The Newest Wave Of Jiu-Jitsu Stars Turns To MMA

This piece will cover the latest group of Brazilian jiu-jitsu champions who have recently made the move to mixed martial arts competition or have made plans to transition to mixed martial arts. The article will be split into two segments. The first part will focus on five Brazilian jiu-jitsu stars who have already made their mixed martial arts debut. The second part will focus on five more who have made announcements in regards to transitioning into mixed martial arts. I will go about this in chronological order. Without further ado, let’s begin with part 1 . . .

ryan hall

Ryan Hall –> Pro Record: 5-1, Lightweight

No Amateur Fights

Pro Debut –> 29 April, 2006 –> Decision loss to Eddie Fyvie at RF 12 – Return to Boardwalk Hall

Last Fight –> 11 December, 2015 –> Beat Artem Lobov by dominant decision to win TUF 22

Next Fight –> TBD by the UFC

Ryan Hall actually made his MMA debut almost ten years ago despite just making waves on the fight scene now. His first fight was just a one-off endeavor to get his feet wet which he lost by decision. He wouldn’t fully commit to mixed martial arts until late 2012. He then reeled off four stoppage victories in various regional promotions from 2012 to 2014. On August 31st, 2014 The Ultimate Fighter 22 cast was released revealing Ryan Hall to be on board. On the reality show he would go 2-1. He showcased his unorthodox jiu-jitsu in his first two fights winning by heel hook before losing by decision in the semi-finals. As fate had it, he ended up filling in for the man who beat him, Saul Rogers, who was facing visa issues, to face Artem Lobov in the finals. Ryan Hall would go on to dominant Lobov by once again showing off his jiu-jitsu skills and win the TUF 22 crown.

Augusto “Tanquinho” Mendes

Augusto “Tanquinho” Mendes –> Pro Record: 5-0, Bantamweight

Single Amateur Fight –> 21 December, 2013

Pro Debut –> 05 April, 2014 –> Video

Last Fight –> 17 July, 2015 –> Beat Donald Williams by sub at Legacy FC 43

Next Fight –> 05 February, 2015 at Legacy FC 51

Having amassed a record of 5-0, “Tanquinho” has begun a stellar career in mixed martial arts. He is currently signed to Legacy Fighting Championships, a regional promotional based out of Houston, Texas. After winning his first three fights with Legacy FC – all finishes – Mendes will fight for the promotion’s Bantamweight Title at Legacy FC 51 on February 5th, 2015. A win here would most certainly bring him the attention of UFC matchmakers Sean Shelby and Joe Silva who have been known to snatch up Legacy FC champions in the past.

Justin “Darth” Rader

Justin “Darth” Rader –> Pro Record: 3-2, Bantamweight

No Amateur Fights

Pro Debut –> 01 January, 2014 –> Beat Andrew Locket by sub at BattleGrounds MMA 3

Last Fight –> 26 June, 2015 –> Knockout loss to Joel Scott at Legacy FC 42

Next Fight –> No Fight Scheduled

Justin Rader hasn’t had quite the same amount of success as of late as Mendes. “Darth” began his career in early 2014 in BattleGrounds MMA (a regional promotion in Oklahoma) and would go on to win his first two fights for that promotion. Following his second win, he was signed by Legacy Fighting Championships just like Augusto Mendes. He would win his debut in Legacy FC by stoppage but would suffer a quick technical knockout to the likes of Ricardo Lucas Ramos in his next fight, the same man fighting Augusto Mendes for the Legacy FC Bantamweight Title in February. Rader would be knocked out again only a few months later in June. He has not fought since.

Rafael Lovato Jr.
Photo by: K Jewel

Rafael Lovato Jr. –> Pro Record: 2-0, Middleweight

No Amateur Fights

Pro Debut –> 26 September, 2014 –> Defeated Canaan Gigsby by sub at Legacy FC 35

Last Fight –> 02 October, 2015 –> Defeated Kevin Hollan by sub at Legacy FC 46

Next Fight: TBD by Legacy FC

Rafael Lovato Jr. is known for being the second American after BJ Penn to win the Brazilian National Jiu-Jitsu Championships as a black belt. He turned his focus to mixed martial arts in 2014 after joining Augusto Mendes and Justin Rader in Legacy Fighting Championships. He has since gone 2-0 with both wins coming by way of submission.

Kron Gracie

Kron Gracie –> Pro Record: 1-0, Lightweight

No Amateur Fights

Pro Debut –> 23 December, 2014 –> Video

Next Fight –> 31 December 2015 at Rizin Federation Fighting NYE

Kron Gracie, youngest son of Rickson Gracie and grandson of Grand Master Helio Gracie, made his much anticipated mixed martial arts debut last December for Real Fighting Championship 1 in Japan in the lightweight division. He did not spend much time before pulling guard and securing an armbar for the victory. Despite voicing his desire to “fight MMA again as soon as possible”, his second fight will take place over a year after his first for Rizin Fighting Federation on New Year’s Eve in Japan. Rizin is the newest Asian MMA promotion that was created in 2015 by former Pride FC president Nobuyuki Sakakibara. Also of note: Gracie will be fighting Asen Yamamoto, nephew of MMA veteran Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto and grandson of former Olympic wrestler Ikuei Yamamoto. It’s unsure whether this fight will be contested at lightweight or featherweight.



While being one of the top jiu-jitsu players in the world eases the transition to mixed martial arts, both Mendes and Rafael Lovato Jr. have shown the struggles that come with it. The stardom makes it difficult to get fights early in your career. Mendes has claimed that as many as 15 guys have pulled out of potential fights with him. Lovato Jr. nearly had his second fight pushed back due to a fighter pulling out. While it is easy to understand the trepidation that would come with being a fresh mixed martial arts fighter and having to fight a Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion, those jiu-jitsu champions cannot be thrown to the wolves right off the bat.


Keep a lookout for Ryan Hall, Augusto Mendes, Justin Rader, Rafael Lovato Jr., and Kron Gracie going forward.

Mendes, Rader, and Lovato Jr. can be found fighting on Legacy FC on AXS TV.

Ryan Hall will continue fighting in the UFC.

Kron Gracie’s next fight will be featured on Spike TV.



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