In 2008 the IBJJF Mundials moved from Rio de Janeiro to California. This was a logical move considering that many of the top BJJ athletes were moving there to start new lives and help BJJ grow in the US. Also, the facilities at the IBJJF’s disposal were far better than anything available in Rio. As Rodolfo Vieira stated in an interview last year, the conditions of the arenas in Rio were so horrible that even toilet paper in bathrooms was hard to come by. So holding BJJ’s most prestigious event in the USA only made sense to uplift the level of the sport. It also made sense from a business stand point since the world championship would be more of a viable business in the US. There are more brands interested in sponsoring the tournament and advertising to an eager American market.
However, in all the attempts raise its prestige, by moving the tournament to one place, it is much harder for many unbelievably talented practitioners to showcase their skills on an international level.
The most BJJ is still practiced in Brazil
As popular as BJJ is getting in the United States, Brazil is still the king when it comes to percentage of the population training. This means that Brazil is still producing the highest amount of practitioners and a higher percentage of possible champions. Besides cities like Rio de Janeiro, there are Sao Paulo and Manaus that continue to develop monstrous athletes that should be showcased to the world. Of course there are many jiu-jitsu athletes that fortunately can make it to the USA, but there are many who are unable to do so.
A lot of hidden talent cannot afford trips to the U.S. to compete
So perhaps many of you are thinking that if there is a will, there is way. These Brazilians athletes that are “so good” can find the means to get to the USA if they need to compete. Well sure, but that will still limit a lot of the athletes that could be out there. Think of it from this perspective; if the world championship alternated between Rio and California every year, do you think the exact same American athletes would show up every year? The cost for any American to compete in Cali is clearly less than flying over to Brazil – the airfare alone can be quite high. Now if that’s the case for Americans, it’s only much worse right now for the Brazilians having to go with the USA. Firstly, flights from Brazil to the USA are more expensive than reverse (USA to Brazil). In addition to that, Brazilians have to deal with the unfavorable exchange rate and getting American visas. It’s much easier for an American to get a visa to Brazil.
So what is the solution? Mix it up a little. The IBJJF has the ability to hold the Mundials in Brazil again. Maybe it can be there every two years. We might be surprised with the results - we could see some new champions. What do you think? Your comments are appreciated.