Why Leandro Lo was the Top rated player in the Jiujitsu World

On May 11, 1989, in Brazil’s east coast city of Sao Paulo, Leandro  Pereira do Nascimento Lo was born.  His training was done through the  Projecto Social Lutando Pelo Bem, a social outreach initiative for poor children. He began training in Jiu-Jitsu at the young age of 14, in 2004. With time, it became obvious that Leandro was a born athlete.  He won several prestigious competitions as a youth, including gold medals in 2005 and 2006 consecutively. During his time as a purple belt, Leandro preferred fighting as a spider guard or a triangle type of brawler. However, after suffering an injury that prevented him from fighting in competitions for a few months, Lo’s style saw some changes. Since he had a break from competing to let his injury heal, he could hone his skills and work out what style suited him best, and this worked in his favour.

In an effort to gain global legitimacy, the largest BJJ governing organization in the world, the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation, relocated its most significant competition, the Mundial, to the US in 2007. Due to financial constraints, many Brazilian contestants (including Leandro) missed their opportunity to compete in America. As this was the finest platform to demonstrate their abilities to a larger audience at the time, these Brazilian fighters lost out. The smaller local tournaments in Brazil were left for these martial artists. It was Leandro who came out successful in the majority of these.

Leandro had a disadvantage, but he began to get some attention in April 2011. Following his victory at the trial matches in the Brazilian city of Gramado, Leandro proceeded to overcome Celso Vinicius & Michael Langhi, two legendary BJJ competitors, in the competition’s final round. With three years of winning consecutive matches, Langhi was largely regarded as the world’s finest fighter in the lightweight division. After a triple win at the Mundial, the Pan-American championship, and Brazil’s National Tournament in 2012, Leandro Lo cemented his reputation in the BJJ arena, making him the greatest lightweight division fighter globally. Add to this his victory in No-Gi Nationals and a silver medal finish at the No-Gi World Championship, and Leandro became a certified legend in open weight divisions as well.

Leandro Lo moved up a weight class after dominating the major contests at the lightweight level. He continued with a win after win in every well-known BJJ tournament even as he came into the newer world of middleweight fighting. Leandro Lo and a couple of his colleagues cut their ties with their previous squad in September of 2015. They left to create an academy of their own under Leandro’s direction. The new group was known as the Jiu-Jitsu New School Brotherhood.

Leandro’s goal was to face up to BJJ fighter Saulo Ribeiro’s four IBJJF world championships across four different weight divisions. He attempted to match up to this achievement in 2018. He made it to the championship match, however, it was not meant to be. Leandro was compelled to withdraw due to a shoulder injury following a throw that led to the shoulder being dislocated during the fight. Despite still being slated to face Marcus Almeida in an open weight class bout for the championship, the injury stopped him from taking to the mat. This unfortunate event ended any chances of tying Ribeiro’s record. Shockingly, Marcus decided to give up the crown and forfeited the title to Leandro. This historic moment gave the young fighter his first absolute title, as well as his fourth world championship.

Leandro was recognized for his uniquely efficient guarding style and has been called one of the greatest grapplers in history. John Danaher, a renowned BJJ instructor, said of Leandro that he was among the finest Jiu-jitsu fighters of his time as well as throughout the history of the sport. A real black belt, martial artist, and champion, Leandro was hailed by the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation as one of the best fighters ever in BJJ circles. After all, he was an 8-time IBJJF world champion. His recorded wins as a black belt include:

Championship/ Title Years Won
IBJJF World Champion 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2022
IBJJF Pans Champion

 

2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018
UAEJJF Abu Dhabi Pro Champion 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016
IBJJF European Open Champion 2017
CBJJ Brazilian Nationals Champion 2011, 2012, 2017
CBJJ Brazilian Nationals No-Gi Champion 2011, 2012
Copa Podio Lightweight Grand Prix Champion 2011, 2013, 2014, 2016
Copa Podio Middleweight Grand Prix Champion                    2012, 2016
Copa Podio Heavyweight Grand Prix Champion 2016
CBJJ Rio International Open Champion                        2011, 2013
Silver, Copa Podio Heavyweight GP 2014
Silver, IBJJF World Championship 2017, 2018, 2019
Silver,  IBJJF World No-Gi Championship 2012
Silver,  IBJJF Pans Championship 2014, 2016
Bronze, IBJJF World Championship 2015, 2021
Bronze,  IBJJF World No-Gi Championship 2012
Bronze, CBJJ Rio International Open Champion 2011

Leandro’s journey as a BJJ fighter saw him have more highs than many can achieve in years. However, he met a tragic end at only 33 years old. On the 7th of August 2022, Leandro was assaulted by a plainclothes police officer at a concert he was attending in Sao Paolo. Witnesses confirmed that they saw the shooter, a military policeman by the name of Henrique Velozo, come to Leandro’s table and steal a drink. This led to a confrontation between Leandro and the off-duty officer. When Leandro was walking back to the table, he was shot in the head by Velozo at close range. The gunshot wound caused permanent brain damage and was the cause of his demise. The BJJ community in Brazil honoured him at his funeral, lining up in gis to say goodbye to the legendary fighter.

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