The Problem With Referees in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

The Problem With Referees In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu


Referees are an important part of all sports. If it weren’t for them, then we couldn’t have most of the organized sports at the professional or amateur levels like we do today. bjj dqHowever, referees are human too and they make mistakes, but what happens when they make a mistake too big to make or fix? A few weeks ago at the IBJJF World Championships, Paulo Miyao faced off against Guilherme Mendes. The fight went to a decision and just about everyone at The Pyramid believed that Miyao had just pulled off the upset against one of the best featherweights in the world. However, 2 of the 3 referees saw the fight in favor of Mendes, crowning him the champion. This left many people, including myself in shock. Just about everyone aside from the Atos team was in disbelief and booing the refs and Mendes both. So what happens when someone is “robbed” of a victory in a jiu jitsu fight or in any other sport for that matter? There is no appeals process in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and once the decision of who the winner is made there is no way to overturn it, no matter what everyone else might think. And from what I have seen is that many referees keep their jobs in the IBJJF and other organizations even after making terrible decisions numerous times, whether it be a bad DQ or making a biased decision at the end of a match.
Eliminating bias in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is not an easy task. For example, a referee could train with Atos but have a friend who trains with Brasa and gives him or her the decision against his or her opponent who is from Gracie Barra even though the Brasa competitor clearly lost. And we need referees who do train because they understand what is going on during the matches. If we have referees that have never trained before how are they supposed to correctly score a match if they have no clue what Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is? Not all referees are bad, most do a great job at their jobs. They are also human, after overseeing matches for hours at a time, you have to expect a mistake or two to be made. But what happens when that mistakes costs someone a gold medal at the Mundials?


One big issue I have seen in competitions recently is the issue of reaping the knee. Some people believe that this rule should be changed for upper level belts or removed completely. Others say that it is a necessary rule to prevent serious injuries. Many referees seem to have different views on this rule however. I remember last year I competed at a tournament and I got my knee reaped right in front of the referee and there was no DQ. There have been other times, where I have seen other competitors at major tournaments get DQ’d because they barely start to reap the knee or do not even reap it at all and just go for a foot lock.  This is just one of the many issues in sport jiu-jitsu that plagues the tournament scene due to inconsistent refereeing.
I do not have a solution to fixing this problem, but I do know that it is something that is becoming an issue in the competition scene of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. As Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu grows in popularity, the issues with referees will continue to grow until major changes are made. Let me know in the comments what you guys think about this! Does the referee situation need to be addressed? Or is it something that is not an issue?