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10 Best Grapplers Of All Time

One of the most incredible things about grappling is that it is an ever-evolving martial art with techniques and styles to match every practitioner. So who is the best grappler of all time?

Every grappler has their own unique style, no matter their rank or discipline. This makes for a vast range of what the ‘best grappler of all time’ could look like.

In this article, we will look at ten of the best grapplers of all time and their achievements.

Instead of just focusing on BJJ, we will look at grapplers from a range of martial arts including; BJJ, Wrestling, Judo and MMA.

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Roger Gracie

Roger Gracie

Starting off our list on the best grapplers of all time is Roger Gracie.

Roger is the grandson of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu founder Carlos Gracie.

He started training at a young age but did not begin to take jiu-jitsu seriously until he was a teenager. Once he did, he carried the family name well. He began competing and winning championships as early as blue belt.

In 2003 Roger came in 3rd place in the ADCC championships at brown belt.

A year later, he was awarded his black belt and in 2005 competed in ADCC once again. This time, he not only took the gold in his weight division but in the absolute bracket as well.

His most frequent submission win is by the rear-naked choke.

Roger is now the head instructor of the Roger Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in London.

Roger Gracie is a staple in early American jiu-jitsu history and will always be considered a legend. 

Khabib Nurmagomedov

Khabib

Khabib, originally from Russia, started training in his father’s gym at a very young age.

His wrestling career began at the age of nine when he wrestled a bear. Between the ages of twelve and seventeen, Khabib trained in other martial arts such as Judo and sambo.

In 2008 he debuted in his professional MMA career, and by 2011 he signed his first UFC contract. After winning his first nine fights, Khabib faced Al Iaquinta for the vacant UFC lightweight title.

In October 2018, it was finally time for the long-awaited title fight against Conor McGregor. Khabib once again dominated and won by submission in the 4th round.

His wrestling is considered “mauling” because of the immense pressure he uses to take down his opponents and keep them on the ground. Joe Rogan says that Khabib is “the most terrifying lightweight in the world.” 

After the death of his father, Khabibs future in MMA remains uncertain.

Khabib is without a doubt one of the best grapplers of all time.

Marcus ‘Buchecha’ Almedia

Marcus 'Buchecha' Almedia best grapplers of all time

Originally from Brazil, he started training BJJ at the age of 14. Though he wanted to initially pursue a football career that he admittedly wasn’t good at, he accelerated very quickly in BJJ.

He soon became one of the ‘most feared’ lower belt athletes after winning competitions such as “Brasileiro,” Pan-American Saul Paulo Cup, and the Scandinavian Open.

In 2010 Buchecha was awarded his black belt while on the podium at the World Championship.

After moving to the US, Buchecha’s career as a black belt really took off, especially in the IBJJF. He went on to win both his weight class and absolute divisions in the IBJJF Pan American Championships and IBJJF Worlds.

After that, he tied Roger Gracie at the Metamoris Pro Invitational (what a match that was!).

He is most well known for his double leg takedown, toe hold, and rear-naked choke.

Marcus Buchecha is one of the most accomplished grapplers in BJJ and arguably one of the best grapplers of all time.

Georges ‘Rush’ St. Pierre

GSP

GSP is a black belt in both BJJ and Kyokushin Karate.

Born in Canada, GSP started Karate at the age of seven after encountering bullies at school. After receiving his second-degree black belt in Karate by the age of twelve, he decided to fully dedicate himself to training martial arts, with his inspiration coming from Royce Gracie’s 1993 fight on UFC 1.

By sixteen, he added boxing, BJJ, and wrestling to his training and began competing. In 2006 he became the UFC welterweight champion, and though he lost the title in 2007, he regained it in 2008 and has not lost a single title defence since.

GSP is recognized as one of the planet’s best pound-for-pound MMA fighters and all-around athletes.

In 2017, GSP fought Michael Bisping at UFC 217 after a four-year layoff. He ended up beating Bisping in the 3rd round via submission, becoming the fourth fighter in UFC history to be a multi-division champion.

In early 2019, GSP announced his permanent retirement from professional fighting after being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis but still continues to travel the world, training under the best coaches in all martial arts disciplines.

His professional record consists of 28 wins, 8 by knockout and 6 by submission, and only 2 losses. GSP is a true inspiration and definitely earns a GOAT title. 

GSP is one of the only fighters on our list of the best grapplers of all time to not come from a grappling background. Before Khabib, GSP was known as the best Wrestler in MMA.

Dan Gable

best grapplers of all time

Dan Gable started off early in his career with an incredible record of 181-1 during his college wrestling years. His only loss was his senior year in the NCAA finals after he was already a two-time NCAA champion, three-time all-American champion, and two-time Big Eight champion. What a record!

After college, Gable added several more prestigious titles to his record before winning gold in Germany’s 1972 Summer Olympics. During his six matches, he didn’t lose a single point.

After the Games, he decided to move onto coaching and won 15 NCAA team titles in the 1976-1977 season. He went on to coach many national champions and 12 Olympians, summing up to a career record of 355-21-5.

He has been inducted into multiple halls of fame, listed as one of the top coaches of the 20th century by ESPN, named one of the “100 Golden Olympians,” and was inducted into the UWW Hall of Fame Legends of the Sport category.

For all of the above Dan Gable is regarded as one of the best grapplers of all time.

Ryoko Tani

Ryoko Tani

Born in Japan, Tani was the first woman to win two Olympic titles in Judo.

She began training at the age of eight when she followed her brother to the dojo and picked up the sport naturally and quickly. By the age of thirteen, she achieved her first major victory at the Fukuoka International Women’s Judo Tournament.

By the age of eighteen, she won her first world championship and received the highest ranking possible in Judo. She competed in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, taking second place in her weight division.

She went the next four years and 82 matches without a loss, took silver again at the 1996 Games in Atlanta, then went 12 more years without defeat.

During this time, she won her first Olympic gold medal at the 2000 Games in Sydney. Four years later, she took gold again at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, then took bronze at the 2008 Games.

Tani retired from competition in 2010 and then went on to pursue politics in Japan. 

Due to her perseverance and accomplishments, we believe Ryoko Tani is one of the best grapplers of all time.

Marcelo Garcia

Marcelo Garcia best grapplers of all time

Marcello Garcia’s love for martial arts came at a very young age, inspired by 1980’s blockbusters such as ‘Karate Kid.’

Marcelo began training Karate at the age of eight, and though dedicated, he didn’t understand how the rigid movements in katas would apply in real life. He ended up quitting after only four years.

One year later, he was invited to a Judo class by his friend and fell in love with the aggressiveness taught by his instructor. As he dedicated himself once again, he decided to also add jiu-jitsu into his practices.

In one of Marcellos his first competitions, he hesitantly signed up for the open-weight division and in his last match submitted an adult man who weighed over 300 pounds.

At this point, he was determined to compete at the highest level at every tournament he could all over Brazil. With his intense training schedule, he began winning state and world championships.

Once Marcelo was a brown belt, he began coaching. He started off in Sao Paolo teaching alongside Alliance’s Fernando Augusto “Terere,” then was invited to teach at Alliance’s headquarters alongside Fabio Gurgel.

Around this time, Marcelo won his first ADCC, defeating the prestigious Renzo Gracie and Vitor Ribeiro. Marcelo then went on to win IBJJF World Championships, Submission De Campos, and another ADCC title.

In 2009, Marcelo opened his academy in NYC. By 2011 he awarded his first two black belts and now has one of the world’s top BJJ academies.

Gordon Ryan

Gordon Ryan

Gordon is one of the biggest sh*t talkers in the martial arts community but backs it all up with his outstanding skills in jiu-jitsu.

He started training at the age of fifteen and shortly after began training with BJJ’s legendary Tom deBlass. This is where Gordon met his partner in crime, Garry Tonon. Gordon trained under Garry at Brunswick BJJ and often travelled to Renzo’s in NYC to train with the head coach John Danaher.

By 2016, after only 4 years of training and at 20 years old, Gordon was awarded his black belt by Garry.

It has been Gordon’s mission to be the greatest no-gi grappler of all time, and he has had great success in doing so by winning 3 ADCC titles, IBJJF no-gi Worlds, and becoming a four-time Eddie Bravo Invitational champion.

He has defeated big names such as Yuri Simoes, Keenan Cornelius, Dillon Danis, Ralek Gracie and Vinicius “Trator” Ferreira.

Gordon achieved some much in no-gi grappling at such a young age. For that reason, we consider Gordon Ryan one of the best grapplers of all time.

Leandro Lo

Leandro Lo best grapplers of all time

Now let’s look at one of the most accomplished competitors in the gi, Leandro Lo.

He began training at fifteen in Brazil. He took very naturally to the sport, winning the Mundials only a year after he started training in 2004. Lo went on to win multiple IBJJF Worlds tournaments, Pan Americans, and Brazilian Nationals at both lightweight, middleweight, and open weight.

Leandro Lo became a force to be reckoned with. What is so incredible about his game is that in the beginning, his game consisted of more of a spider guard style and bottom game until he suffered an injury at purple belt. This forced him to develop a top game, which became one of the strongest in jiu-jitsu. 

Henry Cejudo

Henry Cejudo

Last but certainly not least, let’s take a look at former UFC flyweight and bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo.

He is the fourth fighter in UFC history to simultaneously hold two titles and the second to defend two titles in two different weight classes.

Cejudo began his career in wrestling, winning titles in his freshman and sophomore years in high school. In his junior and senior years, he was training at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado.

While still in high school, Cejudo won the Fargo National Title in freestyle, and after that, he went on to win silver for the US in his first Olympic Games.

Over the next six years, Cejudo claimed many more titles in freestyle wrestling, including an Olympic Gold Medalist, before pursuing an MMA career.

He began MMA training in January of 2013, and after becoming the #1 ranked bantamweight prospect in MMA, he signed into the UFC in July of 2014.

Working his way up in both flyweight and bantamweight divisions, Cejudo came in by a storm and took both titles AND defended them both. After his fight with Dominic Cruz, Cejudo announced his retirement.

After winning both a gold medal at the Olympic Games and defending two UFC titles in different weight classes, there is little doubt that Cejudo is one of the best grapplers of all time.

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Conclusion

Looking at each of these grapplers, we see how many different styles and backgrounds bring success to all of them.

That is the beauty of it! So how could we possibly pick just ONE greatest of all time grappler? These 10 grapplers really show the art for what it is and how to be successful with perseverance. Who is your favourite? 

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Gareth Davies

I'm a martial arts competitor and enthusiast. Over the last 15 years, I have trained and competed in several martial arts. I live in Manchester U.K working as a strength & conditioning coach when I'm not travelling and exploring martial arts around the world.
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