Not everyone has aspirations of being a sport jiu jitsu superstar... that's not why we started jiu jitsu in the first place anyway, right? But it'd be a shame if you didn't try it at least once in your career. Exposing yourself to the unique stresses of the competition mat not only grows your jiu jitsu, but it also gives you a fresh view into yourself, particularly your vulnerabilities and your strengths.
However, not all jiu jitsu tournaments are created the same. Their size, prestige and rulesets all differ a bit, so you can pick and choose which one suits your tastes. No need to waste energy looking them up... we've listed all the major ones below:
IBJJF - The International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation is the oldest and one of the most prestigious promotions in our list, featuring large and small events across the globe. In addition to their yearly World Championships - both gi and no-gi - and their major continental events - the Brazilian, European, Pans and Asian Championships - they also offer more local "Open" events held in major cities around the world, as well as a huge event exclusively for competitors age 30 and above: the World Master Championship (which also happens to be one of their biggest events, with nearly 4,500 competitors in 2017). As the oldest competitive jiu jitsu promotion, they have set the standard for most points-based tournament formats.
ADCC - The ADCC World Submission Fighting Championships is the oldest and most prestigious no-gi - well, "submission fighting" - events in the world. Launched in 1998 by Sheikh Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the son of then-UAE leader Sheik Zayed and founder of the Abu Dhabi Combat Club (hence, ADCC), the event is held every two years and features the top wrestlers, judoka, jiu-jitsu and sambo practitioners in the world. These fighters had either won an international ADCC qualifying event or were invited due to their notoriety in the sport. The ADCC ruleset is an interesting mix of sub-only and points, in which the first half of the match is sub-only (although competitors can still receive negative points for pulling guard during this period) and the second half is points-based, but calculated differently from the IBJJF.
Fight2Win - What began as a small local Colorado tournament has become one of the most sought-after live event super fight promotions in the United States. Considered "the biggest party in grappling," Fight2Win brings UFC-style excitement to the jiu jitsu mats, where they feature one-on-one match-ups between local competitors. With the Fight2Win, you don't have to be a superstar to get a spot on their card... but you do typically have to be at least purple belt and above, or a juvenile. Fight2Win is a submission-only ruleset, under a specified time-limit, with three judges who will determine the result in case neither fighter gets a submission. Check out their fighter application here.
UAEJJF - The United Arab Emirates Jiu Jitsu Federation is basically IBJJF's biggest competitor on the world scale. As its name suggests, the UAEJJF was founded in the UAE in 2009, where several UAE big wigs - including Sheikh Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al Nahayan - had discovered and fallen in love with jiu jitsu, and subsequently began a national project to install jiu jitsu into all of the country's public schools, as well as create a professionalized promotion of jiu jitsu events around the world. Like the IBJJF, the UAEJJF is a points- based tournament, but unlike the IBJJF, the UAEJJF offers prize-money for athlete who make the podium.
EBI - Launched in 2014 by the founder of the 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu system, the Eddie Bravo Invitational is a 16-person submission-only tournament. One of the few no-gi only tournaments, participation is by invitation only and the event is broadcast live on UFC FightPass. The EBI also features a unique format designed to maximize the chance of submissions: each match is 10-minutes, and if no submission is achieved by the end of time, the competitors go into overtime, where they each have to be put into a "dead-zone" position - spiderweb or back control - from which they have to escape. The competitor who is able to submit, and avoid being submitted in return, wins. If neither competitor submits during three overtime rounds, the winner is he/she who has the shortest accumulated escape times. Many smaller sub-only promotions have adopted this format.
Polaris - Founded by the guys at Scramble Brand and Tatami, Polaris is Europe's longest-running professional grappling event, featuring both gi and no-gi matches. Polaris is invitation-only and features some of the best jiu jitsu competitors from around the world. Matches are 15 minutes long and submission-only. However, if a match fails to end with a submission, a panel of judges decide who wins via a tiered set of considerations, in which submissions attempts and aggression are weighed more heavily than positional control. This format makes for strong incentive for exciting matches.
Copa Podio - A Brazilian-based super fight promotion, the Copa Podio is a live super fight event that pits ten of jiu jitsu's top athletes against each other for a grand prize. Instead of a traditional bracket system, Copa Podio uses a round-robin system, in which the fighters are split into two 5-person groups, and everyone in that group has to fight each other to determine who advances to the finals to face-off against the winner from the other group. The matches are six-minutes long and use the IBJJF ruleset, with the winners earning match points - five for a submission, three for a win by points, two for a win by advantages, and one to each fighter in the case of a draw.
Absolute Championship Berkut - The ACBJJ jumped on the event bandwagon in 2017, featuring both open championship events around the world, as well as professional super fight events. Notably, the ACBJJ does not allow women to compete in their events.
Five Grappling - Five Grappling is a California-based promotion that features both a professional super fight event, called the "Five Super League", as well as local tournaments held in states around the U.S.
Sport Jiu-Jitsu International Federation - The only Brazilian jiu jitsu federation that has recognition from an international sport organization - the Association for International Sport for All - the SJJIF also boast both continental and country-level associations, which hold events across the globe.
In addition to these more prestigious promotions, there are a ton of promotions that hold smaller, local tournaments in various regions across the United States. Entry fees are relatively inexpensive, and offer great opportunities to get some fights under your belt, especially for white belts to purple belts. Some of these are:
- North American Grappling Association (NAGA) - across the U.S.
- American Grappling Federation - across the U.S.
- Fuji BJJ Championship Series - across the U.S.
- Jiu Jitsu World League - mostly Western U.S. and Texas
- SubCon - Southern California
- New Breed - across the U.S., but mostly the Southeastern U.S.
- Copa American Grappling Championships - Southeastern U.S.
- Grappling Games - Midwest and Eastern U.S.
- Grappling Industries - across the U.S. and Australia
- US Grappling - Eastern U.S.
Train... and compete... on. Oss.