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Who are the BJJ Top 40 GOATs?

"Numbers Don't Lie"

 Robert Drysdale

September 2, 2022

Who are the greatest jiu-jitsu competitors of all time? Who wins in competition? Who has the most submissions in competitions? The most titles? Who beats the winner of all winners? It is difficult to objectively determine the greatest BJJ practitioner of all time because there are too many variables. Moreover, different times have different numbers of tournaments with different numbers of competitors and some compete extensively, while others compete less. But this doesnft mean that they canft dominate those who compete consistently. In other words, there is no easy way to frame this discussion as to who gthe besth is (an arbitrary concept no matter how we frame it). But with the right data we can come close, or as close as the data available allows us to.[1]

For this, I had to come up with a criteria of my own to determine which are the most relevant events in the jiu-jitsu circuit and grant each event a scoring system based on the difficulty to win the event in question. Not an easy task. Keeping in mind that I chose to maintain the higher standard of merit in the driver's seat. While popularity may be a fan favorite measuring stick, I don't believe it meets the standard we ought to be after when measuring the top 40 players in the game. Which in our present case here is performance at the highest level of competition. I believe that the criteria below are reasonable.

IBJJF Worlds (1996-2022) – 5 points for gold; 4 for silver; 3 for bronze and an extra 0.5 points for placing in the open (so a double gold at worlds, grants you a total of 11 points for that event). 

I applied the same criteria for the ADCC (1998-2019) since they are the two biggest events in the jiu-jitsu circuit.

Below these events, is what we can consider to be the second-tier of competitive jiu-jitsu events, namely, the IBJJF No-Gi Worlds (2007 to 2021); Pans (1996-2022) and Brazilian Nationals (1994-2022). To these events I applied the following scoring system: 4 for gold; 3 for silver; 2 for bronze and also an extra 0.5 points for placing in the open (so a double gold at Pans, grants you a total of 9 points for that event). A few caveats.

Of course, we could have added more events, but the data pool was getting too big and after adding the No-Gi Pans and Europeans to the pool, it became clear to me that the results would not change significantly although some people might move up or down if we included these and other events. I could have included the now extinct CBJJO (which hosted the cream of the crop of the jiu-jitsu world while it was in existence) and the Abu-Dhabi Pro, but for the same reasons I gave above, I decided to keep them out of the data pool and stick instead to the most relevant/difficult jiu-jitsu events in the world today. Also keep in mind that the data collected is exclusive to the adult and black-belt divisions.

I felt no need to separate men and women since all these tournaments are available for both (or all) genders. However, I do feel that women are at a slight disadvantage here because as a whole, there have been historically fewer womenfs divisions. Although this is easily explained by the much smaller number of female competitors/practitioners as a whole. Nonetheless, this fact does not change the reality of less female divisions in the whole of the history of competitive jiu-jitsu. Furthermore, I find no reason to separate ggih from gno-gi,h since jiu-jitsu has always been defined as a practice with and without a gi. Besides, all competitors on this list competed successfully in both, with the exceptions of Bruno Malfacine and Mario Reis who still managed to make their way onto the list anyway.

Also at a disadvantage were competitors of the 80fs and 90fs who had fewer competitions than became available from the 2000fs onwards after the growth of jiu-jitsu around the world. These competitors certainly have their place in the history of jiu-jitsu, still, it is clear that the competitive jiu-jitsu scene of the post-Royce Gracie era significantly increased in number and quality of competitions.

Additionally, I decided to stick to tournament results and leave out super-fights. Why? Simple, tournaments are harder to win. While a super-fight poses two elite competitors against one another, a tournament poses dozens of them and where in a super-fight one must win a single match, a tournament poses the challenge of a minimum of 4 (in the case of ADCC), up to 6 matches (in the case of the IBJJF tournaments above), specially from the 2000fs onwards. Naturally, and factually speaking, tournaments are a far more significant accomplishment granted the difficulty in defeating 4-6 elite level competitors (especially considering the tournaments selected for the data pool), than it is to defeat one single opponent, however qualified he or she may be. Lastly, the absence of a database for super-fights made collecting the necessary data impossible.

The results below, may surprise some people. They surprised me, especially in regards to the undervalued role of some women in maintaining their dominance over long stretches of time. Ultimately, these results are a testament to the growth of jiu-jitsu, both in sheer size and in technical terms. But it is just as well an acknowledgment of those who have dedicated their lives to furthering the technical sophistication of the art we all love and live for. Their efforts, passion for their craft and subsequent results are the engine of the spread and popularization of jiu-jitsu around the world as well as the crowning of a rich history long in the making. A history we are all indebted to.  

The TOP 40

1- Bia Mesquita – 194

2- Michelle Nicolini – 155

3- Leandro Lo – 135

4- Alexandre Ribeiro – 131

5- Luiza Monteiro – 123

6- Rubens Cobrinha – 120

7- Andre Galvão – 118

8- Bernardo Faria – 108

9- Lucas Lepri – 106

10- Marcus Buchecha – 102

11-  Marcelo Garcia – 102

12- Kyra Gracie – 100

13- Romulo Barral – 100

14- Gaby Garcia – 99

15- Bruno Malfacine – 97

16- Roberto Cyborg – 95

17- João Miyao – 92

18- Bianca Andrade - 89

19- Mackenzie Dern – 84.5

20- Marcio Pé de Pano – 82.5

21- Rafael Lovato – 81

22- Mario Reis – 81

23- Caio Terra – 80.5

24- Saulo Ribeiro – 80

25- Márcio Feitosa – 77

26- Michael Langui - 77

27- Letícia Ribeiro – 76.5

28- Luanna Alzuguir – 76

29- Rafael Mendes – 73.5

30- Roger Gracie – 70.5

31- Hannette Stack – 64

32- Paulo Miyao – 63

33- Rodrigo Comprido – 62.5

34- JT Torres – 55

35- Braulio Estima - 54

36- Rodolfo Vieira – 49.5

37- Royler Gracie – 49.5

38- Leo Vieira – 48.5

39- Ronaldo Jacaré - 46

40- Felipe Pena – 41



Note.The results for the Brazilian Nationals for the years of 2002 and 2009 are missing from the IBJJF database. Attempts to obtain the names of silver and bronze medallists came up short. If anyone has reliable information, I would be glad to update the Top 40 list. Contact Robert Drysdale.


(c) 2022, Robert Drysdale. All rights reserved.


More by Robert Drysdale:


The Rise and Fall of JiuJitsu in MMA

The Fallacy of Submission-Only

Malandragem and Winning in Jiu-Jitsu

Rev. of Breathe, by Rickson Gracie

The ADCC Blind Spot

Winning at Jiu-Jitsu while Keeping it Real

Creonte: Loyalty versus Self-Perfection

The Rectification of BJJ's Rules: To Gi or Not to Gi

Americanization of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

BJ Penn for President

Remembering George Mehdi

Reflections on the Evolution of BJJ

Who Taught Oscar Gracie?

I was Skeptical

Selling Self-Defense

Rickson Gracie is Wrong

Rev. of book by João Alberto Barreto

Maeda Promotes Five Brazilians

Science and Sanity in BJJ

Jiu-Jitsu in Cuba

Is Oswaldo Fada Jiu-Jitsu a Non-Gracie Lineage?



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