One of the biggest factors that has been holding back the growth of BJJ is that it is not particularly entertaining to the untrained eye. Even then, many BJJ fights can be so boring that it doesn’t really matter how experienced you are, you just don’t want to keep watching. It is important that BJJ becomes a sport that can be viewed by people that do not train. Combat sports like judo and MMA are so popular because anyone can watch them and receive some sort of visual enjoyment.
Although judo has similar practical benefits to BJJ, judo is far more dynamic visually. All methods of stalling are penalized and any continuation of it can lead to disqualification. Although BJJ may have some rules against stalling as well, they are not nearly as strongly reinforced as they are in judo. Matches are short in judo, and since all forms of stalling are illegal, judokas must be aggressive at all time and this creates relatively dynamic matches. Not to mention that the goal of the game is to throw your opponent – and it’s always exciting watching people fly, especially if it’s against their own will, right?
Right now in BJJ we are faced with positions that, although they can have practical applications, make BJJ matches too slow for non-practitioners to enjoy. Imagine you never did BJJ in your life and you saw two guys flop on their butts and interlocked their legs in the 50/50 position, you would change the channel after watching it for barely a minute.
The recent attempts of promotions to integrate the sub-only rule-set is a great effort to help make the sport more entertaining and it does work to an extent. However, this rule-set is not enough to appeal to the non-practitioner and that is the real goal.
A match with no time limits also sounds appealing, but who will want to broadcast 1 hour matches? Ultimately, there will have to be a rule-set that eliminates points and any stalling from multiple positions. Just like in the UFC, when a fight is not going anywhere on the ground after a certain amount of time, BJJ fights should be raised to their feet (or a different neutral position on the ground possibly) to keep the action going. Or, just like in judo, if you can maintain a dominant position for a certain amount of time on the ground, you win or receive some points before you are raised to a neutral position.
The point here is that the rules of the sport, in some way, must favor the spectator as well, not just the athletes. I am not saying that the IBJJF rules, or the no-sub rules should be replaced by something that makes the matches more exciting, but if the sport is to grow to the proportion it deserves, spectator BJJ needs to be more entertaining for the general public. To get BJJ somehow televised globally because of its entertainment appeal will push the sport and its industry into the right direction much quicker. Everyone in BJJ, including professional athletes, brands, corporations and other involved would all benefit immensely from this – it doesn’t hurt to digest these thoughts and see if it can be done.