Record-breaking strongman and actor Hafþór Björnsson is known for being really, really strong and really, really big. With time, though, he may develop a reputation for being really, really good at jiu-jitsu.
Björnsson had teamed up with BJJ black belt Josh Palmer and UFC Hall-of-Famer Sebastian “Bas” Rutten for the next episode of Karate Combat. As filming was wrapping up for the day, the three guys decided to have a bit of fun on the mats. Palmer told the Jiu-Jitsu Times that the opportunity to roll with the man who played “The Mountain” on the hit TV series Game of Thrones was simply too good to pass up.
“I’ve been away from the gym since March due to COVID circumstances. Since this was a fully isolated and tested bubble over in Europe, it was safe to roll… but this was literally my second time grappling in over seven months,” said Palmer. “Couldn’t say no, though, obviously. How often do you get to grapple one of the world’s strongest men whilst Bas Rutten chimes in with instructions?!”
As a jiu-jitsu black belt and well-known BJJ and MMA commentator, Palmer has the experience and knowledge to back up his technique on the mats. But Björnsson is not your average human. At 6’9″ and over 400lbs, he has won multiple “Strongest Man” titles throughout the world (including “World’s Strongest Man” in 2018), in addition to numerous other strongman titles throughout the years. Needless to say, it was no great shock that in this instance, technique did not overcome size and strength. Palmer says his main focus was staying safe.
“My main goal was just avoiding injury. Hence why I didn’t stand up with him (though I did in some of the footage you don’t see) and why I didn’t try anything spinning through his legs. I had a couple of ideas, but honestly they went out the window as soon as he stood up.”
Thankfully, though Palmer did tap out, he emerged from his battle with Björnsson with his skull intact.
“I genuinely wasn’t sure how controlled he’d be but he’s a super nice guy, and whilst he did try and crush me, none of it was with malice. It’s just so much weight, size, and power. Once he’s on top of you, it’s kind of a no-win scenario for someone of my size/strength. But not engaging at all would’ve completely defeated the purpose of having a roll in the first place!”
Overall, the experience was an unforgettable roll captured on film between two nice guys.
“Plenty of the internet will have opinions about it all I’m sure, but the majority of people seem to grasp this is a truly elite pro athlete vs a regular joe and it’s really not that serious,” says Palmer. “I didn’t just tap for kicks. I’m stubborn as hell in sparring, but I legit got chest compressed so freaking hard from that. When I swung my hips out and he stopped it with a forearm to the throat… that was a LOT of pressure. Just did my best not to show it.”
You can watch Björnsson’s debut with Josh, Bas, and Layla when episode 10 of Karate Combat debuts this Sunday! Until then, check out their training footage below: