On the same weekend as the ADCC in Sao Paulo, on the other side of the globe, Abu Dhabi’s love for jiu-jitsu continued with its first of four major tournaments in Tokyo. The United Arab Emirates Jiu-Jitsu Federation (UAEJJF) has planned a seasonal grand slam series that will not only help elevate the status of the sport, with its top-notch organization and TV broadcasting, but also provide prize money for black belt medalists.
The series is to be held in areas that the UAEJJF considers to be the hubs for jiu-jitsu around the globe, each in a different corner of the world; Tokyo for Asia, Los Angeles for North America, Rio de Janeiro for Brazil, and London for Europe.
Even though many of the top athletes were busy with the no-gi spectacle of the ADCC in Sao Paulo, the Tokyo Grand Slam was successful in attracting the likes of Marina Ribeiro, Celsio Vinicius, Gregor Gracie, Mike Fowler, Faisal Al Ketbi, Lagarto, Erberth Santos, Clark Gracie, Rodrigo Caporal, homeland favorite – Roberto Satoshi, and many others.
They crowned their first absolute champion with Erberth Santos, beating Lagarto twice. Erberth Santos is one of the top future ultra weights to monitor right now. He is only 21 years old and is doing remarkably well. It’s extremely exciting to ponder how he will fare against the other top athletes as time passes. It will also be interesting to see if he will be able to win the other three Grand Slams and become a kind of “grand champion”.
In addition to creating these awesome additional prize money tournaments, the UAEJJF will implement a ranking system that will give bonus prize money if you are highly ranked. The point system will take into account all the tournaments under the UAEJJF, this includes the global trials for the World Pro, the Grand Slam tournaments, and the World Pro itself (held in Abu Dhabi). However, it should be noted that you earn more rank points depending on the prestige of the tournament. So for example, you could win 3 trial tournaments, but you would gain more points if you win just one grand slam. The entire premise here, ultimately, is to further develop the struggling ‘profession’ of jiu-jitsu. Imagine a world where jiu-jitsu players had a chance to travel the world to make a living just training and competing.
Right now, people are complaining that the $2,000 USD prize money for the gold medalist is a joke. Sure, it doesn’t compare to boxing or even MMA. But if you’re complaining about the amount of prize money given, then maybe you should help the cause. Get more people to compete in these tournaments. If the tournaments grow, so will the prize money. At the end of the day, any tournament must be a sustainable business. Boxing and MMA pay out more because they have a spectatorship relative to the size of the paycheck. If you don’t like the prize money, get more people to watch jiu-jitsu too. If everyone does their part, we will most likely see our children making decent money in the sport.