Ricardo Bubman – BJJ’s Humble Master

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The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu community has grown to become a truly global sporting community with millions of BJJ practitioners around the world. The rise of BJJ was a fast one with Jiujitsu’s effectiveness being showcased in MMA and the UFC.

Prior to the UFC, BJJ was a relatively unknown martial art in times where martial arts had fancy kicks and animal forms. The early years of BJJ were highly interesting as those who practiced BJJ were in a league of their own, they were true practitioners who fought on the street and in Vale Tudo as well as were there through the thick and thin of the development of the Brazilian grappling art.

Ricardo Bubman Carlos Gracie Jr
Ricardo Bubman (right corner) Carlos Gracie Jr

One of the most inspirational and deep-rooted Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu masters who was there during the early years of BJJ is Ricardo Bubman. Ricardo is a truly humble and approachable human being, he has been everywhere in BJJ and has always been in the background around the biggest names in the history of BJJ during their brightest years.

Ricardo Bubman’s Early Years

Born in Rio de Janeiro on August 1st, 1953, spending his early years going to the beach, playing soccer and volleyball, Ricardo Bubman has a normal Brazilian upbringing. Ricardo’s first taste of martial arts was in Judo, where Ricardo practiced throughout his childhood, achieving a Brown Belt before deciding to quit in order to play volleyball.

Ricardo would go on to play volleyball at the highest levels of the sport in Brazil and become a true world class athlete in the sport.

Ricardo Bubman and The Gracies

Ricardo Bubman Royler Gracie
Ricardo Bubman (top left) Royler Gracie

Ricardo was a family friend of the Gracie family from his earliest years and remembers playing with the Gracie family at the Gracie estate in Teresopolis when he was a young teen. Ricardo would spend summers at his family’s house in Teresopolis, only a few houses down from the Gracies, so naturally the kids would play together from day to night and develop a true childhood friendship.

The first time Bubman saw BJJ in person was at the Teresopolis summer house when during one soccer game, a few of the Gracies started to roll against one another and after seeing them do BJJ, Ricardo understood very quickly why the Gracie family and Gracie Jiu-jitsu has such a tough reputation in Brazil. Ricardo would spend long days at the Gracie house, he recollects that the first Gracie he made friends with was Relson Gracie and then he would develop friendships with Carlos Gracie Jr, Crolin Gracie and Rorion, friendships that are still intact today.

When did Ricardo Bubman Start BJJ

Although a good friend of the Gracie family, Ricardo started his BJJ journey a bit later in life as it was in 1973 that Ricardo finally decided to train BJJ. Ricardo was working in downtown Rio and the Gracie family had a gym one block away from his workplace. Ricardo started to take private lessons with grand master Helio Gracie.

Ricardo recollects how he used to frequently ask if he can go train with the regular classes in which Helio replied “not yet” as Helio placed emphasis that Ricardo train privates prior and has a small base prior to joining a class at the Gracie Academy. A few months passed and Helio surprised Ricardo by saying “Rico, time to go roll with the guys”, Ricardo was ecstatic at the chance to roll with Helio Gracie’s other students and would have one of the best and most humbling experiences in his Jiu-jitsu career.

Ricardo Bubman Helio Gracie
Ricardo Bubman and Helio Gracie

The very first guy Ricardo was given to roll with was a student who was of much smaller stature than Ricardo. Bubman was a tall, athletic and muscle bound national level Brazilian Volleyball player towered over his opponent who just happened to be the one and only Pedro Sauer who was a blue belt at the time. Ricardo remembers thinking “I’m going to smash this little guy” prior to rolling with Pedro Sauer but had the surprise of his lifetime as Pedro kept on catching Ricardo in submissions over and over again, Ricardo got so mad at the fact Pedro toyed with him on the ground and he finally understood the power of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and thus Ricardo started to go to the group classes twice a week on top of his privates with Helio. Ricardo and Pedro are extremely good friends to this day and regularly speak to each other.

The group classes at the time were being taught by Ricardo’s friend Rorion but after training with Rorion for 5 months, Rorion made the historic move to live in the US to spread Gracie Jiu-jitsu. Luckily enough, Rickson Gracie took over the group class as well as moved the class to a big gym in Vasco da Gama at the lake of Rio. Ricardo recollects Rickson’s talent as being on a totally different level from anyone else and that Rickson was a true athlete and BJJ technician.

During that time Vasco da Gama became a hotbed for BJJ in Rio as at the time the BJJ community was very small, and there was another Gracie gym in the area being split by 2 different Gracies running 2 different groups, one group being taught by Carlson Gracie and the other being taught by Rolls Gracie.

Incredibly hard and intense training sessions were normal at the Gracie Academy, especially with the competition team under the eyes of Rickson Gracie. Ricardo regularly would roll with BJJ legends such as Pedro Sauer and Marcelo Berhing and eventually get his blackbelt from Rickson Gracie in 1983 and train at the Gracie Humaita for a total of 30 years prior to leaving to continue his BJJ journey at other BJJ academies in Rio such as Alliance for 5 years, then with his close friend Sylvio Behring and later with Ricardo Vieira at Checkmate BJJ in Rio.

Ricardo would be there for all the famous Gracie stories such as the luta livre invasions to the Rickson vs Duarte beach fight, always having the Gracies back should they needed it at the time.

Bubman would compete a lot in the Niteroi league and stated his most memorable matches were in the final matches against Jean Jacques Machado in which Bubman lost as well as his match against his longtime friend Carlos Gracie Jr where he also lost in the finals of a tournament.

Ricardo Bubman and Rolls Gracie

Ricardo Bubman and Helio
Ricardo Bubman (Right) and Helio

Rolls Gracie was a very good friend of Ricardo and invited Ricardo to come and train with him in which Ricardo went twice to train with Rolls. Ricardo clearly remembers training with Rolls Gracie 2 separate times and Rolls Gracie smashing Ricardo like he has never been smashed. When asked how good were Rolls on the ground, Ricardo simply said “he is a beast”.

A hard topic for Ricardo to speak about is the day Rolls Gracie passed away in the hang glider accident. Ricardo was supposed to meet up with Rolls later that day only to hear about the unfortunate accident. Bubman remembers how it shook up the entire Gracie family and BJJ community as the lion of the Gracie family was no longer with them. 

Bubman Moves to the US

In 1977, after being accepted to study for his MBA at UCLA, Ricardo decided to move to California to study and join his friend Rorion in helping promote BJJ in the US. Ricardo helped purchase the very first mats for Rorion’s first garage academy and was there to train whenever he had free time.

Ricardo remembers knowing BJJ being akin to a superpower back then as almost no one knew how to fight on the ground, time after time, martial artists would challenge the Gracies only to exit the academy in defeat and sometimes enlightenment for those who decided to train in Gracie Jiu-jitsu afterwards.

After several years living in the USA, Ricardo would eventually move back to Rio to start his real estate business, train BJJ and enjoy going to the beach as all cariocas do.

Bubman’s Darkest Days 

Being back in Rio, Ricardo would meet his wife and continue to train BJJ. They would have a daughter and a son but unfortunately due to unforeseen circumstances, Ricardo’s wife would pass away during the birth of their son.

Helio teaching Ricardo Bubman
Helio teaching Ricardo Bubman (top position)

Absolutely crushed and in shock, with 2 young kids, Ricardo felt completely overwhelmed with emotions and doubt. This is where BJJ and Helio Gracie stepped in to fill the void and put direction in Ricardo’s shaken life, Helio pushed Ricardo to continue to train no matter what as it would help ground Ricardo and aid him mentally and emotionally to deal with the difficult situation he inherited. Ricardo took Helio’s advice and continued and credits his training BJJ in keeping his mental state strong in order to raise his 2 children alone.

To this day, Ricardo always mentions Helio in the highest of respect and honour and continues Helios legacy of helping people find Jiu-jitsu and using Jiu-jitsu as a tool to better their lives.

Ricardo Bubman’s Perspective on BJJ

A coral belt soon to receive his red and white belt in BJJ, Bubman has seen everything in BJJ, from raw Brazilian streetfights to Vale Tudo Matches to top level sport BJJ matches. Over his near 50 years training BJJ, Bubman has attained a very educated perspective on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and where the art and sport of BJJ are in 2022 and beyond.

Bubman has always stated that BJJ is an amazing martial art for building human beings, kids and those who think they cannot protect themselves. He also states that BJJ has evolved throughout the years into development of a very specialized sport with high level athletes performing amazing technical displays of the art in both BJJ tournaments and in Modern MMA.

That said, Bubman is an old school jiujiteiro from Rio and always will admit that ultimately Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is about self defense, it was about fighting on the streets and knowing you can defend yourself when need be, it was used to defend yourself in a fight without rules. Ricardo wisely states that modern MMA and sport BJJ are bound by rules and it is important to remember this as well as to train self defense BJJ on top of BJJ for MMA and Competition BJJ.

Where is Ricardo Bubman Now

Ricardo Bubman Coral Belt
Ricardo Bubman Coral Belt

Ricardo moved to Israel 6 years ago in order to be with his son Eric who had previously moved here. Bubman trains BJJ daily, helping out the local Israel BJJ community grow and is always on the mats helping guide lower belts with his BJJ wisdom.

When asked about the BJJ scene in Israel, Ricardo mentions that there is a lot talent in Israel and it is growing more and more each day, He has mentioned that like many other countries who have a developing BJJ scene, many young practitioners are more concerned with getting a higher belt and not concerned about gaining the knowledge associated with the belt. Bubman has said this is one of the main things plaguing the BJJ community globally and it will ultimately weed itself out as in the end, regardless of what colour belt you have, you need to roll and when you roll, your skill and knowledge will truly be available for all to see.

In Conclusion

A true testament to how BJJ can help anyone in their time of need, Ricardo Bubman is a true master of Jiu-jitsu, He lives and breathes BJJ and has been an integral part of BJJ’s early years. Ricardo Bubman is an example to all BJJ practitioners of using BJJ to better one’s life, to be humble and to be persistent in your BJJ journey.

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