Earlier this year, Fight 2 Win announced that they’d be doing the production for ADCC, with F2W CEO Seth Daniels saying that they’d be adding “lights, video, sound, fire, and whatever the f*** else they want” to the competition. Over the weekend, we got to see the result of the team’s hard work, and really, the only thing left to say was “wow.”
ADCC has been unofficially known for years as the “Olympics of grappling.” This is where some of the world’s top athletes hit the mats to prove who is the best of the best, which always results in memorable matches and unforgettable upsets. But just as ADCC had taken grappling events to a whole new level, Fight 2 Win had also changed the way jiu-jitsu competitions could be presented since its emergence a few years ago. The promotion took a niche sport and gave it the star treatment that MMA has been enjoying for years, giving competitors walkout music, lights, smoke — basically everything you’d dreamed your walkout at your UFC debut would look like before you decided you didn’t like getting punched in the face that much.
Fight 2 Win’s goal was always to make jiu-jitsu more exciting than just the “mats on a gymnasium floor” scene that many grapplers and their loved ones have gotten used to, so to combine their production with ADCC seemed like an obvious decision. This year, ADCC finally looked like the event that it had always set out to be. Competitors who were at the top of their game and hoping to claim what is arguably the most elite title in grappling got the star treatment, and fans were treated to a spectacle that elevated an already enjoyable experience to something that they’d never forget.
Beyond this, this year’s production was in line with the direction that competitive grappling has taken in recent years. While many people lament the trash-talk that goes on in jiu-jitsu or roll their eyes at some of the no-gi apparel that comes out, the fact remains that grappling (and jiu-jitsu in particular) has become more fun to follow. More promotions (many inspired by Fight 2 Win) are emerging all over the world, each trying to create rule sets and production styles that can make jiu-jitsu entertaining as a spectator sport even for people who don’t train.
The success rate of this is mixed, to say the least, but by creating something aesthetically pleasing that makes the most primitive parts of our lizard brains happy (Bright lights! Loud noise! Pretty colors! SMALL MAN MAKE BIG MAN SAY OUCH!), we can both make existing athletes happy and pique the interest of people who had previously not even thought about stepping into their local academy. Yes, ADCC was great for the competitors, but the implications it could have for the sport go beyond the Anaheim Convention Center, especially through the power of social media. Jiu-jitsu people are notorious for sharing everything from post-training selfies to team photos to stripe promotions and more, and this year’s event gave us all plenty to post about. Big events with great production get lots of attention. Just as lots of non-gamers know about events like PAX, upping the “fun” factor at a grappling event that’s already a big deal can transform it from a big deal for grapplers into a powerful tool for growing the sport.
We all know that, regardless of music or lights or smoke, the real fun from ADCC comes from the matches. Had ADCC stuck to what it’s been doing for years, everyone in attendance (and watching from home) would have still remembered the moment Ffion Davies armbarred Bia Mesquita or the three moments that Lachlan Giles established himself as the Giant Slayer. But Fight 2 Win’s production took an already great event and made it something more. It was the proverbial icing on the cake that elevated ADCC beyond an elite grappling tournament and turned it into genuine entertainment. It was exciting, it was intense, and most importantly, it was unforgettable.