The bizarre, unfortunate death of MMA fighter Ryan Gracie

MMA fighter Ryan Gracie was the grandson of the founder of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Carlos Gracie. He amassed a 5-2 record in his brief career with Pride FC. Trace the Gracie lineage back three generations to find its legendary patriarchs:

The 1997 Pan American Jiu-Jitsu champion also worked as an instructor in Sao Paulo. He also accidentally shot himself in the thigh and nearly lost the use of his leg.

None of these bullet points from Gracie’s biography, however, are reason for the fighter’s ultimate notoriety. It is Mr. Gracie’s death at 33 that merits discussion. The circumstances of his demise were, well, unique.

A first first point: Ryan Gracie was a loose cannon. He had no shortage of run-ins with authorities. Indeed, a friend once said of Gracie,

“He was a crazy guy. In America, the police would have just shot him.”

Gracie was found slumped over in his jail cell in Sao Paulo, Brazil the morning of December 15, 2007. He’d been arrested earlier that morning amid a violent confrontation. Shortly before 2 a.m., Grace was apprehended after crashing a car he’d stolen.

Compounding matters, the fighter had then tried hijacking a motorcycle, threatening to kills its driver. That attempt ended with the owner of the motorcycle assaulting Gracie, and a swarm of motorists held him down until the arrest.

After authorities ran an initial toxicological screen, Gracie was taken to jail. He tested positive for marijuana, cocaine, and an unknown anti-anxiety drug.

Once he was detained, Gracie’s wife called psychiatrist Dr. Sabino Ferreira de Faria to administer care. De Faria doled out a cocktail of medication, and apparently spent the majority of the night with the fighter.

The heady cocktail reportedly included: Haldol (a powerful antipsychotic), Fenergan, Topamax, Dienpax (tranquilizers), and OmniPlex (relaxant). Although another report suggested the medications included, Midazolam, Alprazolan, Prometazina, Clozapine and Haloperidol.

Regardless, Gracie was clearly administered several powerful medications.

Initial reports stated Gracie’s death was the product of interactions between the illegal drugs in his system and the prescription medications he was administered.

However, official investigator Paulo D’Amico Jr. determined it was the combination of drugs doled out by De Faria, rather than their interaction with marijuana or cocaine, that caused his death.

De Faria defended himself, saying the regimen of drugs he administered was not abnormal.

 “For 31 years I have treated patients who use marijuana, cocaine, [alcohol]…And use medications exactly at this level.”

Dr. Sabino Ferreira de Faria on Ryan Gracie’s death

His practices, however, seem like anything but standard practice. Interviewed by the Brazilian show “Fantastico,” psychiatrist Marcelo de Mello disputed what de Faria had to say.

“The thing you will notice is the amount of drugs that were used at the same time.

One interacts with the other, which can increase the number of side effects. In this case, especially the heart. The heart may start to knock off the pace, [beat] more seriously — it can lead to cardiac arrest.”

Marcelo de Mello

De Faria was accused of negligence for his prescription-happy ways. “I am distressed, anxious, [because of] this report,” the doctor said at the time.”It is sad because I went there to save lives.”

While it’s unclear what life was in danger when he arrived to meet with Gracie, it’s quite clear the doctor did anything but “save lives.” He avoided manslaughter charges and was sentenced to two years of community service.

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