Gracie Barra – Carlos Gracie Jr.
Carlos Gracie is seemingly the kingpin of jiu-jitsu. With founding ties to Gracie Magazine, Gracie Barra, and the IBJJF, “Carlinhos” is not only one of the top association leaders, but one of the most important figures in BJJ history (along with his uncle and father, Helio and Carlos Gracie).
Gracie Barra is the largest jiu-jitsu team in the entire world. They are not only a team, but an organization and a serious business. They have been a successful franchise for many years and provide opportunities for their black belts to open businesses across the globe. They provide support and guidelines for all their branches and really strive to achieve success.
Carlos Gracie Jr. has some of the most famous students in the world, including Roger Gracie, Jean Jacques Machado, Renzo Gracie, Roleta, Kyra Gracie, and many more. He is very much a behind the scenes kind of guy so many beginners don’t tend to know much about him, but he should be known to every serious practitioner.
Alliance – Fabio Gurgel
Fabio is one of the most technical jiu-jitsu practitioners of all time. Not only is he responsible for building and growing the Alliance jiu-jitsu team, along with Romero Jacare and Alexandre Paiva, but he is also a four-time world champion and a three-time European Open champion. He even won the adults European Open once at the age of forty.
His collection of knowledge prepared Alliance world champions such as Marcelo Garcia, Lucas Lepri, Bruno Malfacine, Gabi Garcia, Michael Langhi, Bernardo Faria, Leonardo Nogueira, Cobrinha, Mario Reis, and many others. It’s the combination of being a great teacher, a pious leader, and a seasoned competitor that allowed him to be so successful.
Nova Uniao – Andre Pederneiras
Nova Uniao is one of the more unique legendary teams because it has a strong balance between jiu-jitsu and MMA. In recent years, the team has put a greater focus on preparing their top athletes for MMA rather than pushing into BJJ. This is most likely because of the quicker payout that MMA provides – many of the athletes at Nova Uniao are from a less fortunate financial background, and there is one man that makes the effort to give these guys an opportunity to do what they love - Andre Pederneiras.
Pederneiras himself is a student of the legendary Carlson Gracie and had a few major old school MMA fights himself in Japan. Andre, together with co-founder Wendell Alexander, created a team that supports many athletes – both MMA and BJJ. The team did have its BJJ glory days with top athletes like BJ Penn, Leo Santos, Vitor Shaolin and many others. But since then, these athletes, and the newer generation have both changed their focus to MMA with the addition of champions like Jose Aldo and Renan Barao.
This is by no means a comprehensive list. Provided here is merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of top talent and gym leaders. There are many more chamipionship caliber BJJ associations and leaders, both past and present.