The Story Behind Leo Vieira & Mark Kerr At ADCC 2000

Leo Vieira vs Mark Kerr ADCC 2000

Riccardo Ammendolia breaks down one of the most important matches to ever occur at ADCC: Mark Kerr vs. Leo Vieira.

In the year 2000, the mixed martial arts and grappling worlds were still very closely joined. It had only been seven years since the debut of the UFC and the showcase of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. But, in Abu Dhabi, a new event that showcased the top grapplers and MMA fighters together was created, producing one of the greatest open weight matches in ADCC history: Leo Vieira against Mark Kerr.

At that time,  Kerr was not only undefeated in MMA, but he was also undefeated against Brazilians in ADCC, having won his division and the open the year prior. In his first-round matchup, the "Smashing Machine," weighing in at 135kg was set to face off against Vieira, one of Brazil's up-and-coming stars. Vieira, weighing in at only 75kg, never expected to be facing Kerr in the opening match of the open weight bracket. But, much like the tale of old, with David vs. Goliath, Vieira was unafraid and faithful that he could overcome Kerr.

The match not only peaked interest from a technical and analytical sense but also it was one that created a unity among the Brazilian competitors. In this ADCC match, it wasn’t Alliance vs. Gracie Barra. It was Brazil vs. America and jiu-jitsu vs. wrestling.

The match went the entire 10-minute duration. And, to the surprise of many, Kerr was unable to take Vieira down effectively and control him. Vieira, who had never really trained no-gi prior to this event, used his two weeks of casual wrestling practice and all of the jiu-jitsu instincts to battle every takedown of Kerr.

When the match began, Vieira initially thought he would pull guard immediately and use his guard to attack Kerr. But after feeling Kerr's strength and power, Vieira realized that his best chance of winning would be to keep the match on his feet as much as possible.

And he did just that. Every time Kerr shot, Vieira sprawled lightning quick and at some points would even leap out of Kerr's grips. Vieira also began to jokingly make faces and push and shove Kerr, which appeared to irritate him and lead him to attack more frequently, but he could just not keep Vieira down.

After the 10 minutes and no points scored, the match was supposed to go to overtime; however, the judges decided to issue Vieira a penalty, as they felt he pulled guard in one of the scrambles—a unique rule at the ADCC.

Although Kerr won the match, the rumor is he was so completely exhausted that he was throwing up backstage and asked to withdraw from the bracket. Vieira was then notified that he could come potentially come back into the bracket. 

But at the final second, Kerr returned and went on to win the open-weight division.

Although Vieira did not medal in either his division or the open that year, the experience he gained was so important that it helped refocus his no-gi training, which would eventually lead him to become a two-time ADCC gold and silver medalist and one of the sport's most iconic competitors and coaches for years to come.