Question: Why My Professor Prioritizes MMA Fights Over Jiu-Jitsu Tournaments

Jiu Jitsu times is a blog by jiujiteiros for jiujiteiros.  Sometimes our followers reach out to us and we feel that their questions or concerns merit a grand response.  We recently received the following message:

“First off i would like to say that i enjoy your page and the positive postings.

I was wondering if I could get advice from you about a situation:

My professor has my utmost respect, and his teachings of the gentle art is superior.  I was glad to have trained under him.

I did notice how the gym was promoting the MMA fighters on their fb page, less about the bjj guys who are competing.  Mind you my instructor is very busy with the MMA team he started. 

I’ve been noticing my teacher has not been coaching the jiu jitsu tournaments and lets the assistant coaches do it; this is kind of concerned me.  But he does teach classes at the gym. I just don’t see him often at the BJJ tournaments.  I do notice that he is always at each mma fight. Even the BJJ assistant coaches don’t know where he is at.  I have no bad blood, I might see myself going back there someday, but not anytime soon; just depends where I am at in my life and my journey in the jiu jitsu.

I also honestly feel the gym is going spotlighting the mma fighters instead of the entire gym. Your advice and feedback would be appreciated. Thanks.

I’m going to respond using as much of my own experience as possible:

MMA is far more lucrative and popular right now than BJJ.  I say this specifically because MMA can be viewed on TV whereas BJJ is currently only available through live streams.

There are a few different kinds of arrangements currently in the realm of jiu jitsu teams/academies, one of the more popular ones is the “team within a team.”

For example:  I train at Strong Style Martial Arts and Fitness Center (strong style) which houses the Strong Style MMA team, the Old School Boxing Team and Strong Style Brasa.  My coach, Pablo Angel Castro III is not only responsible for coaching me and my teammates (Strong Style Brasa) but is ALSO responsible for being the Jiu Jitsu coach of Stipe Miocic, Jessica Eye and other very serious MMA fighters.  To be fair I have personally trained at many different schools, gyms and basements over the past decade and a half, and I have never had a more attentive coach.

Guess what: if there’s a tournament going on that my teammates and I want to go to that happens to be on the same day as one of Stipe’s fights, Stipe gets priority.  This is not because my teammates and I are not important, but rather because of what is on the line in MMA (money, prestige, title shots etc).

Your jiu jitsu journey is very important, to you.  Mine is very important to me.  However aspiring professional MMA fighters are putting a lot more on the line than you or I are (I am assuming from the tone of your email that you are a relatively casual practitioner, as in you are not going to be the next Buchecha, Caio Terra or Bernardo Faria.  Forgive me if that assumption is incorrect!)

If you want a coach and a gym that will focus their entire attention upon the jiu jitsu team, you need to find a school that exclusively houses a jiu jitsu team, one that has no MMA program.  These exist and often have very rigorous and enriched jiu jitsu programs.

As for the fact that your assistant instructors are there to coach at tournaments: this too is not uncommon.  I personally have resented that sort of arrangement in the past, and am very pleased that my professor will travel with us to competitions to coach, but he is the exception, not the rule.  My best suggestion is to ask up front at every academy you consider how often the coach is actually there to teach and how often he (or she) comes to tournaments with the team.

I’ll tell you something else: not every coach is a good “tournament” coach.  I’ve seen some that simply put are inept when it comes to really getting inside of their competitors’ heads and helping them succeed.  Some coaches are inherently impatient.  The question you should always look for the answer to is: are you dealing with an INSTRUCTOR or a COACH.  An instructor can show you moves really well, a coach can inspire you to succeed and lead you to greatness.

In summary, to answer what I think is your question: your professor was doing what many and most professors do and that is prioritizing.  He gives the jiu jitsu team as much time as he can while at the same time focusing on the more lucrative and upwardly mobile MMA team.  If you don’t like it, there are other options to explore!

I really hope this helps, and best of luck to you on your jiu jitsu journey!

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Emil Fischer is an active black belt competitor under Pablo Angel Castro III training at Strong Style Mixed Martial Arts and Training Center near Cleveland Ohio ( and teaching at Ararat Martial Arts and FItness Center. For more information, other articles, and competition videos check out his athlete pages at and Emil is sponsored by Meerkatsu (, discount code EmilKatsu), Eddy's On Coventry, North Coast Cryo ( NottaRookie, YM ( discount code COOKIES), Defense Soap ( discount code COOKIES) Impact Mouthguards ( discount code EMILIMPACT), and North South Jiu Jitsu Underwear


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