Table of Contents
If you're a sports lover, you probably have a favorite BJJ wrestler. The top BJJ fighters have the ability, strength, and grace necessary to win against the competition. Here is a list of the greatest BJJ fighters in history.
1. What Is It That Makes a BJJ Champion?
A top BJJ athlete must have spent a lot of time training, doing high-level conditioning and strength exercises along with rolling. According to Malcolm Gladwell, an expert BJJ practitioner will put in at least 10,000 hours of training. Champions aren't made overnight; they are forged after a long process of honing their skills and adopting the correct mentality. There's no other way to become a true champion.
2. Mackenzie Dern
Mackenzie Lynne Dern Santos is a Brazilian-American BJJ wrestler and mixed martial artist. She is a black belt and has won numerous ADCC and IBJJF titles.
Mackenzie Dern is the daughter of Wellington "Megaton" Dias, a sixth-degree black belt trained byr Royler Gracie. Her love for BJJ comes from her parents, both being skilled athletes in their own right. Mackenzie's exposure to BJJ from an early age contributed to her development as an accomplished martial artist.
As a child, Dern trained with her father at the jiu-jitsu academy. Wellington was the primary instructor and guided Dernr as she learned the fundamentals of jiu-jitsu starting at the age of three. She participated in various judo contests throughout her childhood.
Dern’s natural ability allowed her to participate in the jiu-jitsu adult division at around 14 years old. It was around this time that Dern decided to pursue a professional career in martial arts.
Trained by her father Wellington Dias and multiple-time BJJ world champ Leticia Ribiero and supported by her Gracie Humaita teammates, Dern won her first BJJ world championship in each belt as she worked towards becoming a black belt.
Awards, Victories, and Fighting Style
Mackenzie Dern is widely regarded as one of the best black belts in the BJJ featherweight division. She has a remarkable track record of wins which include the following:
- Defending Champion of the Copa Podio Superfight Championship (2013-2015)
- IBJJF Gi and No-Gi World Champion.
- Pan-American IBJJF Winner (2015/2016)
- IBJJF European Open (2015/2016)
Dern has a record of 45 submission wins and eight submission losses throughout her professional career.
3. Royce Gracie
It is impossible to make a top 10 BJJ fighter list without mentioning one of the pioneers of MMA, Royce Gracie.
Royce Gracie has won three UFC tournaments, with 11 of his 15 MMA wins being achieved via submission. Due to Gracie’s exceptional performances in UFC tournaments, MMA and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu grew in popularity and evolved as forms of martial arts.
4. Thales Leites
This young MMA fighter might not be as well-known compared to more experienced MMA and BJJ practitioners. However, Thales Leites’s skills are just as good as veteran martial artists with a record of 13 wins and one defeat.
Even though his UFC debut against Martin Kappman ended in defeat, Leites managed to get a winning streak going during his time in the UFC Despite his youth, Leites is a level-headed and composed martial artist with a good understanding of submissions like the arm triangle.
5. Ruben Charles
Ruben Charles's most recent bout took place in 2017 and had a record of 118 total victories throughout his career. Charles was known for his unrelenting determination, but his speed is what helped him earn the nickname "Cobrinha."
6. Rumbo Barral
Raised in Brazil, Francisco Rumbo Barral, also known as"Robinho," began his BJJ journey at the age of 15. \Gracie Mag bestowed onto Barral the title of "The Number One BJJ Fighter in the World" in 2007. Barral is focused on improving his Gi BJJ skills and training to fight with a gi for different kinds of martial art competitions.
- ADCC Champion (2013)
- IBJJF World Champion (2007/2009/2012/2013/2014)
- IBJJF European Open Champion (2016)
- IBJJF World Masters Champion (2016 Master 1)
- IBJJF Pan American Champion (2007)
- 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)
7. Gianni Grippo
Gianna Paul Grippo is a black belt that studies at Marcelo Garcia Academy in New York. He is a six-time BJJ World Champion in the lower belt ranks.
Gianni Grippo is a lightweight BJJ practitioner who started his BJJ journey during his senior year at high school. While he wanted to find a martial arts school in Manhattan, Grippo was always busy being on the swim team. But when he saw the BJJ World Championship held in Brazil, in 2004, he decided to commit to a full-time martial arts career.
Grippo began learning at Renzo Gracie Academy in New York. His talent and determination helped Grippo earn titles in the lower belt divisions.
After a few years, Grippo left Renzo Gracie Academy to join Marcelo Garcia's Alliance Academy. Grippo hoped to receive training specifically targeted toward BJJ instead of the generally-oriented MMA training offered at Renzo Gracie Academy. Grippo's career was characterized by a series of victories that culminated in him finally receiving his black belt in 2013.
Grippo won multiple championships at different colored belt ranks. In 2011, he was named the Pan American IBJJF Champion for purple belts. In 2012, he took home another Pan American title for brown belts. Grippo also won the IBJJF World Championship for in the following years:
- Won gold medals as a blue belt (2007/2009)
- Won first place as a purple-belt (2011)
- Won first place as a brown-belt (2012/2013)
- After receiving his black belt in 2013, Grippo continued to earn awards and titles. Here are some of Grippo’s top achievements throughout his career:
- IBJJF Pan American Champion (2014/2015/2018)
- Pan-American No-Gi Champion (2017/2018)
- IBJJF No-Gi World Championship
Gianni Grippo’s record was 53 victories via submission against only eight losses via submission.
8. Gabriel Gonzaga
Gabriel Gonzaga’s most notable moment in his career was his stunning victory over Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic via knockout. Gonzaga is a former contender in the ADCC World Championship and has participated in several Gi BJJ competitions.
Gonzaga’s BJJ style is extremely well-rounded as he is able to maneuver into a dominant position and quickly subdue an opponent.
Though he suffered defeat at the hands of Randy Couture and Fabricio Werdum several times in the past, Gonzaga has been racking up wins as of late, improving his performance and professional career.
9. Last Words
Finding the top Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighters isn't an easy task. With athletes competing in different weight classes and fighting styles, it is much easier to determine who can beat who.
However, when examining the skill and achievements of the BJJ athletes listed above, it is clear that all of them have earned their spot on this list.