Master Joe Moreira

Red Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
3rd degree Black Belt in Judo
Ruas Vale Tudo Black Belt
Master Joe Moreira has over 50 years martial arts experience.
Fought in UFC 8 and 14
Founder of United States Federation of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu



Jose Carlos Moreira was born on July 3, 1961 inside a taxi in front a of Rio de Janeiro hospital, Brazilian jiuJitsu legend Joe Moreira faced difficulties right from the start. His dark skin and blonde hair prompted the affectionate nickname of "Macaco." By age five, Moreira's older brother, Marcos, influenced the youngster to start fighting in Judo. His first title for the Gama Filho University team was won by age six. Around that time he began his jiuJitsu career under the tutelage of Mauricio LaCerda. At age nine, he began training in jiuJitsu at the school of the legendary Carlson and Rolls Gracie, where he was taught mainly by Reyson Gracie and Pinduka. Across the street there was another studio owned and operated by Reylson Gracie, nephew and student of the master, Helio Gracie. A chance visit to the studio resulted in Moreira spending the next 15 years under the tutelage of Reylson, who took a liking to the young fighter's style and groomed him to become an instructor. During this period with Master Reylson, Moreira also learned to produce tournaments and championships. This would later help him to organize one of the most important jiuJitsu tournaments in Brazil, including the first international Brazilian jiuJitsu event, Atlantico Sul.

Another respected jiuJitsu master, Francisco Mansour, awarded Moreira his black belt in 1984. By competing in the most important jiuJitsu tournaments of the 1980s, such as Copa Company, Copa Lightning Bolts and Copa Cantao, Moreira's collection of titles grew. His participation in such events garnered Moreira's respect and recognition as one of the toughtest fighters of his time.

Around that time, the Gracie family was always looking for tough opponents to take on the undefeated Rickson Gracie. It wasn't long before Moreira accepted the challenge to face his idol twice in the same competition (weight - category final and absolute) despite not having good partners with whom to train. Although he submitted in both matches, Moreira gave the jiuJitsu legend something he was not used to: a tough fight. Following these bouts, a great friendship evolved between the two fighters.

By 1986, Moreira was a black belt in both judo and Brazilian jiuJitsu. Receiving his Black Belt in Jiu Jitsu in 1979 and His Judo Black Belt in 1984. The next step in his evolution came in the form of internships at Terry University, in Japan, and at Kobukan Academy, the traditional judo academy established by judo founder Jigoro Kano. After four months of training with the Japanese Olympic team and completing a course with more than 1,000 black belt students, Moreira became vice champ in an international tournament: the Judo World Cup.

After a year of invaluable training in Japan, Moreira returned to his Brazilian academy in Rio de Janero and produced his first tournament: the Atlantico Sul Cup, which saw the debut of world names such as Ryan, Renzo, and Ralph Gracie, SHOOTO welterweight champion Vitor "Shaolin" Ribeiro, UFC veteran Jorge Patino, Antonio Schembri and Marcio Feitosa, Cleber Luciano, Wander Braga, Wallid Ishmael, Jean Jacque Machado, Fabio Gurgel, Murilo Bustamante, Mario Sperry, Alan Goes, Liborio De la Riva, and others who helped to establish it as a premier tournament. Nine Atlantico Sul Cup events were held between 1986 and 1994, produced with the help of his partners and friends, Claudio Franca (Claudio Franca Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Santa Cruz, California) and Marcus Viniclus (owner of the Beverly Hills Jiu-Jitsu club).

In the early 1990s, an invitation from Reylson Gracie prompted Moreira to sell all of his possessions in Brazil and travel to the United States to be a Brazilian jiuJitsu instructor. "He promised me everything," Moreira remembers, "but when I got there, it was pretty different." Because of some financial disagreements, he decided to go it alone and forge his own path.

After two difficult months in the United States - and despite not speaking a word of English - Moreira teamed up with entrepreneur Cab Garrett to build his own gym, Joe Moreira Jiu-Jitsu de Brazil, in Irvine California. During his eight-year partnership with Garrett, Moreira opened 30 branches of the school across the country.

Moreira also founded the United States Federation of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and played a major role in the dissemination of the art in America. As president of the Federation, he created the first international Brazilian jiuJitsu tournament, the Joe Moreira Cup, and organized the first edition of the Pan-American Jiu-Jitsu tournament with Carlos Gracie, president of the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Confederation. Those events launched the first top representatives of Brazilian jiuJitsu in America - names like BJ Penn, Garth Taylor, Egan Inoue, Mark Kompayneyets, Chris Brennan, Eddie Bravo, Javier Vazquez, Ricco Rodriguez, and many others that later transformed the United States into the second jiuJitsu power of the world.

Even while being involved with his U.S. jiuJitsu organization, Moreira kept on competing. Following his long string of jiuJitsu and judo victories, he decided to test his skills in mixed martial arts via the Ultimate Fighting Championship. On February 16th, 1996, Moreira fought the six-foot-eight-inch, 400-pound Paul Varelans in the UFC 8 and lost by a narrow decision.

Following the appearance in the UFC, Moreira encountered his first controversy with the Brazilian jiuJitsu world. At a time when there was an unwritten rule that black belts were prohibited from teaching jiuJitsu techniques to non-brazilian vale tudo fighters, Moreira started to teach his good friend, Kimo Leopoldo (who lost to Royce Gracie in UFC 3). The Brazilian jiuJitsu community was shocked by his breach of protocol and labeled Moreira a traitor.

Eighteen months later, following his first UFC victory over Uri Vaulin at the UFC 14, Moreira shocked the Brazilian jiuJitsu community again by revealing that he trained with Marco Ruas to fight the Russian boxer - without the help of the Gracie family or any of the Brazilian jiuJitsu community. Seeing the good ground technique presented by Ruas, who trained in jiuJitsu for 15 years, Moreira gave him a Brazilian jiuJitsu black belt and caused a commotion among his fellow Brazilians. These two important decisions helped pave the way for his cross training to take its now-prominent role in fight training.

Today, Moreira is married with four kids and lives in Newport, California. The seventh-dan black belt teaches seminars around the globe and conducts private lessons. Considered a bona fide authority on jiuJitsu, Moreira has issued 120 black belts around the world and released a total of 38 instructional tapes that are considered among the best available in the United States.


Great Information about Master Joe:


Joe Moreira was one of the first ‘non Gracie’ Jiu Jitsu black belts to move to the United States, before Royce Gracie brought the martial art to the limelight of the combat sports world, with his win at UFC 1-4. Moreira is also famed as an event organizer and for having handed one of the most controversial black belts in the history of the sport, to Marco Ruas who to many, a sworn enemy of Jiu Jitsu at the time.

Joe Moreira Jiu Jitsu

Full Name: José Carlos Moreira

Nickname: “Joe” became Moreira’s first name when he moved to the USA. This was because of a hint given by Moreira’s English coach who believed Jose Carlos resembled a Mexican name and was comercially frowned upon. “Joe” Moreira was also nicknamed “Macaco” (monkey or macaque) when he was a child due to his facial features.

Lineage: Mitsuyo Maeda > Carlos Gracie > Helio Gracie > Francisco Mansur > Joe Moreira

Main Achievements: UFC veteran (8 and 14)

Joe Moreira Biography

Joe (or Jose Carlos) Moreira was born on the back of a taxi cab in front of a Rio de Janeiro hospital on the 3rd of July 1961. Moreira started his training in martial arts by his older brother’s influence when he was 6 years old through the fighting style of Judo. He began Jiu Jitsu 3 years later, training at the famous Gracie academy which at the time was shared by the brothers Carlson and Rolls Gracie, though his coaching was mainly done by Reyson Gracie and the legendary Fernando Guimaraes “Pinduka”. Though surrounded by greatness, Moreira did not settle at the academy and instead moved to Reylson’s gym, who was the nephew and student of grand master Helio Gracie.

He stayed at Reylson’s gym for well over a decade, competing in the scarce competitions available at the time, although he would receive his black belt from Francisco Mansure (1984). He would also receive his black belt in Judo in 1986 and a scholarship to Japan where he trained extensively in Judo, competing in the Judo World Cup there and placing second.

He returned to Brazil after a few years in Japan, and started teaching Jiu Jitsu in a sports center in Barra da Tijuca. As the place had a very good infrastructure, Moreira was contacted by Ricielli Santos to make a Jiu Jitsu event there. Santos was famous in the Jiu Jitsu realm for organizing some of the biggest jiu jitsu tournaments in the 1980’s (Copa Cantao and Copa Lightning Bolt). The pair agreed on a partnership and organized the very first Copa Atlantico Sul (called Atlantico Sul because that was the name of the sports centre). The organization’s roster would change on the following years, but always with Moreira at the helm, and soon it became a reference of Jiu Jitsu in the 1990’s, much like a national tournament where the most prestigious BJJ fighters would test their skills.

In the early 90’s Joe Moreira decided to move to the United States after an invitation from his master Reylson Gracie. He would stay at his masters gym for 4 months, but things didn’t quite work out as planned and he decided to separate from Reylson. Luckily Moreira had established a friendship with one of the students at the academy, when the student (named Cab Garrett) heard that Joe was leaving he decided to help the Brazilian, taking the instructor and his wife in his own home. Moreira taught for about a year in Mr Garrett’s garage while Mrs Moreira worked at a restaurant.

At the time when Joe arrived in America, there were no tournaments, seeing a gap in a field that Moreira knew well, he decided to organize an event, thus emerged the very first Joe Moreira Cup. Joe was also responsible for the organization of the very first Jiu Jitsu Pan American, as Carlos Gracie Junior had few contacts in the states in the event industry, he asked Joe to be in charge of the preparations of the Pan American which occurred inside the Irvine University.

Then in 1996 came the opportunity to compete in the UFC. The famous UFC referee “Big” John McCarthy was a student of Joe and got him in contact with the UFC management, but before they signed him on, they asked him to make a test. The test was a closed doors no holds barred fight in an academy against Zane Frazier. Moreira agreed and fought Zane, sweeping him and mounting before the clock stopped the fight. The UFC was impressed and signed him on. He went on to fight twice for the organization losing the first fight by decision against the gigantic Paul Varelans and winning his next fight against the russian Yuri Vaulin.

During his time with the UFC Moreira met Marco Ruas, a luta livre (a form of Brazilian Wrestling) fighter who had grown up in the same neighborhood as Joe (Leme in Rio de Janeiro). Ruas asked moreira if he needed training partners and Moreira agreed, from that 28 day training camp, their friendship grew and never broke since.

Marco Ruas also introduced another Luta Livre fighter to Joe Moreira, Eugenio Tadeu. Both Ruas and Tadeu had a long history of rivalry against Jiu Jitsu and it’s fighters in the battle for the dominance of Martial Arts in Brazil in the late 80’s and early 1990’s. Even though that rivalry was still pretty much alive, Moreira (maybe recognizing his friend’s technical hability) handed them their black belts in Jiu Jitsu, causing an uproar of criticism from the BJJ community at the time.

Moreira also attributed Kimo (a famous MMA fighter from the early UFC days) his black belt in Jiu Jitsu. The two met on the backstage of UFC 8, in a day when Allan Goes and “Tank” Abbot fell out with each exchanging harsh words. The next day in the lobby of the hotel, Moreira and Goes were checking out and coincidently so was Kimo and his manager. Suddenly Tank Abbot comes in with Tito Ortiz and a group of 8 more men wanting to cause a fight with the pair of Brazilians. Kimo thought this was unfair and took Allan Goes’s side together with his manager, making Abbot and his men back out. Kimo then asked Moreira if he could learn BJJ from him as he was very interested in the martial art, a request immediately accepted by Joe. The two maintained a student/instructor relationship for years.

Today Joe Moreira lives is life giving seminars.

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