A Breakdown Of The Top Tournament Controversies

Photo by: Kitt Canaria

Following any major Brazilian jiu-jitsu competition, there are a few persistent complaints that never seem to be resolved the next time around. The majority of matches go without controversy and more often than not, the most deserving competitor goes home with the gold medal. However, when problems do crop up, the BJJ community takes to social media to debate and discuss causes and solutions.

Here are some of the controversial things most debated after major tournaments.

1) Closeouts in Finals
It is not uncommon for two teammates to reach the finals of the black belt division in a major event. Perhaps the most memorable moment of the 2018 World Championships was Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida conceding the Absolute division Gold to friend and training partner Leandro Lo who was injured and unable to fight.

This is a BJJ tradition, but it leaves many fans dissatisfied when the highly anticipated final of a division is decided by a coin toss.

Possible solutions? Teammates on a single side of the bracket so they can not end up in the finals. Teams being allowed to enter one athlete per division (which would cause chaos in some of the lower belts with large teams of affiliates). Rules prohibiting closeouts?

2) Sand bagging
There will often be experienced, highly skilled competitors in the lower belt divisions looking to add a major title to their records.T he question arises “how long should a competitor be allowed to compete in the blue belt division?”

It is no secret that some competition teams delay promotions to give competitors a better chance to medal in a lower division. Should a blue belt competitor who medaled at the Worlds or Pans be still in that blue belt division a year later?

There are no set guidelines for belt promotions, so is it even possible to say that a blue belt competitor can not enter the blue belt division? How can the tournament organizer prevent sandbagging?

3) Controversial referee decisions
This is a problem in many professional sports from NFL football to World Cup soccer to pro tennis. In any sport where human judgement is necessary – like awarding takedown points or advantages for submission attempts – disagreements about the correct interpretation of the rules is going to happen.

At the most recent World Championships, top competitor Keenan Cornelius was particularly vocal about a referee “non call” which cost him a win.

Keenan Cornelius Fires Back At IBJJF After Controversial Decision Ends His Climb To The Top Of The Podium

The fact is that humans are not perfect and sometimes do make the wrong call in split second events and high pressure situations. While this is understandable in principle, it is of little consolation to the athlete who suffers the loss of a precious title or thousands of dollars because of a poor official call.

Even if the referees call was correct, often times the athletes and coaches are heavily biased and emotional due to the stakes and fail to see the situation objectively and clearly. Emotions come into the equation and admitting that the right call was made is difficult.

Better training and qualified referees are the most obvious solution. A clear description of the rules would also help avoid interpretation and the human factor. Without video instant replay on the side of the mat and unambiguous criteria for scoring, getting 100 percent accuracy in awarding points is not possible.

Accusations of bias and favoritism will mar some close matches and leave both teams and fans unhappy.

How would you solve some of these problems in major BJJ competitions?


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