The female brown belt division at IBJJF Worlds was stacked this year, and the winners have certainly earned their place in jiu-jitsu history. These champions haven’t even competed as black belts yet, but given their impressive competition records, their success at Worlds — and any other major wins they earn in their careers — should come as no surprise.
Without further ado, here are your 2018 female brown belt world champions:
Rooster: JULIANE DOS SANTOS WIGGERS
Alliance Mario Reis’ Wiggers has done the “world champion” thing a few times now. Her first trip to the top of the podium happened when she won the female juvenile blue belt division back in 2014. After being promoted to purple belt in summer of 2016, she went on to win the Florida Open just a few months later. She earned bronze at the 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Slam, then won her second world championship — this time as a purple belt — in 2017 before being promoted to brown belt about a month later. This year, it was deja vu for this superstar roosterweight competitor, who got promoted to black belt after her big win, and we doubt this will be the last time we see her achieve her World Championship dreams.
Light Feather: LARISSA CAMPOS CARVALHO
This light featherweight was champion in her division and earned silver in the absolute division — a feat she accomplished just a few weeks after earning triple gold at the Paris Spring Open. It was another step of a very successful 2018 for Campos, who earlier this year won gold in her division and silver in the absolute of the Rome International Open and silver at Pans and Euros. The view from the top of the Worlds podium was also familiar to Campos — she was also a world champion last year as a purple belt before getting promoted in December. This Gracie Reunion athlete has thus far enjoyed a fruitful jiu-jitsu career, and just as it was no surprise to see her win gold at Worlds this year, we should expect to see her continue to win big for the rest of her brown belt career and beyond.
Feather: FFION DAVIES
There’s a reason you might’ve been hearing this grappler’s name a bit more often recently — she’s steadily been climbing the rankings, and after a few disappointing (at least for her) “almosts” that led to silver medals when she wanted gold, she’s finally earned that coveted brown belt World Championship title. Davies, who trains out of East Coast Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Ireland, had most recently come off a tough referee-decision loss to Bianca Basilio at the UAEJJF World Pro, and she came in second at Worlds last year as a purple belt as well. But big wins at events like Polaris and No-Gi Euros (where she entered and subsequently won the open weight division when she turned out to be the only one in her weight class) have helped establish her as a force to be reckoned with, and we have our fingers crossed that she’ll start to be a regular face in even more major grappling promotions.
Light: TALIA VAUGHAN
Vaughan was one of the competitors who went from being a brown belt world champion to a new black belt before she stepped off the podium. It was her second time medaling at Worlds as a brown belt (she took third place last year) as well as her second major win in just over a month — she won the Jiu-Jitsu World League Cup at the end of April. It’s a massive mark of progress for the Gracie Humaita South Bay lightweight competitor, who had her second shoulder surgery just last September and was only cleared to train again in February. Later this month, Vaughan will once again be testing herself as she competes at EBI 16 among some of the best female grapplers in the world.
Middle: JESSICA SWANSON
This middleweight 21-year-old Soul Fighters athlete is now a black belt after just winning Worlds as a brown belt: a victory which came on the heels of a silver medal at the UAEJJF World Pro. She’s won Pans two years in a row and became a world champion before (in no-gi) when she was a purple belt in 2015. With a no-gi Fight to Win Pro win on her resume as well, Swanson has proven herself to be a force both in gi and no-gi against some of the best competitors in her division, and there’s no telling what kind of damage she’ll do as a black belt.
Middle Heavy: MELISSA STRICKER CUETO
Cueto, a Zenith BJJ competitor, won the middle heavyweight category this year at Worlds just shy of a month after winning the CBJJF Brazilian Championship. 2018 has also seen her win the Kyra Gracie Cup and the Elite Pro Open, and as a purple belt in 2017, she won the South American Championship and the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam. Cueto’s brown belt career is still in its infancy, but with a win this big so early on, she’s likely to continue making her mark on the Brazilian and international BJJ scene long before she gets promoted to black belt.
Heavy: KIM SARAH RICE
Rice, 37, had to beat out much younger competitors to become the heavyweight brown belt champion. The Royce Gracie athlete had a successful trip to Pans this year as well, having won silver in her weight class and bronze in the open weight division. She’s been tearing up her local scene too, winning double gold and a silver at US Grappling Raleigh in March. Rice has also found success at Master Worlds — she won double gold last year. This is the third year in a row that she’s made the podium at Worlds, having won double bronze last year and silver the year before. Rice is proof that you don’t have to be a 20-year-old prodigy to reach the top in jiu-jitsu, and given that she’s only gotten better as the years have passed, there’s no telling what she’ll achieve next.
Super Heavy: ELIZABETH FOSTER MITROVIC
Mitrovic is your new super heavyweight champion out of Cassio Werneck BJJ. Now a brown belt under Dustin Akbari, she won No-Gi Pans as a purple belt in 2017. She’s also a Fight to Win Pro veteran, having defeated black belt Sarah Fearon by decision in January and then losing a title match against reigning champion Chelsah’ Lyons. Mitrovic has only been training for about four years, so given more time and competitive opportunities, we can likely expect to see her continuing to win big in the future.
Open: GABRIELA MEIRELES FECHTER
The open weight class winner for the brown belts is almost guaranteed to medal whenever she competes. She won double gold as a purple belt at Worlds last year (after winning quadruple gold at the Salvador Fall Open), and since earning her brown belt just under a year ago, she’s been the champion of almost every tournament she’s entered. She won the Rio Winter Open, the Belo Horizonte Open, the Vitoria Open, the No-Gi Florida Spring Open, the No-Gi Brazilian Championship, the Rio de Janeiro BJJ Pro, the South American Championship, the Brasilia Open, the Rio Open (where she again won quadruple gold), and more. Many already see this unstoppable CheckMat athlete as a BJJ star, but it’s only a matter of time before she becomes a household name within the sport.