It is widely believed by the Jiu-Jitsu community that cousins Rolls and Rickson Gracie were the top fighters of the Gracie family at different time periods. Rolls Gracie for the 70’s and Rickson for the 80-s and 90’s. This rare footage filmed at an unknown date, but probably around 1980-81, captures a established family champion (Rolls) around 30 years old and a seven years younger cousin (Rickson) rolling under the guidance of the Grandmaster Helio Gracie.
The roll is quite intense, and really features the combative Jiu-Jitsu style without the modern game’s techniques such as berimbolo or spider guard for ex. Rolls can be seen with a clear advantage in throws over Rickson (he cross trained a lot in Sambo and wrestling), and he also seems to control the roll more. Rickson seems more lively, but still 1 level under his older cousin. It is obvious that his game is still improving. This should be seen as a normal roll between two teammates, and cousins/brothers.
Rolls Gracie tragically died in a hang gliding accident in 1982, and after that, Rickson took over as the family champion. Rolls Gracie was a pioneer and a visionary in his approach to BJJ. Helio Gracie raised him as his own son (although Rolls was actually the son of Helio’s brother Carlos Gracie Sr.)
Royce Gracie said it well “there is an era before and another one after Rolls” talking about the evolution of Jiu-Jitsu.
Rickson has recently talked about his training with Rolls on the Joe Rogan podcast. He described the first time that he tapped Rolls in training with a choke and that it was an amazing feeling. He also talked about the immense respect he had for his cousin/brother and said that if he would have met Rolls in the final of a tournament, they would not have fought because of Rickson’s respect for the hierarchy.
Check out the video: