Rickson Gracie vs. Yoji Anjo (lost recording of dojo fight; 1994)
In December 1994, Brazilian mixed martial artist Rickson Gracie fought Japanese professional wrestler Yoji Anjo in an unsanctioned dojo match, with Gracie securing the win via choke. The bout is notable for inspiring a mixed martial arts fight between Gracie and Japanese professional wrestler Nobuhiko Takada which would serve as the headline fight for the first Pride Fighting Championships event. A recording of the bout between Gracie and Anjo was made but has not received any public release.
The launch of mixed martial arts organisations such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship and Pancrase in 1993 inspired interest in the nascent sport in Japan. In 1994, professional wrestler Satoru Sayama would host the first Vale Tudo Japan event, an event which would see Japanese audiences first introduced to Rickson Gracie. Rickson, brother of UFC hall of famer Royce Gracie, was a Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist regarded as the strongest fighter in the Gracie family. Rickson would go 3-0 at the event, winning all his bouts by TKO or submission in the first round.
Growing interest in mixed martial arts among martial arts and wrestling fans in Japan caught the attention of UWF-I (a shoot-style professional wrestling organisation which emphasised a more realistic in-ring style) founder Nobuhiko Takada, who would begin issuing challenges to Rickson Gracie in the summer of 1994. Attempts by the UWF-I to arrange a worked professional wrestling match were rejected by Gracie.
In November 1994, Yoji Anjo, a mid-carder at UFW-I regarded as the toughest wrestler within the promotion by his colleagues, would also begin challenging Rickson. It would ultimately be Anjo who would face Rickson.
The Fight and Aftermath
On December 7th, 1994, Anjo and a group of Japanese reporters would turn up unannounced at the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu academy in Santa Monica, with Anjo challenging Gracie (then at home) to fight. Gracie would arrive at the gym and take Anjo’s challenge on, although he would forbid members of the press from entering.
The resulting battle was one-sided. Gracie quickly took Anjo down into mount position and began raining down punches. Anjo turned to give up his back, but rather than sinking in a choke, Gracie continued to land strikes, a decision he would later justify by his desire to leave no doubt as to the fights winner. Eventually, after a prolonged beating, Gracie would choke Anjo unconscious. Reporters would be allowed into the building, taking photos of a bloodied Anjo and a celebratory Gracie.
The fight would have significant historical repercussions for the sport of mixed martial arts. As the main eventer of UWF-I, Nobuhiko Takada was expected to restore the organisations honour in a fight with Rickson. The two men would eventually meet in a bout which served as the main event of the first Pride Fighting Championships event, a new promotion established off of the back of the Gracie-Takada rivalry. Gracie would defeat Takada by armbar at 4:47 of the first round. Pride Fighting Championships would become the leading mixed martial arts promotion in the world until its closure in 2007, with many of the sports top fighters (including Fedor Emelianenko, Mirko Filipović, Kazushi Sakuraba and Wanderlei Silva) fighting under its banner.
Recording and Availability
A recording of the fight was made, but it has yet to be released to the public. The tape has been shown privately to a number of people.
A copy of the tape was shown at a Japanese press conference shortly after the fight to dispel claims by Anjo that he had been jumped by a group of Gracie students.  Mixed martial artist Enson Innoe claimed in May 2020 on The Underground forums to have attended this press conference.
Kron Gracie, a mixed martial artist and the son of Rickson, would claim on a February 2014 episode of the Joe Rogan Experience that he had seen it multiple times and had shown it to friends in his youth.
Gordon Hester, a former student of Rickson, claimed to have watched the tape with Rickson, giving his own account of the bout on The Underground forums on February 2008. An Underground member “ElFeroz” (who asserted in a 2012 post that he had trained jiu-jitsu with the Gracies for 15 years) claimed in a February 2008 post to have seen the video, stating that the recording also depicted Rickson taping his hands as he drove to the Academy.
On a July 2014 episode of the Joe Rogan Experience, Rickson would tease releasing the recording of the fight if his site hit a “couple million” viewers, but nothing has since come of this.
- Jonathan Snowden, Total MMA: Inside Ultimate Fighting, (2008, ECW Press). Retrieved 18 Feb '22
- Results for Vale Tudo Japan 1994. Retrieved 18 Feb '22
- December 19, 1994 edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Retrieved 18 Feb '22
- Gordon Hester’s account of the fight on The Underground forums. Retrieved 18 Feb '22
- Episode #524 of the Joe Rogan Experience (Ft. Rickson Gracie and Eddie Bravo) - Anjo fight discussed from 2:08:00 - 2:18:00. Retrieved 18 Feb '22
- Pride 1 Results. Retrieved 18 Feb '22
- Enson Innoue post on The Underground forum confirming the showing of the tape at a Japanese press conference. Retrieved 18 Feb '22
- Episode #460 of the Joe Rogan Experience (Ft. Kron Gracie) - Anjo fight discussed from 39:00 - 43:00. Retrieved 18 Feb '22
- ElFeroz’s post claiming a 15 year association with the Gracies. Retrieved 18 Feb '22
- ElFeroz’s account of the fight. Retrieved 18 Feb '22