The ADCC World Championships are undoubtedly the most prestigious no gi grappling tournament on earth and part of that prestige comes from the difficulty in qualification for the event. The struggle that is ADCC trials has become something of legend in the Jiu-Jitsu world and several elite competitors have said that the constant stream of matches in a single weekend is one of the most challenging aspects of professional grappling. The trials are getting more and more popular as the years go on and the 2021 North American East Coast trials set a record with nearly 800 competitors gathering together to battle it out for one of five spots in the world championships.
As it stands, winning a trials event is one of two ways to earn qualification for the ADCC world championships with the second being the receipt of an invite directly from the promotion. There are four different trials events and each one has two different editions to award a total of eight spots in each weightclass, and the remaining eight spaces are given as invites. Although it’s not a hard rule, it’s generally accepted that three of those eight invites will be given to the previous year’s medalists. This only applies to the men’s division however, as the two women’s divisions only have eight competitors in total with four places being won through trials and four given out as invites.
I believe that it’s time to change the qualification system in order to make the most out of the trials events and create a build-up for the ADCC world championships that is even more amazing than it currently is. The two North American trials (East coast and West coast) and the two South American trials are virtually perfect as it is. The two European, Middle-Eastern, and African trials and the two Asia and Oceania trials are the events that could benefit from a revamp in order to bring more of a global feel to the world championships event.
I’d propose increasing the total number of trials from eight to twelve by separating out those trials events into two European trials, two Middle-Eastern and African trials, two Asia trials, and two Oceania trials. This would allow for a greater presence from athletes in those areas at the ADCC world championships, and it’ll also reduce the amount of subjectivity present in qualification from invites. This would mean that there’s only four invites to be given out for each weightclass, and ADCC could properly codify that three of those are automatically won by the previous edition’s three medalists.
That would leave just one wildcard entry against a field of fifteen competitors who have earned their spot in the tournament in a completely objective fashion. Perhaps more importantly, ADCC could also increase the women’s representation at the event by increasing both the number of divisions and the number of competitors in those divisions. The idea of more women’s divisions has been floated around by ADCC bosses before, and it’s something that springs to mind every time fans see larger competitors like Gabi Garcia competing against women who weigh just a little over the 60kg weightclass below it.
I’d suggest moving the women’s weightclasses in line with the mens and instead of under and over 60kg, we could transition to under 55kg, under 66kg, and over 66kg weightclasses. Additionally the women’s divisions should have 16 competitors, just like the men’s divisions currently do. With 48 women competing at the event, it also opens up the opportunity to have a women’s absolute division, something that has only been done twice and not since 2007. This would also mean that women would now have just as many qualification opportunities as the men at ADCC trials events, instead of half as many like they currently do.
Regarding the absolute division, it would be incredibly interesting to see it made up of only the medalists of that year’s weightclasses. If each of the three medalists in the five weightclasses automatically earned a spot in the absolute division, it would fall in line with my proposed set-up of the regular divisions as it would also only leave one wildcard entry from the rest of the playing field. The only difficulty here would be that you couldn’t really force the lighter division’s medalists to enter the absolute division, and it’s unlikely that all of the 66kg medalists and even some of the 77kg medalists would be interested in taking on the giants in the over 99kg weightclass.
All in all, this is just wishful thinking. The ADCC world championships continue to evolve with every single edition though and it’s not outside the realm of possibility that the trials events could be expanded. As for women’s divisions, that’s something that’s very much on the cards over the next few years as Jiu-Jitsu becomes more popular among women and the weightclasses can be filled out with elite competitors without any issue.