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 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.
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.
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.
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.