The Greatest BJJ Players in the UFC

The Greatest BJJ Players in the UFC

During the almost 40 years that organised Mixed Martial Arts has been in existence, there have been some phenomenal Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu players in the sport. While BJJ on the mats is a little different to BJJ in the cage, the top grapplers in the UFC all had their start as eager white belts, tied up into pretzels before they knew it.  

It’s a well-known fact that BJJ is a fundamental martial art in the sport of MMA. BJJ and grappling have been present since the early days of the UFC promotion, thanks to the involvement of the legendary Royce Gracie in UFC 1. From the audiences in the arena and at home to the unlucky opponent, everyone knows when someone skilled in the art of folding clothes while people are still in them steps into the octagon.  

In this article, we’ll be recognising five of the best BJJ players in the current generation of UFC fighters.  

Nate Diaz  

As one of the most controversial fighters in the promotion, the Welterweight may seem like a surprise entry on this list, given his penchant for throwing hands. However, the West Coast native is actually a third-degree Black Belt under Cesar Gracie, with 11 submission wins to his name.  

Truly a threat to anyone with the guts to meet him in the cage, Diaz has fought against some of the best lightweights and welterweights in the division, including a certain ‘Notorious’ Irishman. At UFC 196 in 2016, Diaz choked out Conor McGregor and earned himself a Performance of the Night bonus in the process.  

Aljamain Sterling 

Essentially a human backpack, Aljo’s prowess as a BJJ player causes many problems for his opponents in the Bantamweight division. Having been trained well by Matt Serra and awarded the rank of Black Belt, Aljo can both out-grapple and take down his opponents with ease.  

The Funk Master has accomplished eight submission wins out of his 21 total professional MMA wins, including that glorious Suloev stretch on Cody Stamann during UFC 225.  

Demian Maia 

Ok, so Maia has recently retired from the UFC, but as the epitome of a technical player, he deserved inclusion on this list. As a 4th-degree Black Belt (awarded by Fabio Gurgel), Maia knew how to play a bout his way. Not only did he play an insistent game, he knew how to keep pace and, frankly, dazzled his opponents with his slick transitions.  

Out of 28 professional wins, Maia won 14 via submission. His most impressive feat, however, happened outside the octagon. It’s no secret that achieving the hallowed rank of black belt can take a significant amount of time; Maia, however, earned his in just five years.  

Valentina Schevchenko 

The bullet is a truly formidable MMA fighter, well and truly on the way to Hall of Fame status. Dominating the Flyweight division, she’s made no less than six successful title defenses. While her specialism is the deadly art of Muay Thai, she;’s also an accomplished grappler.  

Schevchenko has put her time in on the mats, working closely with Draculino Magalhaes at Gracie Barra Texas. This dedication has paid off considerably, helping her achieve seven submission wins out of 23 professional MMA victories. Not only that, but she’s also outclassed Jessica Andrade, taking the black belt down in UFC 261 before demolishing her with relentless ground and pound.  


Mackenzie Dern 

Well, Megatron’s daughter was always going to be recognised for being one of the best BJJ players in the UFC. In fact, she’s one of the best BJJ players of all time. Grappling came as easy to Dern as breathing, no surprise given that she was not just the daughter of Wellington Dias but Luka Dias’s stepdaughter too.  

Dern competed in adult divisions as a youthful teen and quickly established herself as a formidable martial artist. She’s a former World Number 1 IBJJF, ADCC and no-gi BJJ World Champion. And that’s before she even transitioned to mixed martial arts.  

After blazing through the LFA and LFC promotions and a brief stint at Invicta, Dern joined the UFC in 2018. Since then, 4 out of 7 of her wins have come by way of submission. Her RNC win over Amanda Cooper at UFC 224 was a veritable masterclass in efficiency and deadly precision.