MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) is a combat sport based on the versatility and diversity of the techniques and martial arts used. Among the various disciplines that have influenced MMA, judo has played a significant role. Find out how judo in MMA has become virtually indispensable.
Judo, a Japanese martial art focusing on throws and immobilizations, brings unique assets to MMA fighters. In this article, we’ll explore how judo has become a formidable weapon used by more and more athletes on the tatami and in the cage.
What judo and MMA have in common
Judo is a martial art created in Japan by Jigoro Kano at the end of the 19th century. It is characterized by the use of the opponent’s strength against himself. Judokas learn to throw their opponents to the ground and control them on the ground. This makes judo a discipline particularly well-suited to MMA. In recent years, the dominance of strikers has been replaced by that of wrestlers.
In the UFC, the world’s leading MMA organization, the majority of champions or rising stars are exceptional wrestlers, like Islam Makhachev, Jon Jones or Khamzat Chimaev. But to be able to wrestle, you need to be able to bring your opponent to the ground, and judo is the perfect martial art for making these transitions.
Throwing techniques are essential, and those used in judo often enable the dominant position to be maintained once on the ground. Following this, fighters often go for a submission, an aspect of judo that is increasingly used, ground work called Ne Waza. Strangulation and key techniques are formidable tools for overcoming an opponent.
Judo and MMA are real chess games, where the best fighters are true scientists of their sport. Fighters have to analyze all their opponents’ weak points and use them against them.
As in judo, specific equipment is required: for men, just shorts and gloves. For women, it’s shorts and a top. In judo, the presence of equipment is more important and symbolic, and judogis have a special significance.
Judo techniques in MMA
Many judo techniques have proved effective in the MMA environment. Here are some of the most commonly used techniques:
- Throws: Judo projections are quick movements that allow the fighter to throw his opponent to the ground, creating an opportunity for strikes or submissions.
- Sweeps: Leg sweeps, such as “O-soto-gari” or “Uchi-mata,” are judo techniques that can upset an opponent’s balance and cause him to fall.
- Ground fighting: Judo also teaches solid ground control and immobilization skills. Judokas can hold their opponents down and prevent them from getting up.
The same techniques can often be seen, which surprise the opponent and are highly effective, such as Uchi mata, Harai Goshi or O Goshi.
On the ground, the most popular techniques are jujigatame and Kimura (reverse Ude-garami), named after one of judo’s legends, Masahiko Kimura.
Famous fighters using judo in MMA
Many renowned fighters have incorporated judo techniques into their MMA arsenal. One of the most famous examples is former UFC champion Ronda Rousey.
Ronda Rousey has used judo in MMA throughout her career, coming from a family of judoka with a mother who was world champion in 1984. She also performed in the -70 kg category, where she lost in the world championship final to France’s Gévrise Émane in 2007. She also took 3rd place at the 2008 Olympic Games.
As well as being a standard-bearer for women’s MMA, she’s also a standard-bearer for judo in MMA. Ronda Rousey very often uses her exceptional judo to take her opponents down and finish them in the stride.
Another less famous fighter, but just as effective with his judo during his UFC fights, is Karo Parisyan, an Armenian fighter who makes life hard for his opponents with his hard-to-counter throws.
More recently, the world’s rising MMA stars, Russian fighters Khabib Nurmagomedov, considered one of the best of all time, and his successor Islam Makhachev, are also judo experts thanks to their mastery of Sambo.
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