This is an article I have I feeling I’ll need to be updating very regularly. Such is the landscape of the highest levels of Jiu-Jitsu, that I doubt we can crown one GOAT fro too long. Despite the claim of many grapplers that they are the best one to ever step on the mats, the tide shifts at one point or another. At present, however, there aren’t many who can actually back up a claim that they’re the best. Begin the best and among the best two very different things. That said, we do have some impressive grapplers out there. Along with some of the ones that have been at it for decades now, trying to compile a list of the best is no easy task. However, we managed to weed out those that at least deserve to be challenging the GOAT for the title of best BJJ Fighters today?
Becoming one of the best BJJ fighters of all time is something only a handful of people will achieve in their lifetimes. For those that have, though, recognition has to be given where it is due. The problem with arriving at the GOAT of Jiu-Jitsu, apart from some obvious examples, is that most people are often biased towards grapplers. Whatever the case, whether it is a fourth or a tenth place, those that deserve to be among the best of all times are all on the list for a good reason. We employed quite a few criteria in our search to pinpoint the best for now. The idea behind this list is not only to rank the best BJJ fighters. It is also a look at some of the most exciting potential matchups that could happen in the future.
An Ever-Changing Landscape
The landscape of Brazilia nJIu-Jitsu at the very top is an ever-changing one. Just take a look at any Mundials for example. Year to year, not many have been able to keep their world titles, with new and exciting black belts emerging every day! Yet, for some people, it seems almost effortless when it comes to dealing with the “scariest” grapplers alive. As fans of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, we have to be grateful for the crazy amount of high-level competition events available today. Moreover, we’re grateful for the chance to have access to them all in a digital format.
There are plenty of things to look at when trying to capture who is the best of the best. One criterion we had to take into account, obviously, was the number and type of titles grapplers have. However, this one, ti’s own is far from enough to identify the best BJJ fighters of today. We also included several other criteria, like the number of years someone’s active, their overall grappling record, and even submission wins and losses. There’s of course, the very hard to quantify entertainment effect. Plus we looked at how often people compete and whether or not they’re still active. Lots to take in, I know, but all absolutely necessary in our hunt for the BJJ GOAT.
In all the madness we can’t forget that we need to look at both male and female BJJ fighters alike. Both have crazy representatives in their ranks, and there’s no way we could do an article like this without including…well… everyone! From legends to brand new stars and even a few up-and-comers, enjoy our selection fo the best BJJ fighters of all times!
The ADCC Effect
It is not really hard to pinpoint the reason behind such an article. To be honest, most analyses of this kind usually follow big events at a world level. Particularly when those events are a platform for brand new talent to shine and provide lots of upsets. Of course, the latest greatest thing to glorify grappling was non-other than the Olympics of Jiu-Jitsu itself: the ADCC.
While we saw some anticipated outcomes in this year’s edition. there were also plenty of upsets. That said, we saw a lot of “new blood” with young grapplers that are going to shine very bright in the coming future. They deserve an article of their own, but this is not the spot to give them recognition. Instead, we’ll take a look at how ADCC left the rankings of the best BJJ fighters in the world today. If there’s one thing that can really reshuffle the rankings it is the ADCC, and the 2019 edition certainly did not disappoint!
Finally, right before we get into the who is who of grappling, let’s make it clear that not everyone will agree with our list. And that is perfectly okay, as writing these sorts of articles are pretty biased affairs anyways. Still, there’s the undeniable impact of certain grapplers either lately, or throughout the eyras that deserves recognition. So, the only thing we might disagree on, I guess, is going to be the posts where we place different grapplers.
The Male GOAT
Before we go into the who is who fo the best BJJ fighters ever to grapple on the big stage, let’s make something clear. We did not include numbers in this list, simply because it is an ever-changing landscape, as I already mentioned before. Therefore, we only have the first spots of both the male and female GOAT lists reserved for who we truly believe is the cram of the crop at the moment. Everyone else below can just as easily be in second or in the final spot with just a couple of good or bad performances. So don’t take anything to hearth!
Is there really anyone else taht can challenge the “King” nowadays? Or, better said, in the upcoming future? If there was ever a time for that epic rematch between him and Felipe Pena it has to be now. Whether or not that takes place, the fact remains that Ryan beat the who is who of BJJ in a highly impressive fashion. In fact, it looked liek he is going for a walk in the park during most of his matches. So far, given his EBI and different super-fight achievements, as well as the stunning record of only 5 loses, with just 1 coming by submission. Furthermore, 59 submissions out of 75 wins paint a pretty solid picture of this outstanding grappler.
Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida
I’d have to give the second spot to none other than the legendary Buchecha. It was a tight one between him and another heavyweight in Roger Gracie, but it has to go to the younger Almeida. It is probably down to the fact he is still active at the highest levels of the sport, and still destroying people left and right. He does own even more wins than Ryan with a total of 138 wins and only 14 losses. 15 world titles (two in No-Gi) plus a double ADCC title, as well as a Pans Championship, place BUcvehca firmly in second. At least for the time being.
A true GOAT, at least for a while there. in fact, quite more than a while. His hallmark achievement of beating everyone at the Worlds via submission is still something no other grappler has managed to match. Not to mention that he has a total of 10 gi world titles, two Europeans, two ADCC and one Pan title to mention just a few of his accolades. Perhaps best known as the man with the most advanced fundamentals in BJJ, who knows where Roger would’ve featured on this list if he kept competing only in BJJ, or if he was still active. Instead, his successful MMA career turned him away from grappling for a while there.
This guy usually goes in a package along with is brother Jao. Still, Paulo is undoubtedly the more famous of the tow, and definitely the more active competitor. You can pretty much see him anywhere, from Gi competitions to the ADCC, and superlight events with some of the crazier rulesets of today. Plus, he is as close to unsubmittable as they gat, as his latest outing at the ADCC confirmed yet again. Particularly when leglocks are in question. Controversy is also never going to be behind Miyao, with his 2016 world title scrubbed due to a positive PED result. Still, a couple of other world titles, multiple Pan titles, No-Gi Pans and Europeans pretty much cement his legacy as one of the best BJJ fighters ever. 198 wins and only 22 losses with just one of them via submission further prove that point even further.
Probably could’ve been a bit higher up the list…if he was still only active. Marcelo has long since hanged his competition shorts, given taht he was far more attracted to No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu than Gi. For many, he is always going to be the GOAT, especially after crazy outings liek the one against Kron Gracie at the ADCC. 5 world titles, 4 ADCC titles, 3 Brazilian nationals, and a Pan title to cap it off clearly show why he is on our best BJJ fighters list. Similarly to Roger Gracie, the fact that he has retired works against him in this ranking, Still, I doubt any kind of BJJ GOAT ranking is not going to feature the enigmatic Brazilian. A 65% submission rate and one of the most aggressive and attractive styles to watch are just a couple of examples of why everyone loves Marcelo.
Demian Maia on a Best BJJ fighters list might not be what some people have in mind. Best BJJ in MMA would perhaps fit him better. Still, the fact remains that Demian has been submitting the best of the best from all martial arts backgrounds for close to two decades now. Even though he might not be competing regularly in Jiu-Jitsu, he is certainly making the most out of it in MMA. His grappling skills are the stuff of legends, and if we still had bards, they would’ve already had plenty of songs ready for Maia. Let’s face it, he can still go toe to toe with anyone, as he proved just ta a few days ago when he choked Ben Askren unconscious in the UFC. I would still love to see him do some grappling super fights before he retires completely, though.
Rafel Lovato Jr.
The greatest American grappler of all time. Or so they say. Certainly, one of the very best BJJ fighters we’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. Lovato Jr. is proof of why BJJ politics only end up producing mediocre grapplers. A black belt under Carlos Machado and yet, a lifelong student of the Ribeiro brothers he got the best out of two of the greatest schools of Jiu-Jitsu. Apart from making history by winning the Brazilian nationals two times, he is also a World champion in Gi and No-gi both as an adult and a Master. Not to mention that he is the current, undisputed Bellator middleweight champion of the world. Let’s hope that th stars align and we get to see a matchup between Lvoato Jr. and Demian Maia in the future.
Rafael Lovato Jr. has found the time to issue a brand new instructional despite his crazy schedule. Once again, it is a pressure-based one, titled “Top Game Devastation”. Check out a chapter by chapter review of the DVD right HERE.
There’s no way we can’t mention Andere Galvao when we’re looking at the best BJJ fighters of all times. Galvao is certainly a polarizing figure- people love him or hate him. he is of the old school now, but it doesn’t’ seem liek that given ho active he is. he has been competing for a long time now and has lots to show for it. Just recently he disposed of Felipe Pena at the ADCC super fight. And yet, the most impressive thing is taht this was his fourth super-fight victory in a row.
Moreover, he has double ADCC gold to boast, along with 7 World titles, 9 Pans titles and a bunch of others. Although maybe not as big on submission wins as some of the others on our list, he is still entertaining and does have a staggering 157 career wins so far. Plus he has only been submitted 4 times at black belt.
Lucas Lepri is as household a name as they get when it comes to the BJJ GOAT. 7 World titles in the Gi. 3 World No-Gi titles. Also a five-time winner of the Pans and one-time European Champion. Oh yeah, and there’s that one No-Gi Pans title. Plus he has one of the nastiest guard games anyone in BJJ has ever seen, particularly with the GI. A bang in the middle submission rate of 50% shows that he is as dangerous as he is versatile and up to date with the modern BJJ game. Plus, he only has 2 submission loses as a black belt, so he certainly deserves a spot in the best BJJ fighters list. There’s a lot more to come from Lepri, given that he is barely 34 years old.
Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles
Cobrinha is yet another one who could just as easily be in second place on this list. he is always going to be one of the best BJJ fighters to ever compete. As of late, it seems he is looking to step back and allow his son to shine instead. With young Kennedy Macial a fresh black belt, and off of an astonishing ADCC display, there’s certainly a lot to expect from Cobrinha Jr. Will he ever get anywhere near his father’s 5 Gi and 4 No-Gi World titles, 3 ADCC titles and 4 Pans titles? That remains to be seen.
Rubens certainly placed the bar as high as possible, competing well lover a hundred times as a black belt, and submitting 63 of his opponents along the way. Only two submission losses prove how difficult he is to grapple against. Plus, he really ahs the entertainment factor working for him, as he is probably the most athletically gifted grappler on our best BJJ fighters list.
One more grappler that usually comes in a package. This time, We have Rafel Mendes representing both Mendes brothers. Despite his brother Gui also being a high-level grappler, Rafa is certainly the better fo the two. Moreover, he is one of the best ever, and certainly a one-time GOAT, for at least a while. back when the crazy inverted guard games and Berimbolos we’re the order of the day, there was nobody better than Rafa Mendes. 6-time world champion, 2-time ADCC champion and more gold medals in the highest level tournaments than one can count are just a small part of Rafa’s legacy. Never been submitted at a black belt, which is one of the biggest accomplishments anyone in the game can get. Moreover, there’s hardly a better role model for all the small guys that adore Gi Jiu-Jitsu than Rafa Mendes himself.
Yet another instance in which we have to choose between a coupe fo really high-level brothers. This time, though, we have a couple of heavier grapplers inquestion., And, in the case of the Ribeiro brothers, I really think that Xande just about edges out his brother Saulo. His record is impressive, as expected, with 7 world titles, 2 ADCC titles and a bunch of other ones to support this claim. Match-wise, he has a 50% submission rate and has only suffered 40 loses ina a decades-long career as a black belt. Moreover, he is one of the best teachers in the game nowadays, as proven by countless of his students, the most famous of which is the aforementioned Rafel Lovato Jr. Certainly, a maintain among th best BJJ fighters of all times for years to come.
Xande Ribeiro takes his legendary concepts to a digital format as well. He has provided one of the utmost defensive concepts in the game. His four-part “Diamond Concept Of Defense” instructional is as unique as his grappling abilities and definitely worth a look!
Here we are at another name who is great at grappling and it seems he isn’t even trying. Well, at least at the moment. Garry jumped into the ADCC a couple of weeks before the event, not having trained specifically for the event. He is focused on his MMA career at the moment, with a flawless pro-MMA record so far. However, we do miss his always entertaining grappling matches and we’d certainly like to see more ADCC-like performances.
The Tom DeBlass black belt is not one that really went to many IBJJF tournaments. However, he does boast a Pans title in No-Gi, as well as a silver medal in the latest ADCC. Also, he is a multiple-time EBI champion in different weight divisions, which is enough of a testament of his skills on its own. Garry has a submission rate upwards of 70 % so far in nearly a hundred grappling matches. Tonon is definitely going to remain one of the BJJ GOATs, even though he is all about MMA nowadays. Another great contender to mix it up with Lovato Jr and/or Demian Maia at a certain point.
He is small, he is fast and he has one of the best butterfly guard games in the business! Plus, he is a 10 times World BJJ Champion, which places him amongst a very select few. Several Pans titles, a European one, three Brazilian Nationals et just add more bling to his trophy cupboard. Bruno Malfacine is certainly a rooster weight legend, and one of the most impressive and entertaining modern-day grappling competitors. He does prefer to work in the Gi though.
However, he is known for an extremely aggressive and entertaining style, one which almost never produces boring matches. In upwards of 70 matches at black belt, he only a solitary submission loss and a handful of points losses. His own submission rate is an impressive 63 %, which is incredible, given the depth of the division he competes in. Also known as the man who regularly beats Felipe Costa and Caio Tera.
Bruno is known as the small guy who beats large guys. Conversely, his DVD bears the title” How to Beat Bigger Guys: Guard” and is all about the most efficient bottom game system ever recorded. Across four volumes, Bruno guides us through step by step instructions in developing a guard as crazy as his.
I guess this is the point in this article that’ll piss some people off. ti is our last entry for now, as we try to keep this list somewhat exclusive, given our criteria. To that extent, it wouldn’t be complete without the 5-time world champion and BJJ revolutionary Bernardo Faria. He has won just about anything that you can win in Jiu-Jitsu and is equally as skilled in both Gi and No-Gi BJJ. He is a real wizard when it comes to the deep half guard and over-under passing. In fact, he is not just one of the best BJJ fighters out there, but also one of the most active issuers of digital instructionals nowadays.
With almost a hundred victories, some of which include beating names like Rodrigo Cavaca, Leandro Lo, Erberth Santos, etc he certainly has a wealth of competition experience. I certainly hope he hasn’t called it a day, given that we haven’t seen him compete in the last couple of years.
Bernardo Faria is definitely the GOAT when it comes to the number of BJJ instructionals he has. To that extent, we have organized all of them in a neat little collection, with detailed reviews on each title.
The Best Female BJJ Fighters
The finer half of Brazilian Ju-Jitsu is as big a part of the sport as the males are, if not even bigger. Let’s face it, the ladies’ matches tend to be more fast-paced and action-filled when compared to the gentlemen. Moreover, in most cases, the technical level of the ladies is extremely well rounded, which provides a much more free-flowing game, hence highly entertaining matches. Once again, with so many fighters out there it is hard to pinpoint the GOATs. So, we had to turn to all our criteria once again.
One more name that I somehow think is going to divide people. Why isn’t Gabi Garcia or Mackenzie Dern leading this list? See what I said about the criteria. There’s a lot more than just the length of someone’s career that’s crucial in landing them among the best BJJ fighters of today. When it comes to the finer half of BJJ, Beatriz Mesquita is one of the toughest competitors to ever grace the mats. The ADCC champion, 6 times World Gi and 2-time world No-Gi champion are some of the most active and entertaining female grapplers of today.
Of course, she also has Pans, Euros, Brazilian Nationals, and even EBI titles to further make her case. The Gracie HUmaita fighter did suffer a setback in the form of a broken arm at the latest ADCC. Still, she will certainly be back on the mats before we even notice her missing. One of the most entertaining grapplers to watch ever, including male grapplers.
Basilio is pretty much Bia’s constant rival nowadays. The two have met under just about any rulest possible, and Bia is the winner of most of those encounters. That’s probably the main reason why an extremely attractive fighter like Bianca places second in our BJJ GoAT list. IN Bia’s absence she did win the 2019 ADCC, taking out Ffion Davis who submitted Mesquita earlier. Basilio also has Pans, Brazilian Nationals, Abu Dhabi Grand Slam and Abu Dhabi Pro titles to her name. At only 23 years of age and a black belt since 2017, Bianca is certainly going to stay on this list for years to come. What’s also likely is that she’ll even climb up to first a ta certain point in time, claiming the BJJ female GOAT title to go with all her other accolades.
If there is a grappler that has been on a hot streak lately, it has to be Ffion Davies. The Darragh O’Connel black belt is of the Ribeiro brother’s lineage and has the game to prove it. She is as entertaining and as aggressive as grapplers can get. So far, Ffion has only been a black belt for less than a year, and she is already an ADCC silver medalist. The Welsh-born grapplers are also a World No-Gi champion, as well as holding one Brazilian National and one European title.
Similar to Bianca Basilio, she is still young at only 24 and has a stellar career in front of her. Still, she has been so active lately, particularly at the submission-only scene that she is already one of the best BJJ fighters of modern times. And, while she fell short to Basilio in the ADCC finals, she did manage to take out the reigning champion Bia Mesquita with one of the nastiest armbars we’ve ever seen.
You knew that Gabi’s name was going to come up at a certain point in time. There’s no way anyone could look into how the GOAT in BJJ is without including Gabi Garcia. She is the ultimate heavyweight female world champion, holding a staggering 4 ADCC titles which is a historical feat. Moreover, she has 6 World titles in the Gi as well as 6 Pans titles. Abu Dhabi, European, and Brazilian Nationals gold medals are also a part of her trophy collection.
The 33 years old is one of the most recognizable faces of women’s BJJ of all time. Plus, she has one of the most impressively technical games. While her size often seems to be a deciding factor in her victories, let’s not forget that she’s faced lots of adversity before and has lots of talent and immense grappling skills. That makes it easy to deal with just about anyone that stands across from her on the mats.
There she is. Yet another name that we couldn’t leave out, despite Dern having her head completely turned by MMA. She is in the UFC at the moment, trying to deal with her first-ever pro MMA defeat. Still, when it comes to grappling she did anything there is, including beating the much heavier Gabi Garcia. 75 wins and 25 losses make up for a mixed record, although an impressive one. However, her title count is too big to list here. Basically, she has a title in anything, for the Mundials all the way to the FIVE Super League. Dern is 26 years of age and she is certainly going to come back to grappling at a certain point. Until such time, we’ll be looking closely at how she bounces back from her first defeat in the UFC.
Nicolini was, for a while there, the Biana Basilio to Dern’s Mesquita. She does have an ADCC title over Mackenzie, but she has been dormant in the big competition scene for a while now. She does have an additional 8 world titles as well as a bunch of others (No-Gi Worlds, Abu Dhabi Pro, Europeans, and Pans. Never shy to test herself in the absolute, Nicolini is behind some of the most attractive matches in BJJ history. However, since she parted ways with Cavaca, Michelle hasn’t been active in grappling, or MMA for that matter. While she certainly has done more than enough to earn a spot among the best BJJ fighters of all time, she is someone we hope to see back on the mats sooner rather than later.
As far as I am concerned, Gezary is absolutely one of the best BJJ fighters in the world. She has an exciting style, very submission-heavy and based around armbars, for the most part. Moreover, she has all the titles that are prerequisites to end up as one of the GOATs of BJJ. From World titles, through multiple Pans titles to the European championships, Gezary has them all. Perhaps she lacks an ADCC run, but she is not very big on NO-Gi Jiu-Jitsu from what we could tell. A black belt since 2012 she is one of the toughest female competitors out there. After her impressive Pans display last year, we’re still waiting to see what comes next. A super fight, perhaps?
Luiza is one of those grapplers that enjoys a legendary status probably as much as Marcelo Garcia does among the male Jiu-Jiteros. The thing about her is that she is still active, her most recent accolade coming at the 2019 Europeans in the form of a gold medal. Plus she has the perfect balance of Gi and No-Gi world titles, as well as plenty of gold at the Brazilian Nationals and Pans. IN other words, she’s won just about everything there is and she is still lat it. A Cavaca black belt since 2010 her decade-long competition experience at the level is undoubtedly one of her greatest assets. At the moment, she’s with the Atos team, meaning her competition skills are only getting sharper. Expect a lot more to come from her, and possibly even a challenge for Bia’s top best BJJ fighters spot.
We did cover a few brother grappler duos so far. Well, Tammy is a part of a brother-sister duo, that has been wreaking havoc around the globe. Her brother Mikey might not be on the list, for now, but Tammy is undoubtedly one of the very best BJJ fighters in the world. Why? Well, being a world champion in every possible organization is one reason. Her “never say die” style and wicked Berimbolo game are a couple more. She is part of history after her 2014 final match against Michelle Nicolini at the Mundials. She had the lead, before suffering a broken arm at the hands of Nicolini because she refused to tap. the more impressive part is that she kept on going, eventually losing the match on points. Oh, and she was only 19 at the time. Lots more to come from Tammy, that’s for certain!
This Marcelo Garcia black belt has strong claims to raise straight at the top of the best BJJ fighters list in the very near future! As far as I am concerned, Ffion Davis and Dominika Obelenyte are the next two ladies to fight for the GOAT spot. The Lithuanian-born grappler has been a black belt under Marcelo since 2015. Perhaps she is even a surprise edition in this list. Still, she does have her fair share of World, Pans, and European titles though, both at black belt and earlier colored belts. Her pressure passing game is the stuff of nightmares, and she does boast an impressive record so far. She has a 40% submission rate against some of the toughest grappling ladies in the world. However, she only has one loss so far at the black belt level, which is one of the main reasons she is featured here.
Dominyka has one of the craziest games around, particularly when it comes to Omoplat-based innovations. Her Domolata is legendary and she has an entire DVD out on the subject of the “Spider Guard And Domoplata” which is one of the best BJJ instructionals I’ve ever seen.
Now, Leticia is the true OG in the ranks of the best BJJ Fighters among the finer half. She is a fourth-degree black belt under her Vini Aieta and a true legend of the sport. Collecting titles since the early 2000’s she has a total of 9 world titles (two of which No-Gi) as well as a few Pans championships. It has certainly been a while since we’ve seen her compete, and I doubt we ever wil again. However, her contribution to BJJ is so huge, plus her achievements and style are so impressive that she simply has to be in the running for the GOAT of BJJ title.
She has been focused solely on coaching since 2010. We’d certainly enjoy seeing her face some of the young modern lionesses of today. It is amusing that most of them didn’t even have their black belts when she won her last World title.
Once again, the goal of this article is not to satisfy anyone’s thoughts on the subject of the BJJ GOAT. Moreover, the GOAT doesn’t have to be an active competitor, nor a legendary but retired one, for that matter. There are plenty of nuances that go into selecting who is the best BJJ fighter of today, and of all times. Moreover, this list is going to change, and sooner rather than later. Until then, though, you know who the GOAT is. So, start trying to copy their style and buy their instructional in a quest to one day see your own name on a list such as this one.