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Up Close: Rigan Machado

Updated: 12 hours ago


FEATURED ON: The Combat Show
BORN: Rio de Janeiro
AGE: 56
STYLE: Brazilian jiu-jitsu
CELEBRITY STUDENTS: Keanu Reeves,
Ashton Kutcher, Vin Diesel

Tony Parrish interviews Rigan Machado


You’ve probably been in 30 movies. …

Rigan Machado: And TV shows, but now I started getting bigger jobs. The biggest job I ever got was with Nicolas Cage and Tony Jaa [in Jiu Jitsu]. I play a warrior — it was pretty cool. I also did a comedy with Russell Peters and Michael Jai White: [The Outlaw Johnny Black], a Western. Now I got an offer to do a movie in Bollywood. I play a zombie. They kill me and my wife, and I come back [for] revenge and I know martial arts. How am I going to say no to being a zombie? (laughs)

Wasn’t your first movie Brazilian Brawlers?

Machado: In the beginning, it was called Bad Boys From Brazil, but because they just came out with Bad Boys, they said, “No, you can’t call it Bad Boys From Brazil.” They changed it to Brazilian Brawlers, which is the worst movie in history. I recommend not to watch. That movie is so bad. When you finish the movie, you want to break the TV. I smiled the whole time.

There were also some cameos in there — not only your brothers but I also saw Dan Inosanto in the movie.

Machado: It was kind of funny because Dan Inosanto was my student, and I called him and said, “Dan, why don’t you play my uncle or something?” He said, “Sure, no problem.”

That was great — a Brazilian boy has a Filipino uncle.

Machado: The movie makes no sense.

Wasn’t your brother John part of writing that movie?

Machado: John was the head of the show for sure. He came up with the idea to copy a Charles Bronson film and add the brothers and stuff. But the problem when you have no experience and work with people who don’t know what they’re doing is everything can go wrong. Everything went wrong from the beginning to the end. I don’t know how the movie was able to finish because [they] finished the money in the budget in the middle of the movie. I think the process of how hard it is to do a good film — people have no idea. When you look from outside, you imagine, I’m gonna be a movie star. I’m gonna do this, do that. It’s not that easy. You need a great cinematographer, an engineer for sound, a good fight choreographer and a good director who knows how to film the angles. Then you need good postproduction. It’s a lot of work,

but it’s kind of nice because I believe the best way for you to be good at something is to learn from

your mistakes. I learned so much. Today, I believe I have the knowledge and the experience to do a movie from the beginning. I have the ability to finish the film by myself. I think I can put the team together.

As I look over your shoulder, I see a picture on the wall. Is that you and master Helio Gracie?

Machado: I have a picture of me, Helio Gracie and Carlos Gracie. And on top of that, I have a picture of me and Rolls Gracie, one of my coaches.

I know you started very young, about 5 years old, right? Who was coaching you at that time?

Machado: It’s kind of funny because growing up, I had a lot of issues — like a little bit of asthma and dyslexia. I had a lot of problems in school. Carlos Gracie was a doctor of nutrition. He created the Gracie Diet and was the mentor of the whole family. He married my mother’s sister. We became very close. He brought me to live with him and do the Gracie Diet, do jiu-jitsu and swim twice a day. He put me in to train with all his kids.



It basically was like you were surrounded by fighters 24 hours a day.

I started getting good. And my cousin Rolls and Carlos Gracie Jr. went to talk to my mother. They said, “This kid has a chance to be really good. Why don’t you give him a chance to stay here longer? He’s a horse. He’s pretty big. He’s strong. We believe we can make him a fantastic fighter.” And my mother said, “No problem. If that’s what he wants, let’s give him a chance to have a shot.” I lived with my cousins for 15 years or something like that.

When you moved in with your cousins, what was your mindset? Were you excited to go?

Machado: My uncle lived in a place in Ipanema Beach. He lived in this amazing house with mats in the house. We ate so healthy. We surfed, went to school and trained all the time. People came to the house, all these black belts and some great athletes to practice with us. And I was a young bird, a rookie. I was the youngest in the group. I got beat up a lot. When you are in an environment of pit bulls, you become a pit bull in a way because you have amazing partners to train with. I started winning. You start winning, and more people start to support you. And I remember Carlos Gracie called Rickson, and Rickson liked me a lot. Then Rickson started to teach me, too. And I trained with my brothers. I felt at the time like the luckiest man alive because I had the best of the best surrounding me. The luck I had was the environment. The second thing was I had amazing people behind me. I love the environment of fighting.

One of the best feelings in the world for me was to look across the mat and see another guy who wants to take my head off, another warrior who wants to give his best to take his spot on the mat. And we go to war. And when you end up with the victory, it’s the best feeling in the world because you feel like a gladiator, like a champ.





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