How to make your Jiu-Jistu effective and powerful for MMA



If you want to be good at mma, you need to have decent striking skills but you should not forget the ground work. That’s why you need Jiu jitsu for mma because it will allow to submit your opponent and stay safe when you end up in bottom. However, if you come from sport of Jiu jitsu, you need to be careful because not all the techniques are safe for mma.

So how can you make you bjj efficient to mma? 

To adapt your bjj for mma, you need to remove all techniques where you exposed your back such as inverted positions or turtle guard because you can’t defend yourself against striking. You also need to learn distance management to avoid striking from ground and pound. 

MMA is a different sport compared to Jiu jitsu because the use of striking. Many bjj world champions tried to transitions to mma and were unsuccessful while others have great success such as Ronaldo Jacare, demian maia. Why make them sucessfull? Mostly because they had the perfect style of jiu jitsu for MMA.

The Recipe to Make Your BJJ Effective for MMA

Nowadays most of Bjj academies are sport oriented for competitions. So, people learn a lot of techniques that work well in a Jiu-jitsu match but that will not necessarily be effective in a MMA match. You can enjoy your jiu jitsu fancy techniques but if you are looking for efficiency for mma or even street defense, I suggest you follow the principles below.

Stick to Fundamentals and Basics

When Rickson Gracie and his brother were fighting in mma, they were using basic Jiu jitsu. It was simple, takedown, side control mount and arm bar to finish. If they were on bottom, no problem, closed guard, then arm bar or triangle.

Before doing any berimbolo or else, you need to have a strong knowledge of the basics of jiu jitsu which are effective for self-defense.

You need to master the close guard and be able to control your opponent. You need to know all the simple and effective submissions such as:

  • arm bar from guard and mount
  • Kimura/Americana
  • Rear Naked choke

When you have a deep understanding of the fundamentals of Jiu jitsu, it will be easier to transition to mma. You will know how to position your body to not get hurt. You won’t do techniques that expose yourself to striking. Jiu jitsu was made for self-defense and for challenging other martials arts with striking. So, if you know your basics, you will adapt you bjj faster.

Learn to get up safely

In a bjj match, if you got taken down, it is fine you can stay on the ground if you prefer. Maybe you are a good guard player and you will be able to submit your opponent from there. However, in mma, with striking involved, this is a different story. If you have no guard, your opponent can ground and pound you and the match will be over in a minute. Also, even if you got a half guard, it will be very difficult because you can attack a sweep or a submission and at the same time defending his punches. When somebody is on top of you, it is hard to block his punches. That’s why the main focus when you get down is to get back up as fast as you can.

In jiu jitsu, we learn the basic stand up. You do it during warmup, you fall on the mat and on your back and then you get up. Always with one hand to keep the distance against your opponent. This move is essential to mma and if you don’t learn it in jiu jitsu, you will get kick and punched many times when you try to stand up.

Don’t use your head to pass the guard

You like to do over under pass, double under pass, be careful because you will get hit in the face with your opponent kicks. In order to pass the guard in mma, you need to keep your head away from your opponent strikes, so you need to:

  • Pass with a strong and straight posture, you use your knee again your opponent’s leg so you can go through his guard.
  • Get half guard, throw some punches, try to get upper body control to move to side control or mount and finish the fight
  • Throw the leg to one side and get to side control

In jiu jitsu this translate to learn to :

  • pass half guard with heavy pressure on your opponent’s upper body.
  • Learn to pass the guard stand up

In this the video you learn a great way to pass the guard with your leg.

For example, passing the guard with knee slide is a good technique for mma. You drive your weight with your knee, you control your opponent upper body, so he can’t make any damages to you. You then transition to side control where he is very vulnerable to submission and punches.

Passing with your head must be done with carefulness because if your partner legs or hip are free, he can KO you with a kick to the jaw.

Don’t only pull guard fight for takedown

Pulling guard in mma is a bad Idea …. Even though you have an impassable guard in jiu jitsu. First without a gi, you can’t properly pull and setup guard. Secondly, your opponent can strike you with kicks and have more mobility than you. As a bjj fighter, you want the fight to happen to the ground, so you need takedowns. Judo takedown might be difficult, it takes a lot of times to be able to execute a clean throw. However single leg, double legs and body lock are perfect for mma, they are easy to learn.

Next time you train bjj, stop pulling guard every time, work on your takedowns. It is exhausting, however, you will be a more complete grappler.

Why playing guard learn distance management

Don’t get me wrong, you can play guard in mma but… It should only be when you have no other choices.

 if you get taken down, your main goal is to get back up!

 Rafael Lovato (Bellator Middleweight Champion)

However, if you can’t, get into a strong guard.

If you transition to a closed guard, you can control your opponent’s head and arm. You will avoid punches and be able to set top submissions such as triangle or armbar. Or you can work for a sweep and ending up in the mount position where your partner will be at your mercy. Or the last, take the back and finish with the rear-naked choke.

If you transition to a half guard, you will have to maintain distance with your knee shield. You avoid getting hit and your opponent can’t control your upper body. However, watch out for leg-locks. On your side, work on a sweep to get into a strong top position.

Build a strong top Game

When a mma fight end up in the ground, if the top fighter has jiu jitsu skills it is over. He will hit his opponent with many punches to set up his submission. It is very hard to defend punches and submission at the same times. If you know how to pass the guard and stay in side control with a lot of pressure, the match is practically over. If he tries to escape, you can hit him in the face to keep him busy. Then you set up your submission.

As a jiu-jitsu fighter, you need to be able to pin your opponent on the ground without getting tired. When you are in side control, your opponent should feel like you are heavy like a truck.

In other words, learn to use pressure while on top.

Train No gi

Training with the gi has a lot of benefits but if you want your jiu jitsu to be effective you need to train nogi as well. NOGI is mma without kicks and punches. If you can fight top and bottom in nogi, the transition to mma will be easier. First you will be able to use the same technique. The gripping system is always the same compared to Gi. Plus, No gi training relies more on speed and explosiveness like in mma. Whereas with the gi, you can slow down the pace and stall by gripping your opponent lapel.

All the great UFC fighters that have bjj background Jacare, Demian Maia said that they train both gi and nogi because they are complementary. However, when they have a match coming up, they focus their training only with nogi sparring because it is more realistic for mma.

As a Jiu-jitsu fighter even though you train with the gi, you need to learn not to rely too much in the gi and lapel. Like Marcelo Garcia, make your game effective for both nogi and Gi. This will make you a grappler that is dangerous with and without the gi.

You don’t want to be known as the lapel guy that has killer skills with the gi but helpless in nogi.

Techniques and position, you should avoid

if you stick to old school Jiu jitsu by mastering basics of Jiu jitsu switching to mma won’t be an issue. However if you like the modern bjj game, you will have to forget some moves:

Turtle guard

when you want to be pinned in side control, you go to the turtle to be able to recover your guard. However, in a mma match this is not possible because in turtle you expose your back and head to punches and knees. This is a bad place to be, you don’t see where the strikes are coming from. You can’t defend yourselves, well the match is pretty over.

Inverted guard/berimbolo

This type of move was designed specifically for sports Jiu jitsu. It allows smaller opponent to take the back of an opponent whatever their size. However, you can still try to berimbolo but you will get hit on the face pretty badly. You have no defense, and no strong grip, so it will be a very high-risk high reward. Against an mma fighter that has strong top game, it won’t work.

Double guard pull

In mma nobody will double pull guard to stay on bottom. If it happens, they will be asking to stand up. There is no point to double pull in a mma fight.

Guard that relies heavily on grips

Guard like spider guard, lasso, worm guard and lapel guard will be useless in an mma fight. They are only effective with the Gi. Wrist control in nogi and mma are great but it won’t work with such guard without the gi. Instead learn to play half guard, butterfly guard and closed guard.

How to incorporate mma into your bjj training.

The best way to put in practice you bjj skills is to join an mma gym. If your gyms already offer this class, you can then add one or two classes a week of mma. In the case your gym does not have mma classes, you need to find an mma gym. Depending on your budget it could cost you some money (70–100$ a month).

If you have the budget fine otherwise the cheapest way will be to train MMA in your bjj Gym. For example, during an open mat. But ask your professor for permission first … he is the boss!

You can grapple with mma gloves! You just need another team mate and you are all set.

So, it will be like combat Jiu jitsu, you grapple but you can throw punches. You don’t need to be throwing heavy punches. Just moderate punched to show your teammates that his current position are not safe.

Grappling with gloves is a good way to know if your game is well suited for mma and even self-defense. If you get it in the face constantly, you know that your jiu-jitsu is weak for mma.

In my academy, we do this sometimes during holidays when we don’t have any competitions coming up. Even, though we are competitions oriented it is important to us to make how jiu jitsu effective for mma and self-defense. Plus, we have people that do mma so they need to keep their jiu-jitsu mma oriented. 

When to Do Your First MMA Fight

If you want to an MMA fight, I suggest you join an mma gym. You can’t just go for an mma match with jiu-jitsu skills only. You need to learn strikes as well and takedown defense.

Also, you need to know how to move in an octagon and fight for several rounds. Then when you are ready, you can ask your coach to find an mma match at the amateur level for you.


Jiu has so many techniques, so in order to make it effective for mma. You need to stick to the essentials technique like Rickson Gracie, demian Maia. Transition from bjj to mma is very difficult for a lot of practitioners because they rely too much on techniques that are effective for sport jiu jitsu only. You will miss a big part of jiu jitsu which is being able to defend yourself.

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