The final countdown is on, and the Worlds is now merely 10 days away from starting! With the majority of the jiu-jitsu competitors around training solely for the Worlds this weekend, there is little to look back on in the competition scene. So this week we will be looking back at a few individuals at World championships past that have built their names from “champions” to “sports icon’s.”

Some believe that on the biggest stage the legends of the sport know how to bring their best, and these three athletes we are going to look at knew how to bring out their very best year after year. It is one thing to become a World champion at black belt, but it is totally something else to continue winning it and in dominant fashion. Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles, Marcelo Garcia and Roger Gracie are those three athletes we will be looking at today, and we will show just how they defined the art of dominance and became multiple-time World champions.

Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles

When “Cobrinha” entered the Worlds for the first time as a black belt in 2006, no one even knew who he was since he never accomplished much at the lower ranks. Charles wasn’t seeded high in the brackets, and there was no predictor that saw him making any noise out of the featherweight category. But to the surprise of many, the feisty featherweight from Alliance would not only win the category, but man-handle it. He cruised into the finals, and there dismantled former World champion Marcio Feitosa by an 8-0 score. As a friend of Feitosa, the next day I even asked him who that guy was he fought in the final and he replied, “I really have no idea.” That once little-known World champion would become a legend of the sport as he held onto the featherweight crown until 2010 when Rafael Mendes finally overcame “Cobrinha.” But during those four years, there was an air of absolute dominance that no one had ever seen at the lighter weight categories and may never see again.

Marcelo Garcia

Unlike Charles, Garcia wasn’t entirely unknown when he won the Worlds at black belt for the first time back in 2004. Garcia was a pretty popular up-and-coming brown belt, but no one could have ever expected he’d become such a power house nowadays. At brown and in his first year at black belt, he was always “Mr. Almost,” placing in second or third but unable to get by guys such as Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza or Fernando Terere. But in 2004, something clicked and he hasn’t lost at the World Championships since. In the five World Championships he’s competed in since 2004, he has won five gold medals, making him one of the most decorated competitors ever at the Worlds. He has defeated all comers, from Andre Galvao to Lucas Leite to Kayron Gracie to Claudio Calasans. In 2012, Garcia will be looking to defend his title for a fourth straight year. Who could possibly solve the riddle and end his reign this year? Who has the ability to beat a winning streak that has carried for eight years?

Roger Gracie

Without a doubt, Roger Gracie is and may always be considered the greatest jiu-jitsu competitor the world has ever seen. No matter who comes along in the future, there may never be anyone who can top all that he has done over the years. Starting in 2004 and going until 2010, Gracie obtained ten gold medals in the black belt category, seven in his weight category and three in the absolute category. Not only has Gracie won ten World titles, but he has won them in fascinating fashion. There is no flash in his game and not too much explosiveness; he beats you to death with basics. There are no secrets to his game yet no one can figure him out, and year after year people come in thinking they have a good game plan for the Gracie only to succumb to a choke from the mount, yet again.

Probably Roger’s most defining performance came in 2009, where he not only defeated all nine of his opponents, but submitted them all with a choke from the mounted position. Also, it wasn’t like he was going through a bunch of nobodies; the notable names of competitors he finished included Rafael Lovato Jr., Claudio Calasans, Ricardo “Demente” Abreu, and Romulo Barral in the absolute final. The year 2009 was so historic and so memorable that 2010 was considered a down year even though he won weight and absolute again (he finished six of his seven opponents).

Now, although Gracie is focusing himself on MMA and new jiu-jitsu competitors such as Rodolfo Vieira and Rafael Mendes are re-defining the art of dominance, we must never forget what Gracie brought to the Worlds, and that we may never see a reign of dominance quite like that again.

Who has the potential to be the next Marcelo, Cobrinha or Roger? Do you think we could see them appear in 2012? Please comment below and let your voice be heard! Osss!

Photo: Roger Gracie (Gracie Mag)

About The Author

Gianni Grippo
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Contributor

Gianni Grippo is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Marcelo Garcia and trains at the Marcelo Garcia Academy in New York City. Besides being a big fan of the sport, Gianni is also an avid competitor and has ranked among the best in the World from blue to brown belt winning 6 IBJJF World titles and 7 Pan Championships. Still at 21, Gianni looks to continue to compete for many years to come as his main goals are to win the World championships at black belt and win the ADCC title.