If you’re a student of UFC and mixed martial arts, you already know how essential Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is. In many ways, BJJ helped boost MMA into the global phenomenon it has become in recent decades. More importantly, Jiu-Jitsu has become a bedrock of MMA training.
To be successful in MMA, you’re going to need to know how to grapple.
The proof here is in the pudding. With one exception, every current champion in UFC trains Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Some, like Jon Jones and Israel Adesanya, are purple belts, though most are black belts. This is even true of fighters renowned for striking. Amanda Nunes, who knocked out Ronda Rousey, is a black belt in BJJ.
Gracie Botany is a Jiu-Jitsu academy in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, near Matraville. It’s not a dedicated fight gym, but we offer a No-Gi training program that can directly translate to any octagon. If you’re interested in MMA, here’s what you need to know.
BJJ roots in MMA
The UFC, or Ultimate Fighting Championship, is rooted in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The event was in large part organized and sponsored by Rorion Gracie, a prominent member of the Gracie family that created Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
The idea was to run tournaments that pit fighters of different disciplines against each other. kickboxers would fight judokas, karate masters against wrestlers and so on. Rorion sought to demonstrate to the world that his family’s martial art was the best in the world.
The tournaments that ensued established just that. The first five UFC tournaments were won by Royce Gracie, a young black belt who was shorter and thinner than the competition. Gracie demonstrated how gaps in size and strength can be overcome by Jiu-Jitsu technique.
That changed the martial arts world, causing thousands to immediately flock to learn BJJ. From then, Jiu-Jitsu has become a foundational part of MMA training.
Take it to the ground
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu takes the principles of Judo – leverage and timing – and applies them to ground combat. The general idea is that, once an opponent is taken to the ground, Jiu-Jitsu allows you to submit them inspite of large size and strength differences.
Come to a Jiu-Jitsu academy like Gracie Botany and you’ll learn three broad skillsets. First, how to take an opponent to the ground. Second, how to establish dominant position that maximizes your opponent’s vulnerability while simultaneously minimizing yours. Finally, submitting your opponent from one of those strong positions.
An old Jiu-Jitsu adage is that most fights end up on the floor. This is often said as a way to promote BJJ’s self-defence benefits, of which there are many. But perhaps nowhere is this clearer than in an MMA context.
Striking skills learned through kickboxing or other martial arts are essential. Standup grappling can be extremely valuable too, as Ronda Rousey’s championship run showed. But eventually, most fights do end up on the ground. That’s where BJJ becomes key.
Gi or No-Gi
BJJ training broadly has two types: Gi and No Gi. The first type is the one you may think of when you imagine Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: grappling in a karate-style kimono, also known as a “Gi”. Gis offer BJJ practitioners grips, with which they can sweep and submit their opponents. The Gi lapel, for instance, offers many ways to choke someone from different positions. These skills translate to self-defence, as they can often be replicated by a jacket or a thick shirt.
But this training is less helpful for MMA hopefuls, as octagon combatants fight in shorts or tights and nothing else. This is one of many reasons why Gracie Botany has a No-Gi program, where you’ll train in grappling shorts and a rashguard.
In No-Gi, grabbing an opponent’s clothing, either their shorts or rashie, is illegal. You’ll learn how to control and submit people without the friction or grips of a Gi. Armlocks, chokes, leglocks: All the submissions you’ve no doubt seen in the UFC over the past few years.