Who is the All Time Best Gracie Fighter to Emerge From the Gracie Family?
It’s less common nowadays to hear talk about Gracie Jiu Jitsu. The sport has surpassed its familial roots and is now a global phenomena – even the term Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is beginning to feel too regional. However, it is undeniable that in the not too distant past the Gracie family included many of the juggernauts of the fighting world.
But who was the best Gracie fighter of all time? Today we’ll take a look at 6 of the most dominant Gracie competitors!
The History and Influence of the Gracie Family
If you’re just beginning your Jiu Jitsu journey you could be forgiven for asking what all the hubbub about this fellow named Grace is about. Well, in short, the Gracie family is one of the founding families of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Depending upon the history book you read they are the founding family, although this is more than a little contentious.
Regardless of whether or not Carlos and Helio (the two Gracie brothers who get the lion’s share of the credit for the sport) invented the sport, the Gracies have had a hugely influential role in BJJ’s development.
The IBJJF was founded by Carlos Gracie Jr. and the UFC was co-founded by Rorion Gracie. There are literally hundreds, possibly thousands, of black belts who can directly trace their lineage to the Gracie family. It is undeniable that the Gracies have left an indelible mark on the fighting landscape.
But beyond their role in developing the sport, the Gracies have been willing to demonstrate in competition why their family is a household name amongst BJJ players. Since the earliest days in Brazil when they fought in no-holds barred matches called vale tudo to the highest levels of gi-based competition, the Gracie family has always fielded amazing competitors.
The Best Gracie Fighter Ever: Gracie Family Jiu Jitsu Rankings
- Born: November 21, 1958
- MMA Record: 11-0-0 (9 wins by submission, 2 by TKO)
- Height & Weight: 5’10 (1.78m) & 185lbs (84kg)
As Helio Gracie’s third son, Rickson was always destined to be a competent fighter – however no one could have predicted just how prolific and successful he would be. Rickson was promoted to black belt at 18 and fought his first MMA match at 19.
From the mid-1990s until 2000 Rickson fought several MMA and Vale Tudo matches in Japan, winning each by submission or TKO. After his son, Rockson Gracie, died unexpectedly in 2001 Rickson retired from professional fighting.
Sometimes it is claimed that Rickson’s record was 400-0, although this number is widely regarded as fantastical. Nonetheless, his actual professional MMA record is an admirable 11/0, with 9 of his victories coming by way of submission.
Notably, Rickson is the subject of the 1995 film Choke and appears briefly in the 2008 film The Incredible Hulk as Bruce Banner’s martial arts instructor.
- Born: December 12, 1966
- MMA Record: 15-2-3 (11 wins by submission, 2 by KO)
- Height & Weight: 6’ (1.94m) & 176lbs (80kg)
More than any other member of the Gracie family, Royce Gracie made the Gracie name famous in the United States. Royce represented both the Gracie family and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in UFC 1, famously wearing a gi and defeating three opponents in a single night of fighting. Royce went on to compete in UFC 2, 3, 4, and 5, winning all but two of his matches.
Royce was inducted into the UFC hall of fame in 2003, alongside his long-time nemesis Ken Shamrock. Royce and Ken fought three times, with Royce winning the first, drawing the second, and winning the third – albeit somewhat controversially due to an uncalled knee to the groin.
As befitting a professional fighter, Royce’s career was pockmarked with scandal. In 2007 he tested positive for the anabolic steroid Nandrolone and was banned from fighting professionally for a year. In 2015 it was reported that the IRS claimed Royce had engaged in tax fraud and owed more than a half million dollars in unpaid taxes.
While Royce holds a 7th degree black belt in BJJ, like his father, Helio Gracie, he chooses to wear a dark blue belt instead.
- Born: March 11, 1967
- MMA Record: 14-7-1-1 (9 wins by submission, 1 by KO)
- Height & Weight: 5’10 (1.78m) / 171lbs (78kg)
Today Renzo Gracie may be overshadowed by his student John Danaher and Danaher’s eponymous Death Squad, but he is an extremely accomplished fighter in his own right. Renzo fought for numerous MMA organizations including the UFC, Pride, K1, and ONE FC. While he never held a belt, his victories include wins over 5 former MMA-champions.
Renzo Gracie is the subject of the 2008 film Renzo Gracie: Legacy which detailed Renzo’s role in the growth of Jiu Jitsu and MMA.
- Born: September 26, 1981
- MMA Record: 8-2 (6 wins by submission, 1 by KO)
- BJJ Record: 67-7-1
- Height & Weight: 6’4 (193cm) / 205lbs (93kg)
With the combination of his stoic demeanor and crushing top pressure, Roger Gracie is a 10x World Champion at Black Belt, 2x ADCC champion, and successful MMA fighter. The last time he was submitted in competition was at blue belt and over 80% of his victories have been by submission.
Roger is widely regarded as one of the best gi-BJJ competitors of all time, dominating the absolute division of IBJJF for years. Notably, during the 2009 Mundials competition, Roger submitted all nine of his opponents with a cross collar choke from the mount.
These victories weren’t against low-tier opponents either, but included fierce competitors including Romulo Barral, Ricardo Abreu, Rafael Lovato Jr, Bernardo Faria, and Bruno Bastos!
Outside of the BJJ competition scene, Roger enjoyed considerable success as an MMA fighter. He is the former ONE FC Light Heavyweight champion and his MMA record stands at 8/2 with 6 of his victories coming by way of submission.
- Born: December 6, 1965
- MMA Record: 5/5/1 (4 wins by submission)
- Height & Weight: 5’7 (171cm) / 160lbs (73kg)
Probably the most prolific competitor in the Gracie family, Royler competed as a black belt for over 20 years. During this time he was a multiple time World, Pan-Am, and ADCC champion with his 4x victory in the featherweight division only being recently surpassed by Rafael Mendes.
He was also an active MMA fighter, fighting for K1, Pride, and a few other smaller MMA organizations. He retired from MMA with a 5-5 record, with 4 of his victories coming by way of submission.
Known for his friendly face and extremely technical Jiu Jitsu, Royler remains highly respected as a fighter and competitor and therefore deserves his spot on this list of the most competitive Gracie family Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighters of all time.
- Born: July 11, 1988
- MMA Record: 5/1 (5 wins by submission)
- Height & Weight: 5’9 (175cm) / 145lbs (66kg)
The youngest Gracie on this list, Kron represents a new generation of Gracie competitors. The son of Rickson Gracie, Kron racked up an impressive 51-fight win streak at brown belt.
After receiving his black belt he found himself competing against tougher opponents and did not find quite the same level of success. However, he took gold in the ADCC’s -77kg weight class and silver medals in the IBJJF World Championship, the Pan American Championship, and a European Championship.
Kron transitioned to MMA, signing first with Rizin Fighting Federation in 2014 and with the UFC in 2018. All of Kron’s MMA victories have come by way of submission, and even his one loss by way of decision against Cub Swanson netted him the UFC’s Fight of the Night.
Despite being from the family whose name is literally synonymous with Jiu Jitsu, Kron’s athletic interests began with skateboarding. After his brother Rockson died in 2001, Kron shifted his focus to BJJ to take up the torch for the family legacy.
The Gracie family has been a family of jiujitseros for nearly 100 years and the family has had dozens of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belts. Two notable Gracies who deserve mention are:
3x ADCC champion, 4x IBJJF champion. Kyra just barely didn’t make the cut for our list of best Gracie fighters – only held back by her lack of MMA experience.
The eldest son of Rolles Gracie was regarded by many as the best Gracie fighter before his untimely death in a hang-gliding accident. The Gracie family legacy includes several fighters whose lives were cut short and it’s hard to guess what influence they could’ve had on the sport.
Who is the best Gracie fighter today?
Only two Gracies from this list are in the running for best Gracie fighter today: Kron and Roger. While Roger retired from competition several years ago, he is not yet 40 and competed on a level that no one has replicated in the gi. Kron has not competed since his loss to Cub Swanson in 2019, but his MMA career is still young and he has shown that he has plenty of potential.
If we were to indulge in a hypothetical bout between the two, the slightly older, but considerably more accomplished and physically larger Roger would almost certainly come out on top. I believe it is safe to say that for now Roger Gracie remains the GOAT, both in the gi, and amongst the Gracie clan.
While Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has moved beyond the Gracie family and arguably has moved beyond its Brazilian designation, the Gracie family undeniably played a huge role in the development of the sport. The family has given much to the sport, including 6 of the toughest competitors to ever step onto the mats.
The current stable of Gracie competitors is relatively small, but the family is large and it is always possible that there will be another Gracie who will take the competition circuit by storm!