The number of celebrities getting involved with Jiu-Jitsu has skyrocketed in recent years and that can only mean great things for the growth of BJJ as a sport. It’s no coincidence that this rise in popularity among the most famous people on earth has also coincided with a rise in popularity in the general public as well. The biggest challenge for any sport is to break into the mainstream consciousness and many sports will exist for decades without ever becoming remotely popular. Even the biggest sports on the planet all had to overcome this hurdle at one point in the past, and doing so has allowed them to grow to what they are today.
The NBA and NFL are the most popular sporting leagues in the US and football is the most watched sport on the planet, but they all had to start somewhere. Each of these have existed for around a century, so they have the benefit of time on their side. While they may have struggled with popularity in the early decades, they’ve eventually been able to develop into the dominant sports that they are today. In fact, there are very few sports that have managed to break into the mainstream consciousness inside of just a decade or two. One of the most notable examples of that is actually MMA, as the UFC went from being a freakshow event in the early 90s to a regular professional sport by the 2010s.
While BJJ has existed as a martial art for an incredibly long time, it was almost exclusively the domain of the Gracie family and those training under Luiz Franca’s lineage for several decades. Opportunities for competition existed but they were incredibly rare and were generally set up as a way for rival grapplers or gyms to settle scores with one another. Even as recently as the early 1990s, the idea of a world championship or major tournament was unheard of and BJJ competitors either engaged in single matches or entered Judo or Sambo events instead.
Even at this point in time when BJJ was still relatively hidden, there were major celebrities like Chuck Norris practicing Jiu-Jitsu. Eventually both the IBJJF and ADCC were created, and there was finally regular major events for BJJ competitors to enter. While this undoubtedly helped grow the sport and gave BJJ competitors a chance to hone their skills to an even higher level, it still wasn’t enough for it to become a mainstream sport. What really helped make the public aware of BJJ was the fact that celebrities like Joe Rogan were becoming black belts and beginning to talk about the benefits of Jiu-Jitsu.
Joe Rogan specifically has had a huge impact on the growth of the sport, but even his reach is limited to a specific demographic. What’s really helping to drive the growth of BJJ is the fact that it’s actually reached celebrities that are recognized as part of popular culture, and many of them are talking about Jiu-Jitsu with the general public. Hollywood actor Tom Hardy is competing regularly, ‘Saved by the Bell’ star Mario Lopez has done demonstrations on live TV, and several legendary sportspeople have been working their way up the belt ranks. People like this getting behind the sport helps it to spread out to more and more members of the general public, which is only ever a good thing for your local BJJ gym.
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