2021 World Jiu-Jitsu IBJJF Championship

Worlds 2021 Crowned Most First Time Champions In 17 Seasons

Worlds 2021 Crowned Most First Time Champions In 17 Seasons

Twelve first-time world champions were crowned at 2021 Worlds. The last time this happened was in 2003. What does that mean for the future of jiu-jitsu?

Dec 21, 2021 by Corey Stockton

All year, the 2021 jiu-jitsu season has shown signs that it could bring the changing of the guard, the rise of the next generation. Throughout the year, we’ve seen legacy champions fall to the young up-and-comers; we’ve seen new styles and strategies overthrow the more traditional ones.

But on the heels of the 2021 IBJJF World Championships, we have proof that the next generation is here: 12 first time champions were crowned this year. It’s the first time so many individuals have won first world titles in 17 editions of the tournament.

Those first time champions are:

* Gustavo Batista closed out with Lucas “Hulk” Barbosa for the second consecutive edition of Worlds. In 2018, Hulk was the official gold medal winner. In 2021, Batista took the gold.

** Kaynan Duarte won Worlds in 2019, but was stripped due to a doping violation. That medal went to Leandro Lo, giving Lo his sixth world title.

The IBJJF has used the same 19 weight categories since 2014, when it introduced the female roosterweight and super heavyweight divisions. Since then, 43 athletes have reached the top of the podium at Worlds for the first time. That’s an average of six per year. That includes the most recent edition of Worlds, in which 12 new champions were crowned, twice as many as normal.

The next closest year was 2017, when four men and six women earned their first Worlds golds. All but three of them have gone on to win additional titles.

It’s an utter rarity for more than ten athletes to win their first world titles in a single year. The last time it happened was in 2003, when nine men and four women collected first-time titles.

2003 was also the last year prior to 2021 in which more than seven men earned their first Worlds golds.

The IBJJF crowned six first-time male world champions in every year from 2001 to 2005, but have not crowned more than five first-timers in a single edition of Worlds since. 2014 was the best year for repeat business in the male categories, as every champion that year was making a return trip to the top of the podium.

From 1996 through 2019, the IBJJF awarded 240 Worlds gold medals to male competitors. Only 52 of the champions who received those medals have not won a second. The remaining 188 golds have been split among 49 individuals.

Therein lies the biggest question coming out of 2021 Worlds. With 12 new champions crowned for the first time in 17 editions of the World Championships, what does this mean for the future of Worlds? Will the newly donned champions establish reigns akin to those of their predecessors, or has the era of dynastic world champions come to an end?

Will Tainan Dalpra, for example, follow the same path of his Art Of Jiu-Jitsu professors, and collect four, five, six world titles; or will he be quickly usurped by the new black belts waiting in the flanks? Will Mikey Musumeci remain the only new world champion to earn four consecutive World titles since 2012 (when Leandro Lo and Marcus 'Buchecha' Almeida began their legendary runs), or is he simply the harbinger of the new era of stalwart champions?

2021 Worlds has ushered in a new era of jiu-jitsu. Only time will tell what this era will look like — if this year’s champions will follow tradition and lock down their divisions for the next five years, or if we will begin to see dramatic overturn of champions year after year.

The answer will start to take shape in 2022, as the next IBJJF World Championships is just a few months away.