In both scenarios, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu makes it possible to mount a defense from a position of seeming disadvantage. The beauty of BJJ techniques is that they allow you to take on a bigger, heavier opponent. Certain BJJ grappling techniques also allow you to gain the upper hand, even when your opponent has you pinned.
Fighters who specialize in BJJ have enjoyed lots of success in mixed martial arts over the years, and it’s emerged as arguably the most effective combat system. Let’s take a quick look at the top BJJ fighters from Brazil.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: Origins and early days
The Gracie family goes down in history as the originators and incubators of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Members of this expansive family continue to fly the Gracie flag, with a haul of titles and trophies to show for it.
BJJ has its origins in Japan, drawing its DNA from self-defense techniques that warrior horsemen employed as a last resort. The name of these hand-to-hand combat techniques is Jiu-Jitsu. Centuries later, a Jiu-Jitsu student by the name of Jigoro Kano founded a martial arts school. There he taught the most effective Jiu-Jitsu techniques, with an emphasis on self-defense. The result is what we now know as Judo.
Many years later, one of Jigoro’s students would find their way to Brazil. He trained a young Carlos Gracie, who would go on to found what is arguably the most reputable BJJ school in the world. Carlos and his brothers put their efforts into their martial arts school, with great and lasting success.
One of the Gracie brothers was Hélio. He adjusted different Judo moves to allow a smaller opponent to prevail in a match. The resulting martial art is what we call Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. With the history lesson out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the best BJJ competitors from Brazil.
1) Roger Gracie
There is always a member of the Gracie family active in BJJ circuits. The most recent of these contenders is Roger Gracie, a fourth-degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Being six foot four, Gracie falls in the heavyweight class. He has an impressive collection of gold and silver medals from the World Jiu-Jitsu championships:
- Gold medals for the under- 99kg category from the years 2004 to 2010
- Gold medal for the over-99kg category for the year 2008
- Silver medals for the absolute weight category for the years 2003 to 2010
Gracie also has two gold medals from the 2005 ADCC world championship. He won in both the absolute weight and heavyweight categories. Being a Gracie, Roger has tens of submission wins to his name.
2) Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida
Buchecha is a BJJ black belt with six IBJJF open weight titles. He stands as one of the best grapplers of the present day, with his accomplishments comparable to those of Roger Gracie. Here are his career highlights:
- IBJJF Pan-American championship title (in both heavyweight and absolute classes) in 2012
- Two ADCC championship titles in 2013 and 2017
- IBJJF championship titles for the years 2012 to 2014 (heavy and absolute weight classes)
- IBJJF championship titles from years 2016 to 2019 in (heavy and absolute weight classes)
Marcus Almeida took up Jiu-Jitsu in his mid-teens. It turned out that he is a natural talent, more so when it comes to ground fighting. He has an impressive record of 72 submission wins in contrast to four submission losses. This statistic cements his position as a fearsome grappler.
3) André Galvão
This fourth-degree BJJ black belt has multiple BJJ championship titles to his name. Galvão’s string of victories makes him the embodiment of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Only 5’7” tall, Galvão demonstrates that a smaller frame can comfortably hold its own when it comes to ground fights.
Galvão’s story is remarkable. It starts with an eight-year-old André training for Judo. He goes on to take up Jiu-Jitsu and this is where his talent shines through. So good is André that his teacher sends him to train with renowned coach and BJJ champion, Fernando Augusto da Silva.
André’s skill grows and he enjoys a three-year winning streak. In 2003, Galvão took home two gold medals at the World championship. He managed to win in two weight classes, as a purple belt. Galvão was barely out of his teens when he started to rack up titles and trophies. From 2002 to 2019, he won the following titles:
- 2011 ADCC champion in the under 88kg and absolute weight category
- ADCC super fight champion for the years 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019
- A haul of (mostly gold) BJJ world championship medals from 2001 to 2017
These titles are in addition to a decade’s worth of titles and medals in the Pan-American and BJJ world cup tournaments. André Galvão deserves a spot on this list for his long and successful BJJ career.
4) Bruno da Silva Malfacine
Bruno Malfacine is a rooster weight (flyweight) BJJ champion with nine BJJ world championship titles to his name. He is arguably the best rooster weight of all time, with a haul of medals that other fighters would find hard to replicate.
Malfacine has a distinctive pedigree, being a student of the Gracie ‘house’ of Jiu-Jitsu. He operates and teaches at his branch of Alliance Jiu-Jitsu in Orlando, Florida.
5) Fernando “Tererê” Augusto da Silva
BJJ is a martial art that boasts modern-day greats. This contender makes it onto the list for his brilliant fighting career. Most importantly, he makes it onto the list for his coaching abilities and his contribution to BJJ technique. For the rest of this section, we refer to this martial artist by his nom de guerre: Tererê.
Tererê is a medium-heavy weight black belt. It’s worth noting that like many BJJ fighters he often competed against bigger, much heavier opponents. Fernando Augusto is a charismatic fighter with explosive grappling techniques that make him a fan favorite. Over the course of his career, he won the following titles:
- BJJ world champion in the years 2000 and 2003
- BJJ Pan-American champion 2004
- First place in BJJ world cup nationals in Brazil for the years 2001 and 2003
- BJJ world cup champion 2002 and 2003
Fernando “Tererê” Augusto started his martial arts career as a student of Jiu-Jitsu. His work ethic and preternatural talent soon got him into the most prestigious Jiu-Jitsu competitions in Brazil. As a purple belt, he won a match against the much bigger Rolls Gracie. You should look up the match; it is as exciting today as it was in 1998. His career as a grappler is impressive, with 12 submission wins against two submission losses.
Pedigree, talent, and dedication are a winning combination
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has more than its fair share of world-class talent. The fighters on this list just happen to be a small section of the cream that rises to the top.
The success of each fighter comes down to talent, hard work, and a good support system. Each fighter benefits from the guidance of coaches with BJJ titles to their names. Many of these fighters go on to become successful coaches in their own right.
In the end, this is what Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is all about: Passing the baton to the next generation.
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