There is fighting, and Then there is fighting
Khabib Nurmagomedov completely dominated and then submitted Conor McGregor in the fourth round of UFC 229 in Las Vegas at the start of this month. What happened after put a whole new meaning to the term “terrific performance” when he jumped out of the cage and started to fight with one of Conor’s trainers, BJJ Black Belt, Dillon Danis. Here we want to hear your views on self-defence, provocation, honour, and fighting. Why? Because we are a Jiu-Jitsu school, and we teach self-defence and not just competition preparation, and our motto is Respect. Honour. Loyalty. Family.
Sportsmanship, Honour, and Fighting
Let’s get some of the factors and facts clarified before we look at self-defence and fighting. The general rule, according to Australian law, regarding self-defence is that a person is allowed to take any defensive or evasive steps that they believe to be necessary. From there on in, it can get hazy as to self-defence, provocation, and the perception that you are going to be harmed. So was Khabib fighting in self-defence when he jumped the cage? Perhaps not, but he had definitely been provoked by Dillon, who had been insulting Khabib’s family, religion, and country. So he was fighting for his honour as a real fighter does. Honour comes before the money. Khabib posted on Instagram on October 12, after the fight:
And one more thing, you can keep my money that you are withholding. You are pretty busy with that, I hope it won’t get stuck in your throat. We have defended our honor and this is the most important thing.
According to commentators, such as Joe Rogan, who were ring side, he was provoking Khabib throughout the fight. While we are not trying to persuade you to take sides, Dillon has a track record of bad behaviour, and he and fellow fighter, Mansher Khera, were expelled from Marcelo Garcia Jiu-Jitsu Gym in April, 2017. Despite the provocation, much of the rhetoric in the press about Khabib jumping the cage seems to be negative in that what he did by taking the fight outside of the cage was somehow poor sportsmanship. A fighter should not fight out of the cage. Let’s get one thing straight, he was not going to fight some old man on the street, he was going to fight another fighter. However, the press has been critical.
Commentator, Joe, was overtly scathing in his criticism of Khabib just after the fight. "This is horrible. This is the nastiest thing I've ever seen," Rogan stated. He added, "Khabib jumping out of the Octagon and attacking someone in the crowd is so stupid and so unnecessary and so foolish after such a spectacular victory”. He has since come forward to clarify that Dillon was provoking Khabib through the fight. Just as a side note, Conor got his pay out, but Khabib’s $2 million fight purse is still being held.
So let’s clear this up. It is okay to fight in a cage, and that is sport, but once the fight goes on outside of the cage it is foolish and bad sportsmanship? Even if he is being provoked? Is this always the case? Did Jiu-Jitsu and MMA start out as a sport like golf, ballet, or soccer? Not really, here we turn to “vale tudo”, or “no rules” fighting.
In 1980, Rickson Gracie, Hélio Gracie’s third biological son, faced Rei Zulu in his first ever vale tudo match. He was thrown out of the ring, but went on to get a rear naked choke on Zulu.
The Gracies and Vale Tudo
Vale Tudo, or no rules fighting comes from Brazil, where, in the early 20th Century, combat contests known as “vale tudo” were gaining popularity at carnivals and festivals. These were no rules fights that pitted two men against each other in a ring or open space for the entertainment of on-lookers. There were no time limits, no weigh-ins, and no rules. These matches were the basis of modern MMA (i.e. UFC) fights. These matches were not an organised sport as MMA is today, and there were no promotions, belt or weight classes, or championships. Also, fighters represented their styles and their schools more so than just themselves. So it was a bit more of a team focus, you fought for your team.
Vale tudo did not develop in a nice clean progression that can be traced back to one original fight. The growth was organic, and evolved and changed, and was even banned in the USA, until it developed into something that strongly resembled modern MMA. So cage fighting had its humble beginnings as street fighting and no rules fights in Brazil.
So what do the Gracies have to say about vale tudo? They were at the forefront of issuing challenges for vale tudo matches. The Gracie challenge was first issued by Carlos Gracie in the 1920s to promote and develop the Gracie's style of jiu-jitsu. It was also show that it was superior to other styles of martial arts. The vale tudo matches typically featured a smaller Gracie versus a larger or more athletic looking opponent. Carlos and Hélio Gracie and their sons defeated martial artists of many different styles such as boxing, judo, karate, and wrestling, while experiencing few losses. So BJJ was not a nice organised sport as we see today. It was not just for self-defence, but was also a legitimate fighting style.
That sentiment has not faltered. In 2014, at the Metamoris 3 professional jiu-jitsu competition, Royce Gracie went backstage to confront Eddie Bravo about comments made against the Gracie family, and, unsurprisingly, things quickly escalated between the two fighters until a trainer, Jean Jacques Machado, was forced to intervene. Here is what Royce Gracie stated about their altercation:
I met him after the fight and he was there, throwing up. Royler dominated him so much, he did so much strength, that he threw up after the fight. I told him that I liked what he said after the fight, but didn't like the fact that he always talked trash about Royler and my family. He stood up and started yelling, so I also raised the tone of my voice and told him I didn't like it. I'm a vale-tudo fighter. I'm not a fighter to score points of fight with time limit. Let's (fight) with no time limit and with punches allowed. I'm a vale-tudo fighter, I don't compete in (grappling) tournaments.
Going back even further than the Gracies, jiu-jitsu tournaments in Feudal Japan were dangerous affairs. While there was not an organised schedule of tournaments, there were competitions between jujutsu schools. Informal rules were developed during these competitions that laid the foundations for 20th Century competition rules. In the historic competition rules, the most dangerous techniques were actually restricted, and bouts ended when one competitor was in submission, pinned, thrown flat on his back, or incapacitated. However, despite these rules, it is evident that early jujutsu competitions were dangerous, and, knowing they might not return alive, competitors often bid their families farewell before travelling to a competition.
The Samurai fought with limited rules which paved the way modern fighting, and the Gracie family promoted BJJ through fighting. A long history of fighting eventually became MMA and then evolved in to the UFC juggernaut that we see today.
Fighting and cage jumping and you
Here we want to hear your views. Is what Khahib did wrong or bad sportsmanship? Is UFC getting too soft? So how far have we drifted from our roots?
ROOTS BJJ News
ROOTS HQ is the team writer for ROOTS BJJ. ROOTS HQ will cover all the news and views on BJJ. Drop us a line through the contact page if you have any news to share.