As women’s jiu-jitsu grows, so does the talent pool in the sport’s highest levels of competition. The women of BJJ are still working hard to get the exposure and opportunities that they deserve in the sport, and thankfully, more and more people are starting to pay attention.
If you’re looking to expand your jiu-jitsu game and expertise, getting to know some of the best female athletes in the industry is a great place to start. From current superstars to some of today’s biggest up-and-comers, here are five of the best women in Brazilian jiu-jitsu today, in no particular order:
1. Beatriz Mesquita
“Bia,” as she’s nicknamed, is one of the most fearsome jiu-jitsu athletes on the mats right now. A 2019 UAEJJF Abu Dhabi World Pro champion, Mesquita has six gold medals in the IBJJF World Championship, including a win in the open weight division. But as skilled as she is in the gi, she’s just as merciless in no-gi competitions, taking home gold in the 2018 IBJJF No-Gi World Championship and at ADCC in 2017. Her success in grappling is no surprise – Mesquita has been on the mats since she was a child, winning major jiu-jitsu events by the age of ten and picking up judo around the same time. All that practice has helped mould her into one of the most decorated competitors of her era, and for as much as she’s accomplished, she’s still just barely getting started.
2. Ffion Davies
Davies has been making headlines in the BJJ world since she was a brown belt holding her own against some of the top black belts in the world. Since getting promoted, she’s soared even higher, becoming the first UK-based BJJ black belt to win No-Gi Worlds in 2018 before winning Euros in both 2019 and 2020. The Welsh grappler, who currently trains under Darragh O’Conaill in Ireland, also had an impressive performance at ADCC last year, armbarring Bia Mesquita and advancing to the finals before getting injured by a toehold from Bianca Basilio. After healing, though, Davies went right back to doing what she does best and took home gold at Euros in her division and the open weight class just a few months later. Davies is still in the infancy of her black belt career, and with how much history she’s made in under two years, there’s no doubt that she’ll be considered a jiu-jitsu legend as she continues to progress and compete.
3. Livia Giles (Gluchowska)
Originally born in Poland, Giles is now one of the top grapplers in Australia, training at the prestigious Absolute MMA in Melbourne, Victoria. She’s a multiple-time ADCC veteran and has made her way to the podium twice at the Abu Dhabi World Pro. This athlete isn’t just skilled on the mats, though – she’s also a physiotherapist and a proud “natural” competitor, having spoken out about the use of steroids in jiu-jitsu. Her knowledge of how the human body heals and moves has helped her continue to compete at an elite level through her thirties, making her a great “roll model” for BJJ athletes who want to continue being successful beyond their twenties.
4. Jessa Khan
Khan isn’t a household name quite yet, but make no mistake: she’s on her way there and will be very, very soon. The 18-year-old brown belt has been winning almost everything she’s competed in for quite some time now, becoming one of Art of Jiu-Jitsu’s most accomplished athletes. She’s won World and No-Gi Worlds a combined seven times, also taking home four gold medals from Pans and two from Euros. Khan is often referred to as a “prodigy,” and while her skill alone makes her worth keeping an eye on, she also provides a glimpse into the next generation of jiu-jitsu. As the sport continues to spread throughout the world, we’ll continue seeing younger athletes such as her quickly climbing the ranks and being ready to take over at the highest level by the time they reach adulthood.
5. Claudia do Val
One of Brazilian jiu-jitsu’s most decorated overachievers, Claudia do Val has been proving for years that she’ll do whatever it takes to be number-one. Unsurprisingly, she’s achieved just that, earning the top rank in the IBJJF in both gi and no-gi for 2018 and 2019. In fact, do Val has won virtually every major IBJJF tournament at some point in her career, winning a few of them multiple times for good measure. The Soul Fighters athlete also has a reputation for stepping up and challenging herself beyond basic competition, often working as a referee in the same tournaments she competes in. She’s even entered herself into the super heavyweight category despite not being a super heavyweight just so that she could referee and compete without having to worry about whether or not she’d make weight. This champion is on fire, and she’s not cooling down any time soon.
No matter your gender, age, nationality, or rank, these women on the mats can inspire you to push yourself harder and reach your full potential both on and off the mats.