Outside of Brazil, the United States has become the place to be if you want to train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The rise in popularity in BJJ all started with the Gracie Family and the first UFC back in 1993. Royce Gracie’s run in the first 5 UFC events served as infomercial for BJJ, since it showcased how a smaller, average look guy like Royce was able to defeat much larger and athletic monsters like Ken Shamrock, Kimo Leopoldo and Dan Severn with technique over pure brawn. The publicity generated by the Gracies and the UFC created business opportunities for Gracie family members and their students to spread BJJ all across the United States and the rest of the world. The migration of top level instructors to the United States during the 1990s and 2000s built the cities/metro areas listed below the top places to train in not only the good ole USA, but the world.
Los Angeles/Orange County: Brazilians love great weather and surfing so it makes sense that their top instructors would want to migrate to Southern California. Los Angeles is home to so many great academies and high level instructors. Los Angeles is also the home of the Mundials, NoGi Worlds, and a number of monthly tournaments that keeps BJJ practitioners very active. Some of the best and most iconic academies in Los Angeles include the Gracie Academy in Torrance, Gracie Barra HQ in Irvine, CheckMat HQ in Long Beach, Gracie Barra Northridge Romulo Barral,Art of Jiu-Jitsu in Costa Mesa, Jean Jacques Machado in Tarzana, Cobrinha’s in Los Angeles, 10th Planet HQ in Downtown Los Angeles, and Rickson/Kron Gracie’s in Culver City. There are also a number of schools affiliated with these academies scattered throughout the region. I know I am leaving out many great academies on this list, so please forgive me if I didn’t mention your academy.
San Diego: Like Los Angeles, San Diego offers great weather, surfing, food, and Jiu Jitsu. It is one of the major reasons why BJJ legends like Andre Galvao, Leticia Ribero, Saulo and Xande Ribero Royler Gracie, Dean Lister, Jeff Glover, Clark Gracie, Rodrigo Medeiros, Baret Yoshida, Fabio Santos, and Eduardo Telles set up shop in this great city. Academies such as Atos, University of Jiu Jitsu, and Gracie Humaita have attracted BJJ competitors from all over the world that want to train with the best and live in paradise. San Diego has become such a hot spot for BJJ tourism, a site called bjjhostels.com has popped up to provide housing for the tourists.
New York City: Renzo Gracie was the first BJJ instructor to make his mark in NYC back in the early 1990s. By being the first mover in the Big Apple, he has been able to build 3 large academies and a number of affiliates in the tri-state region led by top instructors including Matt Serra and Ricardo Almeida. However, Renzo is far from the only major player in town. Marcelo Garcia is arguably the greatest of all-time and has opened an academy that has drawn in some of the top BJJ competitors from around the world. Multiple time World Champion and accomplished MMA fighter Shaolin Ribeiro also runs a very successful academy in NYC and the scene is only getting hotter with the emergence of Unity BJJ led by Murilo Santana and featuring the Miyao Brothers.
San Francisco/San Jose: The San Francisco/San Jose market is ripe with top level coaching and competitors. Dot.com millionaires and techies have access to great academies and instructors including Caio Terra, Dave Camarillo, Ralph Gracie, Cesar Gracie, Kurt Osiander, Carley Gracie, Charles Gracie, Gumby Marques, and Romulo Melo to name a few. Many of the great instructors and teams in the Bay Area have roots with Ralph Gracie, who has spawned many affiliate locations and instructors such as Gumby Marques and Dave Camarillo who started their own schools.
Las Vegas: Las Vegas is the home of the UFC corporate office and considered the MMA capital of the world. A lot of top-level MMA fighters live and train in Las Vegas which creates a demand for high level BJJ instructors. Robert Drysdale and his Zenith team have their HQ and many affiliates around the Las Vegas area. There is also Syndicate MMA, where ADCC Champion Vinny Magalhaes coaches many UFC fighters. Sin City also is the home of Sergio Penha, multiple-time World Champion Fredson Paixao, and Cobrai Kai. The Fight Capital is also home to numerous IBJJF, NAGA, and other grappling tournaments that draws competitors in from around the country.
There were many other great BJJ cities considered for this list including Chicago, Washington DC, Miami, and Atlanta. Do you agree or disagree with this list? Please comment below.