How To Transition From BJJ Fighter to MMA Fighter

How To Transition From BJJ Fighter to MMA Fighter

1. Overview

Today, both MMA and BJJ are considered popular martial arts. So, choosing BJJ or MMA depends on your personal goals. Through MMA and BJJ training, fighters improve their physical strength, techniques, and life skills. It also helps strengthen fighters’ physical, mental, and emotional health. It also helps them find a supportive community and teaches them to show respect for their opponents.

BJJ is a groundwork martial art focusing on grappling, whereas MMA combines martial arts disciplines like Muay Thai, judo, taekwondo, karate, boxing, and wrestling. So, a BJJ fighter needs to perfect his striking, takedowns, and top game techniques.

This article provides valuable suggestions for how a BJJ fighter can learn techniques used in MMA as they transition from BJJ to MMA.

2. BJJ vs. MMA Fighting

MMA, or Mixed Martial Arts, emphasizes training fighters in different martial arts disciplines such as BJJ, karate, Muay Thai, kickboxing, classic boxing, taekwondo, sambo, wrestling, and judo.

MMA allows fighters to use kicking, punching, striking and grappling techniques, both standing up and on the ground. Usually, MMA matches are fought in a cage, a fighting area within a metal fence, traditional boxing ring, or simple mats.

MMA grew in popularity in the 1990s. Today, the UFC is the most famous American MMA promotional company in the world, organizing fights across different countries.

MMA matches can be won in several ways:

  • Knockout
  • Submission
  • Decision
  • TKO
  • Forfeit
  • No contest

BJJ is a ground-based grappling martial art that emphasises principles of leverage, angles, pressure, timing, and knowing the human anatomy. It also focuses on non-violent submissions, close-contact “grappling” holds, chokes, and lock submissions.

BJJ training also helps BJJ fighters become more aware of their body, balance, and physical capabilities. It also helps them improve their physical strength, cardio health, weight loss, and improves muscle toning.

2.1. The End Goal in BJJ and MMA

The end goal during an MMA fight is to aggressively subdue an opponent until they are unable to continue fighting or fall unconscious.

The end goal during a BJJ fight is to subdue an opponent using a chokehold, arm bar, or any other type of joint manipulation using your legs, arms, and hips.

2.2. Mental Stamina and Techniques in BJJ, MMA Fighting

MMA training includes both physical and mental strength exercises. MMA fighters also use problem-solving skills to improve their game.

A BJJ fighter needs to gain control of their opponent using submission techniques. He/she needs to use problem-solving skills and critical thinking to better control an opponent’s movements either offensively or defensively.

2.3. Grappling Styles of MMA and BJJ Fighting

BJJ doesn’t allow dirty tactics such as biting, eye-gouging, or finger breaking. Instead, BJJ focuses on using different submission techniques. Even BJJ grappling techniques are more useful as a form of self-defense in actual combat.

MMA allows fighters to use different striking and grappling techniques. However, some dirty techniques are banned in MMA, like hitting your opponent’s face. Still, grappling techniques used in MMA are not as in-depth compared to BJJ self-defense techniques.

2.4. Striking and Kicking Rules in BJJ, MMA Fighting

MMA fighters train to execute powerful leg kicks, knee strikes, and upper body strikes with their hands or elbows.

BJJ does not permit striking and kicking. It only focuses on takedowns and submissions in the form of choke holds, arm bars, and leg locks.

2.5. Degree of Violence Training for MMA, BJJ Fighting

MMA is an aggressive and violent fighting style, whereas BJJ is a gentle sport without kicks and punches.

2.6. Need of BJJ for MMA Fighting

BJJ teaches fighters to defend themselves by using submissions, grappling positions, and learning how to control their opponents. BJJ fighters can use ground fighting techniques effectively in MMA.

3. Successful Transition of BJJ Fighter to MMA Fighting

3.1. Training Consistently

A BJJ fighter can only successfully transition if they show commitment to MMA training. When BJJ fighters don’t practice regularly, they forget the techniques they just learned.

MMA training provides a full-body workout and it strengthens muscles, tones muscles, improves flexibility, and enhances mobility.

It is recommended that BJJ fighters do almost five MMA training sessions per week.

3.2. Building Core Muscles

Building core muscles is essential to becoming a strong and effective MMA fighter. Strong muscles enhance physical strength and BJJ fighters can easily use their opponent’s bulk against them. BJJ fighters must work on building their core muscles by following fitness routines.

3.3. Types of Conditioning

BJJ fighters must do the following conditioning exercises to strengthen their bodies and muscles.

  • Running Classes
  • Weightlifting/Weight Classes
  • HIIT Training Classes
  • CrossFit Classes
  • Interval Training Classes

3.4. Sparring

A BJJ fighter cannot improve his/her skills only with drills, so sparring five times a week is necessary. Through sparring, he/she can learn other MMA fighting styles more quickly.

MMA sparring can be dangerous, so a BJJ fighter must be careful with how intense their practice is. During sparring, a BJJ fighter must follow all safety protocols like wearing gloves, wrapping hands, shin guards, cup, mouthpiece, knee pads, and headgear.

As BJJ fighters are not used to doing strikes, they must practice a lot of sparring to get used to using these kinds of techniques.

3.5. Overhand

The overhand technique is used to punch your opponent with the rear hand. You strike while standing up, so you can bend your knees and cover your face with your elbow and hands to block your opponent’s attack. This technique is different from a jab but is a handy technique for blocking an opponent’s attack.

3.6. Learning Kicks

A BJJ fighter must learn to kick. Kicks allow you to easily strike the opponent from a distance. A BJJ fighter needs to learn to maintain distance, know how to stay out of an opponent’s reach, and when is the right time to kick to inflict maximum damage.

3.7. Round Kick

Today, many different kinds of kicks are used in MMA. The round kick is the one utilized in Muay Thai. Round kicks are an effective way of striking different parts of the body. MMA fighters can use low, middle, and high round kicks. Though new to many BJJ fighters, practicing round kicks would be essential for those transitioning into MMA.

3.8. Learn to Strike

Striking is not allowed in BJJ, so BJJ fighters need to learn to let go of a submission-only mentality by practicing boxing or Muay Thai.

3.9. Work on Submissions

A BJJ fighter needs to master the following submission techniques to do well in MMA: guillotines, rear naked chokes, knee-bars, and kimuras.

3.10. MMA Wrestling

A BJJ fighter needs to master takedowns aimed at the legs, single and double leg takedowns. MMA wrestling is useful for a BJJ fighter who needs to learn how to switch between takedowns and punches when up against a strong opponent.

3.11. Boxing

If a BJJ fighter is flat-footed, he/she might have trouble developing good footwork while learning to throw punches, put up a guard, or maneuver on a mat. But a BJJ athlete can learn how to box with practice. Firstly, he/she just needs to get comfortable learning how to throw a proper punch.

3.12. Takedown Techniques

A BJJ fighter can easily master a few takedown techniques to get an advantage when wanting to score points in MMA matches. Well-timed takedowns in an MMA match can easily win a match within a short amount of time.

3.13. Rear Naked Choke

A rear naked choke is a widespread technique in MMA. It is applied from behind the opponent, with one arm wrapped around the neck and the other arm exerting pressure on the opponent’s neck. A BJJ fighter must know the proper techniques instead of just relying on brute strength. The rear naked choke is one of the most potent moves in MMA, able to weaken an opponent and bypass most defenses.

3.14. Jab

A jab is a vital technique that BJJ fighters must know for MMA. They can learn distance management when using jabs in combination with other striking and grappling techniques. It can also be used as a defensive strategy to push the opponent back with force.

3.15. Guard passing – Lead with the Knee, Not the Head

MMA fighters usually lead with the knee when guard passing. To do this technique, a BJJ fighter pulls his head back, gets closer to the opponent to better control the feet, then try to guard pass. In BJJ and MMA, guard positions can help with dealing with submissions, sweeps, and standing strikes.

3.16. Double Leg Takedown Technique

The double-leg takedown is executed when a BJJ fighter gets close to the opponent’s hip, puts one hand behind the opponent’s legs, and places the other hand behind so that both hands are hooked behind the knees and thighs. It is an easy technique to learn and comes in many variations.

3.17. Clinch

A clinch is the most effective way to put an opponent into a hold. A BJJ fighter will have more control over the opponent’s body movements. He/she will also be able to execute punches even while clinching, making it easier to throw opponents onto the mat.

3.18. Trip Technique

The trip technique is a combination of various striking, grappling, and ground fighting moves. The striking focuses on punching and kicking the opponent aggressively everywhere except the head. Grappling focuses on the use of single leg takedowns, double leg takedowns, and clinch holds. All these techniques help BJJ fighters to pin down the opponent during an MMA fight.

3.19. Sprawling

A BJJ fighter needs to be well versed in distance management and controlling his/her range of movement. Sprawling is used as a defensive technique in MMA to escape from single and double leg takedowns.

If a BJJ fighter sprawls at the right time, then it will leave him/her on the top of the opponent in what is known as the top sprawl position. The top sprawl position can be attempted in many ways.

For example, a BJJ fighter strains his/her neck when executing chokes like the anaconda choke, taking hold of the opponent’s ankles, and shifting to a more dominant position.

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4. Conclusion

A BJJ fighter must understand that becoming a professional MMA fighter requires consistency, determination, and hard work. MMA training is not all about going to the gym regularly for sparring, weight lifting, and cardio exercises. It also requires constant self-improvement, mental fortitude, problem-solving, and technical skills. Thus, MMA is a demanding martial artthat keeps pushing BJJ fighters towards excellence in achieving their goals.

Photo credit: @Zuffa LLC Getty Images , @bleacherreport

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