Andre Galvao will undoubtedly go down in history as one of a handful of BJJ legends and a large part of that is down to his incredible ADCC Superfight Championship reign. While that isn’t the only monumental achievement of his extensive grappling career, it’s undoubtedly one of the most impressive. Galvao also won 5 gold medals at the IBJJF World Championship and went on to become the founder and head coach of ATOS, one of the most successful competition teams in the sport. Even without his incredible performances on the ADCC mats Galvao would still be among the best to ever do it, but his time as the Superfight champion really sets him apart from everyone else in the sport.
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Andre Galvao: ADCC Superfight Championship Reign
The foundations for his ADCC Superfight Championship victory were laid very early in his career, as Andre Galvao won a pair of bronze medals in the 77kg and absolute division at ADCC 2007. He moved up in weight to 88kg in 2009 and although he got a silver medal in his weight class, he couldn’t get past the second round of the absolute division. ADCC 2011 was where Galvao really shone though, as he stormed to victory in both brackets and became one of only a handful of double champions. At that same event, Braulio Estima became the latest man to hold the ADCC Superfight title by beating Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza 3-0 on points and the next superfight was set in stone.
ADCC 2013: Winning The Title Against Braulio Estima
It’s important to remember that in hindsight, Andre Galvao was not the favorite to win the ADCC Superfight Championship against Braulio Estima in 2013. His record against Estima was 1-2 and their only no gi match was back at ADCC 2009, when Estima submitted him in the final of the 88kg division. Galvao ended up hitting a takedown in the first few minutes and the majority of the match was spent with him trying to pass and Estima putting his elite guard to work. Both men had their own periods of success over the course of a long and grueling match but the key moment happened as the time was approaching the 20-minute mark. Estima tried to turtle and wrestle up when his guard was passed, but Galvao took his back and locked up the rear-naked choke. Estima tried to stand and shake him off but Galvao held on despite his opponent’s best efforts and secured the tap to win the title.
ADCC 2015: First Defense Against Roberto ‘Cyborg’ Abreu
Although Roberto ‘Cyborg’ Abreu only managed a bronze medal in the over 99kg division at ADCC 2013, he won the absolute division and earned the right to challenge Andre Galvao for the ADCC Superfight Championship. This match was another one that appeared close on paper, as Cyborg was actually the only person to beat Galvao during his time as a brown belt. Galvao did already get revenge in 2009 when the two met as black belts, and Galvao won on points in the gi. His match against Cyborg was another lengthy battle and although he couldn’t find the finish, Galvao was able to win 6-0 on points and join Mario Sperry as one of only two men to ever successfully defend the superfight title.
ADCC 2017: Second Defense Against Claudio Calasans
Claudio Calasans had spent considerable time training under Andre Galvao so this edition of the ADCC Superfight Championship had a pretty unique angle to it. Calasans won the absolute title in 2015 despite only making it to the second round of the 88kg division, and his only previous match with Galvao was a narrow loss on advantages. With Galvao also looking to make history as the longest-running champion, there was a lot of attention on this match. In the end Galvao put on an absolute clinic though, hitting multiple point-scoring transitions and racking up an incredible 14-0 score against Calasans. It was the perfect display of technical and tactical brilliance, and is undoubtedly one of the most impressive performances ever seen on the ADCC mats.
ADCC 2019: Third Defense Against Felipe Pena
Felipe Pena left ADCC 2017 with a silver medal at 99kg and a gold medal in the absolute division, guaranteeing his shot against Galvao at ADCC 2019. This was a true battle between different generations of elite grapplers as Pena is almost a decade younger than Galvao and the two had met several times already. The score between them was 2-2 over their first four matches and many people were seeing this as the moment that Andre Galvao would lose the ADCC Superfight Championship. Galvao turned back the clock and met Pena on equal footing in every single aspect of the match, pushing him to the limit and scoring the only points of the match to win 2-0. This meant that Galvao had won twice as many superfights as anyone else in ADCC history, and with his 40th birthday approaching he might well have retired on that high note.
ADCC 2022: The Andre Galvao Superfight Championship Reign Ends
Gordon Ryan had already made his case for being the greatest no gi grappler on the planet when he won both the under 99kg division and the absolute division with 7 submissions at ADCC 2019. There would have been a ton of attention on this match anyway but the fact that the two men got into a physical altercation leading up to it made it even more tantalising. This was another battle between two different generations of competitors and Galvao was going to be the first person to compete while being a member of the ADCC Hall of Fame. This turned out to be one challenge too many for Andre Galvao, as his time holding the ADCC Superfight Championship came to an end when Gordon Ryan submitted him with a rear-naked choke.
The ADCC Superfight Championship Reign Under Andre Galvao
It was 9 whole years and 5 epic matches with a series of some of the best grapplers on the planet, but Galvao’s reign as Superfight champion came to an end at ADCC 2022. It was somewhat poetic in the fact that it ended exactly the same way it began, with a rear-naked choke. The only different was that Galvao was on opposite ends of the choke in each of those matches. There was absolutely no shame in losing the title to Ryan, as Galvao was almost 40 years old coming into the match and had already broken so many records. It will take a minimum of 8 and 9 years for anyone to break his record for most defenses and longest ADCC Superfight championship reign respectively and even if they did, Andre Galvao will still go down in history as one of the best to ever do it.