could approach less than 3 meters from the ring. Of course, this procedure was broken in the heat of combat, without, however, causing any kind of greater turmoil that would affect the progress of the fight.
Lee Wen gave the signal and the match began. In a matter of seconds, Renzo closed the distance, preventing Alvarenga from applying his kicks and punches; grabbed the opponent's body and took him to the ground.
With no way to use his techniques, Alvarenga quickly found himself in the prey position. Renzo established his base with the footwork and began to deliver blows, with his fist and with his head, against the right side of Alvarenga's face, which, in 1 minute, was already disfigured, the eye, the cheekbone and the forehead swollen. With 2 minutes of combat, suffocated by the pressure, Alvarenga gave up, giving Renzo a series of taps on the body.
But the referee did not see.
Keeping Alvarenga in submission, Renzo told Wen that his opponent had given up.
At this moment someone rang the gong and the fight stopped.
3 minutes of combat had elapsed.
The fighters rose and returned to their corners. There was a start of confusion, with the complaint that there had been a withdrawal and that it had been ignored.
After 2 minutes of stoppage, the fight resumed. After a short exchange of punches and kicks while standing, Renzo again grabbed Alvarenga and took him to the ground. At that moment, the kickboxing Grand Master's only concern was to escape from the ring... He clung to the ropes, tried to throw his body off the platform, trying to avoid suffocation and submission. Alvarenga even managed to extend his agony for another 3 minutes (in that match, it was agreed that the rounds would be 15 minutes long). Until Renzo grabbed him from behind and knocked him down, choking him and ending the dispute.
Alvarenga fell out of the ring after being released and the referee decreed Renzo's victory, in a symbolic translation of his definitive expulsion from the MMA tournaments. He would never fight in this type of championship again. His swollen face and ragged breathing were less impressive than his bewildered eyes, drawing the astonished expression of someone who has been hit by a car without even having seen what hit him...
After the victory, in an interview with the TV Gazeta reporter, Renzo declared, with radical firmness: "Because this ring is a place where amateurs don't fit - only convinced men fit in! Anyone who doesn't have conviction in their martial art shouldn't even step on a MMA ring... Because there's this shame of wanting to run away during the whole fight, it's a disgrace for a fighter... It shows a man without honor. That's not the doctrine we teach in Jiu-Jitsu."
RENZO: Do you know what it's like, my friend, to be in front of a man who wants to physically crush you? In front of you he rises. Strong. So confident that he looks at you with a certain contempt. Until you get into combat. Then his smile fades, replaced by the tense face of battle. Can there be any feeling in the whole realm of human experience, so ancient, so enduring, so completely satisfying, as that of accepting one's adversary's surrender? His downcast look means respect. Exhaustion and pain are the parents of his new humility. We measure ourselves in many ways, but none are as rich as stepping into the arena and coming home with the laurels of victory.