12 min read
Check out this list of 22 celebs who currently train BJJ… some may surprise you!
12 min read
Check out this list of 22 celebs who currently train BJJ… some may surprise you!
Location: Kennedy Space Center, FL
Estimated reading time: 12 minutes
Photo by: Scott Hirano
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is only gaining popularity within the celebrity circuit; some are seasoned grapplers, and others are new to the sport. There are many reasons why they decided to take up BJJ; some do it to help them prepare for fight scenes in movies, but many celebrities just do it for self-improvement. From Sport Icons to Hollywood A-listers to rockstars, surfers, and even comedians, BJJ is making an impact and one we think will only grow and grow.
Despite being able to afford the best training money can buy, there are few celebrities in the BJJ black belt club, but a few nonetheless have made it, with others well on their way. Like all beginners, many actors take up BJJ short-term for their roles, to see how they like it, etc. Some, however, stick with it and are helping to grow the sport. So, let’s dive in and see what celebs are currently training BJJ.
1. Russell Brand
Let’s kick off this list with a very talented, intelligent, and hilarious guy… the one and only Russell Brand. The comedian, actor, and activist is one of the most consistent and active celebs with the Gentle Art. He has been n many times expressing how passionate about the martial art he is and frequently talks about the immense positive effects the art has had on his life on his YouTube channel. He is no newbie either, recently being promoted to purple belt in October 2021 by his coach Chris Cleere…. He is here to stay!
2. Shaquille O’Neal
Yes, if you didn’t think the huge seven-foot-tall 300lb+ man and basketball champion that is Shaquille O’Neal could get any cooler, guess what he has with BJJ. Surprising to many, the basketball superstar has been training MMA on and off since early 2000 and is reported to have good skills in BJJ. If there’s one person I wouldn’t want to be caught in mount by, it has to be Shaq. It is a crazy thought to think of an athlete who is more than seven-feet tall and weighs over 300lbs that is also trained, skilled, and has a background in MMA, Jiu-Jitsu, and Judo on top of you with a ground and pound or even go for an Ezekiel choke at the ready… Watch him showcase his grappling skills here:
3. Keanu Reeves
This A-lister that needs no introduction, known for his roles in the John Wick and The Matrix trilogies, he picked up his BJJ white belt at 50 years old. He learned BJJ from the Machado brothers and possibly uses it more than any other Hollywood actor. Most notably, of course, in his for the John Wick movies.
Reeves is a black belt in Judo and has been intermittently training Jiu-Jitsu under Rigan Machado for over eight years now, yet he still remains a white belt. Keanu reports that the intensive training with the John Wick role piqued his interest in BJJ. Watch Keanu train with the Machado brothers for John Wick 2 below:
4. Wagner Moura
Wagner Moura, Netflix, and Narcos star, i.e., Pablo Escobar, is a BJJ purple belt, which isn’t too crazy as the actor was born in Brazil. There is even a video of him training with 7th-degree red-black belt Royler Gracie which is a tremendous honor and so cool to say. The Netflix star has also trained with former UFC middleweight champion and black belt Anderson Silva. He runs in good company, and we look forward to seeing more from him soon.
5. Kelly Slater
Kelly Slater, the American pro surfer and World Surf League champion a record number of 11 times, is also an avid BJJ practitioner and currently a BJJ purple belt. Despite his achievements on the waves, he said in an interview with GracieMag, “Put your kids into Jiu-Jitsu before other sports.” Slater sees the benefits of BJJ and has been training for the better part of a decade.
6. Tom Hardy
REORG Founders and Ambassadors – starting from left to right: Mark Ormrod MBE, Tom Hardy, Samuel Sheriff MBE and Trent Scanlen
Alongside Russell Brand, A-lister Tom Hardy is also a UK BJJ practitioner who loves the sport and dedicated much of his time to it. Currently, he is a blue belt which he received in 2020. Hardy’s Jiu-Jitsu Journey first began in 2011 when he had to do some training for his epic role in Warrior, where he played an MMA fighter and brother. The actor is also the head ambassador for REORG, a charity with a mission to provide serving military personnel and veterans with BJJ classes, uniforms, memberships, and any other support they may need to get started and continue to train in the sport… you can donate here: https://reorgcharity.com
7. Jason Statham
The action movie superstar that starred in Snatch, The Italian Job, The Expendables, and many many more, is also one in real life, not just in front of the cameras; Statham is a sold purple belt and currently trains under the Renzo Gracie flag. Statham is a true mixed martial artist training BJJ, Wing Chun, karate, kickboxing, and was on England’s national diving team. Needless to say, Jason Statham is a pretty bad to the bone dude in real life as well as in his action-packed films.
8. Jonah Hill
The hilarious Hollywood actor who made 21 Jump Street, Superbad, Get Him to the Greek, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and Wolf of Wall Street so unforgettable, started training BJJ back in 2018 and has been active ever since. Hill, despite 4 years of training, is still a white belt but is one of the most recent celebrities seen training BJJ, which is awesome to see. It’s fair to say he is progressing slowly but surely. The 21 Jump Street star said in a recent video for GQ magazine that he considers his Shoyoroll BJJ Gi as one of the essentials that he just simply can’t live without. Check out the interview here:
9. Joe Rogan
The very talented comedian, Fear Factor host, podcaster, mixed martial artist, and UFC commentator started training Jiu-Jitsu way back in the early days of 1996 under Carlson Gracie in Hollywood. One of the OG’s, you could say.
He holds two black belts…. a 10th Planet black belt under Eddie Bravo, and also received a black belt from Jean Jacques Machado in 2012. Rogan’s interest in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu peaked in 1994 after watching Royce Gracie fight at UFC 2: No Way Out. Shortly after this electric fight, he landed a job with the MMA promotion as a colorful commentator and has not deviated since.
10. Rikki Rockett
The legendary drummer for the multi-platinum metal band Poison Rikki Rockett is also a third-degree black belt under Renato Magno. Pretty crazy to think! Like Rogan (and many others), he began his Jiu-Jitsu journey in the early-mid 90s after seeing Royce Gracie fight on the early UFC promotions.
11. Ashton Kutcher
Kutcher, the actor, model, and investor, is much more than just a rom-com superstar; he is also a brown belt in BJJ under grappling world champion and 8th degree BJJ red and black belt Rigan Machado. He has been training since 2012, and was awarded his brown belt in 2019. Although that may seem somewhat quick, Rigan Machado once famously claimed that Kutcher would beat Conor McGregor in a pure grappling contest. We would like to see that match-up! Take a look at black belt and silver ADCC medalist Craig Jones run rings around the That 70s Show actor below:
12. Zoltan Bathory
Yet Another rockstar to add to our list is heavy metal band, Five Finger Death Punch guitarist Zoltan Bathory who has the accomplishment of both a BJJ and Judo black belt. The heavy metal guitarist has been training since 2008 after having a training session with the legendary UFC Hall-of-Famer Royce Gracie… whatever you think of him, you can’t argue he definitely inspires!
In March 2021, Bathory was promoted to black belt by Royler Gracie and Mica Cipili after training for 13 years…. nothing was given there, only earned! Bathory doesn’t just train but competes as well and recently won gold at the IBJJF International Open Jiu-Jitsu Championship in LA in both the black belt super heavy masters and absolute masters back in March 2022; so you may want to think twice about getting into a drunken brawl with him!
13. Guy Ritchie
The famous Hollywood movie director that brought you Snatch, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Sherlock Holmes, etc., is a prominent BJJ black belt who has trained in BJJ since the early 2000s. He joined the exclusive VIP black belt list by Renzo Gracie in 2015 and is also a black belt in Shotokan and Judo.
14. Jonathan Lipnicki
Remember Stuart Little? Well, his older brother George is officially a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu! Lipnicki has been in an impressive lineup of movies with famous roles as a child actor, such as Stuart Little, The Little Vampire, and Jerry Maguire. Even though acting is his primary passion in life to this day, BJJ still remains a big part of his life.
At 15 years old, he started training and received his black belt from Timmy Bonds in 2020; after 14 years of training, he definitely earned it! Jonathan currently trains in Renato Magno’s Street Sports Academy. Adding to his involvement in martial arts, his family also owns an MMA promotion in California (Fight Sports Entertainment). His mother also trains and is a BJJ blue belt. John is one of only a few celebrities who actively compete in Jiu-Jitsu (mainly as a white and blue belt, and once as a purple belt), winning several medals along the way.
Usher with Andre Galvao
What you might not know about this musical superstar is that he is also a huge fan of MMA and BJJ in particular. He often trains recreationally with ATOS head coach and IBJJF black belt world champion Andre Galvao. That said, he is also a regular at the Machado Academy in Beverly Hills. Moreover, Usher has also trained with Anderson Silva. I guess when you’re a superstar, you just train with the best.
16. Mario Lopez
Mario Lopez medals with his son as the same tournament
Also known as A.C. Slater from Saved By The Bell, Mario Lopez recently competed and won gold in the blue belt division back in February 2022; Adding to the coolness, his son also competed and medaled, which is so amazing to see. The 48-year-old actor started training BJJ around five years ago and got his family involved in the art shortly after… a family Martial Art.
17. Maynard James Keenan
The one and only lead singer of the American rock band Tool has been training BJJ for a number of years. In the mid 90’s, he started training under Rickson Gracie and became a purple belt in 2015 and just recently earned his brown belt in November 2021 under Rickson Gracie’s black belt Luis’ Limão’ Herédia. Both his blue and purple belts were awarded by Herédia…he is currently 58-year-old and going strong.
18. Nicolas Cage
This A-list actor that brought you Gone In 60 Seconds, The Rock, National Treasure, and many more has been training BJJ for years under Royce Gracie. Although his rank is not known, he didn’t exactly help himself in the celebrity BJJ practitioners department with THAT… let’s just say challenging, movie. You know, the film titled “Jiu-Jitsu” that contains barely any actual Jiu-Jitsu. Nonetheless, it’s cool he trains even though he never seems to show it, haha. In an interview with the AU Review, Filmmaker Dimitri Logothetis says that apparently, Cage did “about 80 percent” of his stunts himself for the film.
19. Ed O’Neill
A.k.a Al Bundy from the sitcom Married… with Children has trained for over 30 years, making him one of the earliest celebrity BJJ practitioners. He earned his black belt from Rorion Gracie back in 2007. And the most exciting part about Ed O’Neill’s Jiu-Jitsu journey is that he started training when he was 42! In the 2012 TV documentary I Am Bruce Lee, O’Neill explained that he considers getting his black belt “the greatest achievement of my life, apart from my children.” Pretty high remarks for the sport.
20. Scott Caan
After 15 years, the Hawaii 5-0 star became a member of the celebrity BJJ black belts’ club back in 2016, earning his promotion from Marcus Vinicius. Caan said In a statement to The Tolucan Times: “If I’m not working, I’ll try to practice three or four times a week; if I am working, once a week–that is what holds me back.” He currently trains at Egan Inoue’s Grappling Unlimited academy in Hawaii with fellow co-star Alex O’Loughlin. Paradise and Jiu-Jitsu sound about right to me!
21. Alex O’Loughlin
As previously alluded to, Scott Caan’s fellow co-star and rolling partner, O’Loughlin, is a brown belt under Egan Inoue as of 2019. He is well on his way to joining Caan and other celebrity BJJ practitioners in the black belts’ club soon. When speaking of his coach Inoue, a third-degree black belt, two-time BJJ world champion, and five-time MMA world champion, O’Loughlin says: “What separates him from other teachers and makes him a master is his spiritual connection to the martial arts. Egan has an innate capacity to impart his life philosophies onto his students, as well as the art itself.” Watch O’Loughlin demo a guillotine variation with Rener Gracie right here:
22. Vin Diesel
Many celebrities are often accused of using a fast-track system with really everything, and BJJ belt rankings are no exception; Vin Diesel does not fit that mold though. The co-main actor for the Fast & Furious movie franchise has been training BJJ on and off for the past 20 years. The 54-year-old is still only a blue belt despite many years of training. Like Kutcher and other actors who also train under Machado, they are often taught a “non-sparring” BJJ system based on “flow Jiu-Jitsu.” Machado is the founder of this non-rolling system for celebrities; supposedly, it has more than 700 techniques, which can be drilled and perfected without risking injury.
That’s all for now with the current Celebrity lineup, but we anticipate more and more will be joining the BJJ club soon! Stay tuned for more Grappling news and insight!