BJJ Competitions: What to Know
Looking to compete? Read about the main BJJ competitions and what you need to know about each.
BJJ Competitions: What to Know
If you haven’t thought about doing a jiu-jitsu competition, you should. That’s because it’s the best way to fast track your progress and gain valuable insight into your game. Lucky for you, the BJJ competition landscape is full of options. Read here to learn about the main ones:
International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF)
The International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) is the oldest and one of the most prestigious jiu-jitsu promotions on the scene. Every year, IBJJF puts on numerous “Open” BJJ competitions in major cities around the world. In addition, they put on several major regional events and the World Championship and No-Gi World Championship events. The regional events include Pans, American Nationals, Europeans, Asian Championships, Brazilian Nationals. The IBJJF utilizes a points-based ruleset, which means they award points for takedowns, passing, sweeps, knee-on-belly, back takes, and mount position. Additionally, they give “advantages” for nearly accomplishing the same. However, if the match fails to end by submission, the competitor with the greater number of points (or advantages in case points are tied) wins. In a completely tied match, the referee determines the winner.
Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC)
Sheik Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al Nahyan created the Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC) in 1998.. ADCC is arguably the most prestigious submission grappling event in the world. Although ADCC puts on a few regular tournaments during the year, the World Championships is their best known event. The World Championships are held every two years, with regional qualifier events throughout the year. The best grapplers in the world attend these events. Notably, the qualifier events aren’t limited to black belts, and in the past, lower belts launched their careers with incredible performances, and upsets, at ADCC. Most importantly, ADCC utilizes a hybrid points and sub-only ruleset. This means that the first half of the match is sub-only and the second half is points-based. This ruleset, when combined with the already more dynamic and fast-paced style of No-Gi jiu-jitsu, promotes very exciting jiu-jitsu matches.
UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation (UAEJJF)
Another great promotion is the UAEJJF. The folks from the United Arab Emirates love jiu-jitsu, and the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation is further proof of that. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan – Sheikh Tahnoon’s older brother – founded the UAEJFF in 2009. The UAEJJF holds many different tiers of events, both within the UAE as well as internationally. However, the National Pro Jiu-Jitsu Championships are their most popular events. These BJJ competitions are held around the world and are open to all belt levels. Likewise, the UAEJJF utilizes a points-based ruleset, nearly identical to the IBJJF ruleset (with some differences in advantage points). Notably, the UAEJJF one-upped the IBJJF, awarding prize money to winners, including a sizable purse to the year-end top-ranking athletes and the World Championship winners. Ladies, please note that the UAEJJF has specific uniform requirements, in accordance with Islamic cultural practices.
Fight 2 Win
Speaking of the professionalization of jiu-jitsu, Fight 2 Win revolutionized the sport of jiu-jitsu with their F2W Pro events. These events provide local athletes – typically purple to black belt, and some juveniles – the opportunity to showcase their jiu-jitsu in super-fight style matchups. Not only that, but competitors win prize money and a percentage of ticket sales. Oh, and did I mention their up-scale production style? For example, the events feature strobe lights, special effects, and an elevated stage, which provide for a superstar experience. So far, F2W Pro limits their events to major cities in the United States, but they may go international in the coming years. Their Pro events utilize a sub-only ruleset, with a 3-judge system deciding the winner in case there is no submission.
Polaris Pro Grappling
Polaris Pro Grappling is Europe’s longest-running elite professional grappling promotion. They launched their first event in January 2015, and pit Europe’s top athletes against the sport’s best athletes from around the world. Like F2W in the United States, Polaris provides a high-level spectator experience. In fact, their incredible camera-work and documentary-style promotional marketing might be better than F2W. Polaris also utilizes a sub-only ruleset, with a judge’s decision in case there’s no submission. Additionally, they have a clearly outlined criteria for how a decision would be made.
A few other professional jiu-jitsu promotions dot the scene – Copa Podio, Kasai, and Third Coast Grappling, to name a few. However, the average competitor can’t just enter these. Luckily, there are a ton of mid-scale tournaments that provide opportunities for BJJ athletes of all levels to compete. The major ones include:
North American Grappling Association (NAGA)
The North American Grappling Association (NAGA) is one of the oldest tournament promotions on the scene. They hold BJJ competitions just about every weekend of the year somewhere in the United States, and even a few internationally. NAGA utilizes a points-based ruleset distinct from the IBJJF ruleset, and they even allow lower belts to submit with many of the techniques restricted by the IBJJF. So, make sure you read the rule book on this one.
Sport Jiu Jitsu International Federation
The Sport Jiu Jitsu International Federation (SJJIF) holds tournament style promotions around the world, through their continental federations: Asian, European, North American, African, Oceania, and South American. SJJIF utilizes a points-based ruleset similar to the IBJJF ruleset.
Like NAGA, Grappling Industries holds BJJ competitions nearly every weekend across the United States and Australia. In fact, NAGA typically holds tournaments each weekend in three to four different cities at the same time. So, odds are, on any given weekend you can find a Grappling Industries tournament in your state or a state nearby. Notably, they utilize a points-based ruleset, without advantages.
Heather Raftery is an Atos black belt, freelance writer and social scientist (BA in Journalism and Anthropology, MA in International Studies). She has written for FloGrappling, Jiu Jitsu Magazine, Fighters Market and BJJ Prehab.