The Dark Knight Rises may have shattered box office records at theaters around the world this summer, but when MMA legend Renzo Gracie was approached by two would-be muggers on the west side of Manhattan one balmy September morning, he shattered orbital bones instead.
After eating at a restaurant with some friends in NYC, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master noticed two men following him as he walked home. Gracie began Tweeting the scenario as it unfolded.
“I just stop to take a pic, they pretend they are looking at the window, can’t lie… my blood runs in a different speed, man I miss Brazil,” he Tweeted.
After a few more blocks, the thugs made their move. As anyone who has ever trained with or seen Gracie fight can imagine, it didn’t end well for them. The first guy got a left hook followed by a straight right, which bloodied Gracie’s hand.
“My brother, the best injury you can get in a fight is a hurt hand,” he says.
The second guy, whom Gracie chased after in his car, was taught a harsher lesson.
“In Brazil, as a way of punishment, we used to say, ‘Let’s give him the guaxinim—let’s make him look like a raccoon,’” Gracie says. “So after I choked him, I hit him a few times in the eye area. I didn’t hurt him too much, but I made sure when he woke up that he would have two nice shiners on his eyes.”
But that wasn’t the only souvenir Gracie wanted this bully to have from the night he and his buddy chose the wrong guy to mess with.
“I choked him out three times, and each time he woke up, I said in a low voice, ‘This is what death feels like, motherfucker,’ and I choked him out again.”
Gracie said that when they approached him, they demanded a cigarette and became agitated when he didn’t have one, so he took them out. Now, some of you will read this and shake your head at Gracie’s actions that night. Did he use too much force? Did he overreact? After all, all they asked for was a cigarette, right?
But others, particularly victims of muggings, will have a less cerebral analysis and a more visceral one. They will cheer. They will bite down on their jaw and flex the muscles in their face, remembering how they felt after they were mugged, replaying the scenario in their heads over and over again, wishing it had ended the way Gracie’s did.
I was mugged on the streets of New York City in the early 1990s. I was working as an extra on the film Last Action Hero. After shooting in Times Square into the wee hours of the morning, I headed home with a bag full of clothes—essentially, everything nice that I owned at the time—when I came upon four guys on the sidewalk on West 44th Street.
Immediately, they parted the sidewalk, two guys on each side, to make way for me to pass. How nice, I thought. Of course, I was too naive to see what was really going on. As I passed, one guy dropped a round aluminum tin onto the ground, and he began screaming that I knocked his dinner out of his hands with my bag, which was thrown over my shoulder.
“Man, I’m sorry about that,” I said.
“You owe me $15 for my dinner,” he said. Of course, being a broke actor, all I had was a subway token. “Don’t tell me you come to New York City with no money,” he said, and with that, the sidewalk closed, and suddenly I was on the ground in a fetal position, with four guys kicking me.
I tell you this story because Renzo Gracie’s instincts were correct. Nobody follows a man several blocks in the early morning hours just because he wants a smoke. No, they were out looking for trouble. And they found it.
“I wanted them to know they picked the wrong guy,” says Gracie. “I wanted them to think twice before they tried that shit again.”
I’ve got a feeling those guys will think twice before trying it again.