Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!
Already a subscriber? Log In
Whether or not you believe in “American Jiu-Jitsu” exists separate from “Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu,” several individual Americans have made their marks on the world of submission grappling. If in no other way, Americans have at least impacted the history books.
In all three of the major world championships — the IBJJF World Championships, ADCC, and the IBJJF World No-Gi Championships — Americans have had the highest rate of victory other than Brazilians.
That fact hardly scratches the surface of the history of Americans in the most prestigious jiu-jitsu tournaments. Here are the most important facts.
See previous editions of Grappling By The Numbers here.
IBJJF World Champions
Mikey Musumeci: 2017, 2018 (Light Featherweight), 2019 (Roosterweight)
Mackenzie Dern: 2015, 2016 (Featherweight)
Lana Stefanac: 2009 (Heavyweight, Open Weight)
BJ Penn: 2000 (Featherweight)
Robert Drysdale: 2005 (Heavyweight)
Rafael Lovato Jr: 2007 (Ultra Heavyweight)
Hillary Williams: 2010 (Middleweight)
Shane Jamil Hill-Taylor: 2018 (Featherweight)
Tammi Musumeci: 2019 (Featherweight)
Four years into the history of the IBJJF World Championships, BJ Penn became the first American black belt to win gold. He wasn't the first to medal, though. That accolade belongs to David Meyer who took third in the open weight division in 1998. But Americans had a slow crawl to winning with frequency.
Until 2005, no more than one American reached the podium in any year. Since 2005, however, that trend has changed. Two or more Americans have earned a medal at Worlds every year since.
Still, no male competitor has ever won gold in the open weight division. Only one American woman has won open weight gold: Lana Stefanac. Stefanac was also the first American female to win any division when she earned double-gold in 2009.
Americans faced a gold medal drought from 2011 to 2014. It was broken by Mackenzie Dern in 2015. She was the only American to win gold that year, and also the only American to win gold the following year.
2016 was the most productive year for American competitors. That year, 16 individuals earned 17 medals.
But Americans have never dominated a podium. On two occasions, three American women have stood atop a four-person podium. American males have never taken more than two spots on a podium of four. That has occurred twice.
2018 and 2019 were the only years in which more than one American won gold. Mikey Musumeci and Shane Jamil Hill-Taylor did it in 2018. Mikey and Tammi Musumeci both won their divisions in 2019.
Mikey Musumeci is the only non-Brazilian male competitor to have won more than one gold medal at Worlds, with a total of three.
ADCC World Champions
Gordon Ryan: 2017 (88 kg), 2019 (99 kg, Absolute)
Mark Kerr: 1999 (Over 99 kg), 2000 (Over 99 kg, Absolute)
JT Torres: 2017, 2019 (77 kg)
Dean Lister: 2003 (Absolute), 2011 (99 kg)
Jeff Monson: 1999 (99 kg), 2005 (Over 99 kg)
Ricco Rodriguez: 1998 (Over 99 kg)
Robert Drysdale: 2007 (Absolute)
Dean Lister: 2011 (99 kg)
Orlando Sanchez: 2015 (Over 99 kg)
Mackenzie Dern: 2015 (60 kg)
Brazilian athletes have had a foothold on ADCC, earning 76% of the gold medals, and 65% of the medals overall. But American competitors are next in line, with 17% of the golds and 24% of all ADCC hardware. Representatives of 13 other countries have claimed the remaining medals.
At least one American competitor has placed in every ADCC since the tournament’s inception in 1998. Brazilians are the only other group who can make that claim. On nine occasions, Americans took two of the three spots on the ADCC podium.
But American competitors haven’t always reached the top. They were shut out from gold medals in 2001, 2009 and 2013.
The most fruitful year for American competitors was in 2007, when they took nine medals home. But that year was an anomaly, as ADCC added additional female weight classes that year. Five of the nine medals were from the female classes.
That year aside, the four most successful years for Americans have been 2000, 2013, 2017 and 2019; they won seven medals each of those years.
2019 was an outlier for Americans, as the only year in which they have earned three gold medals. JT Torres won the 77 kg division, and Gordon Ryan won the 99 kg and absolute categories.
Gordon Ryan and Mark Kerr are the only Americans in the history of ADCC to win double gold.
Six competitors overall have achieved that feat; besides Ryan and Kerr, each of them have been Brazilian.
Mackenzie Dern is the only American woman who has won ADCC. Nine other women have medaled.
IBJJF No-Gi World Champions
Justin Rader: 2010, 2011 (Light Featherweight), 2013 (Featherweight)
Rafael Lovato Jr: 2010 (Heavyweight), 2011 (Medium Heavyweight), 2013 (Ultra Heavyweight)
Tammi Musumeci: 2013, 2015, 2016 (Featherweight)
Josh Hinger: 2016, 2018 (Medium Heavyweight), 2017 (Middleweight)
Hillary Williams: 2009 (Lightweight, Open Weight)
DJ Jackson: 2012, 2015 (Middleweight)
Keenan Cornelius: 2014, 2017 (Medium Heavyweight)
Mackenzie Dern: 2014 (Featherweight), 2015 (Open Weight)
Raquel Canuto: 2017, 2019 (Middleweight)
Gordon Ryan: 2018 (Ultra Heavyweight, Open Weight)
Jeff Glover: 2007 (Lightweight)
Jeff Monson: 2007 (Open Weight)
Baret Yoshida: 2009 (Featherweight)
Josh Barnet: 2009 (Ultra Heavyweight)
Brandon Mullins: 2010 (Roosterweight)
Katrina Weilbacher: 2010 (Heavyweight)
Rachel Demara: 2011 (Middleweight)
Emily Wetzel: 2011 (Heavyweight)
JT Torres: 2012 (Lightweight)
James Puopolo: 2013 (Super Heavyweight)
AJ Agazarm: 2014 (Lightweight)
Mikey Musumeci: 2016 (Light Featherweight)
Jena Bishop: 2017 (Lightweight)
Gianni Grippo: 2018 (Lightweight)
Tim Spriggs: 2018 (Heavyweight)
Vedha Clemente Toscano: 2019 (Medium Heavyweight)
Kendall Reusing: 2019 (Super Heavyweight)
Tammy Greigo: 2012 (Open Weight)
Two Americans earned gold in 2007, the inaugural year of the No-Gi World Championships, Jeff Glover and Jeff Monson. Nine other Americans medaled. The following year, Americans were entirely shut out from the top of the podium.
But overall, American grapplers have been more successful at No-Gi Worlds than the gi counterpart. At least one American has earned gold at No-Gi Worlds in every year other than 2008.
American men had their worst performance since 2008 in 2019, as no male competitor earned gold. But that group had their best outing in 2018, collecting five golds. 2018 was the only year in history in which American men won more gold medals than Brazilian men did.
Still, there has never been an instance in which four Americans have shut out a division at No-Gi Worlds. Three Americans have been on a podium together on just four occasions: the 2009 Male Featherweight division, the 2009 Male Ultra Heavyweight division, the 2013 Male Super Heavyweight division and the 2019 Female Featherweight division.
There have been three American open weight champs. Jeff Monson won the open in 2007. Mackenzie Dern won the absolute in 2015, and Tammy Greigo won in 2012.
Overall, 28 American competitors have accounted for 43 No-Gi Worlds gold medals. Brazilians have won 158 golds, while representatives of all other countries have won eight golds.
In total, Americans have won 187 No-Gi Worlds medals; Brazilians have collected 498, and 51 remaining medals have been divided up among competitors of 18 other nationalities.