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10 Fastest BJJ Black Belts Promotions Ever

10 Fastest BJJ Black Belts Promotions Ever

Fighter Black Belt Promotion
Travis Stevens Promoted to Black Belt in 18 Months
BJ Penn Promoted to Black Belt in 3 Years
Caio Terra Promoted to Black Belt in 3 Years
Geo Martinez Promoted to Black Belt in 3 Years
Mads Burnell Promoted to Black Belt in 3 Years
Lloyd Irvin Promoted to Black Belt in 3.5 Years
Mike Fowler Promoted to Black Belt in 3.5 Years
Fabiano Scherner Promoted to Black Belt in 3 Years and 11 Months
DJ Jackson Promoted to Black Belt in 3 Years and 11 Months
Gunnar Nelson Promoted to Black Belt in 4 Years

All fighters take different time duration to get to the hallmark of black belt depending on their athletic background, dedication, and skills. All of the above-mentioned BJJ Black Belts extraordinarily invested their time, effort, and energy in Jiu-Jitsu training. Some with previous experience in different martial arts and others with pure Jiu-Jitsu foundational style.

1. Travis Stevens

Travis Stevens

One of the top American male judokas, Travis Steven is an Olympic Silver Medallist in Judo. Tarvis is also an elite athlete in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He began martial arts training when he was six years old.

Stevens received his Black Belt in Jiu-Jitsu from the legendary Master, John Danaher on 19 November 2013. Travis Stevens was a Judo champion, which is primarily why he attained his BJJ belts so quickly. He first appeared as a white belt for a few weeks, followed by blue for a month, and then purple for a few months. After barely 18 months of training, John Danaher promoted Stevens to Black Belt.

2. BJ Penn

BJ Penn

“The Prodigy” of BJJ, better known as BJ Penn, is a legendary figure in BJJ combat sports and martial arts. BJ Penn is an American BJJ practitioner and former mixed martial artist.

Penn started learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in 1997 with Ralph Gracie, who later awarded him his purple belt. He then relocated to Nova Uniao, where Andre Pederneiras eventually gave him his Black Belt in 2000. A few weeks later, he made history by becoming the first non-Brazilian to take home the Black-Belt title at the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship, which was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

At the age of 20, Penn won a bronze medal at the brown belt level in 1999, losing only to Fernando "Tererê" Augusto. Penn won a silver medal in the blue belt division in 1998. Penn is regarded as a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner that attained a black belt in a very short time.

3. Caio Terra

Caio Terra

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter and World Champion Caio Terra started practicing Gi Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in 2003, and in 2006, he earned his Black Belt.

Caio Terra is unquestionably at the top of the list when it comes to the fastest black Belt promotions. He received his black belt from Paulo Strauch and Reyson Gracie.

In the local Brazilian community, Terra dominated every opponent and quickly became the top fighter in his weight division. He is regarded as the greatest rooster weight of his time. His promotion to black belt within three years of training was one of the quickest promotions at that time.

4. Geo Martinez

Geo Martinez

Geo Martinez, brother of talented Richie “Boogeyman” Martinez, is an American grappler who defeated big names such as Fabbio Passos and Jeff Glover.

Geo received his BJJ Black Belt from renowned 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu instructor Eddie Bravo. He placed fourth at the ADCC and took first place in a few EBI events.

5. Mads Burnell

Mads Burnell

Mads Burnell, a mixed martial artist who competes in Bellator MMA's featherweight division, was born on March 6, 1994. In 2014, he won the European No-Gi Championship in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He is ranked #6 in the Bellator Featherweight Rankings as of October 4, 2022.

Burnell received his Black Belt from Chris Haueter, who belonged to the original dirty dozen.

Chris Hauter awarded the Black Belt to Danish MMA fighter Mads Burnell after three years of very rigorous training. He was only 21 years old at the time of earning his Black Belt.

6. Lloyd Irvin

Lloyd Irvin

Lloyd is a Black Belt fighter and instructor of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and mixed martial arts. He is the founder of Team Lloyd Irvin and the head coach of several world-class grapplers. Team Lloyd Irvin was the first non-Brazilian team to win a World-Team Title.

In the mid-1990s, under Leo Dalla, Lloyd Irvin began his training. Irvin was an apt learner, and within a month, he was promoted to Blue Belt.

Irvin had to practice alone after his trainer Leo Dalla left for Brazil. He founded a school, began instructing, and engaged in competitions across the United States and Brazil. In just three and a half years, he earned his BJJ Black Belt from Leo Dalla.

7. Mike Fowler

Mike Fowler

Mike Fowler is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt and American martial artist. Fowler is famous for his fast Black Belt achievement.

Mike received his Black Belt from Lloyd Irvin within three and a half years of training. He adhered to Irvin's "Grappling Blue Print" program and became a very successful competitor.

But Irvin's guidance isn't the only factor in Fowler's success. He always put unmatched talent and dedication behind his BJJ training.

8. Fabiano Scherner

Fabiano Scherner

A professional mixed martial artist and a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Fabiano Scherner is a German-Brazilian.

Within three years and eleven months, Fabiano Scherner earned his Black Belt. He began his Jiu-Jitsu training on January 3rd, 1999, and on December 20th, 2002, he earned his Black Belt.

Fabiano is also a former UFC fighter and presently manages a Gracie Barra school in Oregon. He is one of the quickest Black Belt achievers and an elite coach of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Fabiano Scherner has written a comprehensive yet practical BJJ instructional book for senior practitioners named, Mastering Brazilian Jiu Jitsu After 40.

9. DJ Jackson

DJ Jackson

De’Alonzio Jackson, also known as DJ Jackson, is a mixed martial artist and BJJ practitioner from the United States and currently resides in Thailand.

In the IBJJF, Pan American, ADCC, Brazilian National, and COPA de Bangkok, he has won several titles including Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Championships.

At every belt level, DJ Jackson has won World Titles. Jackson is a blue, purple, brown, and black belt IBJJF No-Gi world Champion.

In addition, he is a purple and brown belt Gi World Champion.

10. Gunnar Nelson

Gunnar Nelson

Gunnar Nelson is a mixed martial artist and professional Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter from Iceland. Gunnar is considered one of the top BJJ fighters from Europe and gained recognition in the 2009 ADCC tournament (open weight class) by securing fourth place.

Gunnar Nelson received his Black Belt from Renzo Gracie. Making him the youngest European to receive such a promotion. He was only 21 years old when he received the promotion. He received his Black Belt after four years of training.

11. Last Words

There are many factors that contribute to early Black Belt achievements including your instructor, training partner, time, and your sheer dedication. Some BJJ champions believe that time doesn’t matter, your talent, intense training, and devotion matter the most. The above-mentioned fastest black belt promotions are credited to the fighter’s matchless skills, intense training, and adherence to the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu way of life.

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