State of Gracie

When last we checked in with Marcus Silveira ("Kicking Ass and Taking Names," March 2), the Miami-based black-belt holder in Brazilian jujitsu had received no takers on his two-year-old offer to fight anyone, anywhere, anytime in a mano a mano, winner-take-all, no-holds-barred match. Of course, there probably aren't many guys out there qualified to challenge Silveira; the 250-pound former resident of Rio de Janeiro is a disciple of Gracie jujitsu, a martial arts discipline popularized by the Gracie family in Brazil. He combines the advanced techniques of Gracie jujitsu with the sculpted upper torso of an NFL lineman.

The mountain refused to come to Marcus, so Marcus went to the mountain. On November 18 in Wilmington, North Carolina, Silveira entered and handily won the heavyweight division of a pay-per-view cage battle called Extreme Fighting. Silveira's financial compensation has yet to be determined -- he gets a percentage of revenues from the show, which is still airing a few times per week on the pay-per-view cable channel -- but for now he's thrilled with the recognition alone.

"Gracie jujitsu is the best fighting style," crows Silveira. "I'm happy to have the chance to show this against the best fighters from around the world."

As a result of his victory, Silveira has become one of the martial arts world's biggest (literally and figuratively) new stars. Prior to the Extreme Fighting win, there was talk of a showcase match pitting Silveira against 260-pound Greco-Roman wrestler and Ultimate Fighting Challenge (a rival no-holds-barred competition) champ Daniel Severn. According to Silveira, Severn's people weren't willing to guarantee the unknown (outside of Brazil, at least) Marcus the kind of money (mid-five figures) he felt he deserved, so no date was set. However, the Extreme Fighting win puts the Brazilian behemoth in the catbird seat. "Now they have to come to me," Silveira contends.

The 30-year-old Silveira's face never betrayed any emotion during the Extreme Fighting contest. Not while Penthouse Pets in string bikinis jiggled their way about the perimeter of the ring between matches. Not while opponents punched, kicked, clawed, and head-butted him. Not while conducting contemplative postfight interviews with celebrity sportscaster Mr. T, who Silveira dwarfed.

In fact, to those who'd never seen him fight, Silveira at times appeared bored, as if he were toying with his foolish challengers. That was just his game face, however. Silveira respects far too much those fighters brave enough to step into a ring with him to mock them. Adopting the nickname "Conan," Silveira dispatched his first challenger, Russian judo master Victor Tatarkin, in less than two and a half minutes. Silveira took control from the start, pummeling his outclassed opponent with fist punches and elbow smashes to the head while working him into a devastating chokehold. Tatarkin's corner had to throw in the towel because their fighter was immobilized and he couldn't even tap out (no-holds-barred fighting's version of surrendering by slapping the floor with a free hand).

Silveira withstood a scare in his final bout. His five-foot, eight-inch, 220-pound bowling ball of an opponent, Gary "Iron Bear" Myers, opened a two-inch gash over Silveira's right eye when he pinned Marcus's head against the primitive chainlink cage enclosing the circular ring. The fight was temporarily halted while a ringside doctor ministered to the cut and finally cleared Silveira to resume. Apparently riled by the injury, "Conan" wasted no time utilizing his height advantage to maneuver Myers into a standing chokehold quaintly referred to as "the guillotine." The gracious winner's first action after hearing the ring announcer (who mispronounced his surname as "Silviera" all night long) proclaim him the victor was to congratulate the declawed Iron Bear. Then, pumped full of adrenaline, facing his wife Grace and the representatives of the Gracie clan who were in his corner for the bout, Marcus stood in the middle of the ring, threw his bleeding head back, raised his massive, tattooed arms into the air, and roared a roar that any barbarian would be proud of.

Later, when asked of his wife's reaction to the cut that nearly cost him his crown, Marcus would deadpan, "She knows how much this meant to me. It wasn't the first time she's seen me bleed, and it won't be the last.


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