Renzo and Zé Mario cross paths in Rio de Janeiro

Zé Mario has been training at the Nogueira brothers' gym. Photo: Carlos Ozório.

Thursday, late night in Barra da Tijuca, and the two opponents in the unprecedented supermatch set for the September ADCC in England are near each other, but they don’t even know it.

At a restaurant in the neighborhood, Renzo Gracie, 44, just had dinner with Kyra Gracie and family, catching up with old fans in the neighborhood and other old acquaintances. Zé Mario Sperry, also 44, is right nearby, hanging out with Breno Sivak and crew, the organizers of the black belt surfing tournament that’s set to shake things up on Prainha Beach this Sunday following UFC Rio.

“I ran smack dab into Zé Mario,” recounts Renzo over the phone early this morning, at’s request. “It was funny. I still won’t miss a chance to make fun of him, of course.”

They greeted each other, and the Gracie let out:

– Dude, we’re the same age and here I am with black hair and yours is all white. Explain that to me!

– Renzo, I work so much I can’t even train right… That’s why my hair is so white. You’re living large, training every day, you don’t have to stress about anything – retorted Sperry.

– Following an amicable farewell, two questions were left hanging: Which of the two aces will win their No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu supermatch come September 25 in Nottingham? And might Renzo and Sperry first face off in Rio, in the surf at Prainha Beach?

– “I was invited, but I’m really not sure if I’ll go,” said the Gracie in doubt. “Man, I think it’s been more than ten years since I last stepped on a board. I’m afraid I’ll put in a shamfeful performance.

Renzo in Rio / Photo by Junior Samurai

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