UFC lightweight champion and former sambo player Islam Makhachev rocked the grappling community last month by questioning the validity of a BJJ black belt. Speaking with Daniel Cormier ahead of his submission win over former champion Charles Olivera, the Russian made light of Olivera’s grappling credentials.
“All these [other guys who Oliveira has faced] Chandler, Gaethje, Poirier… All these guy have nothing [no grappling skills]. On the ground, I don’t think [so]…” Makhachev told Cormier
After Cormier pushed back by highlighting Dustin Porier’s own black belt rank, Makhachev called its validity and meaning into question.
“Black belt. Who give him [Porier] that? We have to check that brother. And we have to cancel many black belts [because] they make Jiu-Jitsu look bad. Because a lot of guys have black belt but I don’t know [if they have the skills],” Makhachev concluded.
With even ADCC champions like Rodolfo Vieira being submitted in UFC competition by lower-ranked grapplers, Makhachev’s comment was not seen as unfounded. Another example of BJJ belt’s questionable use is visible in former UFC lightweight champion turned-soccer star Khabib Nurmagomedov training in a BJJ white belt despite his obvious high-level submission skill.
The wider jiu-jitsu community had yet to respond to Makhachev until ADCC silver medalist Craig Jones weighed in yesterday.
“I honestly agree [with] Makhachev when he says A lot of people deserve to have their black belts taken away,” Jones said in a video to the B-Team Jiu-Jitsu youtube page. “I kinda agree with that.”
Jones cited Makhachev’s ability to hold opponents down and isolate them, a skill much less emphasized in professional BJJ.
“I think what those guys [Makhachev’s camp] are doing is sort of superior to what we’ve been doing for a long time. [Because] we built an entire sport around conceding bottom position,” Jones said. Despite his praise of Makhachev’s in-cage dominance from the top, Jones is not calling for a total overhaul of the sport.
“I’m not one of those guys that says we should grapple like people are striking us,” Jones said. “But I believe we should grapple like the top guy knows how to pass and pin. A lot of guys are fine being on bottom because they’ve never rolled with someone who knows how to pass a guy or pin someone.”
Igniting a fierce debate once the clip was posted to the BJJ World Instagram page, Jones took to the comments to clarify his remarks.
“Don’t mean it literally,” Craig wrote, “I just think saying you’re a black belt doesn’t hold much weight anymore.”
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