Reader Question: “Should I train BJJ in the gi if I want to do MMA?”

We get reader questions from time to time, and any opportunity to help our readers is a great opportunity!  We recently got this question from one of our readers:

“Should I train BJJ in the gi if I want to do MMA?”

I will do my best to answer this question…

Short answer: Yes.

If you want a well rounded grappling game, you should train in the gi.  The reason for this is that submissions that can be done both in the gi and in no gi are generally much harder to escape when done in the gi.  If you can technically escape a submission in the gi, escaping it in no gi will be much easier.

My coach often likens training in the gi to using other training tools.  For example: the speed bag.  Boxers hit the speed bag in a manner that doesn’t really look like the way they normally punch, but hitting the speed bag increases precision, timing and speed.  People who train wearing weight jackets don’t do so because they intend on competing while wearing a weight jacket, they do so because it toughens and strengthens them.  The BJJ gi acts in many ways like both of these training tools.

However I think that you MUST train no gi.  There’s something unique about not having any fabric to hold onto.  We must learn to not rely on gi grips if we want to be effective in a real fight, as those grips may not be available to us.  Jiu Jitsu is about being ready and dangerous no matter where a fight goes, and training in the gi as well as no gi will help us be as ready as we can be, at least insofar as grappling goes.

Take a look at UFC champs both past and present, many train in the gi or have trained in the gi.  Most of the very best no gi competitors also happen to have a strong base in the gi.  There’s a reason for this.  Any training is good training, but varied training is the best training.

Do you NEED to train in the gi to be an excellent MMA fighter?  No.  I’ve seen impressive MMA fighters, including some UFC fighters, who don’t put the gi on at all.  In fact, a controversy exists surrounding some high level BJJ guys promoting MMA fighters who don’t train in the gi.  You can be an excellent grappler and never train in the gi.  However, if you are asking the question of whether or not you should train in the gi, the answer is “yes.”

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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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