You’ve probably heard the phrase before but to someone new to the sport, it’s not entirely obvious what a ‘Brazilian Tap’ actually is. It’s a common phrase used in BJJ originally that has migrated over to MMA thanks to it’s strong relationship with the sport, and as a result has entered the lexicon of the wider combat sports community. First things first, despite the name, a ‘Brazilian Tap’ actually has nothing to do with the country or any of it’s nationals and is only called that because it was originally thought to be something that Brazilians were using more often than anyone else.
In actuality, a ‘Brazilian Tap’ is just a light tapping motion that one athlete uses when caught in a submission that’s intended to signal to their opponent that they’ve submitted while also being out of sight of the referee. The goal is to trick the opponent into releasing a submission that otherwise might have actually ended the fight, and immediately continue from there. Obviously it’s an incredibly dirty trick and one that is rightly frowned upon throughout both BJJ and MMA, essentially because it takes advantage of the kindness of one fighter in not wanting to injure their opponent in order to gain the upper hand.
Due to the covert nature of the ‘Brazilian Tap’, it can often be difficult to identify whether or not it actually happened. Naturally a huge number of incidents where someone is accused of using it are in dispute, sometimes one athlete simply attempts to base out in one direction and sets a hand on their opponent or may even be fighting grips and end up pushing an arm more than once. Thanks to the increased level of refereeing seen in MMA and high-level BJJ competitions, indisputable incidents are few and far between these days. That doesn’t mean the tactic has gone away forever however.
It’s still sometimes seen in lower-level BJJ competitions where there is no video replay and the referee might be relatively inexperienced, and fighters have even been accused of it at the highest levels from time to time. Perhaps the most famous recent example was where Fabricio Werdum fell victim to the ‘Brazilian Tap’ against Renan Ferreira at PFL 3 and released his triangle choke, only to go on to loss the fight. Eventually the footage was reviewed and it was ruled that his opponent did tap, so the loss was overturned.
While some fighters no doubt see the ‘Brazilian Tap’ as just another tactic that skirts the rules like eyepokes or groin-shots that aren’t entirely unintentional, it’s clearly unsportsmanlike conduct. It’s quite telling that none of the athletes who’ve used it have ever come out to admit that they’ve done so no matter how obvious it is. Naturally, nobody wants to admit to skirting the rules like that and for the vast majority of athletes, they wouldn’t want to win that way anyway.