What Are the ADCCs and Why Should You Care?

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This is a guest post by Ben Thapa, part of the Bloody Elbow Grappling Coverage Team

In an era of alphabet soup, we fight fans have our own shorthand - MMA, BJJ, UFC, KTFO and so on. Well, BloodyElbow and MMA Nation is out to change that acronym vocabulary by expanding our submission grappling coverage to include previews, live-blogs and recaps of the ADCCs on September 24th and 25th in Nottingham, England. The phrase "ADCCs" may have come across your eyeballs before, only to slip by without much notice. This must change and we'll tell you why.

The Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC) Submission Wrestling Championship is the super-elite, invitation only competition in which the best of the best get worked over by the true apex predators of the grappling world. In short, the ADCCs are perhaps the closest thing that we will ever publicly see to the no holds barred tournament from Enter the Dragon. Incredibly wealthy backer with extensive martial arts experience? Check. The hundred best grapplers in the world? Check. A trip to a far-off location for a two day long tournament? Check. Big prizes to the winners? Check. Unfortunately, Bolo Yeung will likely not be present.

The creator (and near total sponsor) of the ADCCs is Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed al Nahyan, the half-brother of the current president of the United Arab Emirates. You may have heard of Sheikh Tahnoon before, as he is a part-owner of the UFC and has sponsored a number of high-profile tournaments in the Brazilian jiu-jitsu and submission grappling world for many years now. Sheikh Tahnoon also happens to be a black belt in BJJ and regularly trains with some of the greatest legends submission grappling has ever known. His immense wealth and magnanimity has allowed the creation of a giant stage for submission grappling to be shown to the world and we can now watch the tournament live through a BudoVideos.com stream. We at BloodyElbow and MMA Nation believe that this competition, featuring some of the current and future stars of MMA and the best grapplers in the world, is worth bringing to your attention and will cover as much as we possibly can with our Grappling Team.

With such a large group of the strongest competitors in submission grappling being invited to the ADCCs, the weight class championships are highly respected and the winner of the Absolute division has a very good case to be acclaimed as the Greatest Grappler on the Planet. Champion wrestlers, world-class judo players, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu players, Luta Livre fighters and Sambo competitors have all entered and won medals in the past. Today, experienced, highly skilled grapplers from all over the world and from all walks of life are ready to compete with every inch of their being to test themselves, to build careers, to vindicate their training, to honor their loved ones and to win the lucrative cash prizes in Nottingham just one week from now.

Some of the finest ground game wizards in MMA today like Fabricio Werdum, Demian Maia, Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza, Ricardo Arona and Roger Gracie are gold medal winning champions at these competitions and have brought their skills into MMA to our general enjoyment as well. In years past, MMA stars like Georges St-Pierre, Mark Kerr, Tito Ortiz, Matt Hughes, Diego Sanchez, Urijah Faber, Vitor Belfort, Jake Shields, Ricardo Arona, Josh Barnett, Chris Weidman, Hayato "Mach" Sakurai and Shinya Aoki have competed (with varying amounts of success). Gracie legends like Renzo and his cousin Royler dominated their weight classes in the early tournaments. Eddie Bravo made his career by triangle choking Royler in 2003. In that same year, Marcelo Garcia, perhaps the greatest pound for pound grappler in the recent history of the sport, became a 19 year old champion and began his decade of world dominance. However, it is the Absolute champions who receive the lion's share of the glory. Braulio Estima capped off his 2009 season - perhaps the finest year of any grappler not named Roger Gracie - by winning the ADCC Absolute championship. This year, in a Superfight, Braulio will be facing Jacare Souza, the 2009 Superfight champion in a highly anticipated match. Jacare has confirmed that he will be present and ready to regain the taste of victory after narrowly losing his Strikeforce middleweight title to Luke Rockhold.


The rules are simple. There are multiple weight classes for both the men and women, with an open weight competition being held afterwards for the divisional champions and those who want to enter. No striking, biting, gouging, greasing or single digit manipulations. The winner is determined by submission, points or referee decision. There are basically no limits on what submissions can be applied and to encourage submissions, the first half of each match is not scored with points. If the match continues past the halfway mark, points are assigned by the referee for positional improvements and sweeps. If the match is tied on points after time is up, the referee picks a winner. Stalling is penalized. Slamming is allowed to escape a submission. The competitors are free to wear whatever they want (although Tetsu "Hadairo" Suzuki tested that decency standard with his nude-colored booty shorts in 2005). Saulo Ribeiro, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu legend, famously entered his final ADCC match (before retiring from the competition scene) wearing a kimono top.

In the early days of the tournament, the rules were more wrestler-friendly (stalling was more common) and many medals were won by behemoth top-control wrestlers like Mark Kerr. Due in part to rule changes over the years and the lures of MMA fame and fortune, the tournament has recently become dominated by those from a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu background who now live, teach and train in the United States or in Europe. A handful of competitors this year will be fighters recognizable from Strikeforce, UFC, WEC or other fight promotions. Fabricio Werdum is perhaps the best heavyweight grappler in any major MMA organization and he is likely to defend his 2009 ADCC title. Rousimar Palhares is a terror for anyone who likes having working legs and could make a title run in the 88 kg bracket. Vinicus Magalhaes pulled off one of the best MMA submissions of 2011 with his mount gogoplata in April at M-1 Challenge XXV. Paulo Filho may or may not show up, but he has serious grappling game and could collect some arms. Jeff Monson has been a mainstay at high-level grappling tournaments for years and he travels the world to pick up MMA fights wherever he can.

It is worth noting that several prominent invitees have chosen to withdraw due to MMA commitments. Takanori Gomi, the ADCC Japan divisional winner, will fight Nate Diaz at lightweight at UFC 135. Vagner Rocha, an invitee with serious game, fights Cody McKenzie at lightweight on the undercard of UFC Fight Night: Shields vs. Ellenberger. Roger Gracie, an invitee, has chosen to focus on MMA after his recent loss to Muhammad Lawal - which has his entire 99 kg bracket thankful and hungry to win in his absence. Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva, an invitee, withdrew from the +99kg division, citing his need for surgery after the loss to Daniel Cormier.

Despite the list of competitors still being somewhat fluid, you can rest assured that on the 9 square meter mats in Nottingham, eighty highly skilled men and sixteen highly skilled women will duel to determine who is the best in the world at submission grappling. Stay tuned for more coverage from the Bloody Elbow Grappling Team.

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