In the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competition circuit, the year of 2022 will forever be known as the year female athletes achieved what seemed nearly impossible only a decade ago. Three shinning stars have illuminated the scene since the first major IBJJF event of the year and have stayed in the spotlight: Nathalie Ribeiro, Gabi Pessanha and Mayssa Bastos — these Jiujiteiras are all positioned to win the legendary IBJJF Grand Slam, which means winning all four major IBJJF events in the same year: Europeans, Pan Americans, Brazilian Nationals and World. Get to know these talented athletes who have taken women’s Jiu-Jitsu to a whole new level of expertise and be inspired by their journey from trials to glory.
Story and Photos by Evelyn Sutton
Born November 6, 1992, in the “Cidade Maravilhosa” (Wonderful City) of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Nathalie Ribeiro, commonly known as “Tata” Ribeiro is currently at the top of the lightweight division, with 2022 being the most successful year of her career, yet.
A prominent figure in women’s Jiu-Jitsu, Nathalie received her black belt in 2018, and since then has been a consistent presence at IBJJF events, NoGi tournaments and supefights like Fight2Win. Nathalie solidified her status as one of the top female grapplers in the world after significant wins at major events and UAEJJF Grand Slam including her victory at PAN 2022 when she defeated her nemesis Ffion Davies, who she had previously lost to in four matches, in an intense battle for the gold.
Growing up, this Brazilian beauty was dedicated to sports competing in gymnastics, swimming and trampolining, and starting BJJ at 8 years old. Both her parents train Jiu-Jitsu and family has always been an important support system of Nathalie’s journey. After becoming a mother, Tata stopped training for three years. Once she returned, her dedication and commitment to the sport was evident.
With a powerful, and highly technical style, Nathalie is a fan-favorite, who consistently delivers must-watch performances.
Follow on IG: tatawribeiro
Lineage: Carlos Gracie ▶ Helio Gracie ▶ Rolls Gracie ▶ Romero Cavalcanti (Jacaré) ▶ Leonardo Vieira (Leozinho ▶ Lucas Leite ▶ Nathalie Ribeiro
Born and raised in one of Brazil’s most dangerous slums, “Cidade de Deus” (City of God) favela in Rio de Janeiro, today Gabrieli Pessanha is widely recognized as one of the most promising female BJJ athletes of her generation but her love and dedication for Jiu-Jitsu wasn’t something that came easy to her.
An athletic child, growing up Gabi played soccer, trained judo and danced ballet. In 2010, she was introduced to BJJ by a local athlete named Marcio de Deus who started a community outreach program to keep the favela kids away from drugs and violence by training Jiu-Jitsu instead. Gabi started training but she was not an immediate fan of grappling, and felt uncomfortable with the close contact nature of the sport. However Coach Marcio saw her true potential and became a powerful mentor for Gabi, encouraging her not only to train consistently but to give competitions a try. Gabi displayed an amazing natural aptitude for Jiu-Jitsu and started winning national level tournaments from the start. Having competed since her teenage years at both IBJJF and UAEJJF events, Gabi has earned numerous titles, including World, European, Pan American, and Brazilian National. She was promoted to black belt in 2019, at the age of 18, becoming one of the youngest professional BJJ women black belts in the world.
After a hard loss in 2016, she became more focused and ambitious. Her dedication earned Gabi her first IBJJF Grand Slam win in 2018 as a purple belt. Now she is getting ready to do it again. From humble beginnings to the top of the world. Gabrieli Pessanha is a true inspiration that hard work and dedication can make dreams come true.
Follow on IG: gabrieli_pessanha
Lineage: Carlos Gracie ▶ Helio Gracie ▶ Rickson Gracie ▶ Renam Pitangui ▶
‘Pitoco’ Jordan ▶ Rogério Poggio ▶ Marcio de Deus ▶ Gabrieli Pessanha
Team: InFight JJ
A women’s roosterweight favorite, Mayssa Bastos has ruled the division since receiving her black belt in 2018. Having won three of the major IBJJF events this year, the opportunity to finally conquer the Grand Slam shines bright for the Brazilian athlete from Niterói, in Rio de Janeiro.
Before BJJ, Mayssa trained Judo at 12 years old with her father and brother. The transition to Jiu-Jitsu was natural and young Mayssa quickly fell in love with grappling, spending all of her free time perfecting her skills on the mats and putting them to the test at local tournaments. A fierce competitor, Mayssa is an undeniable force to be reckoned with and has earned the respect and even fear of her opponents with multi championship titles at IBJJF European Open, Pan and UAEJJF Abu Dhabi Pro under her belt. By the age of 23, Mayssa had already won almost every single major BJJ tournament multiple times in both Gi and NoGi. Small and mighty, she is as knowledgeable of the gentle art as she is passionate.
In 2021, Mayssa won FloGrappling’s Who’s Number One Championship defeating 10th Planet legend Grace Gundrum and became Eddie Bravo Invitational (EBI) first straw-weight champion that same year. This year, in February, she won ADCC Submission Fighting 2nd South American Trials and has qualified for the 2022 ADCC World Championship. Winning the Grand Slam will be a nice addition to her already jeweled crown.
Follow on IG: mayssabastos
Lineage: Luis França ▶ Oswaldo Fadda ▶ Monir Salomão ▶ Júlio César ▶ Mayssa Bastos
Team: GF Team
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