How does sport BJJ differ from BJJ for MMA? Brazilian jiu-jitsu has rapidly become one of the most popular martial arts in the world and for many people, it’s more than just a hobby that they like to practice a couple of times a week, it’s basically a way of life.
There are numerous reasons for this popularity and in large part, it has to do with how physically and mentally rewarding it is to practice and excel in this particular martial art, and how accessible it is to people.
Anybody can give this a try and can make huge progress in it. It’s practiced by both men and women, some people take up as young as four years old and if you want to start BJJ when you’re sixty, there’s nothing stopping you.
Of course, it will take more time for your body to adapt to the physical demands of it, but you can still find a lot of success. If you’re looking to practice martial arts for self-defense purposes, then this is arguably your best option.
It’s not flashy like karate or kickboxing but it’s effective against numerous different kinds of attacks. Another reason for the popularity has to do with its usage across the board in Mixed Martial Arts.
And of course, that is also an avenue that you can pursue if that’s what you’re interested in, and practicing BJJ is definitely a good way to get started with MMA. But it is important to note that typical BJJ training is going to be more sport-focused.
And that might not necessarily give you the advantage that you are seeking in itself. Your BJJ is going to have to adapt to MMA if you want to be an effective fighter. Let’s consider a few of these differences:
Wrestling and BJJ
Focusing on wrestling in BJJ is rarely a priority. It’s not something that everyone doing BJJ ignores, but oftentimes an opening approach is to try and jump straight to guard and work from there.
This can be very effective in sports BJJ, but what you need to remember in regards to MMA is that there is the potential for a lot of striking, and getting into guard is much more difficult against an opponent who is doing that.
If BJJ is your specialty, then getting the fight to the ground is ideal, but jumping to guard is far too risky in MMA when most fighters are going to have their top game prioritized too. Never go on bottom voluntarily.
If you can get on top you will be in a good position to do some striking of your own and a position of physical dominance is always something that the judges will be looking out for when scoring the fight.
Striking and BJJ
As I just mentioned, striking is a huge part of MMA and it’s not really a part of BJJ at all when you’re approaching it from a sports perspective. You don’t have to be an expert striker to succeed but it is definitely worth adding some punches to your repertoire.
You will be getting in the cage with people whose entire game is striking and will be going out of their way to make sure that the fight stays on its feet as much as possible and you have to be prepared for that.
Learn how to protect yourself from it. Typically, strikes will be aimed at your head and a well-placed one could end the fight in an instant. To protect your head at all costs but also expect some upper body strikes thrown in there too.
Sweeping and BJJ
Sweeping is a majorly important part of BJJ that not many people are aware of before they start training and there are a wide variety of different kinds of sweeps that it’s worth mastering for BJJ.
As we’ve discussed, you’re trying to get the fight on the ground so that you can move forward with chokes and locks but there is one crucial difference here which makes sweeping more difficult.
In BJJ you are always wearing your gi (unless you specialize in NoGi), but in MMA you don’t have any gear on your upper body apart from the gloves, which means that you have nothing to grip when going for a sweep. If you want the fight on the ground, you need a different approach.
This is why takedowns are much more important in MMA. This goes back to our earlier discussion about wrestling, you should work on some different kinds of takedowns with a special focus on the extremely effective double leg takedown.
Ultimately, the end goal is kind of similar in both but in many ways, it’s also completely different. In BJJ you want to make your opponent tap. One could say it is a more gentle sport and you generally aim for arm and leg submissions.
When you step into the cage for an MMA fight, your opponent is going to be looking to knock you the F out. They might do so by striking, choking you out or maybe they will actually be looking for a BJJ-style submission, but most MMA fights end up TKO.
Know that that’s what you’re getting yourself into and be ready for it because it’s something you never have to worry about with BJJ.
In conclusion, there’s no real question that BJJ training is useful when your primary goal is to practice MMA, but it’s not going to make you an expert Mixed Martial Artist by itself. MMA is a varied sport that will require A LOT more training and more knowledge on top of BJJ.