Are you curious about who the GOATs of Jiu-Jitsu are? Maybe you’ve asked yourself ‘Who is the best BJJ fighter in the world?’ Becoming one of the greatest Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighters of all time is something that only a handful of people will actually be able to achieve in their lifetime. One thing is for sure - those that do make it onto the best-of-all-time list are on the list for good reason. As a stand-alone combat sport, BJJ’s effectiveness and grace make it unlike any other sport, including its champions. Get ready to learn from the BJJ greats what it takes.
What makes a champion BJJ fighter?
A top BJJ fighter has spent massive amounts of training at an elevated level that combines conditioning with strength training and traditional BJJ drills and rolling. As Malcolm Gladwell pointed out, a true expert puts in 10,000 hours. Champions are not created overnight and becoming a champion requires an evolved mindset that is unmatched and strong. To be a champion, there is simply no other way of living.
The top Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighters of all time
As the sport of BJJ continues to evolve, it is difficult to find an unbiased and accurate way of depicting the best BJJ fighters ever. But we’ll give it a go, anyways!
C’mon - let’s be real. 14x World Champion (10 in the back belt) and the first man to win three gold medals at the open weight division. Gracie is known for his willingness to commit to the submission and for being a submission specialist overall. With the Gracie blood running in his veins, he quickly got bit by the BJJ bug and began winning several championships as a blue belt, earning his place on the top BJJ champions list.
Wins: 76 | Super-Pesado
Yes, his nickname is “Buchecha” which means chubby cheeks. Originally from Sao Paulo, Almeida started out wanting to be a soccer player. When that didn’t work out, his dream turned to surfing. When he was 14, though, he was introduced to BJJ and that’s what stuck. Studying underneath the infamous Rodrigo Cavaca, he soon became one of the most feared athletes in his division. Which is why he’s made it on the list of best BJJ practitioners ever.
ADCC Champion (2017/2013)
IBJJF Pro League GP Champion (2016)
IBJJF World Champion (2012/2013/2014/2016/2017/2018)
IBJJF World No-Gi Champion (2011/2010)
IBJJF Pan American Champion (2012)
UAEJJF Abu Dhabi Pro Champion (2012/2013/2014/2015)
WLPJJ SP Cup Champion (2010)
IBJJF Miami Open Champion (2010)
IBJJF World Championship Runner-up (2018 / 2011)
IBJJF World Championship 3rd Place (2011)
Wins: 138 | Pesadissimo
Originally from Brazil and better known as “Rominho”, he began his BJJ journey at the impressionable age of 15 and has now earned his way onto the GOATs list. Barral was named “The Number One BJJ Fighter in the World” by Gracie Mag in 2007. Rominho is all about the strong gi game and training with the gi in preparation for all events.
Wins: 107 | Meio Pesado
Losses: 41 Losses
ADCC Champion (2013)
IBJJF World Champion (2007/2009/2012/2013/2014)
IBJJF World Masters Champion (2016 Master 1)
IBJJF Pan American Champion (2007)
IBJJF European Open Champion (2016)
CBJJ Brazilian National Champion (2006/2007)
IBJJF World No-Gi Champion (2009)
IBJJF European Open Champion (2013)
IBJJF World Championship Runner-up (2007/2009/2010/2011/2014/2016)
IBJJF Pan American Championship Runner-up (2016/2009)
IBJJF World Championship 3rd Place (2017/2006)
IBJJF Pan American Championship 3rd Place (2017/2013/2013/2006)
Charles is a historical figure in BJJ, known for his aggressive style on the mats. His fight name is “Cobrinha” which means “Little Snake”. He was coined Cobrinha because of his agility and flexibility. Even though he originally started out playing soccer, he found BJJ at the age of 21 and never looked back. Charles is known for religiously training and making sure to disseminate that knowledge to other students. Don’t be surprised if you see Charles as the best lightweight BJJ fighter of all time.
Wins: 118 | Peso Pena
Losses: 21 losses
1st Place IBJFF World Championship (2006/2007/2008/2009/2017)
1st Place IBJJF World No-Gi Championship (2007/2008/2011/2012)
1st Place IBJJF Pans Championship (2007/2008/2009/2017)
1st Place ADCC World Championship (2013/2015/2017)
1st Place IBJJF European Open (2013/2017)
1st Place CBJJ Brazilian Nationals (2017)
We’ll let his reputation speak for itself and Galvão be the technical master that he is. “Deco”, as he’s known, has many titles next to his name and now lives in San Diego as co-founder for Atos Jiu-Jitsu Academy. Born in Brazil, Galvão began training when he was 16. He moved from purple belt to brown belt in just nine months. In 2011, Deco won gold in both his weight and the absolute division at ADCC, further proving why he is one of the best BJJ fighters in the world.
Wins: 157 Wins | Meio Pesado
Losses: 27 losses
ADCC Superfight Winner (2013 / 2015 / 2017)
1st Place ADCC World Championship (2011**)
1st Place IBJJF World Championship (2005 / 2008 / 2014*** / 2016 / 2017)
1st Place IBJJF Pans Championship (2005 / 2008** / 2006 / 2011 / 2013 / 2014** / 2016)
1st Place UAEJJF Abu Dhabi Pro (2012 / 2013 / 2014)
1st Place CBJJO World Cup (2006)
1st Place IBJJF European Open (2015**)
1st Place CBJJE World Championship (2008)
1st Place Ultimate Absolute NYC (2011)
2nd Place ADCC World Championship (2009)
2nd Place UAEJJF Abu Dhabi Pro (2012* / 2016)
3rd Place IBJJF Pan American Championship (2016*)
3rd Place IBJJF World Championship (2008* / 2013)
3rd Place ADCC World Championship (2007**)
Malfacine is commonly believed to be the best BJJ rooster weight of all time. He is the only person to win ten world championships in the same weight class. 40 of his 63 victories have come by submission. He was called a “bad boy” by all of his training partners when he was still a child and it just stuck with him. 9 World titles later, there is no stopping Malfacine. He’s considered one of the best BJJ fighters today.
65 Wins | Peso Galo
Ribeiro is a black belt under Royler Gracie and the older brother of yet another BJJ legend, Alexandre Ribeiro. Saulo holds the record for the most world titles in different weight divisions. He was awarded his first black belt when he was just 19 years old. Just to put his talent and hard work into perspective, Ribeiro started BJJ training when he was 15 years old. He’s also known for his immense dedication to teaching the sport and is a beloved coach.
Born in a small town in Brazil called Formagia, Garcia was quickly bitten by the BJJ bug by watching 1980s blockbuster martial arts movies, like Karate Kid. However, BJJ was not offered in his small city, and didn’t become aware of BJJ until he was older. Garcia began practicing karate at 8 years old since that was accessible. Hyped by all the films and spending years of his life dedicated to karate, Garcia wasn’t sure if the rigid movements could be applied in a proper struggle and became disenchanted with the sport. With massive apprehension, he tried Judo and became entranced quickly. He wanted to follow in his teacher’s footsteps, Marcelo (also known as Marcelinho) began working for an academy to earn money while training. Through hard work and wins, Marcelinho was awarded 2 black belts, won many championships, and started his own academy in New York.
Pan-Am Champion (2007)
ADCC Champion (2003, 2005,2007,2011)
World Champion (2004, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011)
Brazilian National Champion (2004 & 2005 middleweight, 2006 absolute)
UFC hall of famer and member of the Gracie family, Royce Gracie, has certainly continued the Gracie name. Royce is known for helping popularize BJJ and was coined the 3rd best MMA fighter of all time in 2008, down to his impressive MMA career. Gracie had his first competition when he was 8 years old and received his black belt just before he was 18 (rules were bent a little for him). In 1993, Royce participated in UFC - bringing a winning intensity to the sport.
3X UFC Champion (UFC 1 - 1993, UFC II - 1994, UFC IV - 1994)
Originally training with Karate and Kung-Fu, Demain picked up BJJ when he was 19 at the same time as starting school to study Journalism. In a staggeringly short amount of time, Maia graduated to black belt in under five years and was training two to three times per day. After participating in minor shows, Maia entered into the big leagues: UFC, where he had a fantastic run. He’s known for having one of the longest submission win streaks in the UFC and his favorite technique is the triangle choke.
ADCC Champion (2007)
CBJJ Brazilian Team National Champion (2003)
IBJJF World Champion (2000 purple belt)
ADCC 2nd Place (2005)
CBJJO World Cup champion (2002/2003*/2005)
What Can We Learn From The BJJ Greats?
It may seem cliche to say, but these greats have all made BJJ a lifestyle. BJJ was and is not simply a part of life - it is life. These greats all had a moment where they decided that they were going to dedicate a massive part of their time, passion, and energy to the sport of BJJ. And their dedication certainly paid off.
These greats were no exception in needing to figure out their style. They used their style to their advantage to keep things fun and intense. Lots of the heart and passion of BJJ comes through having a niche. Many of these greats have been influential in making BJJ what it is today and that comes down to using the foundation of BJJ with their personal twist. It is an individualistic way of highlighting some of the greatest parts of the sport.
These greats never really knew limits. The only limits these greats have known were the ones that they broke down. Through personal hardships, lack of access to training, or mass amounts of training and the responsibility of building up the sport of BJJ, limits never seemed to be a part of the vocabulary for the greats. Are you up for that?
These are all lessons to include in your BJJ training. Be dedicated, find your niche, and be limitless.
Follow In the Footsteps Of The World’s Greatest BJJ Fighters
At The BXNG Club, we pride ourselves on bringing the best BJJ classes in San Diego. We have crafted full programming based on power, stamina, flexibility, grappling, and advancing our mental strength. Our classes are designed to give newer belts a place to learn and those who are already invested, a place to keep on the learning. Learn from the best with our award-winning coaches who are intentional with the instruction they bring on and off the mats. Seasoned student or new student eager to learn, try a class with the best!
March 01, 2021