Making Judo relevant in the UFC?

Without a doubt in my mind, Judo has its place within the UFC arena. That is not to say that this post is about the irrelevancy of Judo and its throws, but how to highlight the Judo aspect within the UFC. We can look at the history of the UFC and its brilliant practitioners of MMA that uses all aspects from throwing/take downs, stand up, and ground work. Judo has its place and we continually see fighters incorporate throws in their game. We have Ronda Rousey and her continuous use of the modified harai-goshi to her powerful juji-gatame.  Urijah Faber in UFC 175 performed a beautiful ouchi-gari to catch his opponent off-balance and onto his back.

UFC 175-RR-throw(watermarked)

Ronda Rousey throws Alexis Davis with a harai goshi (sweeping hip throw) at UFC 175

The real question I intend to explore is about fostering and emphasizing the Judo aspect in the UFC. Think of this scenario, you’re sitting there watching your favourite fighter on the big screen. Seconds tick by as they trade blows. They strategically pace and stalk each other, before one fighter catches a mistake and clinches the other. The fighter hugs the opponent and loads them on their hip. Your palms get all sweaty and you’re about to vomit on your sweater already, mom’s spaghetti. You know it is coming, the reckoning, and the throw – the harai-goshi. And then Joe Rogan screams in his head set, “HUGE JUDO THROW.” Wait. What? Huge Judo throw? This is UFC 195, and we’re still using “judo throw” to describe. Every. Single. Judo. Throw. Yet, Mr. Rogan can correctly identify that one specific rubber guard transition into space cadet astronaut dog fist? (Not a slight against 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu – just sayin)

Making Judo relevant in the UFC will mean making Judo visible. That means correctly identify and using accurate judo terminology. Like any sport, having well-qualified sport commentators on certain aspects of UFC/MMA could help educate fans.  Perhaps during matches with well known judoka (Hector Lombard, Karo, Ronda) someone like  Matt D’Aquino, Travis Stevens, or Jimmy Pedro could act as an additional play-by-play commentator. You can include training segments and coaches discuss throwing tactics. We see this in football, rugby, hockey, and other sports. Certain plays and common terms (like the fumble, interception and kick off) is a form of communicating from one fan to the other. Terminology is certainly an aspect that the UFC will have to focus on.  Does it have to be Japanese? In my opinion, it doesn’t necessarily have to be – sweeping hip throw, outside reap, inside hook are cross over terms from wrestling.

What do you think?  Are the Japanese terms for judo throws a barrier for those trying to learn about judo from an outside perspective? Will the use of judo increase in UFC?

Post in the comments below!

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14 responses to “Making Judo relevant in the UFC?

  1. Definitely annoying how far down google search results I have to go to confirm that ronda rousey used a “koshi guruma” and not a “judo throw” or “judo hip toss”.

    It is part of why we (judoka) feel like second class citizens in the MMA world. I’m sure it would just sound like giberish (though admirable giberish) to the casual observer, though.

  2. Good idea. I’m available as a “judo” commentator. I’m supposedly articulate and have done judo since 1968. More important than me, though, is getting SOMEONE knowledgeable about judo.

  3. It would help, but I think the biggest barrier is just how hard it is to transition judo to MMA outside of maybe footsweeps. If more people were doing it and talking about it, then the terminology would presumably be more common.

    • I think transitioning to no gi might be one of those things that’s really weird at first and then after a nominal amount of practice it just clicks.

      And I agree that the more people doing the sport would lead to the terminology being more common. One of the interesting things that seems to be coming up is more and more gyms that do both judo and BJJ. I just wonder if this is just our area or if this is happening across North America though.

  4. I think identifying the judo throws by their English names is a good start but eventually this would turn into Japanese terms. They already use other foreign terms such as omoplata so it really isn’t hat difficult. I can think of two reasons why it is important. Firstly, if someone watching UFC hears a term and want to google then they will get much more information googling the correct japanese terms. Secondly the Japanese terms are actually very descriptive and as people start to learn at a higher level this could be useful.

    • Good points -definitely starting with English would be the way to go. That would probably pique interest in the different types of throws and would eventually lead people to the Japanese names.

      I think the one drawback of Japanese terms though (not that I disagree with using them) but it seems like a lot of judoka like to get carried away with arguing over the fine minutia for the naming of a throw. You’ll see this in the comments of judo in mma articles all over the internet.

      Just like you were saying, the Japanese names can get REALLY descriptive. For example Ronda’s favourite throw in MMA is ‘technically’ a harai makikomi with a koshi guruma grip, but most judo throws can be broken down into their approximations or family of throws based on their motion. If you’re having a normal conversation with a dojomate you’ll probably just say, “oh did you see Ronda’s Harai”, or in english terms – a sweeping hip throw right? It would be annoying for someone to say, “well actually – it was a koshi guruma harai makikomi”

      But over time hopefully it will be a natural progression to hearing “Harai Goshi” by Joe Rogan as it is hearing him say “omoplata”. I just hope people (not you – judoka in general) don’t get all hung up on the exact details.

      • I agree with you too 😉

        Those pedantic arguments around the names though are actually people discuss the fine detail of those techniques, this is what leads to understanding.

  5. Well if it follows the normal BJJ practice they will just make up another word for Harai goshi etc and then claim it as a quintessential BJJ technique. Omoplata is after all just Ashi Sankaku Ude Garami. And the list goes on.

  6. I think the re naming of judo throws to english terms will help the listeners. Like you stated about Joe Rogan and the use of 10th planet descriptions, these are not bjj terms he is using it is the 10th planet language. I believe if the commentator stated “oh nice cowboy” (which is one of the wrestling terms for koshi garuma) and then the same commentator said koshi garuma after the fact people would subliminally start to learn the japanese terms and in a few years know them.

  7. The trouble is, in my opinion, that people who do the
    UFC fighting, would only pick the judo technics that they can use to end with a punch. But, what they must understand is to learn these throws on the move, would take them a long time to master, plus they would need to go through the judo grading system.
    Just to find in what level of judo they are at.
    To even know personley what technique to use in a UFC contest, they must reach a judo black belt level.
    There are some cage fighter coaches, want to abandon the rules that is needed to be in a governing body, but who would like to creat there own rules, to suit them. In which is dangerous, for a coach
    and player.

    • I can understand why MMA fighters would want to pick throws they can start and end with a punch, after all it is really hard to get into a clinch position without first wading in/getting hit with punches.

      On another note, I do agree that it takes a long time to master throws, and for the most part judo can’t be learned as random tricks (wrote about it here: https://artofgrappling.com/2014/07/22/how-to-use-judo-in-mma/
      However, if you train enough standup, and pick a few throws anyone can pick them up after a while if you are training with skilled practitioners (probably at least a few years of practice). Urijah Faber comes to mind, having employed a bunch of judo throws lately,
      (see here: https://artofgrappling.com/2014/07/09/urijah-faber-vs-alex-caceres-judo-throws-sweeps-analysis-and-gifs-at-ufc-175/)
      and upon investigation I believe it’s because team Alpha Male has incorporated a few young judokas into their team.

      I also agree that black belt (probably even ikkyu and competitive nikkyus) would have about the right level of skill to apply throws easily in no-gi situations.

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