Brian McLaughlin: “BJJ Needs Rules Change To Increase Fight Relevancy”

Brian McLaughlin: “BJJ Needs Rules Change To Increase Fight Relevancy”



Brian McLaughlin is the head instructor at Precision MMA. He holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Rob Kahn (the first person to receive a black belt under the legendary Royce Gracie). He is recognized across the country as a top instructor and competitor.

After Rickson Gracie’s project to refocus on some of the old values of BJJ such as self defense and throwing techniques, Mclaughlin wrote a piece on his guest blog on MMA.tv where he argues that BJJ needs rules changes to increase fight relevancy.

Here is how he proposes to do it:


” #1 – Reward being on top
Unless someone is ignorant of basic submissions being on top in the guard is not a bad place to be. In MMA getting on top and staying there is perhaps the biggest determining factor for who will be successful in the grappling range. However, in sport jiu-jitsu students train to immediately jump to their backs and embrace this inferior fighting position. The reason is no points or advantage is garnered by being on top and passing the guard is very difficult and laborious. However, when a fighter is on bottom they can work freely to sweep because of the absence of striking. Additionally, even if they are unable to sweep or submit, if they are at least close they will earn advantages and ultimately the victory. There is no sense of urgency for the bottom man, no incentive to make something happen. Jiu-jitsu rewards top mount heavily because of the damaging strikes that can be landed to the face. However, if one were to watch Frankie Edgar vs BJ Penn they would see that despite never fully passing BJ’s guard Edgar was able to land devastating strikes from top guard. Jiu-jitsu awards points for takedowns, but in the case of a guard pull. In a fight it doesn’t really matter how one arrives on top, but once they are there they are undoubtedly in the superior position. If BJJ fighters want to remain relevant in MMA they must incentivize being on top.

#2 – Escape Points
Wrestling is often cited as the best base for mixed martial arts. In my opinion the number one reason for this is that wrestling heavily emphasizes escapes and reversals. In Jiu-jitsu, a practitioner that goes from bottom guard to top guard is awarded two points. However, one reverses from bottom mount to top guard is given nothing. The end result is the same in these two scenarios. Additionally, in terms of a fight, the person that originated in bottom mount improved their position to a greater degree than the person originating in bottom guard yet this massive momentum change results in zero points. If a person is in bottom side control and they roll their opponent to achieve top side control they receive no points despite having a clear position of advantage. The escape point is more valuable for creating strong top players than dynamic escape artists though. In jiu-jitsu once someone has achieved the mount, side or back they don’t have to concentrate on truly holding the position or pinning their opponent down. If they escape it won’t affect their scoring and they already were awarded the points for the position so why expend the energy to stop a bridge attempt? This is not only true for escaping the worst of positions. BJJ in no way incentives standing up after a takedown, this affects the grappling range. The current trend in BJJ is towards standing passing. However, the distances at which these passes are executed often provide space for the bottom man to easily stand up themselves. In MMA the strategy for someone fighting a BJJ artist on the ground is simple – stand up. In Jiu-jitsu no escape point is given so bottom players rarely ever work back to their feet and top players never feel the need the smother or pin the bottom man. If takedowns are neglected in BJJ, countering the stand up is non-existent. There are numerous online Jiu-jitsu resources on the web today, on any one of them you will see at least half a dozen ways to pass the half guard, but I’d be surprised if any showed countering a stand up.

#3 – Expand the definition of dominant position
Side control, knee on belly, mount, back with hooks, these are the only positions that can be considered dominant in sport jiu-jitsu. BJJers are conditioned to achieve these positions since they are they are the best points to control, strike, or submit an opponent. While clearly those are very advantageous spots, there is a wide array of additional positions that are worth rewarding.

Jiu-jitsu awards for passing a person’s legs, which although very important is not nearly as important as by passing a person’s ARMS. If your grappling style provides dominant hand, wrist and arm control then you will be close to unstoppable in a real fight. BJJ practitioners currently only work towards arm pins as mean to pass or submit and not as ends in themselves. There are numerous positions which eliminate an opponent’s arms and warrant points, but here are a few of the most common.”


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