In mixed martial arts, most fighters know Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. While every MMA gym offers BJJ, few actually become a BJJ black belt. For the most part, it’s not for a lack of skill, but rather impracticality. MMA fighters need to dedicate time to mastering not just grappling, but striking as well. Splitting time between the two can make it difficult to earn a black belt in BJJ. Another factor is the gi. Belts are only worn in BJJ when you have a gi on. For an MMA fighter, that, again, is highly impractical since they never wear a gi in the Octagon.
So while black belt MMA fighters are rare, there are a special few who do dedicate the time to learn the ins and outs of BJJ and become black belts. These fighters are the ones you know when they step into the Octagon you’ll see some special grappling. In our opinion, these are the best black belt MMA fighters in the world right now:
The Brazilian welterweight is often considered the greatest grappler to ever grace the UFC. Considering some of the other fighters who have fought in the UFC, that is quite a compliment. In our opinion, it’s completely warranted. Demian Maia has 28 wins in the UFC, making him one of the winningest fighters in UFC history. Fourteen of his 28 wins have ended by submission. In BJJ, Maia earned a black belt in a mind-blowing four years (from when he first started training). He would go on to win the ADCC gold medal at the 2007 games.
BJ Penn, before he was known as the multi-weight class champion in the UFC, was dominating on the mats. The Hawaiian black belt was the first non-Brazilian to win the World Jiu Jitsu championship in 2000. Immediately afterward, he joined the UFC and went on a 16-7 run of fights, which included winning the title at welterweight and lightweight. He would go on to be the record holder of the most title defenses at lightweight. He is often credited with popularizing the lightweight division in the UFC.
Nick and Nate Diaz
The Diaz brothers are one of the most well-known (and notorious) black belts in the UFC. The brothers have a combined record of 46-21 in professional MMA. About half of all of Nick Diaz’s wins came by submission and over 50% of Nate’s wins came by submission. Nate Diaz became well-known for his rivalry with Connor McGregor. Their bout at UFC 202 would hold the record for the most bought pay-per view until it was broken by McGregor in a later fight.
The American Brazilian fighter descends from Jiu Jitsu royalty as the daughter of Wellington “Megaton” Dias. Dern would go on to make a name for herself in Jiu Jitsu, becoming a black belt at the age of 19. Before attaining her black belt, she won a world championship at every belt level. She would continue the trend at black belt and go on to win a gold medal at every major Jiu Jitsu event, including a gold at ADCC. Dern soon transitioned to MMA and then eventually the UFC. While her career is still fairly young, Dern has racked up an impressive 8-1 record to start her career.
This list would not be complete without mentioning Royce Gracie (pronounced “Hoyce”). Royce Gracie is the OG in the UFC. He is responsible for popularizing the entire martial art for Americans with his dominant performances at the first UFC events in the early ‘90s. Technically, Royce is no longer a black belt. He has ascended to one of the rarest belts in the world, a 7th degree red/black coral belt. Royce received the honor after moving up through the black belt degrees for many years. In his MMA career, Royce went 15-2 and became a UFC hall of famer.