Here’s the complete list of Jiu Jitsu practitioners that have the fastest BJJ black belt promotions in the martial art’s history. Detailing how each grappler’s unique story and how they achieved their black belts in record time.
- 1 16. Nic Gregoriades (4 Years)
- 2 15. Kit Dale (4 Years)
- 3 14. Gunnar Nelson (4 Years)
- 4 13. Orlando Sanchez (4 Years)
- 5 12. Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro (4 Years)
- 6 11. Richie “Boogeyman” Martinez (4 Years)
- 7 10. DJ Jackson (Nearly 4 Years)
- 8 9. Mike Fowler (3.5 Years)
- 9 8. Lloyd Irvin (3.5 Years)
- 10 7. Gabriel Moraes (3.5 Years)
- 11 6. Mads Burnell (3.5 Years)
- 12 5. Fabiano Scherner (3 Years)
- 13 4.Geo Martinez (3 Years)
- 14 3. BJ Penn (3 Years)
- 15 2. Caio Terra (3 Years)
- 16 1. Travis Stevens (18 Months)
16. Nic Gregoriades (4 Years)
Nic Gregoriades is the very first black belt student of Roger Gracie. He is also one of the very first South Africans to earn a Jiu Jitsu black belt.
Gregoriades was able to become one of the fastest BJJ black belt promotions ever through hard work and determination. Since Jiu Jitsu wasn’t readily available in South Africa, Gregoriades took up submission wrestling. Also working his way up to a brown belt in Judo.
Then in 2004, Nic was able to travel to London and join Roger Gracie’s Jiu Jitsu academy. After just four years, Gregoriades would earn his black belt from Roger.
Nic would then go onto found the Jiu Jitsu Brotherhood affiliation.
15. Kit Dale (4 Years)
Australian grappler Kit Dale had a unique journey to having one of the fastest BJJ black belt promotions of all time. He started out in Australian rules football, but then moved all of his attention to Jiu Jitsu.
He would train with instructor Bernie Jenkins and then Peter De Been and work to become a brown belt. Dale would then begin training with Yuri Simoes after the world champion had moved to Australia.
Under Simoes tutelage, Dale’s abilities would flourish and he’d earn his black belt in under 5 years. Today, Kit is known for making unique instructionals and working as an actor in low budget action films.
14. Gunnar Nelson (4 Years)
Long-time UFC vet and the best Icelandic fighter ever Gunnar Nelson had a fast journey to black belt. Nelson began training when he was seventeen under Straight Blast International founder Matt Thorton until the blue belt rank.
He would then join John Kavanagh’s Straight Blast affiliate school in Ireland and trained under him for two years. Kavanagh would award Nelson his brown belt in 2008 just after nearly 3 years of training.
Gunnar would then travel to New York City to train under Renzo Gracie in late 2008. The move was to have a camp in order to prepare for the 2009 grappling season.
He would have an impressive run as he competed in every major tournament. Earning gold at the Pan American Gi Championship, gold and silver at the No-Gi Pan American, and silver at 2009 Worlds. Also qualifying and competing at the 2009 ADCC Championship.
This impressive run would lead Renzo Gracie to award Gunnar with his black belt after four years of training. Nelson would go on to fight more in MMA and is currently still in the UFC with an 18-5-1 record.
13. Orlando Sanchez (4 Years)
The late Orlando Sanchez was one of the most passionate grapplers in the history of the sport. Sanchez would use BJJ as an outlet to escape his addiction to drugs and depression.
He would join UFC vet Alberto Crane’s gym and dedicate himself 100% to Jiu Jitsu training. Later on, world champion Ze Radiola would take Sanchez under his wing.
Orlando would frequently compete and earn gold at the 2010 IBJJF Worlds at blue belt after just a year of training. After one year at purple belt, Sanchez won the Pans Championship and Brazilian Nationals in 2012.
These big wins would lead Ze Radiola to award Orlando with his black belt after four years of training.. He would then go on to win the ADCC Championship in 2015 and earn 2nd place in 2017.
12. Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro (4 Years)
Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro is considered one of the all-time great BJJ competitors of all time. He was one of the young prodigies that helped put team Nova Uniao on the map.
Shaolin started training under Andre Pederneiras at the age of fourteen. Just three years later, Ribeiro would win his first Jiu Jitsu world title at purple belt, which led to him being promoted to brown belt.
Pederneiras would earn gold at the 1997 Pan-American Championship and second at the 1998 World Championship before he turned eighteen. After his eighteenth birthday, Perderneiras would with his black belt after four years of training.
One of the ten fastest BJJ black belt promotions of all time. Shaolin would go on to win 3 BJJ world titles and earn a record of 20-5 in MMA.
11. Richie “Boogeyman” Martinez (4 Years)
Richie “Boogeyman” Martinez is one half of the famous Martinez brothers from 10th Planet. Before Richie got into Jiu Jitsu, he was a known breakdancer around California.
A year after his brother earned his black belt, Richie would earn his black belt after just four years of training. Today, Richie runs his own 10th Planet school and is one of the most active No-Gi grapplers in the world.
10. DJ Jackson (Nearly 4 Years)
DJ Jackson is the most successful Jiu Jitsu athlete to come out of Team Lloyd Irvin Jiu Jitsu. He is most known for his double leg takedowns and his tenacious forward pressure.
After just one year of training, Jackson would win both the Gi and No-Gi World Championships. Prompting his coach Lloyd Irvin to promote him to purple belt.
He would complete this feat again at purple belt and then again a year later at brown belt. Leading to DJ earning his black belt in just a little less than four years of training.
Jackson would go on to win two No-Gi world titles and still competes in the biggest tournaments in the world.
9. Mike Fowler (3.5 Years)
Mike Fowler was one of the fastest BJJ black belt promotions by an American grappler. He was one of Lloyd Irvin’s first black belt students, as well as one of his most successful ones.
Fowler began training under Irvin in late 2001 and became immersed in Jiu Jitsu. He would frequently compete at any tournament he could and began competing against high level black belts.
After just 3.5 years, Mike Fowler would earn his black belt from Irvin. He would go on to compete all over the world and famously submitted world champion Saulo Ribeiro at ADCC 2007.
8. Lloyd Irvin (3.5 Years)
Lloyd Irvin was one of the fastest BJJ black promotions ever and had an incredible journey to earning the rank. From an early age, Irvin got hooked on martial arts and wanted to try BJJ after seeing the original UFC fights.
But since there were no Jiu Jitsu schools at the time in Maryland, Irvin had to be more resourceful. He would meet another person searching for a Jiu Jitsu school named Brian Welch.
The two would train in a garage together with a few others that wanted to learn Jiu Jitsu. They then discovered that there was a Jiu Jitsu gym in Rockville, MD. This school was run by UFC ref Mario Yamasaki and black belt Leo Dalla.
Irvin would immediately enroll in classes and spend everyday training. Also going with Professor Dalla on trips to train in Brazil. This dedication would lead to Irvin earning his black belt in just 3.5 years.
7. Gabriel Moraes (3.5 Years)
Gabriel Moraes had one of the fastest BJJ black belt promotions of all time. He started training when he was just fifteen under the famous Monteiro brothers in Manaus.
From the time Gabriel started training, he would find immediate success. Winning every major title and earning his purple belt after just two years of training.
But when he reached the purple belt rank, Moraes wanted to quit, because he couldn’t afford to compete in big tournaments. This would lead his instructor, Guto Monteiro to award him with his black belt.
One of the very few athletes that went from purple belt to black belt. Right after receiving his black belt, Moraes would win the world championship at black belt. Proving that he was deserving of the promotion.
6. Mads Burnell (3.5 Years)
Mads Burnell is a Danish martial artist that currently fights in Bellator MMA. At an early age, Burnell began learning under black belt Chris Hauter. One of the 12 original American black belts known as the dirty dozen.
Burnell would be one of Haueter’s most dedicated students and train all day and night in Hauter’s garage. This would lead Hauter to award Burnell with his black belt after just 3.5 years of training.
The Danish fighter would later go on to win the Cage Warriors Featherweight Championship and earn a contract in Bellator.
5. Fabiano Scherner (3 Years)
Former UFC vet and BJJ world champion that earned his BJJ black belt in a little over three years. He initially began learning BJJ to aid in his attempt to become an MMA fighter.
Sherner originally began learning Jiu Jitsu at Ataque Duplo run by Murilo Rupp and Sergio Sa in Florianopolis. He would then move to Rio de Janeiro as a brown belt and began training at the famous Brazilian Top Team.
After just a year, Murilo Bustamante and Luis Duarte would award Sherner with his black belt. Fabiano would then go on to fight all over the world and now runs his own Gracie Barra school.
4.Geo Martinez (3 Years)
Geo Martinez is one of the most accomplished 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu athletes that Eddie Bravo has produced. He and his brother Richie Martinez were known breakdancers before getting into BJJ.
It would be Geo that would be the first of the two brothers to get into Jiu Jitsu. He would use his athleticism from breakdancing to excel extremely quickly in the martial art.
As a brown belt, Geo would win the inaugural EBI Invitational and earn his black belt in the same year. Earning it in just three years and making it one of the fastest BJJ black belt promotions ever.
Martinez is still one of the top No-Gi athletes in the world and competes all over the world.
3. BJ Penn (3 Years)
For years, BJ Penn held the record for the fastest BJJ black belt promotions. It only took the Prodigy three years to earn his black belt from Andre Perderneiras.
Right after earning his black belt, BJ would become the first American to win a Jiu Jitsu World Championship in 2000. Penn would later go on to become one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time. Winning three UFC titles in two different weight classes.
2. Caio Terra (3 Years)
Caio Terra would later tie BJ Penn’s record for the fastest BJJ black belt promotions. He started training under Ricardo Vieira in Copacabana til he was a blue belt.
Terra would begin training under Paulo Strauch and when he wasn’t at Strauch’s academy, he would train at home. Training literally all day and night for three years, which led to Strauch to award Terra with his black belt.
His black belt promotion was so quick that he was nearly forbidden from competing at the worlds by the IBJJF. The federation would make an exception for Caio before they implemented their rule for brown belt athletes.
Terra would go on to win numerous world titles and become one of the greatest athletes of all time.
1. Travis Stevens (18 Months)
The person that holds the record for fastest BJJ black belt promotion is Judo Olympian Travis Stevens. Travis spent nearly all of his athletic career practicing and competing in Judo.
He trained briefly with Dave Camarillo and later on under John Danaher. Due to Stevens extensive background as an elite grappler, he would go quickly through the BJJ ranks.
John Danaher would promote Stevens to black belt after just 18 months of training. The reason for the fast promotion was because Stevens already had the abilities of a high level BJJ athlete.