Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), a martial art that focuses on grappling and submissions, has become one of the most profound influences on modern combat sports. This art form emphasizes technique and leverage, allowing a smaller person to defend against larger opponents through skilled ground-fighting tactics. From its roots in the Japanese Jiu-Jitsu and Judo of the early 20th century, BJJ was developed by the Gracie family in Brazil and has since evolved into a distinct and highly respected discipline within the martial arts community.

Today, BJJ is not only a cornerstone of mixed martial arts (MMA) but also a thriving sport in its own right, with competitions held worldwide and a dedicated following. Your understanding of martial arts is not complete without an appreciation of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu’s impact on the field. With each passing year, new champions emerge, showcasing the dynamic nature of the sport, and a testament to BJJ’s continuing evolution as both an art and a competitive arena where strategy, fitness, and skill intertwine.

Below we have compiled a list of the top BJJ Fighters of all time – past and present. Jiujtsu Central will continue to add to this list so make sure you come back and check it.

Helio Gracie

Hélio Gracie is a legendary figure in the world of martial arts, known as one of the primary developers of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). Born in 1913 in Brazil, Hélio was the youngest of five brothers in the Gracie family. Despite his small frame and relatively frail physique, he adapted the traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu techniques to suit his body, focusing on leverage and technique over strength and speed. This adaptation led to the development of a new martial art, which allowed smaller and weaker practitioners to defend themselves effectively against larger opponents. Hélio’s legacy extends beyond his own accomplishments, as he was also a patriarch of the Gracie family, which has produced numerous champions in the sport of BJJ and mixed martial arts.

  • One of the primary developers of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
  • Adapted traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu to focus on leverage and technique.
  • Born in 1913 and was the youngest of the Gracie brothers.
  • Patriarch of the Gracie family, a lineage with a significant impact on BJJ and MMA.

Carlos Gracie

Carlos Gracie is recognized as one of the founding figures of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). Born in 1902, he was the eldest son of Gastão and Cesalina Gracie’s eight children and learned traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu from Mitsuyo Maeda, a traveling Japanese judoka. Carlos, alongside his brothers, adapted these techniques to create what is now known as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He was not just a practitioner but also a visionary, establishing the first Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and laying the foundation for the global spread of BJJ. Carlos also instilled the Gracie Diet, a unique nutritional philosophy, and emphasized the importance of BJJ for self-defense and personal development.

  • Founding figure of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
  • Eldest son of the Gracie family and learned from Mitsuyo Maeda.
  • Established the first Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Rio de Janeiro.
  • Developed the Gracie Diet and promoted BJJ for self-defense.

Rolls Gracie

Rolls Gracie is often credited with revolutionizing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu by incorporating elements from other grappling arts, such as wrestling and judo, into BJJ. Born in 1951, Rolls was the son of Carlos Gracie and was known for his competitive spirit and innovative approach to the art. He competed in various martial arts tournaments, achieving success in both BJJ and Vale Tudo fights. Rolls’ influence on BJJ was profound, as he was a proponent of cross-training and helped to evolve the sport into a more complete system of grappling. Tragically, his life was cut short in a hang-gliding accident in 1982, but his legacy lives on through the modern practices of BJJ.

  • Revolutionized BJJ with cross-training in wrestling and judo.
  • Son of Carlos Gracie and a notable competitor in BJJ and Vale Tudo.
  • Known for his innovative approach and competitive spirit.
  • Passed away in a hang-gliding accident in 1982, leaving a lasting legacy.

Rickson Gracie

Rickson Gracie is often considered one of the greatest Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners of all time. Born in 1958, he is one of the sons of Hélio Gracie and has a black belt in BJJ. With an undefeated record in both BJJ competition and mixed martial arts, Rickson’s technique and fighting philosophy have inspired countless martial artists. His focus on the self-defense aspects of BJJ and the promotion of the martial art as a way of life has had a significant impact on its global perception. Rickson has also been involved in the development of the sport’s rules and continues to be an influential figure in the BJJ community.

  • Considered one of the greatest BJJ practitioners ever.
  • Undefeated in BJJ competition and mixed martial arts.
  • Son of Hélio Gracie and a prominent figure in the BJJ community.
  • Advocates for BJJ as a way of life and focuses on its self-defense aspects.

Royce Gracie

Royce Gracie, a member of the legendary Gracie family, is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu icon and a pioneer in mixed martial arts (MMA). Born on December 12, 1966, he became a household name in the early 1990s when he won the first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) tournament. Royce utilized his family’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu techniques to dominate larger and stronger opponents, showcasing the effectiveness of BJJ in real combat situations. His success in the UFC brought BJJ to the forefront of martial arts in the United States and around the world. Royce’s legacy is not just as a competitor but also as an ambassador of BJJ, spreading its philosophy and techniques globally.

  • Winner of the first UFC tournament.
  • Demonstrated the effectiveness of BJJ against larger opponents.
  • Born into the Gracie family and helped popularize BJJ worldwide.
  • Served as an ambassador for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Roger Gracie

Roger Gracie, born on September 26, 1981, is one of the most accomplished Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitors in the history of the sport. As a member of the Gracie family, he has continued the legacy with an impressive array of titles, including multiple World Jiu-Jitsu Championships at the black belt level. Roger’s style is characterized by its fundamental purity and efficiency, often winning matches by achieving dominant positions and applying textbook submissions. His transition to mixed martial arts also saw a considerable success, though his heart remained with competitive BJJ where he left an indelible mark as one of the sport’s most dominant athletes.

  • Multiple-time World Jiu-Jitsu Champion at the black belt level.
  • Known for his pure and efficient grappling style.
  • Successfully transitioned to mixed martial arts.
  • Considered one of the most dominant BJJ competitors in history.

Marcelo Garcia

Marcelo Garcia is revered in the BJJ community for his innovative techniques and competitive success. Born on January 17, 1983, in Brazil, Marcelo is a multiple-time ADCC World Submission Wrestling Champion and World Jiu-Jitsu Champion at the black belt level. His approach to grappling, particularly his emphasis on the butterfly guard and X-guard, has influenced practitioners worldwide. Marcelo is also known for his humility and sportsmanship, often seen with a smile on his face whether in victory or defeat. Beyond competition, he contributes to the BJJ community through his academy in New York City and his instructional materials.

  • Multiple-time ADCC and World Jiu-Jitsu Champion.
  • Innovator of the butterfly and X-guard techniques.
  • Notable for his humility and sportsmanship.
  • Influential instructor with an academy in New York City.

Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida

Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida is a force to be reckoned with in the world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Born on January 8, 1990, Buchecha has set records with his accomplishments, including winning the IBJJF World Championships an unprecedented number of times in the black belt ultra-heavyweight division and in the open weight division. His dynamic and explosive style, combined with his technical prowess, makes him one of the most exciting competitors to watch. Buchecha has also ventured into mixed martial arts, where he continues to apply his grappling expertise. His nickname, “Buchecha,” means “cheek” in Portuguese, a term of endearment given for his full cheeks as a child.

  • Record-setting IBJJF World Champion in ultra-heavyweight and open weight divisions.
  • Known for his dynamic and explosive grappling style.
  • Transitioned into mixed martial arts competition.
  • Nicknamed “Buchecha,” which means “cheek” in Portuguese.

Cobrinha (Rubens Charles Maciel)

Rubens Charles Maciel, better known as “Cobrinha,” is one of the most decorated competitors in the lighter weight divisions of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Born on December 24, 1979, Cobrinha has claimed numerous titles, including multiple World Jiu-Jitsu Championships and ADCC titles. His agility, technique, and creativity on the mats have set him apart in the sport. Cobrinha is also recognized for his successful BJJ academy in Los Angeles, where he trains and mentors the next generation of champions. His nickname “Cobrinha,” which means “little snake” in Portuguese, reflects his slick and fluid style of grappling.

  • Multiple-time World Jiu-Jitsu and ADCC Champion.
  • Renowned for his agility, technique, and creativity.
  • Operates a successful BJJ academy in Los Angeles.
  • Nicknamed “Cobrinha,” meaning “little snake.”

Braulio Estima

Braulio Estima is an influential figure in the sport of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, known for his technical innovation and competitive achievements. Born on June 10, 1980, in Brazil, Braulio has won multiple World Jiu-Jitsu Championships and ADCC titles. His signature move, the “Estima Lock,” is a testament to his creativity and has become a widely recognized submission in the grappling community. Braulio is also dedicated to teaching, sharing his knowledge through seminars and instructionals, and he runs an academy in the United Kingdom. His contributions to BJJ extend beyond the mats, as he is an advocate for the sport’s growth and professionalism.

  • Multiple-time World Jiu-Jitsu and ADCC Champion.
  • Innovator of the “Estima Lock” submission.
  • Respected instructor and academy owner in the UK.
  • Advocate for the growth and professionalism of BJJ.

Craig Jones

Craig Jones is a highly accomplished Australian grappler and a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Lachlan Giles. He is particularly well-known for his performances in no-gi grappling competitions and has worked extensively with coach John Danaher, a renowned figure in the BJJ community. Jones has made a name for himself through his technical skill and has earned a reputation for being one of the top competitors in submission grappling events worldwide. His competitive achievements include being a two-time ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship silver medalist and securing multiple victories in high-profile grappling tournaments.

  • Australian grappler and BJJ black belt under Lachlan Giles.
  • Worked extensively with renowned coach John Danaher.
  • Two-time ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship silver medalist.
  • Champion at the World No-Gi Championship in 2019.

Keenan Cornelius


Keenan Cornelius is renowned in the BJJ community for his innovative techniques and competitive success across various prestigious tournaments. Born on February 25, 1992, in Hawaii, Cornelius has made a significant impact on the sport, particularly with his development of the Worm Guard. He is a black belt under André Galvão and has competed successfully at the highest levels, including the World Championships, Pan Jiu-Jitsu Championship, and the European Championships. Keenan is also known for his online presence, where he shares his knowledge through instructional videos and engages with the BJJ community.

  • Innovator of the Worm Guard technique.
  • Black belt under André Galvão.
  • Successful competitor at major tournaments like Worlds and Pans.
  • Active online presence with instructional content for BJJ practitioners.

Wallid Ismail

wallid Ismail bjj

Wallid Ismail is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and a prominent figure in the world of martial arts. Born on September 23, 1968, in Brazil, Ismail is known for his intense competitive spirit and contributions to the sport. He has a storied rivalry with members of the Gracie family, which includes historic matches that are still talked about today. Walid’s involvement in the sport extends beyond competition; he has also worked as a fight manager, notably for UFC fighter Paulo Costa. His legacy in BJJ is marked by his passionate promotion of the sport and his role in the development of Brazilian fighters in the global MMA scene.

  • Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt with a competitive legacy.
  • Known for his rivalry with the Gracie family.
  • Fight manager for notable MMA fighters, including Paulo Costa.
  • Contributed to the promotion of BJJ and the development of Brazilian MMA athletes.

Rodolfo Vieira

rodolfo vieira

Rodolfo Vieira is a powerhouse in the world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, recognized for his explosive strength and technical mastery. Born on September 25, 1989, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Vieira has earned numerous titles, including multiple IBJJF World Championships at the black belt level. His aggressive passing style and formidable submission game have made him one of the most feared competitors on the mats. Rodolfo transitioned to mixed martial arts, where he has also found success, bringing his high-level grappling skills into the cage. He represents the GF Team (Grapple Fight Team) in BJJ competitions.

  • Multiple-time IBJJF World Champion at the black belt level.
  • Known for his aggressive passing and strong submission game.
  • Successfully transitioned to a career in mixed martial arts.
  • Affiliated with GF Team in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitions.

Bernardo Faria

Bernardo Faria is a highly respected Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitor and instructor, celebrated for his deep half guard and pressure passing techniques. Born on January 29, 1987, in Minas Gerais, Brazil, Faria has achieved great success, including winning the prestigious IBJJF World Jiu-Jitsu Championships multiple times at the black belt level. His instructional approach is admired for its clarity and effectiveness, making him a sought-after teacher in the BJJ community. Bernardo is also known for his positive attitude and sportsmanship, often seen with a smile whether coaching or competing. He is affiliated with the Alliance Jiu-Jitsu team.

  • Multiple-time IBJJF World Jiu-Jitsu Champion at the black belt level.
  • Expert in deep half guard and pressure passing.
  • Renowned for his clear and effective teaching methods.
  • Affiliated with Alliance Jiu-Jitsu team.

Rigan Machado

rigan machado

Rigan Machado is an eighth-degree coral belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and a prominent member of the Machado family, who are known for their contributions to the art. Born on July 2, 1966, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Rigan has an extensive competition record, including numerous championships in BJJ. He is highly regarded for his teaching ability and has trained many celebrities and fighters in his academy. Rigan’s influence extends to the development of adaptive BJJ programs, making the sport more accessible. He is the head of the Rigan Machado BJJ Association.

  • Eighth-degree coral belt in BJJ.
  • Member of the renowned Machado family.
  • Has trained numerous celebrities and fighters.
  • Affiliated with the Rigan Machado BJJ Association.

Xande Ribeiro

Alexandre “Xande” Ribeiro is a highly decorated Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitor and a black belt under Saulo Ribeiro, his brother. Born on January 20, 1981, in Manaus, Brazil, Xande has won numerous world titles in both his weight division and the absolute division. His technical proficiency and strategic approach to competition have made him one of the most respected figures in BJJ. Xande is also an instructor and co-founder of the Ribeiro Jiu-Jitsu Association, where he imparts his knowledge to students of all levels.

  • Multiple-time World Jiu-Jitsu Champion.
  • Black belt under his brother, Saulo Ribeiro.
  • Known for his technical proficiency and strategic approach.
  • Co-founder of the Ribeiro Jiu-Jitsu Association.

Saulo Ribeiro

saulo ribeiro

Saulo Ribeiro is a legendary figure in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, with a competitive career that includes multiple World Jiu-Jitsu Championship titles. Born on July 2, 1974, in Manaus, Brazil, Saulo is celebrated for his technical innovation and his strategic mind. He has authored instructional books on BJJ, sharing his insights into the art. As a co-founder of the Ribeiro Jiu-Jitsu Association and University of Jiu-Jitsu in San Diego, he has been instrumental in mentoring numerous students and shaping the next generation of BJJ practitioners.

  • Multiple World Jiu-Jitsu Championship titles.
  • Co-founder of the Ribeiro Jiu-Jitsu Association.
  • Author of instructional BJJ books.
  • Head instructor at the University of Jiu-Jitsu in San Diego.

André Galvão

André Galvão is a world-renowned Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitor and instructor, known for his dynamic style and comprehensive game. Born on September 29, 1982, in São Paulo, Brazil, Galvão has secured multiple ADCC and IBJJF World Championship titles throughout his illustrious career. He is the co-founder and head coach of Atos Jiu-Jitsu, one of the most successful BJJ teams in the world. His ability to produce high-level competitors and his own competitive achievements have solidified his status as a leading figure in the sport.

  • Multiple-time ADCC and IBJJF World Champion.
  • Co-founder and head coach of Atos Jiu-Jitsu.
  • Known for his dynamic competition style.
  • Influential in producing top-level BJJ competitors.

Leo Vieira

leo vieira

Leo Vieira, also known as “Leozinho,” is a celebrated Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitor and coach with an impressive track record in the sport. Born on March 23, 1976, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Vieira is known for his agility, innovative techniques, and contributions to the development of BJJ. He has won multiple World Jiu-Jitsu Championships and ADCC titles, showcasing his skills on the world stage. Leo is the co-founder of Checkmat BJJ, an international BJJ team that has produced numerous champions under his guidance.

  • Multiple-time World Jiu-Jitsu and ADCC Champion.
  • Co-founder of Checkmat BJJ team.
  • Renowned for his agility and innovative techniques.
  • Influential coach and mentor to many BJJ champions.

Mario Sperry

mario sperry

Mario Sperry, often referred to as “The Zen Machine,” is a pioneer of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Vale Tudo. Born on October 28, 1966, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sperry has been a dominant force in BJJ, capturing numerous titles including World Championships. His transition to MMA was equally successful, becoming one of the first BJJ practitioners to make a significant impact in the sport. As a co-founder of Brazilian Top Team, Mario Sperry has played a crucial role in the training and development of many fighters and BJJ competitors.

  • Pioneer in BJJ and Vale Tudo.
  • Captured numerous BJJ World Championship titles.
  • Successful transition to mixed martial arts.
  • Co-founder of Brazilian Top Team.

Fabio Gurgel

fabio gurgel

Fabio Gurgel, known as “The General,” is a highly respected figure in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, both as a competitor and a coach. Born on January 18, 1970, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Gurgel has achieved great success in BJJ competitions, including multiple World Championships. He is one of the co-founders of the Alliance Jiu-Jitsu team, which is recognized as one of the most successful teams in BJJ history. His dedication to teaching and his strategic understanding of the art have made him one of the most influential instructors in the sport.

  • Multiple-time World Jiu-Jitsu Champion.
  • Co-founder of the Alliance Jiu-Jitsu team.
  • Known as “The General” for his leadership and coaching skills.
  • Influential instructor and strategist in BJJ.

Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu

roberto cyborg abreu

Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu is a top competitor and a charismatic personality in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Born on December 20, 1980, in Campo Grande, Brazil, Cyborg is known for his innovative techniques, such as the Tornado Guard, and his relentless competition style. He has won numerous prestigious titles, including the ADCC Championship and the IBJJF World No-Gi Championship. Cyborg is the founder of Fight Sports, a BJJ academy that has become a staple in the grappling community, producing high-level competitors and fostering a strong team environment.

  • Innovative creator of the Tornado Guard.
  • ADCC Champion and IBJJF World No-Gi Champion.
  • Founder of Fight Sports BJJ academy.
  • Charismatic competitor with a relentless style.

Rafael Mendes

rafael mendes

Rafael Mendes is one of the most accomplished featherweight competitors in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu history. Born on March 19, 1989, in Rio Claro, Brazil, Mendes has secured multiple World Jiu-Jitsu Championship and ADCC titles with his precise technique and innovative approach to the sport. Alongside his brother Guilherme, Rafael co-founded the Art of Jiu-Jitsu Academy (AOJ) in Costa Mesa, California, where they train and mentor a new generation of BJJ practitioners. His influence on the sport is evident through his detailed instructional content and the success of his students on the international stage.

  • Multiple-time World Jiu-Jitsu Champion and ADCC titleholder.
  • Known for his precision and innovation in BJJ.
  • Co-founder of Art of Jiu-Jitsu Academy (AOJ).
  • Influential instructor and mentor in the BJJ community.

Guilherme Mendes

gui mendes

Guilherme Mendes is a highly skilled Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner and a multiple-time World Champion. Born on December 8, 1988, in Brazil, Guilherme, alongside his brother Rafael, has become a formidable force in the sport. He is renowned for his technical finesse and strategic prowess on the mats. As a co-founder of the Art of Jiu-Jitsu Academy, Guilherme has dedicated himself to teaching and developing athletes, contributing significantly to the sport’s evolution. His academy has become a breeding ground for talent and innovation in BJJ.

  • Multiple-time World Jiu-Jitsu Champion.
  • Renowned for his technical skill and strategic approach.
  • Co-founder of Art of Jiu-Jitsu Academy (AOJ).
  • Dedicated to teaching and evolving the sport of BJJ.

Leandro Lo

leandro lo

Leandro Lo was a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitor known for his dynamic guard and versatility across multiple weight classes. Born on May 11, 1989, in São Paulo, Brazil, Lo has captured several World Championship titles, showcasing his ability to adapt and excel in various competitive scenarios. His innovative techniques and open guard play have influenced practitioners worldwide. Leandro represented and trained at the NS Brotherhood academy, which he founded, and ebcame a prominent figure in the sport, both as a competitor and an instructor. Unfortunately, he was brutally murdered which had a huge impact across the BJJ community.

  • Multiple-time World Jiu-Jitsu Champion across various weight classes.
  • Known for his dynamic guard and innovative techniques.
  • Founder of the NS Brotherhood academy.
  • Influential competitor and BJJ instructor.

Gordon Ryan

Gordon Ryan, often referred to as “The King,” is a dominant figure in the realm of no-gi Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Born on July 8, 1995, in Monroe, New Jersey, USA, Ryan has achieved widespread acclaim for his success in prestigious no-gi tournaments, including the ADCC World Championship and EBI events. His detailed understanding of leg locks and submission grappling has set new standards in the sport. Gordon trains under John Danaher at the New Wave Jiu-Jitsu team and is known for his analytical approach to training and competition, as well as his outspoken personality.

  • ADCC World Champion and dominant no-gi competitor.
  • Expert in leg locks and submission grappling.
  • Trains under John Danaher at New Wave Jiu-Jitsu.
  • Known for his analytical approach and outspoken personality.