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BJJ 2021 Year in Review

Updated: Oct 28, 2023


2021 was another year highly impacted by the pandemic. In 2020, nearly all of the major jiu-jitsu tournaments were cancelled, leaving room for many super fight promotions to shine. As such, many grapplers seemed to shift their focus from the major IBJJF tournaments to a more super fight heavy approach. Many of these matches were no-gi, leading to an even further divide in the sport. In 2021, however, the IBJJF brought back many of its major tournaments, including the Pan Ams, Brazilian Nationals, and World Championships. Additionally, after postponing the ADCC World Championships to September 2022, the organization brought back the trials this year. These events offered tons of action from new and veteran competitors, setting the stage for an amazing 2022 World Championship.

IBJJF Brings Back Major Tournaments The pandemic dramatically changed the jiu-jitsu competition scene since it started in 2020. Jiu-Jitsu’s major competition circuit, the IBJJF, was forced to cancel its events. Many competitors based their yearly training and competition schedules on the IBJJF calendar, so this was a very difficult time for many full-time athletes. In 2021, the IBJJF brought back nearly all of its major tournaments. The Pans, Worlds, No-Gi Worlds, and Brazilian National tournaments all took place, bringing back some sense of normalcy to the competition scene. Although travel restrictions were still an issue for many competitors, we did see most of the elite athletes in each division fighting for these titles. This year’s World Championships saw a new generation of athletes take gold in the black belt divisions, some of whom were only purple belts at the time of the last Worlds in 2019.

ADCC Trials Resume for 2022 World Championships ADCC was another tournament organization that was highly impacted by the pandemic. Originally scheduled for 2021, the ADCC World Championships were pushed back to September 2022. The first trials did, however, take place in 2021, starting with the European Trials. Following the European Trials were the East Coast Trials, which took place in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The event turned out to be the biggest trials in history. The trials saw some familiar names and also some new ones take gold in their divisions. Cole Abate of Art of Jiu-Jitsu won the 66 kg division, despite being just 16 years old and a blue belt at the time. Kade Ruotolo of Atos Jiu-Jitsu won the 77 kg division, after having a breakout year that also saw him capture the WNO Championship title as a lightweight. These performances, among many others, have set the stage for an epic 2022 ADCC World Championships.

New Styles and Rulesets Continue to Shake Up the Sport

As jiu-jitsu has continued to grow, so too has the divide between the various styles and rulesets. The IBJJF and ADCC are widely regarded as the most prestigious for gi and no-gi, respectively. However, many other organizations also continued to put on spectacular events. Fight to Win, Who’s #1, EUG Promotions, and BJJ Stars are just some of the promotions that put on stellar events in 2021. Now that athletes have more options for competition, they are also starting to have more professional opportunities. Bigger paydays will ultimately mean better competitors as athletes can start to focus more on their training and less on side hustles and other jobs needed to live the life of a professional jiu-jitsu athlete.

2021 was ultimately a great year for jiu-jitsu. Expect 2022 to be even more epic!

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