The IBJJF is currently the biggest tournament organizer in the BJJ world and there are very few other promotions that could position themselves as a legitimate competitor against them. It’s been that way for decades now, and the IBJJF has managed to secure a firm grip over every level of BJJ competition all over the world. For hobbyists and casual competitors just starting out there are local IBJJF Open events and the biggest names in the sport all gather together every year to compete in the IBJJF World Championship. The promotion also holds major events in every continent as well, allowing grapplers to try and bridge the gap between those two levels of competition. It’s an incredibly lucrative business and the income that the IBJJF makes only further increases their hold over the competition scene.
Why The BJJ World Needs A Competitor To The IBJJF
With such a stranglehold over the twin worlds of both professional and amateur BJJ tournaments, the IBJJF is able to serve every competitor on the planet. While many of them probably wouldn’t given this a second thought, there’s a distinct problem with one organization holding all of the cards. It means that the IBJJF’s ruleset and their regulations become the de facto rules and regulations of the sport, and the growth of the sport is slowed down to their pace as a result. A good example is the fact that it actually took until 2021 for the IBJJF to actually legalize heel hooks and reaping in black belt no gi divisions. This problem is only exacerbated by the fact that the majority of tournaments not actually staged by the IBJJF will use their ruleset adhere to their regulations for ease of organization.
Why Is The IBJJF The Biggest Tournament Organizer In BJJ?
The IBJJF was originally created by Gracie Barra founder Carlos Gracie Jr, who was also an impressive grappler back in his time as a competitor. A large part of why the IBJJF enjoy such success today is simply down to the fact that they were among the first around. As with many niche businesses, being first in the space can often be enough to guarantee a high level of success regardless of what else happens. By the time that there were other grappling promotions operating, the IBJJF had already staged multiple editions of their world championships and had expanded their reach all around the globe. At that point, everyone else is just trying to catch up and it’s an uphill battle when the IBJJF has so much history behind it.
Who Is The Main Competitor To The IBJJF Now?
ADCC is almost as old as IBJJF and they are the clear competitor when it comes to professional no gi competition, and many fans and athletes would likely even place them among the IBJJF. At the lower levels things get a bit murkier and although there are more and more ADCC Open events taking place around the world, the IBJJF has undoubtedly reaches more areas. There aren’t any proper rivals to the IBJJF when it comes to gi competition though, although there are multiple smaller tournament organizers attempting to catch up to them. The AJP Tour is the biggest rival at the top level but beyond that, there are no other promotions that attract elite competitors. Promotions like Grappling Industries, NAGA, and Jiu-Jitsu World League all attempt to compete at the lower level in either gi or no gi, but even collectively they struggle to rival the frequency of IBJJF Open events all around the world.
What Would It Take To Surpass The IBJJF?
Becoming a proper competitor to the IBJJF requires a huge amount of investment and the ability to co-ordinate multiple smaller organizers all around the world. That’s just for attempting to compete on the local level as well, but competing on the professional level is probably even harder again. While it doesn’t require as much of a global effort, it is incredibly difficult to encourage dozens of elite grapplers to all compete in the same event. A theoretical promotion could actually do everything just as well as the IBJJF have done but without the same prestige behind winning one of their world championships, they’ll never be able to attract the same level of talent.
Is Anyone Likely To Become A Competitor To The IBJJF?
For a new promotion to ever attempt to become a competitor to the IBJJF is practically impossible, as it would require a monumental sustained effort in dozens of countries over multiple years. For those promotions that already exist, ADCC and the AJP Tour stand out as the most capable of rivaling the success of the IBJJF. The issue is that those two promotions are essentially two halves of the solution: ADCC specializes in no gi competition and have arguably overtaken the IBJJF at the highest level already, while the AJP Tour takes place all around the world and attracts all levels of athletes.
In order to truly become the major competitor to the IBJJF, these organizations would need to make some changes to the way they operate. Expanding the range of ADCC Opens would easily allow ADCC to dominate all levels of no gi competition, so the only thing left would be to start producing gi competitions as well. The AJP Tour are already able to reach around the world and offer both gi and no gi tournaments, so the only thing left for them is to create a true world championship event that can rival both the IBJJF and ADCC world championships.
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