Mainstream Rolling: How One Man Is Striving To Make Jiu-Jitsu An NCAA Sport

Image Source: Chris Martin via Facebook

There is an ongoing debate in the jiu-jitsu community about ways to get BJJ in the Olympics to “legitimize” the sport, serving as the benchmark to making jiu-jitsu a mainstream sport likened to that of soccer or baseball. Chris Martin of Milwaukee Wisconsin recently took the first steps to get jiu-jitsu recognized as a college sport by holding the first ever college jiu-jitsu dual meet on April 27 between Marquette University and Northern Illinois University.

Martin is a purple belt instructor at Nova Gyms in the Milwaukee area and head coach of the Marquette University Jiu-Jitsu club, and he was looking for ways to get his students more competition experience. Originally he created a “Marquette versus the world” scrimmage that was open to all school in the area which turned out to be a huge success. During the tournament, the Marquette students brought their friends to the scrimmage. Unlike a typical tournament, this scrimmage had the atmosphere of a typical Marquette basketball game, with students yelling and cheering for “their team.”

It was during at this moment that Martin saw a way to make jiu-jitsu more appealing to the masses. If you can create a product that gets the audience involved and brings that “high energy” environment found at many university varsity sports events, it would go a long way to making jiu-jitsu mainstream and maybe even one day make jiu-jitsu an NCAA sport. Martin admits it might end up being difficult deciding on whether to follow an IBJJF ruleset or an EBI ruleset, but after working with NIU, they coordinated the event and decided to follow an EBI ruleset to keep the action exciting with the following modifications to the rules to accommodate a team setting:

Point System

  • A win by Submission (0:00–3:00 min): Six (6) team points.
  • A win by Submission (3:01–6:00 min): Five (5) team points.
  • A win by forfeit: Six (6) team points.
  • A win by default (injury): Six (6) team points.
  • A win by disqualification: Six (6) team points.
  • A win in Overtime (one round EBI style): Three (3) team points


Each match is six minutes and submission-only. If neither fighter gets a submission in the six-minute round, then the match goes to overtime with one EBI overtime round (fastest submission, or fastest escape).

For this particular event, both teams decided that there would be no attacks below the waist, no slams, can-opener neck cranks, wrist locks, or bicep cutters. (Note: most participants are new to BJJ, so they wanted to make the matches safe and fair as possible.)

Competitors had the option of coming out in gi or no-gi for each match, and their opponent could then decide whether or not to follow suit. The format is designed to be reminiscent of early UFC events.

Marquette went on to beat NIU 30-21 and Martin is looking to network with other jiu-jitsu clubs in order to coordinate additional meets. They are currently in the early stages of creating conferences and hope to be able to have regional and sectional events in the near future. For students at a university that don’t have a jiu-jitsu club, Martin is in the process of creating a program that would help the interested student(s) to start a club as well as instruction on how to maintain the club and encourage growth.

Getting jiu-jitsu recognized as a mainstream sport is the goal of many practitioners within the community. It is through the hard work of people like Chris Martin that this may someday be possible. Through this program, it is the hope that students receive scholarships for college or help others find business mentors within the community to help them grow in life after they graduate. Whatever the ultimate outcome, it is essential that programs like this exist to strengthen and grow the jiu-jitsu community.

Video source: Chris Martin’s YouTube channel

If you’re a member of a college jiu-jitsu club that would like to participate in one of these meets or you’d like to start a jiu-jitsu club at your university, contact Chris on his Facebook page.


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