It’s a topic that John Danaher has never really weighed in on before, but one that he’s very well-positioned to answer: Just who is the best BJJ competitor of all time? In a recent appearance on the Lex Fridman podcast, the host posed that exact question to Danaher and his answer wasn’t all that surprising in the grand scheme of things.
Even though a number of people might proclaim Danaher’s own student Gordon Ryan to be the greatest grappler of all time thanks to his phenomenal achievements in no gi competition, it seems that he’s a little more pragmatic in his approach to deciding the best BJJ competitor ever. In his mind, that honor goes to Roger Gracie: “Out of the four faces of jiu-jitsu, he excelled in three, and in two of them in particular he was the best of his generation by a landslide.”
One thing that comes up time and time again when discussing Roger Gracie is the remarkable simplicity of his game and how he used the most fundamental techniques to incredible success at the highest levels of the sport: “Roger was probably the living embodiment of someone who played a classical jiu-jitsu game. If you took someone who had taken introduction lessons in jiu-jitsu for three months, they would recognize the outlines of Roger’s game with many of the techniques they learn in those three months.”
Danaher elaborated that he wasn’t just judging Roger Gracie on his performance in competition either, as he’s had a rare insight into the ability of the legendary grappler in more frequent contexts too: “I never saw anyone in his generation that even came close to his ability both in competition and in the gym.”
The below video is an excerpt from an episode of the Lex Fridman podcast featuring John Danaher where he names Roger Gracie as the best BJJ competitor of all time, click here to watch the full episode.