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Difference between BJJ and Jiu Jitsu

At Jiu Jitsu Times we welcome any opportunity to answer questions of the jiu jitsu community from our experience and understanding.

We recently received this question:

I will do my best to answer this question based on my personal experience, hopefully helping to shed some light on the topic.

I am fortunate enough to train at Strong Style Mixed Martial Arts and Training Center ( If you haven’t heard of this gym look it up. I joined Strong Style just over 2 years ago and in that time have had the opportunity to roll with a lot of MMA fighters, including some UFC fighters and UFC veterans. I am primarily a jiu jitsu guy, and until I joined Strong Style I very rarely rolled with MMA guys.

MMA is a cross disciplinary art, which means that unless an individual makes a concerted effort to become excellent at one skill set or aspect, chances are they won’t be a specialist. Lots of MMA fighters and MMA gyms focus more on striking and takedown defense; the submission game is difficult and can be tricky.

Being an MMA fighter, especially a professional, means that an individual is most likely a freak athlete. MMA fighters, even ones that aren’t “that good” tend to be extremely strong, and have phenomenal understanding of body mechanics. They are human, they can be submitted, but their physicality and understanding of how their body works and how your body works makes accomplishing this more difficult.

MMA fighters are always considering their positioning. I haven’t seen many who like to play guard because they don’t want to be in the practice of accepting a position that puts their opponent on top. For this reason I haven’t seen many MMA fighters play guard, and if they do get to the guard they are doing their best to either sweep or stand back up immediately.

Rolling with an MMA fighter who isn’t as good of a grappler as you can be like playing tag. They consider disengagement to be a viable defense, because in an MMA fight they have no obligation to stay on the ground with their opponent. For this reason, grappling with an MMA fighter can be a frustrating experience, similar to what Cyborg Abreu experienced when he competed against Brendan Schaub. This isn’t necessarily a criticism of MMA fighters, but simply an acknowledgment of a significant difference in style.

Most MMA fighters have experience outside of jiu jitsu, and their belt rank is not a great indicator of their actual skill set. Strong Style has some MMA fighters who are white and blue belts who have beaten high level opponents in competition. If you go into an MMA gym, be careful not to assume that a person’s belt is a good indicator, you may wind up being surprised and exposed to harsh reality.

Another key detail is that MMA fighters do not operate under the same rules of etiquette as BJJ guys. They will gladly neck crank or leg lock you. They are not interested in what’s “nice” or what is defined as “using strength” they are training for their next fight, they are sharpening their ability to hurt another person. Don’t be surprised if you get knocked around a bit, they don’t roll as gently as BJJ guys.

If you haven’t rolled with an MMA fighter yet, trust me try it out. It’ll teach you a lot about yourself, the efficacy of your jiu jitsu and it may expose some holes in your game. Ultimately if you can work your game against an MMA fighter you are moving in the right direction.


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