Professional BJJ
Photo by: Kyu Lee

Martial arts changed forever in November 1993 with the introduction of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. UFC 1 took place in Denver, Colorado and promised a night of no rules fighting that would prove which style of combat was the most effective. Royce Gracie went on to win that event, along with the UFC's second and fourth tournaments. After these events, jiu-jitsu began to gain popularity as a martial art. What was once confined mainly to Brazil was now beginning to spread on a global scale. Although it was a process that took many years, and that is still evolving today, the growth of jiu-jitsu globally cannot be denied. Many young practitioners are training the art full-time in hopes of making a living through competition. Up until recently, this was a very difficult task to pull off. Tournaments required entry fees and travel was expensive, forcing most competitors to have unrelated jobs off the mats. Nowadays, however, the tides are starting to change. Tournaments that offer cash prizes, super fights, and sponsorship deals are becoming much more commonplace. There are now consistent professional jiu-jitsu promotions that pay athletes for every one of their events. Fight to Win, Third Coast Grappling, EUG Promotions, BJJ Stars, Who's # 1, and ADCC are currently some of the top professional promotions in the sport.


Fight to Win

Fight to Win's inaugural event took place in November 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The event featured nearly 20 matches with a stage and lighting that resembled a rock concert more closely than a jiu-jitsu event. CEO Seth Daniels is a lifelong martial artist and was promoting jiu-jitsu tournaments, MMA events, and concerts prior to starting his professional jiu-jitsu series. Appropriately dubbed "the biggest party in grappling," Fight to Win has been traveling the U.S. promoting events that feature a combination of the best professional and local talent. Fight to Win is approaching its 200th event and is showing no signs of slowing down.

Third Coast Grappling

Houston, Texas based Third Coast Grappling launched its first event on January 12, 2019. The event was headlined by Keenan Cornelius and Tex Johnson in a unique ruleset different from any other major promotion. Currently on its 8th event, Third Coast has now laid out plans to promote events outside of its native Houston. With names such as Gordon Ryan, Nicholas Meregali, Craig Jones, Marcio Andre, Gianni Grippo, and Edwin Najmi having competed on the Third Coast stage, you can expect to see some of the sports best competing on future events. Third Coast is set to bring some of the most exciting professional jiu-jitsu events across the U.S. in 2022.

EUG Promotions

EUG Promotions is based out of Las Vegas, Nevada and strives to put on the best professional event focused on the lighter weight classes. In its inaugural show, Andy Murasaki took out some of the best 160 lb. grapplers in the world to win $10k in his black belt debut. Evolve Ur Game put on another event in June 2021 featuring some of the best 170lb. grapplers in the world, where Johnatha Alves of the Art of Jiu Jitsu Academy brought home the championship belt and $10k. In addition to the professional tournaments with money on the line, EUG has also done a great job of giving the future stars of the sport a spot on the big stage in prelim matches. Their next event goes down on Saturday October 23rd live from the Las Vegas Harley Davidson Center.

BJJ Stars

While there have been plenty of professional promotions come out of jiu-jitsu's home in Brazil, BJJ Stars has been one of the most consistent in the past 2 years. So far the promotion has held 6 events featuring athletes such as Beatriz Mesquita, Felipe Pena, Leandro Lo, Bianca Basilio, Gutemberg Pereira, Isaque Bahiense, and Nicholas Meregali. From tournaments to super fights, BJJ Stars has consistently provided some of the best professional events featuring Brazil's top grapplers. Their next event will be Saturday November 6th, and will feature Gilbert Burns and Roberto Jimenez, among others.

Who’s #1

The inaugural Who's #1 event was a gi event that provided awesome match ups and served as a way to help decide which grapplers should be ranked highest in their respective weight classes. Every subsequent event has been no-gi, and the promotion even held its first tournament recently. Since its early events, Who's #1 has solidified itself as one of the top no-gi super fight shows in the world. In addition to bringing in the best no-gi athletes, they are also paying great purses. Their most recent tournament paid out $30k to each of their five division winners. The next WNO event will take place on Wednesday October 20th, live on Flograppling.

ADCC

The ADCC Submission Fighting World Championship has long been considered the premier professional submission grappling event in the world. The event started in 1998 in Abu Dhabi and eventually moved to various countries across the globe. Some of the biggest names in the jiu-jitsu world built their reputations at ADCC. Marcelo Garcia, Roger Gracie, Hannette Staack, Kyra Gracie, Rubens "Cobrinha" Charles, and Gabi Garcia all won multiple titles and cemented their names in submission grappling history at ADCC. The event is now organized by Mo Jassim and it has become even more organized and prestigious. ADCC's September 2022 event will take place in Las Vegas, Nevada and is sure to be the biggest and best yet.

Although jiu-jitsu is still a relatively young martial art, it is no doubt one of the fastest growing in the world. The increase in popularity has led to more professional events and thus, more professional competitors. As these events are held more frequently and competitors receive bigger paydays, expect to see more major players in the professional event scene for years to come.

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Judo
Saddleburn

Two-Time Black Belt Hall of Famer Hayward Nishioka has been campaigning for judo in the United States to harvest more shodans (1st degree black belts) Shodan literally means student. It's analogous to being a freshman in college. It's not the end but the beginning according to Jigoro Kano, the Founder of Judo.

A very dear friend and sensei of mine the late Allen Johnson, may he rest in peace made a home at Emerald City Judo. In Redmond, Washington.

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Competitive Edge Karate
Photo Courtesy: Jackson Rudolph

Team Competitive Edge, coached by Jackson Rudolph, Reid Presley, and Cole Presley, has become one of the premier teams in the sport in recent years. The team consistently takes home individual overall grand championships and they are the reigning U.S. Open ISKA Team Demonstration World Champions. Moving into the 2022 tournament season, they have made a huge move to deepen their roster and add seven junior competitors to the team. The new additions range from proven champions bringing their talents to the squad, some skilled workhorses who have previously joined the team for the Team Demo division, and some promising young stars who will be making their debut in the black belt division this year. Keep reading to learn more about each of the new additions (ordered alphabetically).

Gavin Bodiford

Gavin Bodiford

Photo Courtesy: Kellie Austin Bodiford via Facebook

Bodiford is twelve years old and hails from Lebanon, Tennessee, a product of Premier Martial Arts Lebanon (formerly known as Success Martial Arts Center), where the Competitive Edge coaches have all earned black belts. He has five years of martial arts experience and was the 2020-2021 ProMAC Southern Region Champion in four divisions. He also finished the 2021 NASKA season in the top ten for creative, musical, and extreme forms and weapons. Bodiford is one of the competitors who has stepped up for Competitive Edge in the past, joining the demonstration team to help them secure the 2021 U.S. Open ISKA World Championship.

Riley Claire Carlisle

RC Carlisle

Photo Courtesy: Mallory Parker Carlisle

Carlisle (pictured with coach Sammy Smith) is a 10-year-old rising star from Starkville, Mississippi who has been training for four years. In the underbelt division, she has won grand championships at the Battle of Atlanta and numerous regional events. She holds multiple divisional and grand championship titles from the ProMAC circuit, and has amassed over ninety divisional wins in recent years. She is moving into the black belt division in 2022 and looks to continue her winning ways.

Kodi Molina

Kodi Molina

Photo Courtesy: Priscilla Molina via Facebook

Molina is a 13-year-old world champion from San Antonio, Texas with 10 years of martial arts training under her belt. She has won many grand championship titles on the NASKA circuit, and has claimed world championships from NASKA, ISKA, ATA, and WKC. At the 2021 U.S. Open, she became the reigning ISKA world champion in 13 and under girls creative/musical/extreme weapons. She is a versatile competitor who can win with extreme bo or kama routines, performs beautiful traditional forms, and is a solid point fighter as well. She is an active member of her community and participates in a variety of leadership programs, making her a great role model for younger members of the team.

Michael Molina

Michael Molina

Photo Courtesy: Michael Molina via Instagram

"Super Bomb" is the 9-year-old brother of Kodi, who is a world champion in his own right. In his seven years of experience, he has already won a variety of titles across multiple leagues, including NASKA overall grand championships at the 2021 Battle of Atlanta and AmeriKick Internationals. Since he began training at the age of two, his regimen has included strength, speed, agility, and conditioning training at "Rojo Dojo", where a number of world champions and national contenders gather to train. He is known for his incredible performance ability, always putting on a show when he graces the stage.

Gavin Richmond

Gavin Richmond

Photo Courtesy: Bobby Benavides

Richmond is yet another world champion being added to the Competitive Edge roster. The 13-year-old from San Antonio has been training for five years and has accumulated several grand championship titles, including wins at prestigious events like the Diamond Nationals and U.S. Open. The young star is a well-rounded athlete, not only because he competes in a variety of divisions at sport karate tournaments, but he also finished in 7th place in the pentathlon at the 2021 AAU Junior Olympics which included the high jump, long jump, 100m hurdles, 1500m run, and shot put, resulting in him being named an All-American. He is currently recovering from a knee injury, but his high-flying routines will be back on the mat soon.

Madalynn Wiersma

Madalynn Wiersma

Photo Courtesy: Gabrielle Dunn

Wiersma (pictured with coach Gabrielle Dunn) is another rising star moving up from the underbelt division who is expected to make waves in the black belt division. She first moved up into the black belt ring at the WKC world championships, where she won her first world title. The 9-year-old Georgia native was the 2021 Underbelt Competitor of the Year for ProMAC and she secured underbelt grand championships at the Battle of Atlanta and U.S. Open this past year.

Elijah Williams

Williams is a 16 year old from Lebanon, Tennessee who trains at Premier Martial Arts Lebanon. His eight years of martial arts training has culminated in black belts in Tang Soo Do and Tae Kwon Do. He is on an upward trend as a competitor as he has started breaking into the top four in his divisions, which are some of the most stacked on the NASKA circuit. Williams has been a great asset to Competitive Edge in the past, stepping up to fill in for team demonstration, such as in the world championship effort at the 2021 U.S. Open.

The Competitive Edge coaching staff told Black Belt that they are thrilled to take their roster to another level with these moves. They believe that these new players will create the perfect storm to win more overall grand championships now, strengthen the team demo, and build a great foundation for the future of the program.

Jose Also
cdn.vox-cdn.com Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC
The seemingly ageless Jose Aldo won his third straight fight at bantamweight Saturday claiming unanimous decision over Rob Font in the main event of UFC on ESPN 31. Font started well against the former featherweight champion working behind a strong jab that kept Aldo on his back foot and allowed Font to consistently land sharp punches. But with 30 seconds left in the first round, Aldo threw a stiff left jab and immediately followed with a powerful straight right hand that dropped Font though time ran out before he could do more damage.
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