Created in 1996 by the brand-new Jiu-Jitsu Federation, the World Championship of the sport has since been crowning a select group of black belts which, after much sweat poured on gis and mats, wrote their name in history by winning the absolute division, which allows athletes of all weights.
Check out the fighters who won the absolute title at the IBJJF World Championship, in order (first by titles, and alphabetic in case of ties). Who is your favorite?
1. Marcus Vinicius “Buchecha” de Almeida (2012/13/14/16/17/19)
Rodrigo Cavaca’s student, born in São Vicente, São Paulo, was slow to decide between surfing and Jiu-Jitsu, but his choice proved to be the right one. Promising since the age of 19, Marcus Vinicius Buchecha became the first black belt to win the absolute three times in a row, becoming six-time absolute world champion in 2019. An ultra-heavyweight with agility like a lightweight, Buchecha made his guard into a trap, capable of braking the best fighters of his generation. Backed up by a complete game that combines strength, explosion, technique and a lot of tenacity, Buchecha began to not fear any techniques from his opponents, standing or on the ground. Adept at traditional positions combined with modern berimbolos, Buchecha can confuse any opponent.
2. Roger Gracie (2007/09/10)
A teacher from Rio de Janeiro now living in London, Carlos Gracie Junior’s slender black belt became notorious as the most efficient fighter in the sport — at the 2009 Worlds, for example, the “Gracie Blanket” choked all his opponents. The first ever three-time absolute world champion, Roger was famous for his classic game, almost perfect in defense and deadly in attack — his style: landing on top, passing guard and mounting. After also winning the ADCC absolute, Roger decided to challenge himself and migrated to MMA, making it into the UFC and later securing a One Championship belt. Roger retired in 2017 after choking Marcus Buchecha at the event Gracie Pro in a superfight.
3. Alexandre “Xande” Ribeiro (2006/08)
Saulo Ribeiro’s younger brother, Xande, traveled south from Manaus, the capital of Amazonas, willing to match his brother’s titles. And he surpassed them, in number of gold medals at the Worlds. With an almost impassable guard, Xande brought to the Jiu-Jitsu chessboard a tactical component that always had the potential to surprise — including old rival Roger Gracie, who was defeated by him in the 2006 (Rio de Janeiro) and 2008 (California) finals.
3. Amaury Bitetti (1996/97)
The son of a fighter, and shaped on Carlson Gracie’s fearsome competition team, the guard passer Bitetti won the top titles of the gentle art in his day, in memorable duels with his arch-rival, Fabio Gurgel. Tough on his feet and very tactical — even sitting out his weight division to give it all in the absolute — this athlete from Rio de Janeiro was one of the great exponents of Jiu-Jitsu in the 1990s, having also fought in vale-tudo and in the UFC.
3. Marcio “Pé de Pano” Cruz (2002/03)
The pride and joy of the Mata Machado favela, the guard specialist Marcio Pé de Pano terrified his contemporaries with a leg game that alternated sweeps, triangles and other weapons that made up his arsenal. Pé de Pano combined a finishing game with fun taunts to rivals, such as friend Fernando Tererê, and helped to make the sport more popular. Like other stars who reigned in the absolute, Marcio also fought in the UFC.
3. Rodrigo “Comprido” Medeiros (1999/2000)
A well-rounded champion since the colored belts, this fighter from Rio trained by Romero “Jacaré” Cavalcanti was known for outshining other Jiu-Jitsu stars at the turn of the century, when he tamed the impetus of fighters like Fernando Margarida, Roberto Roleta and Nino Schembri, and became a two-time absolute champion.
3. Ronaldo “Jacaré” Souza (2004/05)
A Cariacica native “exiled” in Manaus after a childhood surrounded by questionable friendships, Ronaldo Jacaré had a fulminating trajectory in Jiu-Jitsu, attracting eyes from all over the community from as far back as the purple belt. His game of taking down, falling in side control and finishing anyone in front of him came to a head in the epic fights against Roger Gracie in 2002 (still in the brown belt), 2004 and 2005. The absolute final with Roger in 2004, in which Jaca resisted an armlock and won the fight with a dislocated left arm, is considered by many to be the best Jiu-Jitsu Worlds fight of all time.
[Check back tomorrow for part 2.]