“The Worlds (IBJJF) is the biggest event in my opinion.” Roger Gracie
The competitive jiu jitsu scene continues to reach unfounded levels of professionalism, with new events – offering financial support and exposure like never before – popping up all over the globe. With the landscape constantly shifting, what title is the biggest within our sport?
Though professional events such as Polaris, Quintet and Combat Jiu Jitsu have created their respective championship belts, it seems purists still value two titles above all else: IBJJF black belt and ADCC gold. The history and heritage surrounding the IBJJF and ADCC events will take some time to match, with only the UAE World Professional Jiu Jitsu championship – which debuted in 2009 – pushing for level recognition.
The IBJJF Worlds were founded in 1996, with the inaugural ADCC event taking place two years later in 1998. Ultimately the status as ‘biggest title’ in jiu jitsu will come down to a personal preference: do you train more in the gi, or nogi? For nogi fans, the ADCC rules supreme, while gi traditionalists will always sight the IBJJG Worlds as the most prestigious title in our sport.
The ADCC is a self proclaimed ‘submission grappling’ event, with the emphasis on ‘grappling’, not specifically jiu jitsu. Though jiu jitsu fighters have had by far and large the most success within the event, it is an event aimed at grapplers of all disciplines. The IBJJF Worlds is by definition a jiu jitsu event – plain and simple.
In our opinion, both events are awesome in their own way, and it could be seen as splitting hairs when looking at which should be the ultimate crown for jiu jitsu athletes. So, what do the athletes themselves have to say on the tournaments they value most in our sport?
“ADCC, World adult black belt and – before they cancelled it – EBI,” says Gordon Ryan on the titles in jiu jitsu he most respects. “That said, I never really dreamt of winning tournaments, I have always just wanted to submit the bet guys in the sport – that’s more important than any title to me.”
Ryan’s outlook is refreshing; cementing the idea that jiu jitsu is all about the submission and that should always be the primary aim. Both the new generation of submission-only style athletes and stalwarts of the past mirror Gordon’s outlook on fighting.
“The IBJJF Worlds is the most important black belt title when you fight in the gi, and then the ADCC nogi. You only become a true champion when you achieve those titles,” says Andre Galvao, who has plenty of both to his name. His comments reinforce the idea that, when talking of ‘the greats’, we should only really consider people who have excelled in both gi and nogi tournaments over the years. A sentiment that is mirrored by his Atos teammate, Gui Mendes.
“I believe both the ADCC and IBJJF World titles are the two most important titles in our sport because of their history and the amount of high level athletes who compete at the events,” says Mendes. “For athletes, it’s consistency that separates the good from the greats. Athletes who have a very consistent career – with significant wins – will be the ones who gain the most attention. They will then have more power to make any event they register in more attractive.”
Marcus Buchecha Almeida is both a current IBJJF and ADCC champion, with many people sighting him as the greatest jiu jitsu athlete of a generation. For Buchecha, his nogi exploits were more about challenging himself than fulfilling a childhood dream, and he’s comfy describing himself as a ‘gi guy’.
“Every World title wins a lot – gi or nogi – but I consider myself a gi guy really,” Buchecha explains. “I fell in love training jiu jitsu with the gi when I was a kid and I never trained nogi unless there was a challenge coming up, like the ADCC. Going to the ADCC or Worlds nogi has always been about challenging myself, because that’s something I love to do.
“So all the titles mean something to me, but I have more of a special place in my mind for the titles I have won in the gi because that’s always been what I love to do the most.”
Finally, we asked Roger Gracie – the man many consider to be the greatest jiu jitsu fighter of all time – his thoughts on the subject. Though people often think of Roger as a ‘gi guy’, it’s easy to forget he’s still the only man to win ADCC gold in both his weight and open weight division AND submit every single fighter he faced along the way. This legendary 2005 run was capped with Roger’s iconic submission win over Ronaldo Jacare in the open weight final. Despite all this, it seems Roger – like Buchecha – favours his IBJJF titles above all else.
“The Worlds (IBJJF) is the biggest event in my opinion,” says Roger. I feel like it’s the hardest to win; the athlete’s skills mean everything – no so much physicality – and it’s a gruelling day fighting against multiple top level fighters in 10 minute matches.”