Second only to the traditional combat sport of fighting, mixed martial arts is today’s most popular combat sports spectacle. Public attraction is vital to this sector of the economy. You would anticipate that the cage would be built to display exciting, jaw-dropping strikes fit for the highlight video. The flashy striking methods haven’t been used by fighters in recent times, though. Instead, they have tended to favor the more visually appealing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu technique.
To be completely honest, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) can seem dull in comparison to martial arts. No blood is present, absolutely no blood. There were no hard strikes being traded. There aren’t any strikes at all, in fact.
Comparatively speaking, striking arts are easier because the winners and losers are obvious. But watching a BJJ match requires much more of the spectator in order to comprehend what is occurring. It would be difficult for someone with little to no BJJ experience to find a BJJ fight exciting. Who is to thank for this?
However, BJJ has developed into a crucial aspect of the game.
Soon after grappling made its MMA debut, BJJ followed. The activity at the time was dominated by wrestlers. Fighters who were frequently turned over had a remedy thanks to BJJ. Fast forward a few decades, and it is now one of the fundamental combat philosophies in MMA.
Top BJJ athletes have decided to take their skills off the mats, using MMA as a new arena for new possibilities. Inside the enclosure, they started to thrive. This piece will discuss the top 5 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu stars to have dominated the sport of mixed martial arts.
#1 Gilbert Burns
Gilbert “Durinho” Burns is a man that few people detest. Burns won over the hearts of many spectators, announcers, and even rival competitors with his boyish grin and politely cordial demeanor.
If someone like Gilbert Burns entered the UFC with a solid BJJ background, you might anticipate that he would rely largely on his grappling experience. Be clear-eyed, though. Contrary to false initial assumptions, even in the early stages of his UFC career, he showed no need to knock opponents out before killing them. He may have a second-degree black belt, but his chances of knocking out or submitting an opponent are equal.
If there’s one thing about Durinho that you should know, it’s that he prefers to end a fight swiftly to staying in the cage for an unnecessarily long time. In reality, eight of his 19 victories were won by submission, and six of them were by knockout.
A tradeoff between the patriarch of Burns and one of his clients led to Burns’ entrance into the martial arts world. In exchange for three months of BJJ training for Gilbert and his two brothers, Gilbert’s father promised to fix a customer’s car. Durinho began winning contests after putting in many years of effort. He earned gold in 2011 at the World Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Championships. He changed his direction after that and made his official MMA debut in 2012.
#2 Demian Maia
The most unconventional MMA combatant right now is Demian Maia. By strengthening their areas of weakness, most competitors try to balance out their MMA game. Maia decides to specialize in one form of combat and concentrate on developing his strength.
Maia had always been a ground person and trained three times a day to become a black belt in as little as four years and seven months. Despite being a very skilled grappler, he hardly ever used his hands to strike. Even then, it is mediocre, to put it mildly. The best course of action for some people is to adhere to their strengths, and Maia appears to be one of them. It actually didn’t work out well when he attempted to broaden his strategy and improve the striking power in his MMA toolkit. After one of the worst championship fights in UFC history, it took seven years for his reputation to rebuild.
Because of this, he made the decision to give up striking entirely and returned to wrestling with all of his might. However, he had hit a place where he had sufficiently polished it to make it the deadliest weapon in his arsenal, despite the fact that this singularity had been his weakness early in his career. It has since developed into the characteristic that best describes his Fighting career.
Demian Maia wants you on the ground when you’re facing him, that much is clear. Even so, you are helpless to halt his efforts despite being aware of what they are. Simply put, he is that excellent.
#3 Rafael Lovato Jr.
Rafael Lovato Jr. must be mentioned if we’re talking about BJJ legends in MMA history. His list of accomplishments is unmatched in BJJ annals. And Lovato dominated the BJJ world as the fastest American to earn a black belt in the art. He established his legacy and nearly surpassed other BJJ stars of the modern period in prominence by winning victory after victory.
After twice taking first place in the Brazilian National Jiu-Jitsu Tournament, he decided it was time to try something new. Lovato set his eyes on the world of mixed martial arts, and it came as no surprise that the tenacity he demonstrated on the mats translated extremely well inside the cage. Lovato has always been a high achiever, and that wasn’t about to change. In his third year, he won every fight thanks to his terrifyingly refined ground game and was crowned the Bellator Middleweight World Champion.
Rafael Lovato Jr. appeared to be in the best possible situation. However, some circumstances in life are simply not optimal.
His life changed dramatically the same year he won the UFC World Championship. His brain’s blood arteries were malformed, making them more prone to bleeding. Soon after, he was forced to decide to give up his welterweight championship.
Though it’s not yet over for him. He’s just hiding out until he’s done with all his options for trying to get himself cleared for more MMA fights. Lovato is simply taking a vacation from MMA and returning to reign supreme in the BJJ world in the interim.
#4 Paul Craig
Paul “Bearjew” Craig, who was recently promoted to black belt and whose performance at UFC 263 created quite a stir in the martial arts community. Even though Jamahal Hill, Craig’s opponent, was unbeaten before their matchup with Bearjew, he was still a strong grappler and should not be underestimated. For popping out Hill’s elbow in the opening round, Craig received a $50K Performance of the Night prize.
Over a few beers in a bar after the fight, this outstanding display was what got him promoted to black belt. Ironically, Jamahal Hill himself was the first to praise him for it, which was a genuinely motivational display of sportsmanship.
Paul Craig worked as a teacher and a football coach before turning to competitive mixed martial arts. He had never been inside an MMA gym before accepting a friend’s offer, and even then, he had no idea what it was. But once he started going, he realized he had a strong urge to wrestle the opponent to the ground. Later, he would enter the ring and roll his way to victory in the purple belt category of the British Pro Jiu Jitsu Championship 2015.
Inspired by Demian Maia, Craig chose to focus on his strengths rather than attempt to adopt the all-rounder approach. What would typically be a bad route for others turned out to be advantageous for him. Paul Craig usually succeeds in ending a fight swiftly by going in.
#5 BJ Penn
The classic example of what might have been, but ultimately wasn’t, in the MMA realm is B.J. Penn. Given his impressive accomplishments, you can’t really say that his promise was wasted. He isn’t unmotivated either, as no unmotivated individual could have won two UFC Championships in addition to a BJJ Championship. But as Darren Wong so eloquently put it, he was never able to leave behind the kind of legacy that his talent made abundantly obvious was possible.
His martial arts career began with a bang, developing at a rapid pace that would leave you in disbelief. B.J. Penn became known as “The Prodigy” after attaining his black belt in just three years and four months, which is one of the swiftest advancements in the annals of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Only three weeks later, he took first place in the World Jiu Jitsu Championship’s black belt category.
He attracted the notice of the UFC solely due to his accomplishments in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, a feat that has never before happened (and hasn’t been repeated to this day) in MMA. He chose to enter the world of cage fighting, where supporters were naturally skeptical, taking advantage of the chance that was right in front of him. He can certainly wrestle, but can he also fight?
The first victory for B.J. Penn might have been a mistake, but by the third contest, he had established himself as a legitimate challenger. He had already won the UFC Lightweight Championship title by the conclusion of his fifth MMA contest. Later on, he would move up to win the Welterweight title as well, making him one of only seven fighters in UFC history to hold multiple championship belts.
Nobody can dispute that Penn left an irrevocable imprint on martial arts history, despite the fact that he has since faded from the public eye.
These sportsmen have established or are establishing a legacy. However, just as large waves start out small, even the most distant stars were once novices at the very bottom.