For everything that I love about the sport of Jiu-Jitsu there are aspects of it that I think will hurt its growth over the long term. This week’s PanAms for example are supposed to be a huge event for the community. Mind you I’m relatively new to the sport with just under 3 years of being an athlete and fan. Many of the names and faces are still a bit foreign to me but I love watching the elite fight one another.
There’s something extremely refreshing about knowing that earlier in the week unrefined white belts were on the same mat the black belts close the week out on. World champions fighting on the same “card” if you will with complete unknowns. How many other sports can you say that about?
Today I was just another excited fan willing to shell out $10 to watch the world’s best Jiu-Jitsu practitioners fight it out in one if the most prestigious tournaments. Personally I was most excited to watch the finals of a bunch of these but to my horror five of the final bouts were determined by a gentlemen’s agreement.
I can somewhat understand the Miyao brothers not wanting to fight one another. In saying that let me make it perfectly clear. I love my brother, we have a pretty good relationship but if I sign up for the same division as him, my goal is to crush him in the finals. I would hope that we would put on a match that would steal the show and make a mark on the sport. Never mind I’ve fought my brother over far less than what a PanAms would mean for me.
Setting the Miayos aside, not fighting each other because of gym boundaries or association alliances is ridiculous and robs the sport of some great matchups. In boxing the Klitschko brothers have owned the heavyweight division for years. It’s left the division a pathetic shell of what it once was in part because the two refuse to engage one another. The sport of MMA is dealing with its own issues with fighters not wanting to fight training partners.
So with the IBJJF putting together this event and charging spectators and online viewers to watch, I think there needs to be some safeguards for its product. It’s anticlimactic to put on such a great week of fights and have the black belts take the easy road off the mats. These are the shepherds of our sport flipping coins or playing rock paper scissors for the honor of who gets gold.
Earlier in the day two guys in the finals of one division were both disqualified. The commentator went on to say that the lead ref decided that they would have the 3rd place participants fight for 1st. Perhaps that would complicate things but it’s possible that the threat of having a double DQ would usher people along into actually participating. In the end maybe they just give us some half assed effort but even that is better than what we are currently getting with some of these finals.