Unwritten BJJ Rule: Whatever Happens on the Mats, Stays on the Mats

At this past weekend’s Polaris 3 event, we all witnessed the first “Stockton Slap” in BJJ as Jake Shields asked AJ Agazarm what the five fingers said to the face. During the build up to their highly anticipated showdown, Agazarm made the media rounds and spoke of his dominance over the former Strikeforce middleweight champion in the training rooming. Those comments, along with other comments in social media and antics during and after their match resulted in the human fly swatting incident below.

One of the many unwritten rules in BJJ, MMA, and wrestling gyms is “whatever happens on the mats, stays on the mats. This line somewhat ambiguous and is open to interpretation, but here are the basics of it.

  1. Don’t take what happens on the mat personally: The physical back-and-forth or heated words exchanged during training should not carry over to life and friendship off the mats. We all know what we signed up for when we started training in a combat sport. There will be times where we train hard and go hard against each other in order to make each other better. As long as there was no intent to injure or any gross-negligence, let it go.
  2. We don’t talk or brag how we sparred on the mats: Training is just that. Training. There are good days and bad days on the mats and whatever happens ,on the mats stays in the room. There is no bragging or gloating to friends or on social media about what happened on the mats. As training partners and teammates, we all agree to keep aspects of training private out of respect for the school, coaches and training partners.

In regards to what went down between Shields and Agazarm, Agazarm broke the second part of the rule when he told BloodyElbow.com 

“I used to own Jake in the practice room, I used to submit him in the practice room. Jake has got good wrestling, he’s got a little bit of knowledge about submissions and he’s really tough, but no matter how you match us up, I am better than him.”

This isn’t the first incident in professional combat sports where an athlete talked smack about past training partners to hype a match. Prior to UFC 170, UFC light heavyweight Patrick Cummins went on FS1 and revealed he made current UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier cry and broke him during their wrestling practices at the Olympic Training Center.


As Cormier pointed out during the segment, Cummins violated the code of “whatever happens on the mats, stays on the mats” and left out the context of the training session. Since Cormier was the top wrestler heading to the Olympics, the training sessions, training partners, and drills were all geared towards making the current UFC champion’s life a living hell. What Cummins leaves out of the smack talk is that Cormier was likely facing a fresh opponent each round, every day, during a long and grueling training camp. By the time he faced Cormier on the mats, Cormier had likely already run through a gauntlet of NCAA champions and All-Americans and was having a bad day when Cummins got the better of him.

Also, it is just training. It is not a real match or fight and the objectives will differ for each training partner. While one lower belt might approach the roll as the finals of The Mundials, his or her upper belt training partner’s objective will be to test a new guard retention technique or to work out of compromising positions. So while the round might appear as if the lower belt got the better end of the round from the upper belt, the objectives and purpose of the training session were very different for each person since it is “just training.”

In the end, it is important to be respectful of your academy, coaches and training partners. Part of the respect is to keep whatever happens on the mats on the mats. In this day of social media, we all need to keep this rule in mind and be humble in how we live on and off the mats. Some days you are the hammer and some days you are the nail, but we can all be respectful each and every day.






  1. well kid this is called trash talking- it’s not very common in bjj but if you go back to the old school rivalry in the 90s and 2000 era here in brazil you’d see a lot of that.If you never seen this before i sugest you leave your first world super clean bjj with shoyroll zebra mats and starbucks and take a look at the real bjj here in brazil.You’re talking non sense

    • Everyone should act like animals because that’s what you do in Brazil? Leave the fly blown internet cafe and go back to your mud hut and single flicking light bulb.

  2. Good article , talking shit is easy; especially in the limelight or over the internet. Demonstrating respect and being a solid training partner takes time and effort, like most other things worth doing. Thanks for writing, I enjoyed reading .


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here