Women have been an integral part of that history since 1998, the year when the first female division took place.
At that time, they all competed in a single division, divided between light and heavy weight categories.
In 1998, Tais Ramos won the lightweight division and Rosangela Conceição was the heavyweight champion.
One year later, the number of competitors already made possible for women to have a blue belt division and a purple/brown/black belt division.
Leka Vieira (feather), Alessandra Oliveira (middle) and Cristina Pereira (heavy) were the champions.
In 2000, two more divisions were added, the light-feather and the medium-heavy.
In 2005, again because of the growing number of competitors, the IBJJF separated the purple belt and the elite division gathered only brown and black belt athletes.
It was also in 2005 that the women started competing on the same day as the male black belts.
Two years later, already in the USA, two new breakthroughs.
First, the first ever open class division was held, and Michelle Nicolini beat Luciana Dias to become the first brown/black belt absolute champion.
Second, for the first time, three non-Brazilian athletes reached the top of the podium in their divisions at the brown/black belt category: Laurence Cousin (feather), Emily Kwok (middle) and Penny Thomas (medium-heavy).
In 2008, the heavyweight division was included in the roster of the female brown/black belt division and Gabi Garcia was the first one to claim that title in a final against Maria do Carmo.
Also in 2008, Kyra Gracie was the open class champion.
In 2009, Lana Stefanac became the first (and still only) non-Brazilian athlete to become open class world champion in the black belt division when she defeated Kyra Gracie in Long Beach.
In 2010, Luanna Alzuguir became the fourth open class champion.
In 2011, Gabi Garcia won her first open class title.
In 2012, in the 15th time the women competed in the Worlds, they finally got a division exclusive for black belts.
Leticia Ribeiro (light-feather), Michelle Nicolini (feather), Beatriz Mesquita (light), Luanna Alzuguir (middle), Fernanda Mazzelli (medium-heavy), Gabi Garcia (heavy, open class) were the first women to become world champions in the black belt division.
The year of 2013 was marked by the fact that there’s no open class champion because Gabi Garcia had to forfeit her result after a not-at-fault positive result for clomiphene in her urine anti-doping test done by the USADA.
In 2014, two new changes to mark the fact that the female division is stronger than ever.
The IBJJF included the roosterweight and the superheavy divisions.
Shiho Yaginuma won the roosterweight division, becoming the only Japanese athlete (man or woman) to win a world title in the adult black belt division.
Venla Luukkonen won the debut edition of the superheavy division.
Beatriz Mesquita became the sixth athlete to win the open class division.
After 17 editions of the Worlds with women competing, a very special group of ladies collected the most number of titles:
Eight-time world champion and IBJJF Hall of Fame member Michelle Nicolini won in 2006, 2007(2), 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Seven-time world champion and IBJJF Hall of Fame member Hannette Staack won in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011.
Seven-time world world and IBJJF Hall of Fame member Leticia Ribeiro won in 2000, 2002, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Six-time world champion and IBJJF Hall of Fame member Bianca Andrade won in 2001, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Six-time world champion and IBJJF Hall of Fame member Gabi Garcia won in 2008, 2010, 2011 (2) and 2012 (2).
Other than the Brazilian women, a few tough ladies from different countries also made to the to of the female division.
2007 – Laurence Cousin, Penny Thomas, Emily Kwok.
2009 – Lana Stefanac (2), Penny Thomas.
2010 – Hillary Williams.
2014 – Janni Larsson, Venla Luukkonen.
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