David Meyer, vegan martial artist

David Meyer has competed for years at the top of the martial art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  Over the years he has won numerous international titles at the top level.  David is recognised as a pioneer of the sport as one of the first non-Brazilians to achieve black belt.  One of the most impressive things about David is that into his 50s he competes against top class opponents in their 20s.

His competition achievements include nine World Championship Gold medals, four American Cup Golds, three US Open Golds and two Pan American Golds.  All of these were achieved as a vegan.

David is proud of his success in competition, although his black belts are valued too.  “Being awarded black belts in different styles is a big deal.  One of the biggest was getting my black belt in Brazilian Jui Jitsu.  I was one of the first 10 people outside Brazil to get a black belt in BJJ and was known as one of the ‘Dirty Dozen’   – the first non Brazilians to get a black belt.  It’s a very hard to get a black belt from outside Brazil and it was harder back then.”

  • First American to win a Black Belt competition in Brazil
  • First American to win a medal at Black Belt at a BJJ World Championship
  • Nine World Championship Gold medals
  • Four American National Golds medals

“Another was being the first American to win a medal in a Black belt competition in a BJJ World Championship.  I’ve won various World Championships and each one of those are very proud moments for me, but really it’s just the culmination of a lot of hard work.”

In 2017 he entered the World No-Gi Championships and won his category again (more here).  In 2019 he won Gold (Open) and Bronze (weight category) in his age class at the IBJJF World Championships (more here).

Finding vegan

David has a strong belief in the rights of animals which led him ultimately towards veganism.

“I heard about vegetarianism at college and tried vegetarianism.  I started working for animal advocacy and people pointed out the hypocrisy of working for animals and eating animal products.  Someone called milk ‘liquid meat’ and that really got me thinking.”

“I was vegetarian since 1985 and experimented eating mostly vegan, and have been entirely vegan since 2000.  My motivation is entirely to not harm animals.  I have experienced that it’s an extremely healthy way to eat, it gives me more energy, it’s better for the environment.  I’m morally committed to not harming animals.”

David is also gluten-free, which he describes as unrelated to veganism but something that works for him as he feels better.    “I never eat animal products when I’m travelling, and I travel a lot” he explains.  This can mean that he sometimes eats a non-ideal meal, maybe a baked potato or salad when on the move.  When cooking for himself his diet is more varied and healthy.

“I eat a lot of everything – a well rounded diet.  A lot of quinoa, tofu, fresh vegetables, salads, fruits and grain.  Every morning I eat rolled oats with blueberries, walnuts, bananas, raisins, soy or almond milk.  I love Thai and Ethiopian food.”


Outside his sport, David has also been keen to assist animals further by starting Adopt-a-Pet.com.  This is now the world’s largest non profit companion animal adoption website.  “We assist 15,000 animal shelters in North America to help get their pets into good homes.  It’s just an outgrowth of my love for all animals.”

He also started Fuel for the fighter.com, a website highlighting fighters eating no or reduced amounts of animal products.  “I wanted people to see that you could be a tough fighter and eat less or no meat.  I try to give good information and not tell people they have to be vegan but just that they can eat less animal products.”

BJJ – receptive to veganism

The world of BJJ is very receptive to vegetarian and vegan diets and David doesn’t come across the prejudice that some sports people experience.  Many of his training partners eat plant based diets, including some professional MMA fighters.  Part of this is due to the legacy of the founding father of BJJ. 

“Brazillian Jui Jitsu was started by the brothers Helio and Carlos Gracie” David explained.  “Carlos was a nutritionist and created the Gracie diet which was largely vegetarian so most BJJ black bets are familiar with veganism and many black belts are vegan.”

Had this not been the case, David’s exceptional performance into his 50s would surely have endorsed his choices.  “One of the reasons I’ve got fairly good is that I’m able to train longer and a lot of that I attribute to my vegan diet” he explains.  And David is not looking to slow down at any time soon.

The future

“I am 55 years old and still competing at the highest levels in my age group” David said in an interview with this site in 2018. “And I frequently compete in younger age groups.  My hope is to stay healthy and continue training.  I want to find ways to train with good partners that keep my body feeling good and keep my injury free.”

Another hope is that more people recognise the value and validity of a vegan diet.  “I hope that as more and more people hear about veganism they will be open to considering it and realise that it’s a natural and smart way to eat.  I hope people will be brave enough to speak for themselves and recognise that as we evolve and learn more about ourselves they will be open to being smart and re-evaluating things they learned when they were kids that were wrong.  When they look at consumption of animals they will learn that animals have a right to live.”

“You’ll be healthier, it’s much better for the environment, much better use of natural resources, and to me, it’s the single best thing that any human being can do on their own, to eat less, and ultimately no animal products. 

Check out our other vegan fighters 

More about David

In action

Adopt-a-pet website

  • 2019 Gold Medal World Champion – IBJJF No Gi World Championship, Black Belt Master 6 Open Weight Class
    2019 Bronze Medal – IBJJF No Gi World Championship, Black Belt Master 6 Medium Heavy
  • 2017 World Champion – IBJJF Black Belt No Gi Master
  • 2016 World Champion – IBJJF Black Belt No Gi Master 5
  • 2016 Gold Medal US Open Black Belt Master 4
  • 2015 Gold Medal – Jiu Jitsu World League Black Belt Master 4
  • 2014 Gold Medal in the American Cup,  Black Belt Master 5 Middle Weight Class
  • 2013 Gold Medal in the American Cup,  Black Belt Senior 3 Middle Weight Class
  • 2012 Silver Medal in the IBJJF Masters and Seniors World Championships, Black Belt Senior 3 Middle Weight Class
  • 2012 Gold Medal in the American Cup, Black Belt Senior 3 Middle Weight Class
  • 2011 World Champion in the IBJJF No Gi BJJ, Black Belt Senior 3 Medium Weight Class
  • 2011 Gold Medal in the Pan Am Games, BJJ Black Belt Senior 3 Medium Weight Class
  • 2011 Silver Medal in the US Open, BJJ Black Belt Senior 3 Medium Weight Class
  • 2010 World Champion in the IBJJF No Gi BJJ Black Belt Senior 3 Medium and Open Weight Class Divisions
  • 2010 Gold Medal in the US Open BJJ Black Belt Senior 2 Open Weight Class (unopposed)
  • 2009 American National Champion BJJ‚ Black Belt Senionr 3 Medium Weight Class
  • 2009 World Champion IBJJF No Gi BJJ Black Belt Senior 3 Medium Heavy and Open Weight Class Divisions,