The 25 Best Fighters from Brazil in MMA History
Throughout the history of mixed martial arts Brazil has produced a number of star athletes. The birthplace of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Brazil has produced not only a number of talented grapplers but strikers as well.
The sport of MMA in Brazil originated from the old Vale Tudo fights that featured almost no rules and bare knuckle fights. A common occurrence during the days of Vale Tudo was the "Gracie Challenge," which saw members of the Gracie family issue challenges to different martial artists.
The Gracies brought their challenge to America and showcased Royce Gracie at UFC 1 in order to prove their point to a national audience. Gracie not only cemented Brazilian jiu-jitsu as a top martial art, he ushered in a new era in MMA.
Gracie may not be the last name of any martial artist leading the way in today's MMA, but the new stars combined with a couple of "old guard" fighters are keeping Brazil's place near the top of the rankings in a country by country breakdown of who has the best.
Although often overlooked due to his younger brother Mauricio, Murilo "Ninja" Rua made quite a reputation for himself under the Pride banner.
"Ninja" would compete in multiple divisions and went toe-to-toe with some of the best in MMA history. Known for being one of the strongest middleweights in Pride, Rua would go on to become the first EliteXC middleweight champion by defeating Joey Villasenor.
Rua would win four consecutive bouts in 2009 and 2010 but would ultimately retire from MMA in 2011, after dropping two-straight.
A long time title contender at 170 pounds, Thiago Alves has been a fan favorite in the UFC for years. Combining devastating Muay-Thai with a solid Brazilian jiu-jitsu base, Alves has produced some of the best highlight reel material in welterweight history.
In his path to his welterweight title shot Alves defeated a handful of notable fighters like Josh Koscheck, Matt Hughes, Karo Parisyan and Chris Lytle. With his weight issues now behind him, Alves is clearly a new fighter and is no longer being hindered by the severe weight cuts of his earlier UFC days.
Alves put on an impressive performance for two rounds against Martin Kampann but shot in for a takedown to grind the round out and was submitted with a guillotine choke.
Renzo Gracie is one of the most heralded members of the Gracie family—and for good reason. A sixth degree black belt in BJJ, Gracie is as proficient as he is dangerous.
His most high profile bout came against Kazushi Sakuraba, where the proud Brazilian refused to tap despite having his arm in a precarious situation.
Gracie's record may not be the best compared to other fighters on this list, but given his contributions as a coach as well as a fighter, you'd be crazy not to include him.
If you ever want to envision a huge heavyweight, look no further than Antonio Silva.
Tipping the scales at the maximum weight limit, Silva is a massive heavyweight who not only has heavy hands but also one of the best jiu-jitsu games in the heavyweight division.
The massive heavyweight caught the majority of MMA fan's eyes in 2010 when he rattled off three impressive victories. Among these victories was former UFC champion Andrei Arlvoski and MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko.
Silva was surprised by AKA's Daniel Cormier in his last bout but will look to bounce back against Roy Nelson at UFC 146.
Demian Maia is one of the most accomplished grapplers turned MMA fighters.
A third degree black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and an ADCC champion, Maia made his MMA debut in 2001. Beginning his career with an impressive 6-0 record, Maia joined the UFC's ranks at UFC 77 against Ryan Jensen.
Maia won submission of the night honors in his first three bouts inside the Octagon and would add another with his impressive showing over Chael Sonnen.
Still in search of a UFC championship, Maia will drop to 170 pounds for his next fight.
Once considered the best lightweight in the world, Vitor "Shaolin" Ribeiro first made a name for himself by winning the BJJ World Championships on four separate occasions.
Ribeiro began his career by going on an incredible run of 10 wins with no losses. His streak came to an end when he fought Tatsuya Kawajiri for a second time in 2004. Ribeiro would go on another impressive streak until Gesias Cavalcante would end his momentum at Hero's 10.
Since the Cavalcante bout, Ribeiro has gone a meager 1-3, but at only 33 years of age, Ribeiro no doubt still has the talents to make another run.
Ronaldo Souza, like many of Brazil's MMA fighters, first made a name for himself in the grappling community. Widely regarded as one of the top five BJJ competitors in the world, Souza has been on a tear since beginning his MMA career in 2003.
Souza was a star in DREAM before transitioning to Strikeforce, where he defeated Tim Kennedy for the vacant middleweight title. He would defend the title against dangerous striker Robbie Lawler but ultimately would drop the belt to current champion Luke Rockhold.
In his last bout, Souza showed improved striking and his grappling prowess by defeating Bristol Marunde at Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey.
A fifth degree black belt under the legendary Carlson Gracie, Murilo Bustamante was at one time, the best middleweight in the world.
Bustamante obtained that title by defeating Dave Menne at UFC 35 after taking future UFC hall of famer Chuck Liddell the distance in his previous bout. Bustamante would defend his title against an undefeated Matt Lindland before vacating it to fight in Pride.
He holds notable wins over fighters like Ryuta Sakurai and Ikuhisa Minowa to go along with his wins against Menne and Lindland.
At one point in time Pedro Rizzo was the guy in the UFC Heavyweight division for Brazillian fans. Rizzo began his successful UFC career by defeating "Tank" Abbot and Mark Coleman in back-to-back bouts.
However, it was his two fights with Randy Couture that endeared Rizzo to MMA fans for years. Their first encounter was one of the true epic encounters in the early days of the UFC.
The rest of Rizzo's career has been a bit of a mixed bag, but he has won three-straight bouts against Jeff Monson, Gary Goodridge and Ken Shamrock.
Rizzo doesn't get as much respect and admiration as he deserves given that his biggest fights were before the UFC and MMA took off, but he still remains one of the most exciting Brazilian heavyweights.
One of the true pioneers in the early days of the UFC, Marco Ruas provided fighters with an example of how to be prolific in both areas of the game (striking and grappling).
Becoming a star as a result of his Vale Tudo competitions, Ruas took his talents to the UFC, where he won the UFC 7 tournament with all wins coming via submission or knockout.
Although not accomplishing as much as far as titles are concerned, Ruas was an instrumental figure in the development of modern MMA.
One of the biggest stars in Pride, Ricardo Arona made quite a career in Japan and was one of the premier fighters in the Brazilian Top Team-Chute Boxe Rivalry.
Arona began his career in Pride by winning three-straight bouts against Guy Metzger, Dan Henderson and Murilo Rua. A loss against Quinton Jackson in one of the biggest highlight reel moments in MMA history, which handed Arona his first loss since losing to Fedor Emelianenko.
He would then enter the Pride 2005 Grand Prix, where he stunned the world by defeating Wanderlei Silva. In one of the pivotal moments in the Brazilian gym rivalry, Arona would lose back-to-back fights against Maruicio Rua and against Silva in a rematch.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira may not have the same prestige as his older twin brother, but don't be mistaken by thinking "Little Nog" hasn't accomplished anything in his career.
A Pan-American bronze medalist in boxing and a gold medalist in the South American games, Nogueira has always possessed a talented stand up game. That, coupled with his black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and Nogueira was/is a handful for any opponent.
Nogueira has defeated some of the best in the world like Alistair Overeem, Dan Henderson, Tito Ortiz, Guy Metzger, and Kazushi Sakuraba among others. Nogueira was expected to face touted prospect Alexander Gustafsson but had to pull out due to an injury.
After amassing a 16-0 record from 2000-2007, Paulo Filho was considered among the best in the world at 185 pounds.
In his run Filho defeated the likes of Murilo Rua, Ryo Chonan, Kazuo Misaki, and Chael Sonnen. It was in his rematch with Sonnen that the wheels began to fall off the Filho hype train.
Filho went through a scary bout with depression and drug addiction, which caused the Brazilian Top Team member to put his fighting career on hold. He was able to win four fights after the Sonnen loss, but Filho clearly hasn't been the same since his earlier days in Pride and WEC.
Junior Dos Santos
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The current UFC Heavyweight champion, Junior dos Santos has already left his mark in UFC history at just 27 years of age.
The heavy handed dos Santos entered the UFC in grand fashion by knocking out Fabricio Werdum and gaining Knockout of the Night honors. Since his arrival, nobody has been able to stop dos Santos, as he's become a human wrecking ball as he mows down the competition.
"Cigano" won the title after defeating previously unbeaten Cain Velasquez and will now make his first title defense against Alistair Overeem at UFC 146.
Lyoto Machida is a master of many martial arts but is more known for his karate striking techniques. Being one of the hardest riddles to solve in MMA, Machida began his career by going 16-0 en route to winning the UFC Light Heavyweight title.
Machida's first title defense was marred by controversy, as it was a close decision win for the champion. Machida was defeated in his rematch with Mauricio Rua and dropped his next bout against Quinton Jackson.
He bounced back in a big way by gaining Knockout of the Night against Randy Couture. Although he had arguably the best success against the champion, Machida was still defeated by 205-pound kingpin, Jon Jones.
One of the most aggressive fighters on this list, Renato Sobral comes to fight each time he steps inside the cage. Known for his high-level submissions, Sobral also possesses a good wrestling game to complement his grappling skills.
Among his many accolades and highlights, one of the best has to be defeating three tough guys like Trevor Prangley, Mauricio Rua and Jeremy Horn—all in a single night. The list of notable fighters who have fallen to "Babalu" could be a B/R length slideshow.
Sobral has been inactive for quite some time but will return under the ONE Fighting Championship.
Jose Aldo has accomplished quite a lot at such a young age. To be mentioned along with some of Brazil's greats is amazing considering the UFC Featherweight champion is only 25 years old.
Although he was impressive in his earlier WEC fights, Aldo caught the eyes of fans everywhere with his flying knee KO of Cub Swanson. Dominant victories over Mike Brown and Urijah Faber cemented his place at the top of the featherweight ladder.
In the UFC Aldo has displayed a much more "mature" fighting style, which has given the Brazilian three successful title defenses and one Fight of the Night award.
"The Phenom" Vitor Belfort burst onto the MMA scene with his lightning fast hands and his defeat of Wanderlei Silva, where he literally punched Silva from one side of the Octagon to the other.
Belfort has always been able to handle lesser competition but has been somewhat inconsistent against upper-tier fighters. He went through a great amount of personal tragedy that no doubt played a huge role with his inconsistency over the years.
Regardless of how many times we've said "Vitor is back!", he still has remained one of the most exciting fighters from Brazil and one of the most talented.
Being a multiple world champion in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Fabricio Werdum is still in search for a MMA title to add to his impressive resume.
Werdum had a fairly successful run in Pride, defeating stars like Alistair Overeem and Jon Olav Einemo. He transitioned into the UFC, where he lost his debut to former champion Andrei Arlovski but rattled off two-straight wins before getting KO'd in the bout and out of the UFC by Junior dos Santos.
It was in Strikeforce that "Vai Cavalo" finally found his groove, where he became the first man to definitively defeat Fedor Emelianenko. Werdum made a return to the Octagon and put on an amazing performance against the rugged Roy Nelson in a successful return.
Rickson Gracie may boast an inflated record of being defeated through hundreds of battles, but one cannot deny that he is one of the best BJJ practitioners in the world.
Gracie is credited with being one of the greatest members of the Gracie clan, and with a red belt to his name, it's hard to argue that claim. A perfect 11-0 (confirmed) record with only three bouts going past five minutes, Gracie made mincemeat of his opponents with his submission game.
He will continue to live on as somewhat of a mythological figure given his prominence in BJJ.
A fan favorite for years, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua has become one of the most accomplished light heavyweights in MMA history.
Being a product of the Chute Boxe Academy, Rua rose to prominence in the Pride organization after winning the 2005 Grand Prix. His debut in the UFC would not be very pretty for the Brazilian, but Rua bounced back and was able to win the UFC title after defeating Lyoto Machida in their rematch.
Rua didn't look himself while getting destroyed by Jon Jones, but he looks to be on his way back after impressive showings against Forrest Griffin and his epic clash with Dan Henderson.
After coming up short against Tito Ortiz at UFC 25, Wanderlei Silva moved to the Pride organization and began to cement his legacy as one of MMA's legendary fighters.
Silva would go undefeated for four years, only losing to heavyweight Mark Hunt. His first defeat at middleweight would be a year later against Ricardo Arona, but Silva would avenge the defeat in his next bout.
"The Axe Murderer" has defeated so many notable opponents it's amazing that Silva could go without a defeat for such an extended period of time. Besides being one of the best fighters of his era, Silva also brought an exciting fighting style that saw him do everything he could to please the fans.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
The heavyweight legend, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira cemented his place among the heavyweight elite with an illustrious career in Pride.
He was the first ever Pride Heavyweight Champion (a title he would hold on to for two years) and was also a finalist in the 2004 Grand Prix. "Big Nog" is also one of a few fighters who have held both a Pride title and an UFC title in their career.
Nogueira is obviously on the tail end of his career and fans have been calling for the MMA legend to retire, but the stubborn Brazilian refuses to give in and call it quits.
It's hard to argue anyone has had as successful of a career as Anderson "The Spider" Silva. His last "loss" was all the way back in 2006—and it came as a result of an illegal upkick.
His last real loss was against Ryo Chonan and came by way of a flying heel hook. When fighters have to resort to such desperate measures to defeat you, that's when you know you're good.
Silva has been an unstoppable force since arriving to the UFC, utilizing his Muay-Thai and physical attributes to show his superiority over the competition.
Defeating a number of top level competition and making it look easy is nothing to ignore; and he's still not done fighting. By the time Silva finishes his career, he will likely go down as one of, if not the best fighter from Brazil in MMA history.
Royce Gracie began a revolution in MMA at UFC 1 by bringing Brazilian jiu-jitsu to America. Fighters realized they needed to learn some grappling in order to survive against the Gracie jiu-jitsu fighter.
Gracie's most high profile bout since UFC 1 was the legendary encounter with Kazushi Sakuraba. After 90 minutes of fighting, Gracie's corner finally tossed in the towel. It's a shame that most newer MMA fans will only remember Gracie as "the old man" who came back to lose to Matt Hughes at UFC 60.
In his last bout Gracie avenged his loss against Sakuraba, but the bout was marred with controversy, as Gracie tested positive for anabolic steroids following the bout.
Although he was not the most active of the Gracies in MMA, Royce's impact on the sport is immeasurable, and that is why he will go down as the greatest Brazilian fighter of all time.