For the past 20 years we have witnessed the sport’s elite battling for jiu jitsu’s most prized possession, a gold medal at the IBJJF World Championship and the bragging rights that come with it.
While some opt to play the score-board to reach this goal, others go for the ultimate thrill, the submission. Fighting not only for the aforementioned medal, but also for a chance to carve their names in the history books as legends of our sport. These past 20 events have brought us several of these submission hunters, almost 4 generations of true entertainers who go from the omoplata king, Nino Schembri to triangle machines such as Márcio “Pé de Pano” Cruz and Mário Reis or even the more recent light featherweight champ Paulo Miyao and his choking prowess.
But from all the hundreds of athletes who have graced us with their incredible submission skills over the years, which got the highest number of taps at the highest level of our sport? This is what we tried to find out.
With over 1800 matches accounted for this article, in the adult black belt division, it is worth mentioning that we did miss a few rooster-weight matches. As such the numbers of legendary athletes, namely Caio Terra (7 subs) and Bruno Malfacine (15 subs) could possibly be higher than accounted.
But without further ado, here is the list:
.10 MARCIO CRUZ
A true legend of this sport, the famous Pé de Pano competed in 6 World Championships in the adult black belt, conquering 3 world titles (2002 weight & absolute, 2003 absolute). Cruz is also known as the only athlete to get multiple taps at the “Mundial’s” BB category from his devastating knee-on-belly control.
.9 BRAULIO ESTIMA
One of the most dangerous guard players in jiu jitsu’s history, Braulio’s matches often ended either by his deadly triangle or armbar. Braulio’s accuracy was also passed on to his brother Victor, who nearly made it in this list with 10 submissions at the World Championships. A strong gene pool of arm collectors runs in the Estima bloodline.
.8 LUCAS LEPRI
The Alliance lightweight has stepped on the mats of the world championships on 9 separate events, reaching the top on 3 of those occasions. Easily one of the most complete jiu jitsu athletes in the history of the lightweight division.
.7 ANDRÉ GALVÃO + BRUNO MALFACINE
Two athletes with very distinct styles and from very different weight classes, who have left their mark in our sport. One thing these two Brazilians do share, eye pleasing grappling styles and a thirst for the submission.
.6 MARIO REIS + RAFAEL MENDES
Two rivals who have met 8x during the course of their careers, match on the #6 position of our ranking. Mario Reis’ first black belt world title attempt dates back to 2003, a successful year for the Alliance athlete. Reis has competed in the Worlds adult BB division an astounding 13x, conquering 2 titles and medalling numerous times.
Mendes is arguably the best pound 4 pound grappler of his generation, whose won the featherweight world title a record breaking 5x.
.5 BERNARDO FARIA + ROMULO BARRAL
The fact that these two men gathered 18 submissions each in the toughest tournament in the world is a testament to their importance in our sport. But to have done it In two of the toughest weight classes ever battled adds plenty of significance to their achievements.
.4 RUBENS CHARLES + MARCUS ALMEIDA
Two of the most dynamic grapplers in each of their divisions, Rubens “Cobrinha” made history by being the first featherweight to match Royler Gracie’s 4 world title record back in 09. Marcus “Buchecha” followed Cobrinha’s path by matching Roger Gracie’s 3 open weight world title record in 2014. 3 titles out of 5 attempts at black belt for Almeida.
.3 RODOLFO VIEIRA
One of the most talented heavyweights to have graced a jiu jitsu mat, Rodolfo made the toreando pass his weapon of choice, combining it with a methodical and deadly back take that granted him numerous submissions. Vieira has since dropped his jiu jitsu career to focus on his mixed martial arts debut, but his status as a legend of our sport has certainly been settled.
.2 ALEXANDRE RIBEIRO
King “Xande” is by far one of BJJ Heroes’ favorite all time athletes. A complete grappler, Ribeiro always showed incredible throws, heavy passing pressure and a guard that has only been passed twice in 14 years of competing as a black belt. In the IBJJF World Championships, Xande competed 10x as an adult black belt, having medalled on every single event he entered.
.1 ROGER GRACIE
The one and only Roger Gracie was known on the mats for his crushing pressure and suffocating chokes. The reality of that pressure will forever be part of our sport’s history, having allowed Roger to dominate like no other athlete had done before or has done since. A triple time open weight world champion who was never submitted in his entire 10 year career, competing as a black belt, Roger’s long list of submissions leaves all others behind with almost double the amount of submissions. Will anyone ever dethrone Roger’s record?