“I’m going to give him the gift of fighting me,” the 1996 IBJJF World Champion said with a sly smile.
“I’m not taking this lightly. I want to kick his ass,” is what the 1996 IBJJF silver medalist had to say about this "gift".
What is going on here?
These two legends of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu are known for their techniques on the mat as well as their sense of humor off the mat. When I heard the one had called out the other for a fight, I wanted to know what the beef was all about. I asked for an interview, and I got it.
The 1996 gold medalist Helio “Soneca” Moreira began training BJJ at the age of 8 and moved to Rio de Janeiro at the age of 13. He continued training there under Jean Jaques Machado and Carlos Gracie Jr.
Soneca received his black belt from Carlos Gracie Jr in 1991 making him one of the first black belts produced by Gracie Barra. By the time of the first IBJJF World Championship held in 1996, Soneca was well known in BJJ circles.
The 1996 silver medalist Wellington “Megaton” Dias was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro. He was studying Judo when his childhood friend, Royler Gracie, invited him to cross train BJJ at Gracie Humaita.
In 1988, Megaton traveled to the United States as part of the Brazilian National Judo Team. He remained in the USA and trained Judo (and BJJ where and when he could) while returning to Brazil for visits and to train. He received his black belt from Royler Gracie in 1991.
In the early 1990s, Jiu Jitsu did not yet have the serious and coordinated competitive events it now enjoys. Many BJJ competitors in Brazil moved on from BJJ to Vale Tudo or quit the sport scene altogether. Jiu Jitsu was still largely a mystery martial art here in the US.
That changed in 1996 when Carlos Gracie Jr, the creator of the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) and the Confederacao Brasileira de Jiu Jitsu (CBJJ) helped to organize the first World Championship at the legendary Tijuca Tenis Club in Rio de Janeiro.
By February 3, 1996, the scene was set for Soneca and Megaton to compete against each other at the first IBJJF World Championship in Rio.
“Of course I knew who Soneca was,” Megaton said. “He was number one in his division and able to train with the best in the world. I was here in Arizona with nobody to train with…” he lamented.
He continued, “I wish I had more training before that fight, but I went to Brazil as ready as I could be.”
I asked Soneca if he knew who Megaton was back then and he replied, “Of course Megaton knew who I was because I was popular. I was childhood friends with his wife, Luca, but this was before they ever met. She was like a big sister to me. She used to kick my ass. But in 1996 all I knew about Megaton was that he was a crazy judo guy. I didn't expect to meet him in the finals.”
They did indeed meet in the finals as black belts in the featherweight division. The fight ended on points, and it was Soneca who took home the gold.
“I could tell he wasn't satisfied,” Soneca remembered.
“I wanted a rematch, but he stopped competing at Worlds!” recalled Megaton.
So now what?
So now Megaton has publicly called out Soneca to fight.
“He hasn't wanted to fight me for 21 years,” said Megaton.
“I will fight him anytime,” answered Soneca.
When I asked Soneca “Why do you want to fight him now after all these years?”
Soneca looked me in the eye and was perfectly serious when he answered, “Because he challenged me.”
Interestingly, when I asked them to name their BJJ heroes, each man included Carlson Gracie, the eldest son of BJJ founder, Carlos Gracie.
“Carlson Gracie is my number one idol. He was the best fighter in the world,” Soneca stated.
“Myself is the first hero,” said Megaton. Then he continued, “Carlson Gracie for sure is one of my heroes. All the best MMA guys were with him. He was a true fighter.”
I asked both of them, “How will you prepare for the fight?”
The champion Soneca replied, “Nothing. I am prepared right now. I am always ready to fight.”
Megaton the challenger said, “I will focus on improving my conditioning. I’m going to kick his ass. It will be good for him.”
Two of the most colorful legends in the sport of Jiu Jitsu want to fight each other, and the world of Jiu Jitsu wants to see them fight, too. Now all that’s needed is a place for this to happen.
Perhaps the Abu Dhabi Legends event happening this spring will provide the venue?
Whenever and wherever these two legends go at it, it is sure to be a fight to remember.
They have agreed that after the fight the loser will take the winner to dinner.
Can you imagine having a seat at that table?