The big opportunity for BJJ at the Arnold Classic

Written by John B Will

Opportunities for Australia’s elite grapplers to compete and be recognised are increasing, and 2015’s biggest is fast approaching.  

The Arnold BJJ Classic will cater to athletes of every size and skill level.

When I first stepped onto the BJJ pathway back in the mid ’80s, I could never have predicted that the art would have the popularity it enjoys today.

It was during a training trip to Hawaii with Tino Ceberano, Silvio Morelli and a group of Aussie martial artists that Wally Jay (RIP) regaled us with stories about these impressive Brazilian fighters, who were living in Los Angeles at the time. Silvio went on from Hawaii to the States and trained with them out in Torrance and upon his return to Australia, we got together every day for weeks to go through all that he’d learned. I then somehow scrounged together the funds for my own piligrimage to LA, where I trained with Stan Longinidis at the Jet Centre, with Gene LeBell at Los Angles Community College and visited Rorion Gracie and his cousins in their matted garage. To my knowledge, that early garage operation was the only ‘game’ in play outside of Brazil; early days indeed!

It was only several years later, after the Machado Brothers had relocated from Brazil to the USA, that the spread of BJJ outside of South America really began. A few more schools opened up here and there until the appearance of the first UFC in 1993 — after that, the ball really started rolling!

In those early days, BJJ competitions in the USA were a rare thing. I remember it being a big deal when the various BJJ entities aligned and got together to create those very first tournaments. The two decades that followed saw, firstly, the creation of the first wave of non-Brazilian Black-belts, many of whom went on to open their own small schools. Then came an influx of Brazilian Black-belts who saw an opportunity to make a living from teaching their art in the comparatively wealthy USA.

During that time, the demand for competitive opportunities also increased, not only in the USA but in Brazil. The International Brasilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IFBJJ), headed up by Carlos Gracie Junior (one of the sons of cofounder, Carlos Gracie Senior) began to grow and expand into other countries, mostly driven by enthusiasts from Europe and Asia-Pacific, making their way to Brazil and training at Barra Gracie (the original academy owned by the several of the Machado brothers and Carlos Junior). And so, the competitive arena grew exponentially. Today, the IFBJJ is the leading body for BJJ competition, but alternative entities have popped up over the last decade or so, too, chiefly because the BJJ community has a yearning for competitive opportunities beyond those offered by the IFBJJ, both amateur and professional. The BJJ community is now large enough (and still growing) to support these new competitive opportunities.

Every now and then, certain opportunities have arisen that (in retrospect) turned out to be ‘pivotal’ moments in the history of the combative arts. In March of 2015, we could see just such a ‘pivotal’ opportunity right here in Australia, with the presentation of the first Arnold BJJ Classic taking place in Melbourne.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is a well-known celebrity but his name is a brand in and of itself — and a powerful one at that. The Arnold Classic is a monstrous sports event that began in the USA, but has since spread to Europe and Brazil, and the support for it has been phenomenal.

The Arnold Classic isn’t just an event to which he has lent his name, though. With Arnie himself being there getting amongst it over the three-day event, it becomes clear how passionate he is about its success and longevity. The Arnold Classic will feature the biggest multi-style martial arts expo and competition extravaganza our country has ever seen; and if we go by what has happened with his other events (Stateside), we can definitely expect to witness something extraordinary right here in our own backyard, come March!

As the Arnold BJJ Classic is an independent BJJ competition that does not require affiliation of any kind, the organisers have asked me to assist in running it. Although my own schedule is a full one, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be a part of Australasian martial arts history in the making, and I hope our readers will also come along and be part of this amazing long weekend. Early registration is encouraged, as there may be a cut-off due to over-subscription. So, should you want to be a part of the biggest martial arts event this year, head to the web page listed below and lock in your spot right away.

Aside from the BJJ competition, there will be much more on offer, and all registration packs include a three-day pass to the entire expo. I hope to see you there!

Register for the Arnold Classic BJJ Tournament at: