Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a sport that is demographically as diverse as it gets. People of all nationalities, age groups, religious beliefs, etc. all engage in training worldwide. This diversity, however, is not reflected in one aspect only. unfortunately, the sport is still not evenly matched between the two sexes. Female practitioners are considerably less than their male counterparts. And Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu women competitors are even scarcer. At least for now.
For one reason or another, BJJ doesn’t seem to attract men and women to the same degree. It is not that women are not welcome, or are not successful in the sport. On the contrary, there are impressive examples of women in Jiu-Jitsu as teachers and competitors at the highest levels. The ratio, however, increased during the last decade, remains very much male-oriented to this day. With the hope of expanding the pool of female subscribers to the art, we bring you 8 of the very best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu women competitors of today. So, follow their example and put the Gi on! You’ll soon be hooked to art with no limitations and can even reach the level of these impressive ladies.
Jiu-Jitsu Women Of Today
Talking about the different ways in which BJJ is beneficial to women is beyond the scope of today’s article. One aspect is very much worth mentioning, though in self-defense. Regardless of competitive aspirations or lack thereof, women training BJJ are going to be able to defend themselves. The techniques are easily transferrable and give the finer half a very high degree of confidence.
Now, almost everyone involved in BJJ, regardless of sex, gets the urge to put their knowledge to the test every now and then. In those terms, competitions offer a great platform for a student to express their style of BJJ. The competition scene might be dominated by the male population in numbers, but not necessarily in quality.
During the last decade, BJJ has seen the rise of several immense Jiu-Jitsu women. Most of them are still competing today, albeit perhaps in different combative formats. Some of these women were pioneers of the sport in a competitive manner, paving the way for others. Now, they represent an example to any aspiring young woman that is contemplating a competitive Jiu-Jitsu career. Anyone can follow in the footsteps of these ladies and go on to become an icon of the sport. And, no, being a black belt is not one of the requirements, so do not wait and start competing now!
#1 Mackenzie Dern
Despite not being associated with BJJ as much during the last year Mackenzie remains one of the top Jiu-Jitsu women of today. Even in her MMA endeavors, she remains a huge ambassador of the sport, demonstrating the supremacy of high-level BJJ against top-class opposition. While we eagerly await her UFC debut, let’s take a look at some of her grappling accomplishments.
Mackenzie is the daughter of renowned black belt Wellington Dias. She has spent her entire life in and around BJJ, competing since the age of 14. Both Royler Gracie and Leticia Ribeiro have influenced Dern during her BJJ journey. Before earning her black belt, Dern won the Worlds at every belt level. The talented champion also won every accolade at featherweight boasting a huge 45 submission wins out of 75 victories. She also had unforgettable wars with Gabi Garcia in the absolute division and is an ADCC champion as well. All in all, she is the face of Jiu-Jitsu Women!
#2 Dominyka Obelenyte
Lithuanian born Obelenyte is the first female Marcelo Garcia black belt. She is a staggering 4 times ADCC champion and one of the top competitors of today. She’s been consistently demonstrating phenomenal skills ever since3 her teenage days as a BJJ competitor. She is one of the youngest ever champions to win an adult world title (at 14).
The 23-year-old began training at 9, starting her journey at Louis Vintaloro’s gym in New Jersey. She discovered Marcelo Garcia not long after and managed to get to brown belt by the time she was 17. A black belt since 2015 she won world championships at many levels, including double gold at the 20th World Jiu-Jitsu Championship. Since last year, Obelenyte switched schools and is now associated with Fábio Clemente.
#3 Beatriz Mesquita
Bea Mesquita is a Leticia Ribeiro black belt and one of the most exciting Jiu-Jitsu women competitors out there. Similar to the previous two impressive ladies, Bea was impressive even since her teenage days. She was already a World No-Gi champion and Pan American champion before being promoted to black belt. Mesquita is also very versed in wrestling and Judo, holding numerous competitive accolades in both.
Now 27, Mesquita first became champion at 10, winning numerous Brazillian Judo championships. It wasn’t before 2006 that she started training wrestling, and subsequently BJJ. Since then, the Brazilian has dominated the competition in all facets of the sport. Both her brown and black belt promotions came on the top of the World Championship podium.
#4 Rikako Yuasa
“Lady Sasa” is a BJJ black belt from Japan that has dominated the Jiu-Jitsu scene lately. She is considered to be one of the most accomplished Jiu-Jitsu women’s competitors of her generation. She’s a World, Asian and European champion at featherweight.
Rikako is notorious for her open guard skills, her lasso guard in particular. Today 27, she started training at 17 with instructor Makoto Ikuta. With Pogona Club Gym. Yuasa soon became proficient in the art and got her black belt from Yukinori Sasa in 2014. A champion at most belt levels, there is still a lot to come from her at black belt. Who knows, you might even end up facing her in competition one day!
#5 Tammi Musumeci
Tammi Alana Musumeci is an Emyr Bussade black belt. Ever since she was 19, she caught the eye of the grappling world with her impressive performances. She showed her value through her 2014 Pan American Championship performance when she beat favorite Mackenzie Dern. Her most memorable performance, though, is at the Worlds where she battled to the end with a broken arm against fellow top competitor Michelle Nicolini.
#6 Michelle Nicolini
When it comes to elite Jiu-Jitsu women fighters, Michelle Nicolini is right there at the top. She is an unbelievable 8 time World Champion as well as ADCC and World Pro champion. She is a Robert Drysdale black belt and one of Checkmat’s most prominent competitors.
Dabbling in capoeira before settling down in BJJ, Nicolini notably fought 4 weight classes above her own in 2010 responding to a challenge. Her signature move is the shin to shin guard, while her toe holds are stuff nightmares are made of.
#7 Gabi Garcia
The only heavyweight on this list, Gabrielle Garcia is by far the most dominant female BJJ competitor. AKA Gaúcha, she is a black belt under Fabio Gurgel and a key competitor of the Alliance team. Known for her battles with notably lighter Mackenzie Dern, she has also been focusing on MMA during the last couple of years.
32-year-old Garcia was born in Rio but got exposed to BJJ after moving to Sao Paolo. She was a prodigy from the start so turning professional was an easy choice. She won the No-Gi Worlds in 2008 and hasn’t stopped since. 32 of her 58 wins are by way of submission. She is currently fighting professionally in MMA in Japan but has a difficult time finding opponents.
#8 Elvira Karppinen
Elvira Karppinen is a 28-year-old brown belt from Finland. She is part of Eddie Bravo’s 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu. A dancer prior to starting BJJ, Elvira pulled one of the surprises of the year. Beating Mackenzie Dern in the first round of ADCC 2017. Her coach is her husband, 10th PLanet black belt Lauri Karppinen.
Karppinen is a clear sign the top female competitors are not limited to black belts only. Despite not medaling at the ADCC she’s won plentiful medals and has a lot and lots more waiting for her. She is going to be a fierce black belt in the very near future.