Former UFC, Bellator champs win BJJ gold at 2023 IBJJF Masters World Championships

Former UFC champ Demetrious Johnson won gold at brown belt, while two more MMA stars showcased their BJJ skills at black belt.

By: Anton Tabuena | 3 weeks ago
Former UFC, Bellator champs win BJJ gold at 2023 IBJJF Masters World Championships
Bellator MMA / USA Today / Andrew Richardson / Ron Chenoy / IMAGO

Two longtime UFC veterans and a former Bellator champion showcased their BJJ skills this past weekend.

At the 2023 IBJJF Masters World Championships, athletes over 30 got to showcase their world class grappling, with several decorated champions participating. Among those winning gold medals were three very accomplished MMA fighters.

Demetrious Johnson wins BJJ gold at brown belt

Most famous of the bunch is UFC legend and flyweight great Demetrious Johnson, who won six matches to win gold at the Masters 2 featherweight division at brown belt. It was the 37-year-old’s first competition in the BJJ gi, but his extensive no-gi experience coupled with his superior athleticism were too much for the people in his brown belt bracket.

Grip fighting is completely different and will take some time for Johnson to get used to, but he did show some slick moves in his matches. Now that he officially has gi experience under his belt though, perhaps Matt Hume can finally promote the obviously talented grappler to black belt already?

Watch highlights of his matches here:

While Johnson pretty much dominated brown belts, two other former MMA fighters cleaned house at black belt, which had a much deeper talent pool filled with jiu-jitsu champions and coaches.

Former Bellator champ wins black belt gold at Master 1

Rafael Lovato Jr. is a former Bellator middleweight champion, who went 11-0 in his MMA career, with wins over the likes of Gegard Mousasi and Kevin Holland. He was unfortunately forced to relinquish his belt and put his career on hold due to a rare brain disease, but has since returned to the jiu-jitsu scene, where he has flourished.

At age 40, Lovato would’ve already been the oldest competitor at the Master 2 division, but he still decided to competed with much younger opponents in the deep super-heavyweight division at Master 1.

After his first two scheduled opponents no-showed, Lovato won three matches, including one over BJJ champ Diego Ramalho, to take the gold medal.

Lovato also has his next grappling match booked. One month after this Master 1 World Championship win, Lovato will challenge for the WNO title next against another young BJJ champ in Pedro Marinho.

Bellator and BJJ champ Rafael Lovato Jr.
Photo via Bellator MMA

Gabriel Gonzaga won black belt gold at Master 3

How many of you still remember “Napao”?

Longtime UFC heavyweight Gabriel Gonzaga spent a decade fighting in the UFC, and is known for his shocking 2007 head kick knockout win over PRIDE legend Mirko Cro Cop. He retired from MMA competition in 2018, but has remained active as he returned to his BJJ roots.

He’s now 44, and managed to win four matches to become the Masters 3 World Champion at Ultra Heavyweight. Among those Gonzaga defeated en route to the title is decorated BJJ legend Bruno Bastos.

Gonzaga also previously won gold in the 2019 IBJJF Masters Worlds, and was a 2006 BJJ world champion.

Check here for more event results and highlights from the 2023 Masters World Championships and the Jiu-Jitsu Con International.

The grappling organization also hosted a professional gi event on the same day. Full recap and videos from the $40,000 Absolute Grand Prix can be found here.

We are aiming to offer the best grappling and technique writing of any MMA news site. If you want to see more of this kind of work, please subscribe to the Bloody Elbow newsletter and learn how you can support the site.

Share this story

About the author
Anton Tabuena
Anton Tabuena

Anton Tabuena is the Managing Editor for Bloody Elbow. He’s been covering MMA and combat sports since 2009, and has also fought in MMA, Muay Thai and kickboxing.

More from the author

Bloody Elbow Podcast
Related Stories