There is no denying the impact of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu on the sport of mixed martial arts. After all, it was a pure jiu jitsu stylist who really began the sport. All fighters today train in Brazilian jiu jitsu. Many fighters today hold the rank of black belt. However, we are going to see in the next year an invasion of high level, world champion Brazilian jiu jitsu stylists in the world of MMA. We have already seen some elite jiu jitsu players find success in high levels of MMA. Fabricio Werdum has been very successful in MMA. We have seen Demian Maia and Jacare Souza do very well in MMA. We are seeing Roger Gracie emerge into a high level mixed martial artist. World champion Robert Drysdale appears to be on the rise as a MMA fighter. Vinny Magalhaes has found success in MMA. Sergio Moraes made to the finals of the inagural season of the Ultimate Fighter Brazil. Antonio Braga Neto is one of the more promising prospects in the sport. Gunnar Nelson has recently signed with the UFC. Andre Galvao has done decent as a miced martial artist. These guys entered MMA as elite grapplers who are among the best in the world at their art. Granted, success in BJJ does not guarantee success in MMA, but it certainly is an advantage. There are several other BJJ elites who may be on the brink of transitioning from being Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitors to mixed martial arts fighters.
1. Braulio Estima – Estima has talked about fighting MMA for a long time. He was even scheduled to fight at the infamous Shine Fights event that got cancelled last minute. However, it looks like the time has come. He has a date and an opponent set. He will fight August 24th in Titan Fighting Championships. Braulio will compete in the welterweight division. Braulio is a multiple time world champion in BJJ. He has won at Abu Dahbi, the Pan-Ams, the Euro champonships and the world championships. The bottom line is that it does not get much better in terms of BJJ credentials. Estima is training along with Rashad Evans, Alistair Overeem and Blackzilians, which certainly should help his overall game, especially his striking. However, Estima is 32 years old. He is jumping into the game a little late. He certainly can and will have an impact, but the chances of him being a world champion in MMA are not great. Nonetheless, he is certainly a threat to anyone because of his submission capabilities.
2. Ryan Hall – It also appears that Ryan Hall may transition into MMA. He is a Felipe Costa blackbelt who is among the most respected in the BJJ world. Hall has already laid the groundwork for an MMA career by stating that he would train at Tristar gym with Firas Zahabi. Hall would compete as a bantamweight in MMA.
3. Gilbert Burns – Gilbert Burns has already made the transition to MMA. In fact, he is 1-0 in his professional career. I am not certain what is next for Burns, but I do know that he is training with Vitor Belfort. Many people consider Burns the number 2 BJJ player in his weight class. His dynamic back attack style could be great for MMA.
4. Bruno Malfacine – Bruno has mentioned a desire to move to MMA. However, he has been quiet on that front recently. Time will tell if he will make the move to MMA. However, if fans are looking for BJJ guys to keep an eye on in MMA, Malfacine should be mentioned.
5. Caio Terra – Caio Terra is one of the most amazing jiu jitsu players in the world. He has won absolute tournaments and world championships. He would msot likely compete in the flyweight division in MMA. Terra is probably one of the best BJJ teachers in the sport. Terra has spoken about a possibile MMA move (HERE) and that he would train under the famed Cesar Gracie fight team.
6. Rodolfo Viera – He speaks about wanting to comepete in MMA (HERE), but he does not seem to be in a rush either. However, it seems that eventually he will make the move to MMA too.
Others: Rafael Lovato, Jr, Rafael Mendes, Guilherme Mendes, Marcus Buchecha. Bernardo Faria, Victor Estima and Leo Nogueira