(Highlight video of all 11 grapplers above. Detailed description of each grappler follows.)
What makes someone the greatest ever? Is it the number of times he’s stood up on the podium? Or is it the many years he’s dedicated to martial arts; living, breathing and sleeping on the mats, all because of his love for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)? For the fighters we mention in this article, it is all of the above.
Today, we discuss the greatest male grapplers to ever live!
1) Roger Gracie
No list would ever be complete without Roger Gracie. We have him as our #1 greatest competitor of all time, Roger is a 14 x BJJ World Champion (12 golds in the Black Belt division) as well as an MMA fighter. He is known for his deep knowledge of BJJ fundamentals, enabling him to win many of his matches with simple submissions and positions.
Like we said earlier, we have Roger as our GOAT. The rest can be ranked in various orders. Many will argue that Roger is not the greatest BJJ grappler of all time. To say that he isn’t top 3 however would be silly.
Roger Gracie Gomes (born September 26, 1981) is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner (14x world champion) and a mixed martial artist. A member of the Gracie family, he is the son of Reila Gracie (daughter of Carlos Gracie) and Mauricio Motta Gomes. Roger was awarded his black belt by his cousin Renzo Gracie at the behest of Carlos Gracie, Jr. whilst training in New York in 2003. He is currently a fourth degree black belt. Roger Gracie is the founder and head instructor at The Roger Gracie Academy located in Kensington, London, England. Notable Black belt promotions include Raymond Stevens, Nicolas Gregoriades and Kywan Gracie Behring. Roger is an active mixed martial arts competitor, and is the former ONE World Cruiserweight (now Light Heavyweight) Champion.
2) Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida
The youngest amongst legends on our list, Buchecha has already earned quite an impressive reputation in the BJJ community. Before reaching the age of 20, Buchecha had already won the (weight and absolute division) 2012, 2013, and 2014 BJJ World Championship. Known for his explosive style and extreme athleticism, there is no doubt that great things are in store for this young competitor.
3) Marcelo Garcia
A 5x BJJ World Champion and 4x ADCC World Champion, there is no doubt that Marcelo deserves one of the top spots on our list. Although Marcelo fights at the middleweight division, he has fought many times in the absolute division, often with great results. In fact, one of his claims to fame was defeating BJJ legends Renzo Gracie and Vitor Ribeiro as a brown belt in 2003.
4) Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza
Currently a fighter for the UFC in the middleweight division, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza is possibly one of the most decorated BJJ practitioners in MMA today. A 3x BJJ World Champion and 2x ADCC World Champion, he is one of the few BJJ competitors who has defeated the legendary Roger Gracie. In this famous match, it was reported that Jacare had fought the remainder of the fight with one arm, after refusing to tap to an armbar from Gracie.
5) Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles
Considered to be one of the greatest featherweights in BJJ history, Cobrinha is a 4x BJJ World Champion and a 2x ADCC World Champion. Extremely agile and flexible, Cobrinha’s BJJ style is very Capoeira based (Cobrinha is also a Capoeira Master). Although Cobrinha still competes regularly, he also teaches at his own academy in California.
6) Rafael Mendes
The other half of the famous Mendes brothers, Rafael Mendes is up there with Cobrinha as one of the greatest featherweights in BJJ. Known for popularizing the berimbolo and the 50-50 guard, Rafa was also an exceptionally talented student. In fact, he has won all BJJ World Championships from blue belt all the way to brown consecutively, achieving the bronze in his first year as a Black Belt in 2009 and winning his first gold medal at Black Belt the year after.
7) Alexandre “Xande” Ribeiro
A 6x BJJ World Champion and 2x ADCC World Champion, Xande Ribeiro is ranked #1 on BJJ Heroes’ Top 10 BJJ Fighters Of All Time and is also known as the best pound-for-pound BJJ fighter. Xande often competes in the absolute division, using flawless technique and athleticism to overwhelm his opponents. Today, he teaches at University of Jiu-Jitsu with his brother, Saulo Ribeiro.
8) Saulo Ribeiro
The author of University of Jiu-Jitsu, Saulo’s technical knowledge of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is unparalleled. A 5x BJJ World Champion, he has fought and won in four different weight classes: middleweight, light heavyweight, heavyweight and super heavyweight. Currently a 5th degree Black Belt, Saulo is also a lawyer and a judge.
9) Fernando “Terere” Augusto
Most commonly known as “Terere”, he is considered by many of the Black Belts on the Evolve Instructor Team as one of the greatest and most exciting BJJ legends in history. Known for his agility and quick reflexes, Terere is a 2x BJJ World Champion, a Pan-American Champion, South-American Champion, Copa do Mundo Champion, and Brazilian National Champion.
10) Leonardo “Leozinho” Vieira
Watching Leozinho move on the mats is simply a sight to behold. One of the most technical and exciting competitors to watch, he is a 2x ADCC World Champion and a BJJ World Champion. As the head of Checkmat, one of the most exciting teams in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu today, he has helped coach some of the greatest names in BJJ such as Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida and Lucas Leite.
11) Rickson Gracie
Possibly one of the greatest BJJ legends, one would expect nothing less from the son of Master Helio Gracie. Rumor has it that he is undefeated across several martial arts, including BJJ, Judo, Sambo, and MMA. Also known as one of the first legitimate MMA fighters, Rickson is responsible for promoting the Gracie name outside Brazil.
These BJJ legends, regardless of their place in history, have garnered achievements that truly stand the test of time. Whether we are BJJ practitioners or not, there’s no doubt that these martial artists have reached a level of greatness that only happens once in a lifetime.
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