Multiple-time IBJJF World Champions Ana Carolina Vieira and Luanna Alzuguir have created a petition advocating for equal pay and opportunities for women in competitive jiu-jitsu. The petition targets multiple “decision-makers” in competitive jiu-jitsu, including the IBJJF, Newbreed, Kasai, Fight 2 Win, Polaris, Sub Stars, BJJ Stars, the UAEJJF, and EBI, while also naming ADCC in the text of the petition itself. So far, over 400 people have signed the couple’s petition, nearing the 500-signature goal in mere hours.
Vieira and Alzuguir present their argument in the petition thusly:
“A Petition for Equal Pay and Opportunity for Women in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Athlete: a person who is proficient in sports and other forms of physical exercise.
– “Athlete.” Def. 1. Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster Dictionary, web. 16 Sept. 2019
In the definition of the word athlete, there is no gender specified, thus concluding no disparity should be made between male and female. Gender inequality is the idea and situation that women and men are not equal. Gender inequality refers to the unequal treatment or perceptions of individuals due to their gender.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is one of the fastest growing sports. Regardless of this fact, many of the big federations for Jiu Jitsu have a discrepancy between male and female payouts as well as opportunity.
Here are the problems that need to be addressed:
1. Inequality in the prize money at tournaments. (See below graphs)
2. Women compete in less diverse weight categories and combined ranks.
3. Opportunities presented by the biggest federations in Jiu Jitsu are only open to male competitors. I.E. IBJJF Grand Prix, ADCC Open Class and Superfights, UAEJJF King Of The Mat.
4. There is not enough media attention for female athletes. One example being an article written and posted on September 8th by FloGrappling entitled, “The Massive and Unfair Size Differences in the ADCC Women’s Divisions.” This article was taken down not even 24 hours later.
Due to the lack of opportunity to compete for big payouts, women are unable to solely live off of prize money throughout the competition year. This contributes to the absence of media coverage and subsequently many sponsorship opportunities.
We believe that these problems can be solved. If the federations and women competitors address these issues, the women’s division will grow, become stronger and even more exciting to the spectators. It is unfair to receive different treatment due to the gender. Women train the same amount of hours, compete at the highest level, and have to mentally deal with the disparities mentioned above.
Women have been competing in this sport for over 30 years (1985), with the first female BJJ black belt being awarded in 1990 to Yvone Duarte. Yet, we are not able to receive the same treatment as men in our sport. We petitioned for women’s divisions to become a reality at the Mundials (1998), we petitioned for the divisions to be separated for all belts (2011.) At ADCC, women weren’t included for 7 years, and when we were invited, there was one open weight class and 8 women competing (compared to 5 weight classes and 16 man divisions.)
We are speaking up and petitioning for the equality of pay and to be given the same opportunity as men for competitions with high payouts. The demand for equal pay is not one that has been asked by female jiujiteras alone. According to www.womenssportsfoundation.org the U.S. women’s soccer team, the U.S. national ice hockey team, the WNBA and Big Wave surfers have all taken steps for equal pay in their respective sports. Some teams have sued their governing bodies, others boycotting major competitions and protesting. This has brought more media coverage for the issue and, in some instances, has brought the change of equal pay for both genders.
This is not a matter of the amount of women competing, as of September 2019; there are 226 ranked female black belts. In 2019, 63 female black belts registered and competed at the Worlds, with 68 the previous year. This is about the motivation from federations and the support we receive.
In this petition we are kindly asking the Federations to review these circumstances and make a change, for the women, and for the advancement of the sport.
Thank you kindly,
The women of Jiu Jitsu and the men that support our cause.“
Seth Daniels, the CEO of Fight 2 Win and part of the team for ADCC 2019 and 2021, shared and responded to the petition, speaking on the behalf of both ADCC and his own promotion:
“I can only speak for F2W and ADCC on this subject….F2W has paid out more money to women in jiu jitsu in the past 3 years than all other companies combined over the course of their history. We DO NOT look at gender when we make fight offers. There are many metrics considered like competition success, success on our f2w stage, social reach, and if they move the needle in terms of viewership. Our highest paid athlete is female.
As for ADCC 2021 once we finalize location and venue we will address the womens divisions. This is something that is a top priority.
As for IBJJF , **** them.”
Many top jiu-jitsu organizations have seen alarming disparities in the way men and women are represented. Last year, a massive online movement was started to open up more female master divisions in IBJJF events. The movement was ultimately successful, and about a year ago, the IBJJF quietly added female Master 2-7 categories for more of their events. Having long been criticized for the lack of pay that their competitors received, the IBJJF also announced earlier this year that they would be offering cash prizes to World Champions and paying male and female competitors equally.
ADCC itself has been criticized over the years for its lack of female competitors and divisions, with the 2019 installment seeing just two weight classes (under-60kg and over-60kg) with just eight competitors per division. In contrast, the male division had five weight classes with sixteen competitors per division. At the most prestigious grappling competition in the world, where competitors have to either qualify or be invited, women made up just 17 percent of the total competitor pool and had to compete against opponents who could have easily weighed twice as much as them. Vieira herself found herself at a significant size disadvantage this year when she faced Gabi Garcia in the quarter-finals.
Thankfully, both Daniels and ADCC host Mo Jassim have both confirmed that addressing the issues in the women’s divisions will be a top priority for the 2021 event. Now that it’s been confirmed that Jassim and Daniels will be working together for the next ADCC, we can expect that over the course of the next two years, the “Olympics of Grappling” will help set the bar that Vieira, Alzuguir, and countless other BJJ practitioners are hoping to see.
You can sign the petition here.