How Could BJJ Matches Be Made More Interesting

How Could BJJ Matches Be Made More Interesting

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is now a well-known combat sport. People are aware of its benefits and prefer to learn it for fitness and career opportunities. BJJ is a challenging martial art that gives students a sense of purpose. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford to learn and practice BJJ. Some people don’t have enough to pay for classes and BJJ gear. Others have responsibilities and cannot make time to learn jiu-jitsu.

They choose to watch BJJ matches instead to experience a ground-based fighting style. But over the years, BJJ has lost its charm for viewers. They prefer to watch mixed martial arts fights organized by UFC.

BJJ has many difficult techniques and positions. However, it is still considered boring and less exciting than MMA, Muay Thai, boxing, and wrestling . Those who are true BJJ enthusiasts favor modern No-Gi BJJ over traditional BJJ.

The reason is the slow pace of Gi BJJ matches. There is very little action displayed on the mats. Fighters stay locked in one position for a long time. Also, the referee does not interfere or ask fighters to restart the fight from a standing position.

Sports tournaments earn through viewership. To organize more BJJ matches every year in different countries, BJJ tournament organizations, such as the IBJJF, need funds. These funds come from the no. of views they get.

Since people are not interested in watching BJJ matches, there is a risk that BJJ competitions might end. When the audience is not interested, sponsors do not invest in tournaments. The attention from the media is also reduced, and as a result, BJJ matches or competitions might be discontinued in the future.

The hope for the future of BJJ matches lies in the growing popularity of BJJ. People enjoy learning jiu-jitsu and testing their skills in competitions. But they do not like watching bouts. This means IBJJF, ADCC, UAEJJ, and other federations must tweak their competition rules to make BJJ matches more lively and exciting for the audience. This article will discuss different ways BJJ matches can be improved, so more people watch them. 

1. Why Are BJJ Matches so Difficult to Watch?

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a technical sport. Unlike football, soccer, or boxing, the rules of BJJ competitions are quite complex. BJJ masters believe that only those who know techniques and terms can understand what is happening in the match.

Understanding the score, the positions taken by two fighters, and the techniques used to finish the match requires some experience. When two fighters are grappling on the ground, the audience mostly sees them locked in one position. This is called stalling in BJJ. The time of each match is also longer than most people prefer. As a result, BJJ fans are not interested in watching fights.

Those who don’t know BJJ find a fighter’s efforts to gain a dominant position as useless. They believe that no activity is performed during these match moments. Therefore, they don’t appreciate the fighting skills of competitors and avoid matches.

2. Different Ways BJJ Matches Can Attract More Fans

When you think of an exciting fight, what image comes to your mind? Most likely a boxing match or an MMA fight. Punching, also called striking, is a popular fighting skill. There are fast attacks and powerful blows. One of the fighters gets defeated or overpowered quickly.

The time limit of a fight round is much slower. Some might disagree, but people want to see power, force, speed, and strength in fights. Not all martial arts fans are interested in techniques and skills.

People usually lead hectic and boring lives. These combat sports matches bring a sense of excitement to them. They experience an adrenaline rush while comfortably lying on their couch. This thrill is missing in BJJ matches.

Also, in MMA and other martial arts, athletes mostly fight in standing positions. Fans can easily see every punch, kick, and hit of their favorite fighter. They are more engaged in the fight. In BJJ, all they see is two people bound together, with no clear movement or technique. Punches are also not allowed in BJJ, which also lowers the excitement.

Since thrill is missing in BJJ matches, organizations can change some rules to make the matches lively and enjoyable. Here are some ways BJJ matches can be made more interesting. 

2.1. Decreasing Time Limit

In BJJ, black belt matches are the most exciting. Black belts have the highest level of grappling skills. They are considered masters of the gentle art. This is because BJJ black belts spend at least 8-10 years of their lives learning different techniques and positions. They have the most understanding and knowledge of jiu-jitsu.

BJJ black belt matches are usually about 10 - 15 minutes long. This time limit can vary depending on the tournaments. For a skilled fighter, 10 minutes is a long time to defeat his opponent. Therefore, BJJ black belts are in no hurry to submit their opponents.

In BJJ, submitting an opponent means using a technique that makes your opponent accept defeat or tap out. There are about 77 legal chokes in Gi BJJ. Here are some of the most common submission techniques used in BJJ matches:

  • Rear Naked Choke
  • Guillotine Choke
  • Armbar
  • Kimura
  • Triangle Choke
  • Omoplata
  • Americana
  • Bow-and-Arrow Choke
  • Heel Hook (illegal in Gi-BJJ but legal in No-Gi BJJ)

For a BJJ fan, knowing these techniques helps understand the game better. Brown and black belts use these techniques in almost every match. Some BJJ fighters create their complete game around one effective submission technique.

BJJ black belts are so skilled that they can easily apply these techniques in 10 minutes. Therefore, they slow down the game, making it boring for fans.

By reducing the time limit of the BJJ match, black belts and other fighters will be forced to be quick and effective. They will try to display perfection on the mats. Instead of testing different techniques at a slow pace and winning at the end by points.

The best time limit for BJJ matches would be 5 - 7 minutes. People don’t have time to watch long and slow content. Even when watching YouTube videos, they like entertaining short videos. These videos are not more than 3 - 5 minutes.

The same system can be applied to BJJ matches. In MMA, the best fights are those in which a fighter wins in the first or second round. In these fights, one of the fighters loses by knockout or submission.

The least enjoyable UFC fights last for five rounds. The winners of these fights are decided by the judges’ scores. If you check the data, long UFC fights have the least views. IBJJF can use these facts to make their competitions more enjoyable to watch. 

2.2. Changing Scoring Rules

All BJJ fans are not aware of the scoring rules. Using different techniques can help fighters score 2, 3, or 4 points. The details of the BJJ point scoring system are given in the chart below:

BJJ Point Scoring
Takedown 2
Knee-on-Belly 2
Sweep 2
Guard Pass 3
Mount 4
Back Control 4
Back Mount 4

At first look, this point-scoring system seems acceptable. But to score points, many BJJ fighters use stalling techniques. Stalling technique means a BJJ fighter stays in one position for a long time. It also means avoiding attacks and other fast-paced actions. This tactic slows down the whole match. The fighter gets the points he wants; however, fans remain unable to enjoy the match.

This side of BJJ competitions is discussed by masters of the ‘gentle art.’ However, rules are yet to change. IBJJF and other federations that organize BJJ matches should change their scoring system. Instead of giving points to a fighter who stays in one position for a long time, they should award more dynamic competitors. Points should not be awarded only for the following techniques and positions:

  • Mount
  • Guard Pass
  • Positions
  • Sweeps

Points should be given for submissions and different techniques to make the fighters accept defeat. Those fighters who move and attack continuously should also be given points. This way more competitors will change their style. They won’t be lazy on the mats.

To score points, they would be made to show some exciting skills. Speed and difficult moves should also be valued by the judges of the BJJ matches.

With this change, more fighters would be willing to take risks on the mats. Just like they do when they become UFC fighters. 

2.3. Submission-Only Matches

It has been seen that submission-only BJJ matches are quite exciting to watch. EBI or Eddie Bravo Invitational organizes submission-only matches. Many consider the EBI match format the best due to more action and faster pace.

EBI also gives more benefits to winning fighters, so they fight with dedication. In EBI, BJJ fighters take risks to win cash prizes and other awards. This factor is missing in IBJJF or Polaris matches. In submission-only BJJ matches, fighters don’t play it safe. They do not aim for draws or points. They try to use the most difficult submission to impress the judges and fans. This way, they win medals and also earn handsome money. 

Submission-Only Matches
Photo Credit: Aces Jiu-Jitsu Club

People love to see submissions, but regular BJJ events now lack submissions. Even the most experienced fighters who compete in main events don’t use submissions. They try to win by advantage, which is not exciting to fans or BJJ enthusiasts.

Therefore, by organizing submission-only matches, IBJJF, Polaris, and other organizations can improve viewership. The events will become more exciting and memorable, with more people enjoying their favorite martial arts. EBI has set a great example. Others only have to follow their rules. 

2.4. Penalties

One of the best ways to stop BJJ fighters from stalling, or staying in one position for a long time, is to apply penalties. This could include decreasing their points, giving their opponent more points, or warning them about disqualification. In BJJ competitions, there are penalties for not wearing a proper uniform. But there are no warnings for inaction. 

In UFC or MMA matches, fighters who do not pass the weight test or drug test are penalized. They don’t get punished for hitting because in MMA these fighting techniques are loved by fans. But this concept of penalty can be used in BJJ.

Judges can penalize BJJ athletes who try to maintain one position for points. They can also set a timer on point-scoring positions. For example, a fighter must move to a dominant position or apply submission from the mount within 15 seconds.

Similarly, they can ask fighters to perform a sweep or guard pass within 10 seconds. This will make fighters move quickly, making the BJJ matches more interesting.

Another great way of penalizing a fighter for stalling is to make them start from the beginning. One of the most difficult things to do on mats is to take down your opponent. In BJJ, all fighting is done on the ground. Only a few attacks are done in a standing position.

If a fighter holds one position for too long, the referee or judges can warn him of penalties. They can also ask him to start over at any time. This should make fighters more active and alert. Plus, they will quit their stalling tactics. 

2.5. Changing Score Rules for Finals

Changing Score Rules for Finals
Photo Credit: Evolve MMA

In the final BJJ matches, IBJJF should change the score rules completely. They should apply a golden score rule. In the golden score rule, fighters are given 2 - 3 minutes to score a point. Judges can also limit the use of submissions or positions. For example, they can ask the fighter to use an armbar.

Similarly, the first person to get into a powerful position will score the winning golden points. These new rules will make BJJ final matches more interesting and exciting. To find out who wins, more fans will watch the finals. A similar point system can be used in semi-finals. 

2.6. No Draws

In semi-finals or finals, draws should not be allowed. Judges can give different challenges to fighters to get a clear winner. This will attract more fans, increasing views of BJJ matches. In each fight, judges should prepare a different challenge. This way fighters won’t be fully prepared, and fans will get to see their amazing skills.

Not knowing what new challenges will be given to fighters will also increase fans’ interest in the game. These match formats will make the fight memorable. Even in UFC or MMA, fans talk about these amazing fights for many days.

Interesting BJJ matches will also increase their appeal and popularity. The fighters will also get more fame and credit from their fans. Plus, they will be able to help jiu-jitsu spread around the world. 

2.7. Using Fighter Rivalry

Many UFC fans still remember the fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor, both mixed martial artists. UFC put two highly skilled MMA fighters against each other to increase excitement amongst fans.

Unlike UFC, trash-talking is not common in BJJ. The martial art teaches harmony, peace, and strong social bonds. The BJJ community has fewer rivalries. But some people just don’t get along. There is competition and conflict between BJJ black belts and their schools.

To make the matches more interesting, IBJJF and other federations can pair two fighters who don’t get along well. They don’t have to trash-talk, but the tension will add excitement to the match. Social media will also promote this fight. Fans love to predict who will win a contest based on old clashes. Such fights help promote BJJ and matches, giving fighters more fame and success. 

2.8. Easy and Comprehensive Commentary

Easy and Comprehensive Commentary
Photo Credit: Grapplearts

In BJJ matches, commentary is not as easy and clear as in other sports. Many people don’t understand what is happening on the mats. Commentators also use difficult language that everyone cannot understand. Even fans don’t always know the meaning of special BJJ terms and slang. Therefore, they struggle to watch the match.

To improve the experience of the viewers, it is important to improve the commentary. Speakers should use simple language and mention every technique or position a fighter uses. They should also use different tones of voice to add excitement to the match.

2.9. Using Fan Votes for Fighter Pairings

Using Fan Votes for Fighter Pairings
Photo Credit: Grapplearts

The best way to attract fans is to ask for their opinion. Instead of announcing all fighter pairings themselves, BJJ competition organizers should also seek public opinion. Through press conferences, media talks, or social media posts, IBJJF, ADCC, and others can ask fans to vote for their favorite pairings.

The most liked pairings should be made to fight in an exclusive BJJ match with tough conditions. As mentioned, time limits, different point systems, and penalties can make for an exciting match.

By putting two famous BJJ fighters against each other, matches can get more attention and views. Similar tactics help in MMA. Though UFC makes pairings itself, it understands the loyalty of fans and makes fighter pairings based on it.

Special awards based on fan voting can also be prepared. Similarly, in BJJ matches, fan suggestions on point scoring systems can be used. People will feel more involved and enjoy matches even better. 

2.10. Using Social Media

Social media has connected people who share similar views and passions. Organizers can use social media to promote BJJ matches. Sometimes, people want to watch BJJ matches. But they either don’t know the schedule or lack a platform to watch these fights.

Fighters alone or the organizers can also arrange live sessions on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. In a meet-and-greet session, only a few people can speak with fighters. But in digital sessions, more people can share their message and connect with their favorite BJJ black belts.

Also, IBJJF, ADCC, UAEJJF, and other organizations can provide updates to their followers. They can also arrange live Q&A sessions to discuss different aspects of BJJ, rules, and competitions.

By giving small giveaways, fighters or organizers can attract more viewers and fans. They can share links to subscriptions, making it easier for fans to find and watch BJJ matches in high quality. 

2.11. Adding Fights of Other Martial Arts

In MMA, fighters with different skills compete against each other. Some are BJJ experts, others have Muay Thai or boxing skills. Some fighters only learn MMA techniques. This variety makes every fighter unique. Plus, it makes fights more interesting for fans.

BJJ has two unique areas: Gi and No-Gi. To make a BJJ match more interesting, organizers can add one or two No-Gi fight cards to the Gi BJJ competition. The same can be done in No-Gi tournaments.

Some BJJ fighters move to MMA or UFC. But they continue to learn BJJ. In some BJJ competitions, these UFC or MMA fighters can be called guests. The organizers can also request them to fight a friendly match.

Fans love these interactions and enjoy the newness these events bring to the sport. Organizers can also keep the guest a surprise. They can also post “Guess the Guest” campaigns on their social media profiles. This way more fans will take part in BJJ tournaments and also watch them to find out who was the guest fighter in the event. 

3. Last Words

BJJ is an enjoyable sport, but matches can be long and slow. This takes away from the fun and excitement of watching combat sports. In BJJ, most of the fighting is ground-based. Fighters are in complex positions and bound to each other. This makes it difficult to understand the actions happening on the mats.

The difficulty of BJJ fights stops fans from watching them. However, making a few changes in the scoring system, reaching out to people on social media, reducing the time limit, and pairing rivals can make the jiu-jitsu matches more interesting to watch.

Also, simple commentary can help people better understand the rules and moves of BJJ. If fighters connect with fans, more people will watch their matches. IBJJF and other competitions can also look at the UFC format to improve the experience of viewers.

Though BJJ is popular, its matches and competitions are quickly losing fans. This can lead to a loss of investment in organizing competitions in the future. To help fighters and the sport, new rules must be introduced.

Also, IBJJF and other organizations should focus on improving action and speed. The slow pace of BJJ might be good for fighters during classes, but not in matches. The little changes discussed in this article will surely attract more people to watch and enjoy BJJ fights. 

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