Making a numbered list of fighters is always challenging because it’s inherently biased and not objective. We can count the number of titles which is the only hard data we can use. Still, there is significance, years of activity, level of opposition and rivalries, number of wins and losses, submissions percentage, and so on.
Then BJJ has four main aspects- gi competition, no-gi competition, MMA, and self-defense with three of them having an elite competitions scene.
Each person holds the aspects to a different level of importance, further making ranking harder. And let’s not forget there are males and females competing in all of them.
So instead of attempting the impossible and trying to make a ranked list, I have compiled one that includes ten of the best BJJ players to ever compete on the mats.
1. Roger Gracie
While the list isn’t ranked, there are a couple of people who deserve to be called the GOAT. And the overall greatest jiu-jitsu player of all time is Roger Gracie.
To quote the words of John Danaher, Roger excelled in gi BJJ, no-gi, and MMA and has the highest combined accolades in them of all other fighters.
He has 10 World jiu-jitsu titles as a black belt, is a double gold medalist at the 2005 ADCC, submitting all eight of his opponents, and ended his MMA career with an 8-2 record and as the reigning ONE FC cruiserweight champion.
Based on those merits, it’s tough to argue that Roger Gracie is the greatest BJJ player ever.
2. Marcus Almeida
Closely following Roger Gracie for the title of the best BJJ fighter of all time is Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida, who is still active and can soon surpass his rival.
Buchecha has made a significant impact in the world of BJJ with his sequential double gold medals from 2012 until 2019 (with only 2015 missing due to an injury).
Then we add his two no-gi world titles and two ADCC title in 2013 and 2017 for a total record of 128 wins and only 13 losses.
In 2021 Almeida decided to extend his legendary career and transition into MMA, where he currently has a 4-0 unbeaten record and every chance to become a dominant champion in One FC.
3. Gordon Ryan
Despite having success in only one of the faces of grappling, his domination in no-gi is so thorough that he is considered by many to be the best BJJ player of all time, not just the no-gi king.
Ryan is arguably the first jiu-jitsu superstar to become famous outside of the grappling circles. He rapidly progressed in the belt rankings and became a black belt at 20.
From there, he dominated the professional submissions grappling scene and has a record of 98 wins (with 80 submissions) and only 5 losses, the last of which was in 2018.
Gordon Ryan is a 5-time ADCC champion and the most dominant force in no-gi grappling while only 28 years old, so we will see how far his career will go.
4. Marcelo Garcia
Marcelo Garcia has made his name in no-gi, mainly in the ADCC, where he won 4 titles in his weight class and silver in the absolute division.
Still, his overall contribution to the development of BJJ is unrivaled. He is one of the most creative grapplers of all time and innovated techniques like the Marcelotine (high elbow guillotine), north-south chokes, X-Guard, Single X, and others at the highest stages of competition.
His constant evolution allowed him to stay on top of one of the most competitive divisions in the sport for almost a decade. On top of his ADCC titles, Marcelo has 5 IBJJF world titles next to his name.
5. Saulo Ribeiro
Saulo Ribeiro, a black belt under Royler Gracie and the older brother of another BJJ legend, Alexandre Ribeiro, is one of the greatest competitors ever.
With four world titles in various weight classes, Saulo held the record for 20 years before Leandro Lo surpassed him with five.
His overall record and longevity are incredible; Saulo received his first black belt at 19 after demonstrating exceptional talent from a young age and is also a two-time ADCC submission grappling champion.
6. Rubens Charles Cobrinha
Despite a much later start than most others at 21, Cobrihna reached the pinnacle of jiu-jitsu and is amongst the best competitors in history.
With gold medals in the gi at the 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2017 World IBJJF championships, in no-gi in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2012 and three ADCC gold medals in 2013, 2015, and 2017 Cobrihna more than made up his later start on the mats.
Rubens Charles is regarded by many as the best Lightweight BJJ fighter of all time and was awarded “Best BJJ Fighter of 2009” by the Brazilian Press. He is a mainstay in every list, rounding up the best BJJ players, and a true inspiration for late starters in the sport.
7. Leandro Lo
According to BJJ Heroes, Leandro Lo is the pound-for-pound king of BJJ, sitting right above Marcus Almeida. Lo died tragically in 2022 after being shot in a bar altercation.
But before his untimely death, he compiled one of the most impressive BJJ records in history, with 8 IBJJF World titles and many more medals in major international events.
In 2019 Lo broke the 20-year-old record of Saulo Ribeiro after winning a world title in a fifth different weight class.
Leandro won his first world championship at lightweight in 2012 and, in 2019, reached heavyweight gold. This is a significant argument favoring naming him one of the best pound-for-pound grapplers to ever grace the mat.
8. Alexandre Ribeiro
The other Ribeiro brother is also on our list and may even edge out Saulo in accomplishments.
Xandre had an incredibly long, competitive career from 1997 to 2022. During that time, he became a five-time Gi world champion (also winning the absolute division in 2006 and 2008) and a world no-gi champion in 2012, taking the gold both in his division and in the absolute. His two ADCC titles further strengthen his claim as one of the best to ever do it.
Xandre Ribeiro also had a short stint in MMA and won both his fights in Japan by knockout.
9. Andre Galvao
Another BJJ warrior with success across all three disciplines is Andre Galvao. He has numerous accolades, including 10 World Titles in the Gi.
He gathered an even bigger no-gi reputation after winning ADCC gold in the 88 kg division and the absolute in 2011.
This earned him the right to compete for the Super Fight belt, which he won and defended 3 times in a row until he was finally dethroned in 2022 at age 40 by Gordon Ryan.
Aside from gi and no-gi accolades, Galvao also fought in MMA, where he retired with a record of 5 and 2. He is also the owner and leader of one of the best BJJ teams in the world Atos BJJ.
10. Beatriz Mesquita
We must include at least one female BJJ player, and Bia Mesquita has been leagues above everyone else. Mesquita started training BJJ at 5 and has been an outstanding competitor since her early childhood.
Bia has an insane list of titles, including 10 World Championships in the gi, 5 in no-gi, and a gold medal at the 2017 ADCC tournament. Instead of hanging the shorts after such a long and accomplished career, Mesquita is expected to make her MMA debut in 2023.
There are many more deserving BJJ players we can add to the list. Some amazing individuals have competed on the mats, and with the super rapid evolution of the sport, I am sure there are many more greats on their way up.
But until they climb the mountain, the people on this list fully deserve to be honored and studied.