Gerard Gordeau is the first man to win a fight in the UFC. At the ever famous UFC 1, he dispatched Teila Tuli in just 26 seconds. While he went on to lose to Royce Gracie in the final match, Gordeau’s place in mixed martial arts history was cemented. 26 years later, we took some time to catch up with what Gordeau was up to and to clear the air up on some unscrupulous rumors.
To clear the air first, Gerard Gordeau has been rumored to be a neo-Nazi. With a swastika on his arm and the savate salute to the crowd at UFC 1, he’s been oft-accused of being a white supremicist. Gordeau is aware of the rumors and isn’t worried about it.
“I do not care about rumors. The tattoo was done in Japan by a traditional, famous tattoo artist done with sticks and not by needle. The swastika was an ancient Buddhist symbol and fitted in with the rest of the tattoo. In fact my family were Jews and my grandfather got killed in a Nazi camp on Amersfoort, Netherlands.”
Gerard Gordeau also provides a picture of him placing flowers down in Amersfoort where his grandfather died which you can see below.
With things as they are today, I invite you to do your own research on the topic and see what you can dig up for yourself.
Gerard Gordeau In His Early Years
Gordeau’s martial arts career was spurned by curiosity for the most part. Wanting to get a complete vision of martial arts as a whole instead of one discipline led him from pukulan to kickboxing and Muay Thai to savate and then to mixed martial arts.
“As a teenager I got involved in the martial arts by an Indonesian friend in my home town of Hague, Netherlands. My first martial art was pukulan and soon kyokushin karate by Indonesian-Dutch Shihan Harry Couzijn. Me and my two others brothers soon became fighters for his dojo named Kokoro. But I wanted to see it all, so when Thai boxing and kickboxing came to the Netherlands I also started training in this. I was teaching kyokushin at the dojo of Johan Vos of Vos gym in Amsterdam. They asked me to fight in savate, and after some fights I defeated the European and the World Champion, so the title was mine. Later I opened my own dojo also in Hague, Netherlands with the name Kamakura together with my brothers Al and Nico.”
As mentioned earlier, the MMA world knows Gordeau from his UFC 1 run. He recounts seeing the ad and wanting to sign up for the event.
“At the time of UFC 1 is was all ready around 40 years and had a long career in kyokushin karate. I was multiple national and international champion and fought a couple of times in the Japan World Cup. I was champion in Seidokaikan Karate and I fought many kickboxing, savate, and free fight tournaments. We saw an ad from the UFC who was looking for fighters. And, without rules, I did not care, so I send in a tape to show my fights, and I got a call back that they wanted me.”
He went on to refute the other claims for his alleged Nazi involvement with the savate salute at UFC 1. He originally wanted to enter as a kyokushin karate practitioner but the International Karate Organization didn’t want him to enter the sport. Instead he entered as a savate fighter and represented the sport.
“The kyokushin international organization from Japan did not want me to enter with the kyokushin gi and traditional bow, so I entered just in my karate pants and did the traditional savate bow. Many idiots saying I was doing the Nazi salute, they are stupid and should know the history of savate. And so I left for the USA and fought three fights at UFC 1 of which the first fight first UFC and the first knockout against Teila Tuli. The rest you know.”
After the UFC, Gerard Gordeau kept fighting in various tournaments and promotions, simply seeking a thrill and to test himself. He even did professional wrestling in Japan for fun. In addition to fighting, Gordeau has stayed busy teaching martial arts and overall just staying involved with the sport.
“I still kept fighting in some systems like seidokaikan, free fight, K-1 and for fun I was in the show wrestling fights in Japan for large groups of public. Of course, I had many students training with me and fighting for the Kamakura dojo, so that also took me around the world twice. I’ve coached Remco Pardoel in the UFC, coached Ivar Vochinskiy in cage fighting, Fred Hamaker in the UFC, Mourad Bouzidi and Daniel Ghita in K-1 together with Anil Dubar. My kyokushin students fought everywhere. Cem Senol fought from the USA to Japan. I gave many seminars in Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Japan, Romania, Iran you name it. In 2012 I reformed our kyokushin organization, the IBK International Budokai and started running it with my personal assistent Dutch kempo and full contact karate instructor, Robert Pepels. We made the IBK strong with many activities like international seminars and tournaments. Robert is an expert in many arts and works with great dedication for real Budokai.”
Gordeau goes on to explain the purpose of IBK and how it’s expanding martial arts throughout Europe and Japan. He says it’s about the sport and love for the sport.
“The IBK International Budoka’s main purpose is to spread the traditional full contact kyokushin karate, but we also have other styles on board like shidokan karate, kenpokai karate, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, kickboxing and combative defense which is run by Robert Pepels and Cem Senol. Cem Senol recently stopped his active fighting career by doing a 100 man Kumite and now is also a board member of IBK. Me, Rob and Cem travel to many countries for seminars and tournaments or coaching our fighters. We have been to Japan many times the last four years. IBK is active in about nine countries but the main board and dojos are in the Netherlands, Kamakura Gordeau dojo, Ashigaru Pepels dojo and Osaka Senol dojo. IBK is not about money but about real martial arts.”
The UFC Today
The UFC has changed a lot since 1993. Gordeau has ties to the promotion, obviously, but he feels the promotion has lost its way since the original event he was a part of all those years ago.
“The UFC product now very very good, but it’s only about money. They do not care about martial arts and people. The fighters, of course, train hard and fight for real, but it’s taken out of hand and is to commercial making fun of martial arts. I never watch it nowadays.”
Gerard Gordeau and Royce Gracie
Gerard Gordeau and Royce Gracie are forever connected in history. He and Gracie have stayed in contact since their fight in 1993 and have trained and done seminars together recently.
“Me and Royce Gracie have met, of course, at some UFC celebration events and we have trained together and done a seminar just a few years back. We did grappling seminars. I still have the white karate pants I wore in all three UFC fights and Royce has signed it for me. People try to buy it from me, but I keep it in my dojo.”
Gerard Gordeau has slowed down a little more and has started enjoying life a little more passively now. He is letting his students run the dojo’s he’s built and taken more of a back seat in the training.
“I am very busy with martial arts because I still like it a lot. I am giving lessons and hosting the open European Kyokushin Karate Championships in the Hague, Netherlands now for the 30th time. Of course, being 64 it is time to take it a little easy. So I go out riding on my Harley which I bought after the UFC. I live in Portugal now and enjoy the country side and each month I fly back to the Netherlands to teach or coach. But now, I leave many things now to my students Robert and Cem. They are now leading the way with their dojos and still fight each month with students at kickboxing or karate events. Both have experiences in military and security that’s why besides karate, they are working a lot on defensive programs for civilians, law enforcement and military personal. I support this a lot being a bouncer myself for many years on the street and clubs of the Hague.”
Gerard Gordeau is a name saved in history but his story is more than just three fights in the UFC. I hope you enjoyed catching up to what he is up to these days.
Gerard Gordeau sent a bunch of pictures from throughout the years. Check it out below!