In the first edition of Making The Case, I looked at Marcelo Garcia and the reasons his legacy as the GOAT is secure. This time, however, I’ll look at one of the more traditional answers to the question of the greatest BJJ athlete of all time. This is a man that needs no introduction: Roger Gracie.
ROGER THE UNBREAKABLE
This is something truly exceptional, but Roger Gracie has never been submitted in competitive rolling since achieving his black belt. Over 84 matches against the very best the world has to offer, on the biggest stages that jiu-jitsu has, not a single person knows what it feels like to end their match with him before the timer runs out. Considering it’s a commonly accepted principle that anybody can get caught at any time when you look at the highest levels of the game, it’s incredible to think that Roger is the exception to this rule. The greatest competitors in the sport can stand across the mat from him and know that for them to win within the time limit, they have to do something that nobody has been able to do before them. That’s a truly scary prospect.
ROGER THE FINISHER
Alongside him being physically incapable of tapping out, Roger also manages to bend everyone else to his will. He’s got a finishing rate of 82%, getting the tap in 62 of his 76 victories. He uses a wide variety of submissions along the way, which is incredible at that level. He’s also had two separate tournaments where he’s managed to submit every single opponent he’s faced on his way to gold in his weight and the absolute (the 2009 IBJJF World Championships and the 2005 ADCC World Championship Finals.) He was the first person to achieve this feat in the ADCC Finals. Gracie had to fight his way through eight matches with some of the best on the planet at the time, including Eduardo Telles, Fabricio Werdum, Jacare, and Xande Ribeiro (twice).
ROGER THE MEDAL COLLECTOR
Roger made history way back in 2010 when he became the first competitor to reach double-digits in world titles. He managed to accomplish the unthinkable and claim ownership of ten world championship medals a whole seven years before the next person would even match this. Gracie did this by starting strong in his competitive career and medalling in his first attempt before taking home the gold in his second year competing on the world stage at black belt. He quickly picked up the pace and ended up coming into his own towards the tail end of his career. Roger Gracie stood on the podium with two gold medals at once, something he achieved in three different years.
ROGER THE MIXED-MARTIAL ARTIST
Despite how closely linked Jiu-Jitsu and MMA are, and despite the fact that any Mixed-martial artist needs to have a high level of proficiency in BJJ just to survive in the cage, the majority of BJJ champions still stay in their own lane and either don’t venture into MMA at all or test the waters for a while before returning to their original sport.
Roger chose to be one of the few who take both sports seriously. He took on some genuinely solid opposition in the cage, finishing up his career in MMA with a respectable 8-2 record. Roger managed to overcome the wrestlers and strikers alike with his superb Jiu-Jitsu skills, beating the likes of Keith Jardine, Yuki Kondo, Kevin Randleman, Ron Waterman and the recent UFC Light-Heavyweight title-challenger, Anthony Smith. In his final fight, he finally got to touch MMA gold when he rode off into the sunset with the ONE Cruiserweight World Championship belt at the age of 34.
Last but not least, his surname says it all. Anybody involved in Jiu-Jitsu knows the Gracie family. They know the legacy that the family collectively left behind. The next generation, like Kron and Neiman, are still furthering it. It’s common knowledge that anyone born into that family are basically raised on the mats. They will have spent more time grappling by the time they hit teenage years than the majority of people will have in their entire life. Roger was born into an environment that was built to get the best it possibly could out of the children involved and many of them still don’t make it to the heights that he did. Not only did he do his family name proud, he took it to a whole new level in terms of competitive prowess. Roger Gracie still stands as the fighter to measure themselves against when a Gracie wants to compete on the world stage.