Some of the most accomplished Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) practitioners have consistently impressed in the UFC with their sheer dexterity in grappling. Fabricio Werdum, BJ Penn, and Royce Gracie are some of the most well-known BJJ black belts to have competed in the organization.
Today, every up-and-coming fighter understands the importance of BJJ in mixed martial arts. While acquiring a black belt in BJJ is in itself a big deal, it has now become relatively common to see coaches handing out the prestigious belt to their pupils; merely because the sport's popularity is at an all-time high right now.
In the UFC, there are some fighters whom casual fans wouldn't expect to hold a BJJ black belt. Let's take a look at three such sluggers.
#3 UFC middleweight Kevin Holland
Kevin Holland was handed his BJJ black belt in June of 2020 under Travis Lutter, a decorated grappler, and former UFC middleweight contender. Holland is also a second-degree black belt in Kung Fu.
Despite his BJJ pedigree, Holland has been dominated on the ground by prolific wrestlers in the UFC like Derek Brunson and Marvin Vettori. The 28-year-old couldn't exploit his BJJ skills against either opponent, which shed light on his lack of 'chain wrestling'.
'Trailblazer' has realized he needs to work on his ground game and is now training at the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA), with Daniel Cormier keeping an eye on his progress.
In 2020, Holland tied the UFC record for most wins in a calendar year (5). However, 2021 has been nothing short of a nightmare for the number fourteen-ranked UFC middleweight. Holland will be hoping to return to the win column in his next fight on the back of two consecutive losses.
#2 UFC lightweight Dustin Poirier
Dustin Poirier, best known for his boxing skills, was handed a BJJ black belt in December 2017. It was presented to him by Tim Credeur, who is also a former UFC middleweight.
Poirier has been practicing BJJ for nearly 14 years now and was delighted to be honored with a black belt.
Poirier has outclassed the UFC's self-proclaimed best boxer on two occasions, reflecting his knowledge of the sweet science. With a BJJ black belt tied across his waist, Poirier will also be able to hold his ground against the most elite BJJ practitioners.
#1 UFC middleweight Paulo Costa
While it is not clear when Paulo Costa received his black belt in BJJ, the middleweight admitted that he was handed one before he signed with the UFC. At the UFC 253 press conference, Costa spoke about his interest in BJJ and revealed he was a grappler before becoming a striker.
“Before I become a striker I was a grappler. I’m a black belt in jiu-jitsu, at my brother’s gym. I have a lot of knowledge on BJJ. Yes, this fight can be on the ground also," said Costa.
The following day, 'Borrachinha' also bragged about his black belt while facing up to Israel Adesanya at the weigh-ins. Despite his BJJ efficiency, Costa is considered one of the best knockout artists in the UFC. He has recorded 11 of his 13 MMA wins by way of KO/TKO.