At the 2023 IBJJF Masters World Championships, former UFC and Bellator champions displayed their Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu prowess, clinching gold medals.
Three notable MMA stars demonstrated their impressive Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills at the 2023 IBJJF Masters World Championships, a prestigious competition featuring athletes over the age of 30. Among the decorated champions who secured gold medals, Demetrious Johnson, a UFC legend, Rafael Lovato Jr., a former Bellator champion, and Gabriel Gonzaga, a longtime UFC heavyweight, stood out.
UFC legend Demetrious Johnson, competing in the Masters 2 featherweight division at brown belt, triumphed with six victories. This marked Johnson’s first competition wearing the BJJ gi, transitioning from his extensive no-gi background. Despite the challenges posed by gi-based grip fighting, Johnson’s superior athleticism and grappling skills prevailed in the brown belt category. His stellar performance raises the question of whether it’s time for Matt Hume to consider promoting him to black belt.
Rafael Lovato Jr.’s Return to Victory
Former Bellator middleweight champion Rafael Lovato Jr. returned to the jiu-jitsu scene at age 40 after battling a rare brain disease that led to him relinquishing his MMA title. Competing in the deep super-heavyweight division at Master 1, Lovato faced much younger opponents. Despite two initial opponent no-shows, he secured three victories, including a notable win over BJJ champion Diego Ramalho, earning him the gold medal. Lovato’s impressive comeback continues as he prepares to challenge for the WNO title against another young BJJ champion, Pedro Marinho.
Gabriel Gonzaga’s Grappling Success
Gabriel Gonzaga, known for his iconic 2007 head kick knockout of PRIDE legend Mirko Cro Cop, spent a decade in the UFC’s heavyweight division. Retired from MMA in 2018, Gonzaga returned to his BJJ roots and, at the age of 44, became the Masters 3 World Champion at Ultra Heavyweight. Gonzaga’s remarkable journey included defeating decorated BJJ legend Bruno Bastos. His victory at the 2023 IBJJF Masters World Championships adds to his list of grappling accomplishments, which include a 2019 IBJJF Masters Worlds gold medal and a 2006 BJJ world championship.