I felt compelled to voice my humble opinion on the idea or rather concern that is promoting MMA fighter's to various jiu-jitsu belt levels without perhaps fully having earned it. Let me first state that I am an avid BJJ student and competitor and fully understand within the deeper community how sensitive it is to question a higher belt's judgement. I am also a wrestler-transitioned to jiu-jitsu, so I am fully aware of the differences in both styles and how they can flow and mesh with one another.
I felt that enough was enough however when I recently read that Josh Koscheck had been promoted to the brown belt level right before his fight with Frank Trigg on Sept. 9, 2009 from AKA grappling coach Dave Camarillo, under his modified "guerilla jiu-jitsu. "From what I have seen in past performances, a brown belt Kos is not, considering especially his rather dull performance against Paul Daley. His takedowns are some of the most powerful I have seen and a thing of beauty, but once the action hit the floor, Kos was able to advance position but inflict virtually no damage to Daley and only attempted one RNC (rear naked choke.) Against a fighter with a ground game as questionable as Daley's, Kos, a "brown belt" should have been able to maul Daley, yet seemed content to simply pass guard, sit, and work to mount at which point Daley would recover half-guard. In addition, when Kos had Daley's back, he crossed his feet together, an amateur mistake as if Daley knew what to do, could have made Josh footlock himself. I do not expect Josh to pull of flying armbar's or omoplata's or triangles, but as a dominant top, he could have at least looked for an armbar, a head and arm choke, a north south choke, something, or show us some GnP.
Similarly was the confusion over Rashad Evans receiving his BJJ black belt from Rolles Gracie right before UFC 108. Another odd coincidence, a belt promotion right before an event which many people have come to believe is to do with promotional reasons. What failed to make sense is that in traditional BJJ, one can not be promoted unless they train consistently with a gi. And yet Rashad does not normally train with a gi and yet Rolles found it necessary to promote him still. In addition, it took Rashad roughly about four years to earn his black belt, similar to that of BJ Penn, and trust me, Rashad is no BJ. During all the hub-ub, Renzo Gracie decided to clarify.
"It was a recognition from Rolles that Rashad should compete in the highest categories of gi-less grappling competitions. In the Gi-less World Championships for example you cannot compete in the Blackbelt division no matter how long you've been grappling unless a certified instructor gives you a belt for that division. Can I say that Rashad has worked his way up in the correct belt order with a gi? Of course not and I don't think as a pro fighter he will be doing gi tournaments anytime soon. I differentiate between gi and gi-less and apparently Rolles found him ready for the belt in gi-less. I don't think you should give someone a belt in a locker room. Not sure if that was Rolles' idea."
Even here Renzo question's Rolles judgement. As we have seen in Rashad's fights so far, while MMA is not always indicative of BJJ skill, it can certainly be a hint. But as we saw in Rashad's last fight with Thiago Silva, Rashad, like Kos was able to use his superior wrestling to take Silva down and yet Silva was able to immediately scramble back to his feet. Granted, Silva is a BJJ black belt himself, but a fellow black belt should be able to give him a little more of a fight and demonstrate a bit more control on the ground.
This is not to say that there are not legit black belts in MMA or that Rashad or Kos are terrible. But it has been long held that the BJJ black belt is considered the hardest to achieve, often taking ten years or more for the average practitioner. But its irks me and many in the community that simply because of their status as high level fighters and grappler's even that this somehow makes them superb on the ground. I have absolutely no objections for any MMA fighter, wrestler, whoever to want to learn and practice BJJ, but do it the right way, the way everyone else does. I've seen far too many TKD school's turn into McDojo's, handing out belts, if you hand them a check. This is not about the belt but rather what it symbolizes. A BJJ black belt should mean you're bad ass, a wizard on the ground, it means you've achieved something through years of hard work and dedication. I desperately don't want to see the sport I love so much be tarnished because of this.