Rejoice, grappling fans! IBJJF world champions will finally be getting paid. Well, the black belt world champions will. According to FloGrappling, the pay scale will be equal for both women and men. The dollar amount itself will be contingent on how many competitors register for a division (2-8 = $4,000, 9-16 = $5,000, 17-32 = $6,000, 33+ = $7,000) with the exception of the absolute division which will pay out $10,000 regardless of bracket size.
A step in the right direction
While the dollar amount may not be on par with what top athletes are receiving for competing in shows like Polaris or the prestigious ADCC tournament, this is undoubtedly a huge step in the right direction for the IBJJF. Too long has the monetary reward for IBJJF world champions been whatever profits they’ve made off seminars. Now these grapplers who put their blood, sweat and tears into winning a world title will at least have a few bucks to show for it. It’s fitting, since the organization has been championing for BJJ to be considered a true “professional sport.”
There’s still a long way to go
As mentioned above, this is a leap in the right direction, but the IBJJF would be unwise to rest on its laurels. These payouts are still less than many submission-only or super-fight organizations are paying. Additionally, these payouts only go to the champions. Many rival organizations pay the loser(s) as well. Athlete pay isn’t the only issue the IBJJF faces, though. They have a completely separate problem entirely in a rule-set which facilitates trying to win by advantages as opposed to attacking and submitting an opponent. Comparable organizations incentivize action. Action creates entertainment, which is necessary to build a fan base. That leads to athletes being paid accordingly.
It’s not crazy to think the rapid rise in popularity of these other organizations was a catalyst in the IBJJF changing its ways. It simply wasn’t going to be able to attract the best talent without compensating them. We are still a long way off from the IBJJF’s pay scale reflecting the prestige of winning a BJJ world title. This is a start, however. More importantly, it’s hopefully a sign of further good changes to come.
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