Jiu-Jitsu tournaments can be hard to understand. These days, there are so many different tournament organizers that it can be difficult to determine which tournaments are a good fit for your skill level and interests. Read more to find out about BJJ Events Big Organizations Versus Small Organizations!
I get asked a lot about how to get ready for a BJJ tournament, so I decided to write this post. It talks about how to find tournaments near you and the pros and cons of all the major organizations, like the IBJJF, NAGA, and more.
Things to Know Before Entering
If you want to compete in a Jiu-Jitsu tournament, there are two main things you should think about. You need to decide if you are going to:
- Gi or No-Gi Competition
- You can compete for a big group (like the IBJJF) or a small group (like a one-off local event).
No-Gi and Gi
Gi Jiu-Jitsu and No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu are very different. Gi Jiu-Jitsu is a more varied style of grappling because there are so many different ways to use the gi. Grappling in the gi is changing quickly.
For example, Keenan Cornelius’s American Jiu-Jitsu style of lapel guard was almost never used 5 years ago, but now it is used at almost every tournament. No-Gi, on the other hand, is a style of grappling that is faster and where being athletic can be a big help.
Whether you compete in Gi or No-Gi depends on what kind of grappling you usually do. If you don’t train in a certain style, you shouldn’t compete in that division unless you want a real challenge.
I personally think you should train both styles, and entering both the Gi and No-Gi brackets in a tournament lets you roll a lot. If you compete in both brackets, some tournaments will give you a discount on the second bracket.
Should you want to compete in the Gi division, make sure your uniform meets the rules set by the organizers. The IBJJF, for example, only lets people wear white, blue, or black gis. You’ll need fight shorts and a rashguard to compete in the No-Gi division.
Again, check the rules of the event organizer to make sure your gear meets their needs. For example, in most No-Gi events, you can’t compete in shorts with pockets.
Big Organizations Versus Small Organizations
When it comes to Jiu-Jitsu tournaments, a big organization like the IBJJF is very different from a small local tournament.
If you sign up for a bigger tournament run by a federation like the IBJJF(Twitter), you are making a bigger commitment than when you sign up for a tournament run by a group in your area. When bigger tournaments are run by federations, you usually have to pay to play and also buy a membership to the federation. In smaller tournaments, all you have to do is pay and play.
Most of the time, the competition is also tougher at tournaments put on by large groups. This is because the people who compete in them are trying to qualify for something like Worlds (we’ll talk about how to qualify for events like Worlds later in this post).
Even though the competition at local tournaments can be tough, they are mostly a way for fighters to get more experience. In a local tournament, there will be a lot more differences. You might face a very tough opponent, or you might be in a division with only a few competitors.
Money and Prizes at BJJ Tournaments
Should you want to win money at BJJ tournaments, I have bad news for you. If you don’t compete at a high level, there isn’t much money to be made in this sport. If you’re not very good at Jiu-Jitsu, it will take you years to make money from it, and even if you are, it will be hard if you try to make it your only source of income.
Just look at the IBJJF. People say that they are “the best federation for Jiu-Jitsu,” but they are known for paying very little.
The IBJJF gave winners between $2,000 and $7,000 at the last World Championship, depending on how many people were in each division. To get $7,000, at least 33 people would have to be in that division. That means you could have to play in more than 12 games to try to win $7,000.
@leonardomariojj switching from the toe hold to the knee bar in his light-feather final of the Rio Winter Open. pic.twitter.com/6DlPINlREx
— IBJJF (@ibjjf) July 6, 2022
The winner of the absolute division gets $10,000. I think that level of fighter pay is insultingly low, given how much money the IBJJF makes from federation fees and tournament registration fees.
But at the end of the day, the IBJJF is the best Jiu-Jitsu circuit in the world and a business. Jiu-Jitsu athletes don’t have many options until another group comes along that pays more.
There are a few other tournaments with cash prizes, like the World Series of Jiu-Jitsu.
Even if you’re one of the best Jiu-Jitsu athletes, though, you’re not going to get rich by competing in tournaments. Most BJJ competitors who make a living do so by getting sponsors, making instructional videos, or fighting in the occasional superlight.