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Wrestling vs BJJ: Which is better for MMA?

Wrestling vs BJJ, you only have a limited time to train every day so which will it be?  If you’re exclusively training Wrestling or BJJ, that might be enough time.  If you’re training MMA though, you might find that you need to make some decisions around time management.  Grappling is a huge component of Mixed Martial Art so which style should you invest your time into?

  • Wrestling and BJJ whats the difference

    To the untrained eye, wrestling and BJJ can seem like the same thing. After all, they’re both grappling arts right? Well, sort of.

    To put it simply, wrestling is based on taking your opponent down and controlling them from a top position. It’s generally accepted in the MMA community that wrestlers can ‘choose where the fight goes’.  What does this mean? Basically, it means that a wrestlers skill set allows them to dictate whether to take the fight to the ground or keep the fight standing.

    Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or ‘BJJ’ is widely considered to be the antidote to wrestling. Traditionally practiced in the ‘Gi’ (or Kimono) BJJ emphasizes controlling your opponent from a bottom position.  Known as the ‘guard’, BJJ players are well equipped with sweeps and submissions from when their back is on the mat. Their skill set also include dangerous attacks from the majority of grounded positions. This allows them to attack, sweep or submit at anytime the fight goes to the ground.


    To find out which is better for MMA, Wrestling vs BJJ, let’s trace the success that these styles have had inside the cage.

  • The BJJ era

    When MMA first made its way into the public eye, it was full of sensational BJJ highlights. Especially in the early UFC matches where a skinny Royce Gracie dramatically tapped out much larger opponents with incredible grace and skill.

    Gracie won 3 of the first 4 UFC events using BJJ techniques that his family perfected over generations of Brazilian fighters. For his efforts, The Gracie name would forever be enshrined in the world of Mixed Martial Arts.

    Once people saw its effectiveness, BJJ became an integral part of an MMA athletes skillset. Its popularity boomed and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu schools began popping up everywhere around the world.

    Here are 5 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu stars that transitioned into MMA and made history.

  • The Wrestling era

    Once wrestlers caught wind of BJJ (and learned to deal with the submissions) they started to dominate the MMA landscape.

    Athletes who had been wrestling since childhood began to successfully transition into Mixed Martial Arts.  Fighters like Matt Hughes and Randy Couture ushered in a new era of ‘MMA Wrestlers’ who successfully adapted their wrestling skillset to MMA.

    This success established wrestling as a ‘must have’ skill for any MMA athlete, proving the importance of takedowns, takedown defense and scrambling for dominant positions.

    If you want to familiarise yourself with the rules of wrestling, check out this article from Rookie Road.

  • Modern MMA

    There is no doubt that Wrestling and BJJ have both made an impact on modern MMA. These days, it’s hard to find a high-level MMA card where fighters aren’t trained in at least wrestling as well as BJJ.

    Rory Macdonald vs Jon Fitch majority draw

    With the MMA landscape constantly evolving, fighters must continually grow with the sport if they want to stay competitive.  With this in mind, MMA gyms may still specialize in certain styles depending on their environment.  They won’t survive however unless they integrate BJJ and Wrestling into their MMA program.

    So what’s the verdict? Wrestling vs BJJ, which is better for MMA?

  • The verdict

    Modern MMA has become a dynamic sport utilizing the best techniques from different styles of combat sports.  It’s for this reason that both wrestling and BJJ are important for MMA.

    In order to make the most of your available training time, instead of asking ‘wrestling vs BJJ, which is better for MMA?’ you should instead try to figure out ‘which parts of wrestling and BJJ will make my MMA game better?’

    2 MMA athletes grappling on the mat

    You’ll need to learn wrestling to take your opponents down as well as defend against takedowns.  Wrestling will also help you get into dominant positions on the ground and control.

    BJJ will help you stay active off your back and equip you with techniques that you can submit your opponents with.  You’ll also learn how to reverse positions and end up in dominant positions.

    At the end of the day, knowing which positions you’re vulnerable in will help you identify which techniques you’ll need to learn. Having the ability to pull from both wrestling and BJJ will be way more valuable than having to choose between the two.

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