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Why BJJ is essential for MMA training 

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is famous for being terrific for self-defence, but that’s not the only thing it’s known for. BJJ is also renowned for being a key ingredient to mixed martial arts (MMA) training, and even helping to create modern day UFC.

If you want to train or compete in MMA, you’ll need to know some Jiu-Jitsu. The old adage that most fights end on the ground is used as a reason for people to train BJJ for self-defence reasons. But it’s especially true in MMA – which makes BJJ especially helpful inside a cage or octagon!

If you’re primarily focusing on mixed martial arts training, there are some particular things to keep in mind when training Jiu-Jitsu. For starters, you’ll want to prioritize No-Gi training. You’ll also want to train with gloves on, if possible.

Broadly, though, the skills you learn on BJJ mats will translate to progress in MMA training. Here’s what you need to know.

Gracie Botany is a BJJ academy located in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. If you’re interested in BJJ or MMA training, come in for a free trial lesson.

Photo by Kelly Bailey

BJJ and the creation of MMA

The MMA of the 90s is drastically different to the MMA of 2022. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in general, and the Gracie family in particular, are a huge part of that change.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) launched in 1993. It was a tournament pitting fighters of different disciplines against each other, featuring practitioners of French kickboxing, traditional kickboxing, karate and sumo wrestling.

The winner of the tournament was Royce Gracie. Royce is the son of Helio Gracie, credited with creating BJJ alongside his brother Carlos. Royce Gracie was notably smaller than the other competitors, yet managed to overcome them with his Jiu-Jitsu.

Gracie went on to win UFC 2, UFC 4 and fought Ken Shamrock to a draw in the finals of UFC 5. His success propelled BJJ into the international spotlight. Perhaps more importantly, it made Jiu-Jitsu a foundational skillset for anyone hoping to be successful in MMA.

Jiu-Jitsu’s MMA skills

So it’s a historical fact that BJJ is key to MMA – but what are the actual skills that are so beneficial for fighters?

Jiu-Jitsu teaches you to be dangerous on the ground from all positions. Wrestling and Judo, two other grappling disciplines, are effective at teaching you ways to take an opponent from standing to the ground. But BJJ is best at giving you skills that are useful once you’re actually down there.

Training BJJ, you learn how to establish dominant positions like mount, back control and side control. Just as importantly, you’ll learn how to escape should you find yourself in these vulnerable positions. And, of course, you’ll learn how to apply submission holds.

What’s unique to Jiu-Jitsu, though, is how it teaches you to be lethal even from below. The concept of the guard is key: Any time your opponent is between your feet and your hips, they’re in your guard. You’ll learn how to tangle them up, and apply submissions from your back.

2 older - over 40's - BJJ students at Gracie Botany

Tips for MMA practitioners

If you’re training BJJ for MMA, there are a few things to consider.

First, Jiu-Jitsu is trained in two different rule sets: Gi and No Gi. As the names suggest, you’ll wear a Gi for the former but grapple in just a rashguard in the latter. Since MMA fights are contested in just fight shorts, serious MMA trainers will want to focus almost entirely on No Gi training.

Gi training is by no means a waste of time. Skills you learn in a Gi are often transferable to No Gi. But at the same time, you don’t want to get too used to using Gi grips that won’t be available to you in a fight.

Second, it may be worth training with gloves on. Why? Because grips are a key part of grappling, and wearing gloves will change the way you grip your opponent. It’s important to acclimatize to that difference if you’re planning on competing in MMA competition.

And speaking of competition, BJJ provides an avenue for practice under the competitive spotlight. Getting the opportunity to participate in MMA fights can be few and far between, especially at first, but Jiu-Jitsu tournaments are regularly held all around Sydney. Getting experience competing – grappling under pressure – will be a huge help when the spotlight is on you in a cage fight.

Located in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, Gracie Botany runs No Gi classes four days a week. Come into Gracie Botany for a free trial class.