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Where is Jiu Jitsu’s Mecca?

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Gordon Ryan Guard Passing Instructional

We recently posted an article displaying IBJJF Sao Paulo BJJ Pro’s results. On that piece we claimed Sao Paulo as jiu jitsu’s modern day Mecca. This bold(ish) statement, was based on the amount of current world champions produced by the famed Brazilian state (Paulo Miyao, Rafael Mendes, Lucas Lepri, Leandro Lo, Andre Galvao, Leo Nogueira, Buchecha and Andressa Correa).

This “title” caused some controversy among readers, many of which perceive California as today’s place to be, if one is to make it in our sport. Granted that many big names of jiu jitsu’s black belt division reside in California today, and the bigger tournaments also take place in The Golden State, but in our opinion, what the mainstream media tends to cover, does not always reflect a sports evolutionary trends.

Although jiu jitsu has been highly neglected by media’s coverage and by sponsors in its country of origin – possibly due to its lack of BJJ lifestyle (whatever that may be), but most likely due to its weak economy – talent has not stopped growing there with every passing year.

As we were unsure of how our Sao Paulo claim translated at a lower belt level, we went on and researched the top locations where current brown belt and purple belt world medallists train, trying to find the REAL BJJ Mecca of today. One based on not only on established athletes, but the places buzzing with talent which produce world champions at a higher rate.

Obviously many athletes use different sports as training camps, particularly for Worlds and Pan Am events, usually closer to the tournament’s location. But we tried to ascertain where these athletes train year-round, to deliver the circuit that is producing more of our future black belt world champions.

Below are our findings:


Top Medalling Locations:
Sao Paulo = 10
Rio de Janeiro = 6
California, USA = 3
Minas gerais, Brazil = 3
Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil = 3
Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil = 2

Sao Paulo, Brazil = 3
Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil = 2
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil = 2
Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil = 2
Maryland, USA = 1


Top Medalling Locations:
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil = 9
Sao Paulo, Brazil = 4
Amazonas, Brazil = 2
Florida, USA = 2

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil = 4
Sao Paulo, Brazil = 3
Texas, USA = 1
Australia = 1

TOP MEDALLING STATES (male + female)

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil = 15
Sao Paulo, Brazil = 14
California, USA = 4


Top Medalling Locations:
Sao Paulo, Brazil = 8
California, USA = 4
Maryland, USA = 3
New York, USA = 3
Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil = 3
Pernambuco, Brazil = 3

Sao Paulo, Brazil = 2
Ceará, Brazil = 2
Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil = 1
Pernambuco, Brazil = 1
Fortaleza, Brazil = 1
Paraná, Brazil = 1
California, USA = 1
New York, USA = 1


Top Medalling Locations:
Sao Paulo, Brazil = 6
Rio de Janeiro = 5
Paraná, Brazil = 3
Amazonas, Brazil = 2
California, USA = 2

Amazonas, Brazil = 2
Australia = 2
New York, USA = 1
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil = 1
Sao Paulo, Brazil = 1
Paraná, Brazil = 1
Singapore = 1

TOP MEDALLING STATES (male + female)

Sao Paulo, Brazil = 12
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil = 8
California, USA = 6
New York, USA = 4


The evidence seems to point to Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro as the top destinations for today’s leading athletes. This is even more outlined when taking into account that the IBJJF World Championship takes place over 6000 miles (10,000 kilometers) away from any of these two Brazilian states. Add the visa difficulties and the financial struggles of a jiu jitsu athlete in a country with a falling currency, and you may understand how deep this exercise can go.

Now, there are plenty of ways to define the phrase “Mecca of Jiu Jitsu” and obviously California is home to some of jiu jitsu’s top talent, as is New York, Florida and other parts of the United States. This should in no way be used to downplay the incredible work being produced by coaches and competitors in these locations. USA and Europe are on the rise, as is Australia, that is a fact and we will see more champions from these countries and states sooner, rather than later. But the dominance of Brazil is still very clear, and (quite frankly) a bit surprising, considering the efforts being put on these countries for the past decade.

Roberto Jimenez BJJ Attacking The Back


  • Gustabo says:

    Califórnia é para quem quer dar aula e fazer grana. Claro que tem grandes atletas e tal, mas não tem comparação com a quantidade de atletas e praticantes de alto nível que a gente encontra no Brasil, principalmente Rio e São Paulo. Aqui no Brasil tem muitos professores de alto nível que por não terem tido condições de competir não são famosos, mas são tão bons ou até melhores do que muito campeão mundial que não sabe dar aula.

    Enfim, parabéns por levantar o tema e por colocar São Paulo como a Meca.

  • slideyfoot says:

    >Now, there are plenty of ways to define the phrase “Mecca of Jiu Jitsu”

    Yeah, I think that's the important point. I'd define 'Mecca of [insert thing]' as 'site of mass pilgrimage [for thing]', rather than 'best place for athletes to become champions [in that thing]'. Although Sao Paulo has long been super important for producing loads of top athletes, I don't think it's resonant with BJJ history in the same way as Rio, or perhaps even California (in terms of the latter being the launching point for BJJ's global expansion).

    • bjjheroes says:

      Sure, that is one point of view. But in the matter of pilgrimage there may be some misconception. Many travel to California in times of tournaments, to be close to the venue during the camp, but many travel to Sao Paulo year round to improve their skill (I know many by name). Which one matters more?

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