When she was a little girl in Unai, Minas Gerais, Ana Laura Cordeiro had to open the oven to go train. That was where the mother of the future champion, wary of that Jiu-Jitsu thing, hid her daughter’s gi. Today, Laura is an undefeated fighter, teaches self-defense for girls in California and is one of the greatest fighters in the world.
In tribute to her and others who have overcome distrust and pain, GRACIEMAG.com put together a list of 12 tough Jiu-Jitsu-playing ladies who have made a difference.
1) Ana Laura Cordeiro – The Gracie Barra America teacher recovers from a hip injury, and is one of the champions able to draw large audiences to big tournaments and influence girls to start training. Come back soon, Laura!
2) Cris Cyborg (Photo: Esther Lin) — Now considered by many to be the greatest female MMA fighter on the planet, pushing the sport among girls, whether by drawing crowds or as proof women can be quality fighters, too. She proved she can do Jiu-Jitsu as well by taking third at ADCC 2009.
3) Kyra Gracie – Several Jiu-Jitsu and ADCC titles, popularizer of the gentle art, and all that without losing her delicate beauty. She has wins over nearly every major rival.
4) Hannete Staack – The biggest Jiu-Jitsu Worlds winner, six-time world champion, and current two-time ADCC winner. She moved to Chicago, USA, in search of quality of life and to teach the gentle art’s tricks to girls.
5) Rosangela Conceicao “Zanza” — Won the first Jiu-Jitsu World Championship open to ladies, in 1998. Furthermore, she is the best athlete in the history of Brazil’s Olympic wrestling team, having participated in the last Olympic Games.
6) Carina Damm – With 18 MMA fights, winning the last 10, she always demonstrated technical Jiu-Jitsu with charm and beauty. But if it’s about throwing down, she can handle herself.
7) Lana Stefanac – The American is the latest absolute world champion black belt. She s proof that, besides technique, the feminine sex also has strength.
8) Kay Stephenson – The Renzo Gracie student has been winning at weight and the absolute at the main Jiu-Jitsu competitions, as she did at blue belt at the last World Championships. Watch out for this beast.
9) Beatriz Mesquita — GRACIEMAG.com appointed her as one of ten Jiu-Jitsu athletes to keep an eye on in 2010. Proof we nailed it, this year she won the European Championship at weight and absolute.
10) Letícia Ribeiro – The wife of UFC fighter Fabricio Morango is a four-time Jiu-Jitsu world champion. Besides being one tough cookie on the mat, with years of competition, she has produced great athletes, like Bia up above.
11) Ana Maria India — A black belt, who also fights in MMA, she began her career training with the likes of Murilo Bustamante, Rodrigo Minotauro, Ze Mario Sperry, Antoine Jaoude, Rousimar Toquinho and many others. She learned, and developed refined technique, will to win and excellent teaching skills, which she has demonstrated in Rio and in seminars across England.
12) Alzuguir Luanna – Winner of the last installment of the ADCC and current world champion, the Fabio Gurgel athlete will still provide much to talk about. Refined technique and determination are her qualities.