Jiu Jitsu Times recently posted a video of a purple belt rolling with Johny Hendricks (a blue belt), and one of the comments openly criticized the purple belt for not doing well against Hendrix. And then it struck me: many jiujiteiros rarely if ever encounter a professional MMA fighter, and far fewer ever encounter a UFC fighter (and fewer yet get to roll with a former or current UFC champ.)
I have the privilege of training on the same mats as many professional fighters, and have gotten to roll with the likes of Stipe Miocic, Matt Brown and Jeff Cox (a former UFC fighter.) Every time I get to roll with our high level fighters, it is deeply humbling.
The experience of rolling with a professional fighter is difficult to describe but Ill go ahead and try anyways:
They are not normal.
Certain moves, certain maneuvers may not work against a pro fighter that would work against your average BJJ guy, regardless of rank. I tried to sweep Stipe and he quite literally grabbed one of my legs with one of his hands and casually tossed it aside. I was going 100%; he didnt even really seem to be trying.
Similarly, other professional fighters that Ive had the privilege of rolling with have been inhumanly athletic. Technique CAN work against them, but it requires a certain acuity that many of us simply will never possess. I have experienced success while rolling with some pro fighters, but that success was less a result of me being better than a result of them not necessarily being used to pure grappling.
MMA fighters are among the toughest athletes in the world. Their work ethic makes ours in the BJJ world look silly, even at a high level. Look at what happens to many top BJJ guys who enter MMA, they either learn to strike at a decent level or they quickly fail and fade away. Look at guys like Roger Gracie and Vinny Maghalaes, both of whom are world class grapplers and both of whom couldnt really cut it in the UFC.
Im strictly a BJJ guy, and I hold both Gracie and Maghalaes in high esteem. However both arent really cut out for what it takes to be good at MMA. Being a top level BJJ practitioner doesnt necessarily mean much in the world of MMA FOR A REASON.
Now there ARE a few guys who are top level BJJ practitioners who do very well in MMA, but my point still stands
Granted when you throw a gi on an MMA fighter who normally doesnt train in the gi, they may not feel comfortable. However their raw physical power coupled with their awareness will inevitably make them a formidable opponent regardless of your belt rank. The reason a person gets good enough to be a pro MMA fighter is that they are good enough to survive against good grapplers when striking is involved. Very often this translates to high level grappling.
This is not always the case. There are some MMA fighters who are terrible grapplers. However their mental toughness and athleticism, yet again, makes them a lot to handle regardless of your belt rank.
If you dont regularly have opportunities to roll with pro MMA fighters, seek them out. Find a local MMA gym and go in when they have a grappling night. Gi or no gi doesnt really matter. Look the gym up online and figure out who their top guys are, and roll with them. Don’t be surprised if, regardless of your rank, you get smashed by a white belt or a blue belt.
Emil Fischer is an active blue belt competitor under Pablo Angel Castro III training with Strong Style Brasa and is sponsored by Pony Club Grappling Gear and Cruz Combat. For more information, other articles, and competition videos check out his athlete pages at www.facebook.com/emilfischerbjj www.twitter.com/Emil_Fischer and https://instagram.com/emilfischerbjj