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Frederico Lapenda is a Brazilian-born fight promoter and movie producer who is one of the pioneers of the sport of vale tudo and mixed martial arts and is widely credited, along with Ultimate Fighting Championship[1] creator Art Davie, as being responsible for creating the worldwide MMA movement.

The beginning of vale tudo (anything goes) fighting, later to become known as mixed martial arts or MMA, can be credited to Helio Gracie and Carlos Gracie in Rio de Janeiro, in the early 1900s where Helio took on all comers regardless of time limit, weight or style. In 1993 the sport moved to the US and focused on jiu-jitsu stylists fighting champions of other specific styles such as karate, kickboxing, and judo when Art Davie created the UFC in 1993.

Globalization of MMA

The globalization of MMA would happen in 1995 when Lapenda, transplanted to Los Angeles, was looking to take MMA outside of the U.S. and to build a star that would attract the followers of all styles. He brought Rio de Janeiro fighter Marco Ruas to the U.S. in UFC VI to be introduced to the crowd and then to fight and win UFC VII. During this time he created Ruas Vale Tudo, the prototype MMA cross-training style that is still emulated to this day link 1.

Lapenda also created the Brazilian Dream Team, which was to have all the major Brazilian fighters training together in Luta Livre, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling, and muay Thai under Carlson Gracie. Lapenda actually opened an academy in Los Angeles in 1995 near UCLA in Westwood, California, for Carlson Gracie to teach at. The Brazilian Dream Team eventually became the Brazilian Top Team and was composed of those same people Lapenda brought together under Carlson to cross-train.

In 1996, at the age of just 26, Lapenda decided to take the sport global and created his own fighting event, the World Vale Tudo Championship (WVC), which debuted at NK Hall Bay auditorium in Japan to a packed house. That first event had an eight-man tournament plus a super fight. Among the fighters were three of the six UFC champions including Steve Jennum, Oleg Taktarov and Marco Ruas. This was the first time a foreigner had promoted a martial arts fight in Japan and also the first time a UFC champion fought in Japan.

From there, Lapenda followed up WVC Japan with numerous other international shows. The WVC during the second half of the '90s was the leading international event and created such stars as Pedro Rizzo, Mark Kerr, Heath Hearing, Igor Vovchanchin, and many others. All of these WVC fighters would go on to fight in either the UFC or for Pride in Japan, which would attract the largest audiences in the world through the foundation laid by Lapenda's WVC Japan.

In the span of just six years, Lapenda took MMA to Israel, Russia, Brazil, Holland, Japan, Aruba, Jamaica, and Ukraine and produced over 100 shows. In 1998, he produced the first West Coast cable broadcast of mixed martial arts (Combate Mortal) on KWHY TV. Lapenda also broke new ground by co-producing two of the first MMA theatrical documentaries, The Smashing Machine (HBO) and Rites of Passage (PPV), which are still considered the industry gold standard. He introduced pay-per-view to Brazilian television and his WVC Japan was just the fourth MMA show to ever air on US PPV.

In 2002 Lapenda became a filmmaker/producer at Peter Guber's Mandalay Entertainment Group and then founded Paradigm Pictures. He has produced four highly-rated programs for Fox Files, including Russian Night Life and Amsterdam: The Red Light District. In addition he produced Ultimate Fighting Around the World and Underground Fighting in California. His feature film credits as producer include Blonde and Blonder with Denise Richards and Pamela Anderson, Fathers of the Sport, Bad Guys, Shut Up & Shoot, Nightmare Man and others with Paradigm Pictures.

Lapenda was acknowledged as a "true visionary" by Grappling magazine, which ran a two-part 12-page article on his life and accomplishments, and was also featured on the cover of Gladiator magazine in 2007 and publicly honored, along with UFC creator Art Davie, as one of the two men who created MMA.


  1. ^ Friend, Tad, Getting Medieval, New York Magazine, February 19, 1996, page 44.

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