Marcelo Garcia: One of the BJJ Greats

Marcelo Garcia
Name: Marcelo Garcia
Nickname: Marcelinho
Date of Birth:January 17th, 1983
Place of Birth:Formiga, Minas Gerais, Brazil
Academy: Marcelo Garcia Jiu-Jitsu Academy
Affiliation: Alliance Jiu Jitsu
Instructor: Fabio Gurgel
Championships: 4x ADCC Champion, 5x IBJJF Champion

In BJJ, there’s a short list that almost unanimously believes is an all time great and Marcelo Garcia is on it. Not only was Marcelo one of the best BJJ athletes of all time, but he changed the game as an innovator.

Here is the full story on Marcelo Garcia and how he became one of the most beloved figures in Jiu Jitsu. Going over his start in martial arts and how he was driven to become the greatest of all time.

Marcelo Garcia’s Start in Martial Arts

Marcelo grew up in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais within the city of Formiga. As a kid, Garcia loved action movies. He loved watching action stars that were also martial artists like Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris.

This love of action movies would help encourage him to pursue learning martial arts. His first entry into martial arts was when he was eight years old.

Garcia would first start learning Karate at a local school and train diligently for the next four years of his life.

Marcelo Garcia
Marcelo Garcia

Marcelo Garcia Begins Learning Judo and Jiu Jitsu 

After a stint learning Karate, Marcelo Garcia would begin questioning the practicality of the martial art. He wasn’t sure the rigid movements of Karate would actually be effective in actual self defense situations.

This would lead Marcelo to stop learning martial arts for a year until his friend invited him to try Judo. This invitation would reignite Garcia’s passion for martial arts as he saw how effective Judo was.

He would become one of instructor Fabiano de Souza’s most dedicated students. Never missing a class and was always on the mat learning.

One day, Marcelo found out that his instructor Souza also practiced Jiu Jitsu. Since Formiga was a small town, Marcelo had never been exposed to BJJ.

His Judo instructor would invite him to travel to the neighboring city of Divinopolis to a Jiu Jitsu school. The initial trip would change Marcelo’s life.

Marcelo Garcia

Marcelo Changes His Focus To Jiu Jitsu 

When Marcelo Garcia went to his first Jiu Jitsu class, he was enthralled with the training. He loved that the fight in Jiu Jitsu took place primarily on the ground and enjoyed rolling.

Way more than in Judo, where they would do more technical drilling from the feet. Garcia instantly knew he wanted to train BJJ. From then on, Marcelo would make trips with Souza to this gym that was run by Iran Brasileiro.

After averaging 3 BJJ classes a week for a few months, Marcelo would compete in his first competition. It would be a losing effort, but only motivated Garcia to work harder.

Since Marcelo was low on resources for BJJ living in a small town, he would begin collecting BJJ magazines. Studying the techniques within them and training with the training partners he had.

Marcelo’s Journeys

Before Marcelo Garcia made a plan to move to a bigger Jiu Jitsu school, he would travel to compete in Sao Paulo. He met black belt Paulo Rezende and they became friends.

Rezende was impressed by his ability and made him an offer to live and train at his academy in Poco de Caldas. Garcia was sixteen during this time and needed the blessing from his parents. They approved and Marcelo began his journey into BJJ full time.

He would dedicate his life to his training. Participating in four classes a day and cleaning the mats. Every weekend he would travel around the country competing in various BJJ tournaments.

At one in particular in Rio de Janeiro, Garcia would meet his future wife named Tatiana. She was working at a tournament and helped Marcelo get in after an issue with his entrance fee.

Marcelo Garcia

Marcelo Garcia Joins Alliance

When Marcelo was a brown belt, Tatiana convinced Marcelo that he needed to move to Sao Paulo. Moving there to take an offer from Fernando Terere from him to be an assistant coach at his gym.

The move was a difficult one as Garcia made little to no money and had to rent a home far from the gym. After struggling for a while, Alliance leader Fabio Gurgel came to Marcelo with another offer.

Gurgel offered Garcia an assistant coaching position at the Alliance HQ and to train directly under him. This would be the move that changed Marcelo’s life. He would then begin becoming one of the greatest BJJ athletes of all time.

Marcelo Garcia

Marcelo Garcia’s IBJJF Championships 

In Marcelo’s career, he won 5 IBJJF World Championships in 2004, 2006, 2009, 2010, and his last in 2011. Here are the highlights of each one.

2004 IBJJF Championship:The 2004 was actually Marcelo’s second world event at black belt. He would place second a year prior, losing to Ferando Terere, who had left Alliance to start his own academy.
Garcia would compete in the 82 kg division and beat Flavio Serafim and Cassio Werneck to win his first world title.
2006 IBJJF Championship:Two years later in 2006, Marcelo would win his second IBJJF world title. This time, Garcia would beat future legends of the sport in route to winning the championship.
Beating Unity JJ leader Murilo Santana in the quarter finals and Andre Galvao in the finals. He would also beat Robert Drysdale in the opening round of the absolute division before losing to Roger Gracie.
2009 IBJJF Championship:After not competing in the IBJJF worlds event for three years, Marcelo would make his return in 2009. In route to his third world title, Garcia would defeat all of his opponents without getting a point scored on him.
2010 IBJJF Championship:Marcelo would repeat as world champion and earn his fourth title overall in 2010. Once again pitching a shutout in his division to win the title in dominant fashion.
2011 IBJJF Championship:2011 would be the final year that Marcelo would compete in Jiu Jitsu. He ended his career on a high note to win his fifth world title, his third in three consecutive years. 

Marcelo Garcia’s ADCC Championships

Where Marcelo Garcia gained his legendary status was through his matches at ADCC. Entering his first tournament as an unknown and later became one of the greatest of all time.

ADCC 2003 Champion:In 2003, Garcia entered his first ADCC tournament as a brown belt. He actually lost in the Brazil qualifier, but got to compete due to an injury.
Garcia shocked everyone at the tournament by dominating legends of the sport. Beating Renzo Gracie 9-0 and putting world champion Vitor Shaolin to sleep in the semifinals. When he beat Otto Olsen in the finals, everyone now knew who Marcelo Garcia was.
ADCC 2005 Champion:Two years later, Marcelo would return to the ADCC tournament to defend his title. He came into the tournament at the top of his game and put on another show.
Walking through Chris Brennan, submitting Shinya Aoki, a decision win over Leo Santos. In the finals, Marcelo would beat Pablo Popovitch by wrist lock to win his 2nd ADCC title.
ADCC 2007 Champion:Marcelo would become the first ever three time champion in the history of the ADCC in 2007. This time, he would submit everyone in the 77 kg division to win his third world title. Also earning second place in the absolute division.
ADCC 2011 Champion:2011 would mark Marcelo’s last year of competing in the ADCC and he went out a champion. Once again submitting everyone in the 77 kg division to win his fourth and final ADCC title.

Marcelo the Giant Killer

Marcelo Garcia’s runs to earn 4 ADCC championships were spectacular. But what helped make Marcelo a legend was his performances in the absolute divisions.

Garcia feared no opponent and would take anyone on, no matter how much bigger they were than him. He got the Jiu Jitsu world buzzing at ADCC in 2003 when he submitted Mike Van Arsdale with ease. Then losing a competitive match to ADCC champion Marcio Cruz.

In 2005, the crowd was on the edge of their seats to see how Marcelo would fare in the absolute division. He faced former UFC champion Ricco Rodriguez, who outweighed by over 100 lbs.

Rodriguez tried to bully Garcia, but Marcelo would bring the crowd to their feed by submitting him with a heel hook. He would follow up this win by submitting Diego Sanchez and rival Alexandre Ribeiro in the 3rd place match.

In 2007, Marcelo would make it to the finals of the absolute division. Narrowly missing earning double ADCC gold after being submitted by Robert Drysdale in a rematch.

Marcelo Garcia Opens His BJJ Academy 

After winning his fifth world IBJJF title and fourth ADCC title in 2011, Marcelo would retire from competition. He would then put all of his energy into opening his own Jiu Jitsu academy.

Garcia would choose to open his academy in the heart of New York City and call it Marcelo Garcia Jiu-Jitsu Academy. From the moment Marcelo opened his school, his mats have been full of students ever since.

It is considered one of the best BJJ schools in all of New York. Helping the city become one of the best for BJJ schools along with Renzo Gracie’s school and Unity JJ.

Marcelo Garcia

The Innovative Style of Marcelo Garcia 

What made Marcelo Garcia such a phenomenal athlete was that he was always renovating his BJJ game. He was never satisfied with just being good at one thing, but became world class at numerous techniques.

Take his ADCC wins for example. He came into his first ADCC appearance beating everyone with an arm drag to take his opponent’s back, and submit them.

Then when opponents thought they had Marcelo figured out later on, he would use x guard and butterfly guard variations. Also adding on one of the world’s best guillotine chokes and north south chokes.

The diversity of Marcelo’s BJJ game is what made him a favorite to many future BJJ athletes. His innovative style helped shape grappling to how it is performed today.

The Legacy of Marcelo Garcia

Marcelo Garcia is one of the most beloved figures in all of Jiu Jitsu. He was a legendary competitor and one of the friendliest people to ever practice BJJ. 

Garcia followed his dreams and accomplished everything he ever wanted. Today, he is passionate as ever about Jiu Jitsu and is growing the next era of world champions.