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BJJ and MMA are two of the most popular martial arts today. There is often a lot of confusion around what is the difference between the two sports. The truth is, comparing MMA and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can be a bit tough since both draw lots of inspiration from each other. MMA and BJJ are unique martial arts, but there is no MMA without jiu jitsu. We explain in this guide.

What is the Difference Between BJJ and MMA?

BJJ is a grappling martial art. MMA, which is mixed martial arts, utilizes several types of martial arts, BJJ being one of those arts. Most MMA fighters are practitioners of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. So we have to be careful when explaining what the difference between the two martial arts are. From a grappling perspective, there are several key differences between BJJ and MMA. Here are the main differences between MMA and BJJ:

Main Differences Between BJJ and MMA

  • MMA grappling also includes striking
  • BJJ uses Gi chokes and guards
  • MMA uses wrestling and catch wrestling techniques

Striking in MMA

For one, in MMA you can strike your opponent even on the ground. In BJJ there is no striking at all. This changes the range of moves and strategies you would employ in a pure BJJ matchup. Certain positions like closed guard are highly advantageous in traditional BJJ, but don’t enjoy as high an advantage in MMA because of the striking.

Gi Chokes and Guards

In BJJ you are also in a Gi at least half the time. The Gi itself unlocks an entire library of moves, submissions and chokes that you won’t be able to do in MMA without a Gi. For example in traditional BJJ, some of the most common chokes such as a bow and arrow choke and loop choke are not feasible in MMA.

Wrestling and Catch Wrestling

Traditional practitioners of BJJ may not use wrestling or catch wrestling moves. Conversely, MMA fighters will often use wrestling and catch wrestling while grappling on the ground. Moves like heel hooks, neck cranks and wrist locks are common in MMA grappling, but are not as common in traditional BJJ.

Pros and Cons of Taking MMA or BJJ

hen considering the pros and cons of MMA and BJJ, it’s important to understand that both disciplines offer unique advantages and disadvantages. One of the major advantages of MMA is its comprehensive approach to combat, which includes striking, grappling, and ground fighting. This makes it an excellent choice for self-defense, as it prepares you for a wide range of scenarios. Additionally, MMA training can provide significant fitness benefits, including improved strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular health. However, MMA also carries a higher risk of injury due to its full-contact nature and the variety of techniques used. On the other hand, BJJ, or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, is a martial art that focuses primarily on ground fighting and submission holds. BJJ excels in teaching control and submission techniques, making it a great choice for those interested in self-defense, particularly against larger opponents. The physical benefits of BJJ include improved flexibility, balance, and core strength. However, BJJ requires a high level of physical conditioning and can be physically demanding, particularly during competitive sparring. Additionally, while BJJ is highly effective in ground combat, it may not provide as comprehensive a skill set for stand-up fighting as MMA.

MMA vs. BJJ for Self Defense

When it comes to self-defense, both Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) have proven to be highly effective, each offering unique strengths. MMA, with its combination of striking and grappling techniques, provides a well-rounded approach to self-defense. It equips practitioners with a diverse range of skills to handle various types of attacks.

On the other hand, BJJ, known for its ground fighting techniques, chokes, and joint locks, excels in situations where the fight has been taken to the ground. It offers a strategic approach to neutralize stronger and larger opponents by leveraging technique and leverage over brute strength. However, it’s important to note that both have their limitations and neither is a one-size-fits-all solution.

Technically your MMA training should provide you enough BJJ experience to be able to grapple as well as strike in a self-defense scenario. Someone who has trained MMA for an equal amount of time as someone who has trained BJJ will likely be a more well rounded fighter for the various scenarios a self defense situation can present.

Should You Do MMA or BJJ?

Focusing on MMA or BJJ comes down to your martial arts goals. Traditionally, someone would focus on BJJ and then a striking martial art like Muay Thai before combining the two into MMA. Nowadays, you have the choice start learning both grappling and striking in the context of MMA at the same time right off the bat . How do you choose?

When to Take MMA

You should focus on MMA if you desire to learn striking arts like kick boxing, boxing and muay thai in addition to grappling. Learning MMA is more dynamic and arguably more difficult than just focusing on BJJ since you are learning multiple martial arts at the same time. The downside of focusing on MMA from beginning is that you may never achieve mastery in one martial art. It’s a bit of a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none situation. Most top UFC fighters for example are not black belts in BJJ since they choose to spend time training in other martial arts.

When to Take BJJ

BJJ is the better option if you want to take a martial art, get in shape and don’t like getting hit in the face. In BJJ you are much less likely to get a concussion or head injuries since there is no striking. By no means however is BJJ a gentle sport that carries no risk. Rather, it is a good martial art for those who have no interest in striking. If you focus on BJJ, you also get to train in both Gi and Nogi if you so choose. You will also advance faster through the belt system since you are focusing exclusively on BJJ.

BJJ vs MMA Summary

MMAIncludes striking and other martial artsLonger to earn belts, head injury risk is higher
BJJLess head injury risk, advance through belt system, learn Gi and nogiNo striking, less emphasis on other martial arts

How to Train Both MMA and BJJ

Training both MMA and BJJ is very common, especially since BJJ is a popular component of MMA. The key difference in training both as a opposed to just training BJJ is the things you focus on and your training regime. There are a few approaches, depending on your gym, for how people train both sports. In my experience, most will focus on one martial art at a time until they develop enough proficiency. For example, you may train BJJ exclusively until you become a blue belt or equal skill level of a blue belt. For your grappling to be viable in an MMA setting, a minimum of blue belt level is generally recommended. At that point, you may switch over to Muay Thai or boxing or kick boxing to develop your striking skills and learn that for a while. Then when you have proficiency in both, turn your training toward the unique aspects of MMA such as take downs, fighting along the wall and using 4 oz gloves.

Some schools that specialize in MMA may just start you off with both and vary up your training from week to week allowing you to build up all aspects of the sport at the same time. As someone who needs to focus on one thing at a time, I preferred focusing on one sport at a time, but it comes down to personal preference.

MMA vs. BJJ: Who Would Win?

In a hypothetical fight between MMA and BJJ, the outcome could depend a lot on the specifics of the fight. If the fight went to the ground, a BJJ fighter would probably have the upper hand because they are trained to grapple on the ground. But when strikes are added to the equation, the situation changes in a big way. Even the best BJJ fighters would need to know at least the basics of striking and wrestling to protect themselves and bring the fight to the ground. On the other hand, MMA fighters are usually better at self-defense because they have a wide range of skills that include striking, wrestling, and grappling. They are trained to strike quickly and effectively, which can be very useful in sudden, unexpected fights.

In a street fight or full combat situation, a BJJ purple belt who has never trained striking against a new blue belt who has trained striking for a few years is likely to be at a disadvantage. To get the upper hand, the purple belt would need to be able to take the fight to the ground quickly. But the blue belt would have the upper hand if they could keep the fight standing up and use their grappling skills to stay alive if the fight went to the ground.

So, even though BJJ is an important part of MMA, an MMA fighter might be better at self-defense in the real world because they have a wider range of skills.

Is BJJ Still Effective in MMA?

In the world of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) continues to hold a significant place due to its unique approach to combat. Many successful MMA fighters have and continue to hold strong BJJ backgrounds, demonstrating its continued relevance and effectiveness in the sport. That being said, the distinct advantage it may have enjoyed in the earlier years of the UFC has certainly waned.

In the early years of UFC, grappling such as with BJJ was almost unheard of. The Gracies brought the sport in the 80s and popularized the sport as a result of their UFC performances. Until that point however, it was not a known commodity in the US. As time went on, more and more fighters found it necessary to add Jiu Jitsu to their arsenal, thus leveling out the playing field. Other forms of grappling have also become more popular in the UFC/MMA. Some renowned fighters such as Daniel Cormier rose to prominence off his stellar wrestling background and did not integrate BJJ until later on in his career.

Furthermore, the number of submission finishes in the UFC has been dwindling over the past several years. Between 2014 and 2020 for example, the number of submissions dropped from 99 to 77 in 2020. 2017 finished with the highest percentage of knockouts than in any other previous UFC year. Overall, less time is being spent on the ground and more time is being spent standing up.

In conclusion, while BJJ is certainly still effective, it is less prominent as it once was.

Is MMA Harder Than BJJ?

Whether MMA is harder than BJJ is not a straightforward to answer, as it largely depends on individual factors such as your prior experience, fitness level, and overall physical condition. MMA is often perceived as more brutal due to its diverse mix of fighting styles, while BJJ is seen as complex due to its focus on ground-based combat and grueling grappling techniques. Both disciplines will undoubtedly push your physical and mental boundaries, leaving you gasping for breath.

That being said, MMA could be considered harder due to the vast array of elements you need to master. While BJJ allows you to concentrate on grappling and ground combat, MMA requires you to learn a wide variety of fighting styles, a process that could take decades. Furthermore, MMA training is generally more intense due the cardiovascular requirements, making it a suitable choice for those seeking to improve their fitness through self-defense. However, this doesn’t mean that BJJ is easy – far from it. Both disciplines require dedication, discipline, and a willingness to push beyond your comfort zone.

BJJ or MMA for Weight Loss?

When it comes to weight loss, both Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) can provide a rigorous workout that burns calories and builds muscle. However, MMA tends to be more effective for shedding pounds. This is primarily due to the diverse range of physical skills involved in MMA training. MMA combines striking, wrestling, and grappling, all of which require significant physical strength and endurance. These intense workouts can lead to a higher calorie burn, aiding in weight loss. On the other hand, BJJ focuses more on grappling and ground fighting, which, while still physically demanding, may not burn as many calories as the varied techniques used in MMA. Therefore, if your primary goal is weight loss, MMA might be the better choice. However, it’s important to remember that the best exercise for weight loss is the one you enjoy and can stick with consistently.

Popularity of MMA Vs. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

The global popularity of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) has seen a significant surge since the early 2000s. MMA, with its blend of striking and grappling techniques, gained mainstream attention through organizations like the UFC. Its appeal lies in its versatility, allowing fighters from various disciplines, including wrestling and BJJ, to compete on a level playing field. On the other hand, BJJ has carved out its own niche within the martial arts community. It’s also seen a rise in popularity at a local level, with more gyms offering BJJ classes and competitions. In terms of search interest however, MMA still holds an advantage over BJJ even throughout 2023. In my personal experience however, even though MMA may be more popular and what gets people through the door, most tend to settle in on one martial art, either Muay Thai, BJJ or something else. Only a handful of people have the time, energy and desire to take on the multidisciplinary training MMA requires.

History of MMA

Mixed Martial Arts’ ancestor dates back to the mid-20th century in Brazil where it was known as Vale Tudo, literally translated as “anything goes”. Vale Tudo was and continues to be a brutal fighting martial art that combined popular Brazilian martial arts like Capoiera and jiu jitsu. In the 70’s Rorion Gracie of the famous Gracie jiu jitsu family came to the U.S. where he started to popularize Vale Tudo and jiu jitsu. That eventually led to the first UFC in 1993.

Originally, UFC fighters were experts in one martial art and worked to show how their art was the most dominant. For many years, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and the Gracies reigned dominant. With every succeeding UFC event however, fighters began to adopt other martial arts in addition to their main art.

As time has progressed, MMA has become its own form of martial art. Rather than a dedication to any one martial art, MMA fighters start from the beginning learning the various striking and grappling components of MMA, as well as its own unique elements like the ground and pound and wrestling on the cage. Today, MMA fighters know how to employ punches, kicks, knees and elbows from a stand up position as well as how to wrestle and submit opponents while both on the ground. The ground techniques used in MMA traditionally come from BJJ.

History of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu comes from the Gracie family who are originally from Brazil. In the 1920’s, Carlos Gracie learned from Mitsuyo Maeda, an accomplished master in Judo. Gracie would modify Judo, which itself derives from Japanese Ju Jitsu, into his own Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a grappling martial art that exclusively takes place on the ground. Practitioners or Jiujuteros, work to dominate or control their opponent by compromising one of their opponents limbs or by putting them in a choke hold. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can be done in a Gi, the traditional uniform of Judo or without a Gi.

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