Professional mixed martial artist Ralph Gracie was sentenced to six months in jail after pleading guilty to assault for an unprovoked attack on a five-time Jiu-Jitsu world champion, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office announced Friday.
The incident involving the 40-year-old Gracie — who owns several jiu-jitsu academies in the state — and Flavio Almeida occurred on the sidelines of the 2018 International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation World Championships in Anaheim, according to a DA’s news release.
The two were having a conversation at the event on Dec. 15 when Gracie was accused of elbowing Almeida in the face. Almeida was knocked unconscious and to the ground, during which time Gracie allegedly kicked the victim in the face at least once.
One of Gracie’s students, Lincoln Pereira, joined the attack and also struck Almeida while he was lying unconscious, prosecutors said.
Almeida’s two front teeth were knocked out in the assault and he suffered a concussion. The DA’s office called the assault “unprovoked”
Gracie was charged with a count of felony assault before a grand jury subsequently indicted him on the same charge, prosecutors said.
Last week, he pleaded guilty to the count in exchange for the court’s offer, which included 180 days in jail, three years of probation, restitution and anger management. Despite objections to the offer by prosecutors, Gracie was formally sentenced to those terms Friday, according to the DA’s office.
Pereira, meanwhile, had his assault charge reduced to a misdemeanor in 2019, also over the objection of prosecutors. He pleaded guilty in July of that year and was sentenced Friday to 80 days time-served, the release stated.
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer went to court to personally object when the judge also reduced Gracie’s felony to a misdemeanor. Ultimately, the felony count stuck.
“The violence carried out in this unprovoked attack was carried out by a highly trained fighter capable of inflicting maximum pain and damage,” Spitzer said in the release. “We’re grateful that the Orange County judiciary recognized the egregiousness of this conduct and refused to reduce this charge from a felony to a misdemeanor.”
Almeida also appeared in court and objected. He had previously explained during a victim impact statement to the court in 2019 that he opted not to retaliate after being attacked for no apparent reason, even though he holds a fourth-degree black belt in Jiu-Jitsu.
“I resolved to trust the justice system to hold these individuals accountable for their premeditated and coordinated act of terrorism,” Almeida said in the statement, according to the release. “Qualifying this vicious attack as a misdemeanor means the bad guys win. They will once again get away with their threats and violent behavior pounding on their chests for being above the law.
“If this happens,” he continued, “it will send a very confusing message to thousands of young Jiu-Jitsu students. It will instigate the many who have already been misled by them to follow in their footsteps.”
After an arrest warrant was issued in April 2019, Gracie fled to Brazil, according to the DA’s office
Although the defendant eventually returned the the U.S., he missed four court appearances before finally showing up, the office added.