Marcio Cruz (2002 & 2003)
The 2002 and 2003 BJJ world championships had produced some outstanding new champions, namely Bibiano Fernandes, Mario Reis and Fabricio Werdum. However, although Marcio was unable to win his weight class in both years, he was able to conquer the coveted absolute title for himself. Also known as “Pe De Pano”, named after the tall and lanky villain from the Woody Woodpecker show, the Gracie Barra veteran is also known for his nogi skills, winning the ADCC championship in 2003, and reaching the highest level of MMA, having competed in the UFC.
Ronaldo Souza (2004 & 2005)
“Jacare” Souza is easily one of the most popular legends in BJJ. He actually only competed consistently in BJJ for a small period of time. But in this period he was able to shock the world with his judo, athleticism and aggression. Jacare was able to win the absolute title in both years of competition, as well as winning one of his weight divisions. Jacare is a grappler that doesn’t care about points – he always looks for the finish and is really one of the most talented BJJ athletes of all time. Now his talents are being directed into his MMA career where he is using those same traits to win.
Xande Ribeiro (2006 & 2008)
There haven’t been any BJJ athletes as active as Xande Ribeiro. Originally from Manaus, Xande had received his black belt from his older brother Saulo Riberio, a black belt under the illustrious Royler Gracie. Xande has always been known for his mastery of very basic and efficient jiu-jitsu. His ability to use a well-timed and strong-pressured game has helped him continue to fight at the highest level, even today. Xande has also competed in events like Metamoris and Copa Podio, faring well against the younger and newer competition.
Roger Gracie (2007, 2009 & 2010)
Mainly known as one of the greatest BJJ competitors of all time, Roger Gracie is a ten-time world champion – the world record. During Roger’s reign as absolute champion, athletes like Bruno Malfacine, Lucas Lepri, Lucas Leite, Romulo Barral, Rafael Lovato, Gui Mendes, Rafael Mendes, Michael Langhi and Bernardo Faria all won their first titles – a group of champions that are most familiar to us today. Roger had eventually shifted away from BJJ to pursuit a career in MMA, now fighting in the UFC.
Rodolfo Vieira (2011)
Known as the “black belt hunter”, a name given to him when he was a brown belt, Rodolfo is one of the most dominant BJJ athletes in the world. He is a three-time world champion at his weight class and is known for his quick passing game and strong judo. Rodolfo Vieira is called the “black belt hunter” because he had won the World Pro at that belt level. The name can still apply today since he doesn’t really lose any matches – only to the current BJJ king, Marcus Almeida Buchecha.
Marcus Almeida (2012 & 2013)
Also known as “Buchecha”, meaning “cheeks” in Portuguese, Almeida has been successful in destroying the competition in the last two years of tournaments. He has reached his full potential and was successful in dethroning Rodolfo Vieira, who many thought would be unstoppable for quite some time. Now Buchecha is a two-time absolute champion and he improves with every year.