clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Brazil Should Include Jiu-Jitsu and MMA in 2016 Olympic Celebration

Just one week ago, an international contingent descended upon Barcelona in an athletic competition composed of greats from around the world, including the U.S., Japan, Brazil, Poland, Finland, Australia, France, Iceland and more. Just one week before that, in Dallas, another collection of sportsmen from around the globe came together for a different athletic event. This one boasted athletes from the U.S., Croatia, Belarus, the UK, Denmark and more.

The former was the Abu Dhabi Combat Club championship, a submission wrestling tournament that emphasizes jiu-jitsu, while the latter was UFC 103, representing mixed martial arts. With Rio de Janeiro being chosen as the host site of the 2016 Olympics, Brazil's role in the formation of jiu-jitsu and MMA, and the continuing popularity boom of both sports, it seems clear that both jiu-jitsu and MMA deserve to be included in the Olympic celebration.

That's not quite as easy as it sounds, however.

Neither sport can be included as an official event, as only two more athletic competitions are scheduled for addition into these games. Golf and rugby sevens appear to be locks when the 106-member International Olympic Committee votes later this month.

Adding a sport requires presentation and lobbying, and neither jiu-jitsu or MMA had the resources or muscle to compete with those two sports, as well as the denied candidates like baseball, softball and karate. Even worse, there was no opportunity; a prospective Olympic event first has to be "officially recognized" as a sport by the IOC, and neither BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-jitsu) nor MMA are. But that doesn't mean both should be excluded from a celebration on the world's largest sports stage.

Jiu-jitsu and MMA deserve to have a place in today's Olympics, and specifically, an Olympics in Brazil. The IOC adds sports based upon their global prevalence, and there is no question that both have a larger international presence than some IOC-recognized sports, including sumo, floorball, boule and korfball (no, I didn't make any of those up). Think about this for a second: tug of war is officially recognized as a sport and jiu-jitsu and MMA are not.

So how does one get around this political minefield of bureaucracy?

Some might suggest BJJ or MMA as demonstration sports; however, the Olympics eliminated demonstration sports years ago in an attempt to focus all attention on official sports. However, during the 2008 Beijing games, Chinese organizers received permission to include a popular national sport in the festivities. And what was that sport? Wushu, which just happens to be a Chinese martial art. The IOC usually does not allow a host city to have another international sports competition within a week before or after the Games, but in 2008, they allowed the Chinese to run a wushu tournament parallel to the Olympics. The athletes were allowed to stay in the Olympic village, the competition was contested on an Olympic venue, and the winners were awarded the same medals as those bestowed upon Olympians.

The wushu competition included 128 athletes from 43 countries. There is little doubt that a BJJ or MMA competition could draw a large contingent of athletes from remote corners of the world.

No one is trying to pretend jiu-jitsu is Brazil's national pastime; clearly soccer is the nation's true passion. But jiu-jitsu and MMA are two of the fastest-rising sports in the world, and they were given to the world by Brazil and its sons, the Gracies. Let them celebrate that contribution in front of an international audience. BJJ and MMA get bigger every year. Who knows how much bigger they will be by 2016? While MMA has certain visceral elements that make it a hard sell to a PG-event, either it or jiu-jitsu deserves the spotlight. Think of the excitement that would follow dynamic MMA stars like Georges St. Pierre, Gegard Mousasi or Jon Jones (or for you grappling fans, Braulio Estima, Alexandre "Xande" Ribeiro or Marcelo Garcia).

Right now there is little outcry about the exclusion of the two sports. By 2016, however, there may be a demand for their deserved inclusion.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Fighting Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Fighting