The Gracie Breakdown Breaks Down

Yesterday, the Gracie Breakdown, a popular YouTube installment that features a step by step analysis of grappling techniques used in major mixed martial arts fights, went down. There was no error or glitch in the webhosting; the Gracie Breakdown was hit with a takedown notice from Zuffa that cited copyright infringement.

Was the Gracie Breakdown using copyrighted material? Well, yes, but legally. By showing brief clips of fights and then commenting on the action in those clips, the Gracie Breakdown’s use of copyrighted material was clearly covered under “Fair Use,” a set of laws that outlines the legal use of another individual’s or company’s intellectual property. According to a Stanford article on Fair Use, “If you are commenting upon or critiquing a copyrighted work--for instance, writing a book review -- fair use principles allow you to reproduce some of the work to achieve your purposes.”

This law is what allows book reviewers to quote passages from a book. It allows music teachers to share and analyze the composition of a chorus with their students. And it allows sportscasters to show highlights and to breakdown plays. This last example, if you’re playing along at home, very closely resembles the Gracie Breakdown use of Zuffa material. From a journalistic perspective, the Gracie Breakdown was actually helping to educate fans and was providing the sport with more depth.

Shortly after the videos were removed from YouTube, Rener Gracie tweeted, “@danawhite the Gracie Breakdowns were intended to educate#UFC fans. What can we do to make it work?”

Dana White responded, “@RenerGracie just landed in chicago. I just followed u. Dm me with ur number and let's talk.”

Not long after that exchange, the Gracie Breakdown videos reappeared, but the latest video seems to be missing the UFC footage that it had previously, which suggests that none of the future Gracie Breakdown videos will have it either. While seeing that the initial conflict has been resolved, resulting in the restoration of the YouTube channel, is a positive step, the denial of fair use rights through legal posturing and bullying is disheartening. Part of building your brand is allowing it to spread so that fans can make it their own. Squashing the sites and YouTube channels that your fans visit, out of a love and passion for the sport, will only hurt the sport.

Further reading:

Standford Copyright and Fair Use

Gracie Breakdown YouTube Channel


CombatChaz's picture

They (the UFC) is getting so heavy handed... pretty soon everyone will need Dana's permission to get a tattoo and wear a faux hawk.

lionsroar's picture

It's too bad that the UFC is limiting access like that. We need more educated MMA fans. I'm tired of the boing when the fight is on the ground or when fighters are fighting for position in a clinch.

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josh's picture

I'm surprised UFC doesn't see how this benefits them.

Reilly Bodycomb's picture

tattoos and faux-hawks!

oh man.
im guilty of both!

ransom's picture

oh noooooooes...soon zuffa will annex the bodycomb empire!

on a serious note, you'd think the gracies would have just hired a lawyer. if found in their favor, it would be beneficial toward curtailing future zuffa heavy-handedness.


10th dan in parnes jiu-jitsu.

alpha's picture

anyone else ever notice how there's absolutely no mention of how the Gracie's played a part in the creation of the UFC in 1993 on the zuffa UFC website? instead it says they founded the UFC in 2001 themselves..

honestly I think it's totally a heavy handed move to try and separate the Gracie's from the current UFC brand, despite the clips being 100% fair use.

myke7777's picture

I'm sure Zuffa knew this so they decided to compromise immediately. I'm sure even the Gracies don't like to deal with lawyers. Wink

It is what it is, with or without your reaction.

k-mo's picture

Zuffa is on the fast track to having a full blown monopoly... I love the idea of all fighters being under a unified body (to prevent contract issues and the "i'm the best but will never prove it" crap) It sucks that the UFC isn't using their influence to grow the sport and educate fans so that it can grow properly

The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example. -Benjamin Disraeli

ptbeast's picture

From what I have seen written, there has been no compromise of any sort on the part of the UFC. They have simply started making the videos without the fight clips to remove any claims of copyright violation by Zuffa. So, the good news is, there will be further Gracie Breakdown videos in the future, albeit without the fight clips -- at least for now.

The bad news is, unless Zuffa relents, we can no longer see any of the past videos that were on that channel. Over 100 resources gone. Sad.

Alive MMA/Brazilian Top Team
Portland, OR

Kyle A. Robinson's picture

Watching Rener's breakdown's and the way he looks at techniques has seriously changed my ground game over the last several months, so this whole deal really pissed me off. Glad the videos will continue, but really disappointed that Zuffa would go after such a great resource that went out of their way to abide by fair use rules.

xxdeadpoolxx's picture

I used to enjoy watching every and any UFC event or program every chance I got, but now, I don't care for them as much. Now, I'm not talking about the fighters. No, I'll keep watching and supporting them. I'm talking about all the extra crap that they flood the media with in order to entice new meatheads into watching their events while those same meatheads are now claiming to be "fighters" themselves in order to score with the stupid skanks who actually believe them. All this heavy-handed crap Zuffa and Dana White keep pulling are making the real fans waver. Once they monopolize the MMA in the U.S., it'll go the way of all the other major league sports. I'll stick with making myself better through training and smashing those meatheads who walk into our school thinking they can use what we teach to beat up some poor bastard outside because they're "fighters"and they "trane UFC".

"I am a shark, the ground is my ocean, and most people can't even swim."

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