Closeouts happen at almost every major BJJ tournament, especially now that certain teams have expanded all across the globe with dozens of affiliate gyms spread out into different states and countries. They happen when two competitors from the same gym meet each other but choose not to actually compete and instead decided the winner between themselves. Sometimes this is done by seniority, sometimes by weight in the case of an absolute division, or sometimes simply by a game of rock-paper-scissors. But are they actually any good for the sport itself?
Closeouts have even taken place in the finals of World Championships and have decided the who is to be considered the best BJJ competitor on the planet on a number of occasions. Some of the best competitors available have decided to allow a teammate to be declared the winner over them, and others have been gifted gold medals by their teammates. Regardless of what you actually think of closeouts themselves, they certainly aren’t any indication of the skill level, toughness, or willingness to compete of the athletes that choose to do them.
The logic behind closeouts is pretty sound in fairness, it’s unlikely that training partners will be willing to compete against each other with the same ferocity that they would take on other opponents, and it doesn’t seem worth it to risk injury when you don’t actually have to. But, the vast majority of high-level competitors will drop in to other gyms around the world and train with other athletes on a regular basis anyway. As far as injury goes, barring any freak accidents, that’s always in the competitor’s own hands. If you want to avoid an injury, tapping early to a submission is a relatively foolproof way of doing so, except in some rare cases.
The IBJJF allows and in some cases even seems to celebrate closeouts as examples of good sportsmanship or team camaraderie. ADCC however, forces teammates to fight each other and even forces them to meet no later than the second round, just to ensure that all finals matches are as competitive as possible. This looks like it’s the best way around the problem in all honesty, as it makes sure that if there are any noncompetitive matches, they don’t decide who is going to be held up as the best grappler on the planet.