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UPDATED: Craig Jones Invitational (CJI) vs ADCC?

UPDATED: Craig Jones Invitational (CJI) vs ADCC?

There’s been a lot of buzz recently about a new grappling event. The Craig Jones Invitational (CJI) is offering a $1,000,000 prize to win the tournament, and $10,001 for athletes just to show up. This year, the CJI is looking to take ADCC head on, in terms of viewership and prestige. This has created a lot of questions, regarding a comparison between the two (the main ones can be found at the end of this article). 


Craig Jones

Started by the master of Mexican Ground Karate himself, Craig Jones is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt and a very accomplished grappler. The Australian has most notably taken the silver medal at ADCC twice.


Armed with a witty sense of humor and a very relaxed personality, Craig Jones has been a fan-favorite for some time now. He constantly makes jokes where he is on the receiving end of the punchline, showing the fans that he won't always take himself too seriously (outside of competition) and will publicize his past mistakes to give everyone a laugh. 


He may be second place on the podium, but he’s first in the hearts of many Jiu Jitsu practitioners (sorry Craig, we had to)


As one of the biggest names currently in Jiu Jitsu, due to his skill and social media presence, many people questioned if he was going to be competing at this year’s ADCC. On a podcast, he said that he could make more money with his current business ventures (seminars, selling online instructionals) than he would if he won ADCC’s $10,000 prize. For this  reason, he announced his withdrawal from ADCC.


ADCC

ADCC, or the Abu Dhabi Combat Club, is a very prestigious and reputable submission fighting tournament. Considered the Olympics of grappling, this annually-held competition holds qualifying matches that eventually lead to the best Jiu Jitsu practitioners meeting on the world stage to face one another. Past legends like Marcelo Garcia and Roger Gracie have added to their legacies winning this tournament, while current grapplers like Gordon Ryan and JT Torres look to continue adding accolades to their already successful competition careers.


Conversation Topic: Athlete Pay

Some fans believe that the $10,000 prize offered to winners of ADCC is not enough for the fast growing sport of Jiu Jitsu - something that a number of competitors agree with. For the long, exhausting hours spent training and the blood, sweat, and tears that competitors give to the sport, there has been online criticism that the monetary prize should be higher – especially since most competitors spend most of their hours in a day training to win and teaching classes. 


This combination of training and teaching multiple times per day creates a schedule that would not allow them to have a conventional full time job (where they would comparatively earn more money), so this training/teaching combo becomes their full time job. This leaves them at a crossroads. 


They want to chase their dream and win ADCC, but to do this they have to train hard multiple times per day and teach multiple classes per day to earn enough money that would cover their basic expenses (food, water, shelter, utilities, car payments, phone bill, and anything else that is required to live in this modern age). However, there isn’t much money in Jiu Jitsu for the majority of competitors, unless you are already a world class competitor and have the reputation/credibility to sell a lot of online instructionals, so some athletes have to sacrifice training to earn the money required to be able to live a basic life.


Athlete Pay: ADCC vs CJI

This is what Craig Jones is looking to change. Instead of ADCC’s $10,000 prize -- that someone would only receive for winning one of the most difficult grappling competitions against the highest-level, world class Jiu  Jitsu competitors -- the CJI is offering $10,001 for competitors just to show up.


If you aren’t familiar with combat sports financial terms, no worries - it’s pretty simple. “Show money” is the payment athletes receive to show up and compete. “Win money” is the payment athletes receive if they win.


“$500 to show” means athletes get $500 for competing whether they win or lose. “$1000 to win” means athletes would get $1000 to win, on top of the previously mentioned $500 show money:  $1500 total if they win. This doesn’t include bonuses or other additional payments an athlete may receive. This also doesn’t take into account the fees and taxes that fighters will have to pay (gym fees, payment to coaches for their time/knowledge, etc).


Going back to the two tournaments, CJI is offering $10,001 to show and a $1,000,000 prize to win. Compared to ADCC – where the prize to win is $10,000 ($1 less than CJI’s show money) and even less to show – CJI is making headlines for their huge strides towards improvement in athlete pay.


Viewing Information

In his mission to make Jiu Jitsu more accessible to fans, practitioners, and athletes, Craig Jones will be streaming the CJI event completely free on Youtube - “free on YouTube baby” (like we said, he’s a chill guy). Tickets to attend the event at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las vegas are also being sold, for those who want to watch the event in-person from August 16-17. Regarding ticket sales, Craig has posted the following statement on reddit: “I’m running an event that pays athletes to win 100x what adcc pays them to win and I’m donating the entirety of ticket sales to charity.” (His reddit account can be found here, if you want to confirm for yourself)


ADCC is also selling tickets, for those who want to witness the event in-person at the T-Mobile Arena (also in Las Vegas), from August 17-18. However, they will not  have a free streaming option. To watch online, fans will need to pay for a Flo Sports (Flo Grappling) subscription. Many fans online have voiced their criticism of Flo, for creating a paywall to view not-so-frequently-held grappling events. Currently, their annual plan is $12.50/month and their monthly plan is $29.99/month. Fans who have paid for this subscription have criticized Flo’s site for not working properly when the events are held, causing them to endure an extremely poor and frustrating viewing experience.


Weight Classes

At the moment, ADCC has 8 weight classes. For men, there are the following divisions that athletes can compete in: -65.9 kg (-145.2 lbs), -76.9 kg (-169.5 lbs), -87.9 kg (-193.7 lbs), -98.9 kg (-218.0 lbs), +99 kg (+220.5 lbs), and the Absolute Class. For women, there are two divisions: -60.0 kg (-132.2 lbs) and +60.0 kg (+132.2 lbs).


Compared to ADCC, the CJI only has two weight classes: -80.0 kg (-176.4 lbs) and +80.0 kg (+176.4 lbs). They will be holding super fights, but do not currently have a women’s division.


Looking Ahead

2024 is the first year that the CJI will be held, but hopefully not the last according to Craig Jones. On reddit, he replied to a fan saying, 


“ We will change this game and create an annual event. If some miss out this year such as lighter weight men and we really hope not women. We will eventually create something that takes care of all. Would be a shame to not have people like Ffion [Davies] involved, who is a positive voice in this community and a role model to many young athletes.


I know everything I put forth is humorous but if I can’t leave a legacy as an athlete I want to leave one as changing the game for all athletes ability to make money.”


Aiming to Change the Game

Craig Jones is looking to make the competition aspect of Jiu Jitsu better in every way he can: 

- Better pay for athletes. 

- More attention brought to and discussion around the topic of fighter pay, something that could transfer over to other combat sports with the same concerns (ex. mma)

- Better accessibility to the sport of Jiu Jitsu - free streaming on youtube (no payment required)

- A new ground for competition that will deter competitors from trying to deliberately go off-mat for a reset, known as “The Alley

- A unique scoring system that Jiu Jitsu athletes/fans will understand, but one that mma fans or anyone new to  the sport can also easily pick up

“3 x 5 min rounds with traditional Jiu Jitsu scoring but judges will translate it into a 10 Point Must System at the end of rounds. The CJI will also have open scoring meaning athletes & fans will know the score at all times.”


Athletes Withdrawing from ADCC to Compete at CJI

Some high level athletes with notable skill and social media presences have announced their decision to withdraw from ADCC to compete at the CJI instead. Here is a list of those who have done so, so far:


The Tackett Brothers


William Tackett via instagram post

“I would like to announce I will be competing in @cjiofficial this year. This was a tough decision for me, especially since I felt I had a great chance to win ADCC this year. But 1,000,000 is not only life changing for me, but my whole family. That being said, I’m very excited to be locked in and ready to scrap for my life August 16th and 17th at Thomas & Mac in Las Vegas”


Andrew Tackett via instagram post:

“Officially dropping out of adcc worlds to do the Craig Jones invitational!

I have dreamed of doing adcc since I was a little kid, but 1 million dollars is a-lot of money; and is life changing for me!

If I have a chance to win 1 million, then I am going for it.

I still wish the best to adcc and Mo and hope the event is mind blowing, and successful!”


Ffion Davies via instagram post:

“Hi guys! I’m so happy to announce I’ll be fighting on @cjiofficial 🤍 I’m proud to support the event especially as we will be giving a donation in aid of the people in Gaza affected by the ongoing tragedy. This means I will not be participating at ADCC.

I’ll be making a YouTube video soon to explain further 🫶🫶🫶 *Opponent to be announced soon”


Nicky Ryan via instagram post

“I’ve officially withdrawn from @adcc_official to enter the @cjiofficial. It’s really hard to say no to a chance to win a million dollars and I truly believe that I can get it done. @mojassim80 and @adcc_official have done a great job of growing the sport and getting a lot more spectators to attend these events. You guys will definitely see me in more Adcc events in the future but for now I’m gonna take my chances at @cjiofficial. Both of these events are a great thing for the sport and I’m excited to see the future. At the end of the day if you’re truly one of my supporters you should be happy for me getting the opportunity to win the biggest cash prize the sport has ever seen, I’ll see everyone in August.”


Nicky Rodriguez via instagram post

“NickyRod Officially In @cjiofficial Million Dollar Grand Prize Tournament 🏟️ 💰”


Jozef Chen via instrgram post

“If I win I guess I shouldn’t keep pirating instuctionals” (Craig’s team the “B-team” all have quite the sense of humor)

Roberto Jiménez via instagram post

“​​Official, I decided to participate in @cjiofficial 2024

Still on my list of goals to win double gold @adcc_official but it won’t be in 2024. Wether I have to run trials or get invited I will be back to ADCC but for now …


I’m gonna take my chances with CJI, this will be one of the greatest meet of generations of some of the greatest athletes of all time in the sport of jiujitsu.

I want to be there, I have to be there.I’m going.

will I win? I don’t know, but let’s find out.”


João Gabriel Rocha via instagram post

“Now it’s official!!! Let’s make history. @cjiofficial”


Victor Hugo via instagram post (+80kg)

“Happy to officially announce my participation on the CJI tournament in August.

Feliz em anunciar oficialmente minha participação no torneio CJI em agosto.”


Owen Livesey via instagram post (+80kg)

“Back to Vegas.

Thomas & Mack Arena.

@cjiofficial

All to play for.

Thanks @craigjonesbjj for the invite.”



Renato Canuto via instagram post (-80kg)

“Stuck around long enough to see Jiujitsu Events pay out a million dollars to the winner. Everything about this event is attractive to me! From the ruleset, the mat setup, the free streaming to reach everyone and especially people who can’t afford it or have no idea what grappling is. I like that it’s a non-profit event and it only adds to the awesomeness of this project As giving it back makes us feel even happier about it. The 10k and a one dollar to show money is what the athletes deserve to prepare for and to perform at such an event.

The winning prize money is alright as well!

The bar is being raised really high and I thought it would take me going to MMA building a whole new career and banking all on that to be able to do such a thing for the sport. So I can’t thank enough @craigjonesbjj for making this happen while I am still in the game. Happy to be a part of history in the making! Let’s F~ing goooo 🚀🐒💸

🇧🇷 Fiquei no jogo por tempo suficiente para ver o Grappling pagando um milhão de dólares para o vencedor. Tudo sobre esse evento me atrai! As regras, a configuração do tatame, o streaming gratuito para alcançar a todos, principalmente às pessoas que não tenham condições de pagar ou não tenham nem ideia do que é grappling. Gosto também que é um evento sem fins lucrativos o que só contribui para a grandiosidade deste projeto, pois retribuir faz a gente se sentir ainda mais felizes em fazer parte. Os 10 mil e um dólar para lutar é o tipo de dinheiro que os atletas merecem para se preparar e atuar em um evento.l dessa grandiosidade.

O prêmio em dinheiro para o vencedor também não está ruim!

Eles estão elevando o jogo a um nível muito alto e eu pensei que seria necessário eu ir para o MMA construir uma carreira totalmente nova e apostar tudo nessa ideia para poder fazer tal coisa pelo esporte. Portanto, não posso agradecer o suficiente ao @craigjonesbjj e seus parceiros por fazer isso acontecer enquanto eu ainda estou no jogo. Feliz por fazer parte de um dos vento histórico como este! Chaaaama 🚀🐒💸”


Matheus Diniz via instagram post (-80kg)

“I’m very happy to announce that I will be competing at @cjiofficial

I'm grateful for all the other opportunities that I had but this is huge and I have to go for.

Estou muito feliz em anunciar que estarei competindo no CJI.

Sou grato por todas as outras oportunidades que tive, mas isso é enorme e não posso deixar de competir.”


Eoghan O’Flanagan (-80kg) via instagram post

“The rumours are true - Honestly there’s a million reasons as to why I’m going with @cjiofficial instead of adcc and I could make 10,001 jokes about it but I feel like they would be in poor taste.

At -81 I’ll probably look like one of my favourite crackheads but rest assured fellas I haven’t found a new hobby

#inshallah #Imdoingthisforfighterpayandcharityobviously”



Other competitors who have confirmed their participation in CJI:
Luke Rockhold via CJI instagram post (-80kg)

Mason Fowler via CJI instagram post  

Lucas “Hulk” Barbosa via CJI instagram post (-80kg)


Social Media Discussion 

- “Damn Craig jones is now officially competing with ADCC.” (instagram)

- “What started as one man’s idea in a disabled bathroom stall ended up here on @joerogan” (Craig Jones on instagram, after going on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast)

- “He will do this the same day as ADCC to make athletes choose. $10,001 to show at his tourny or go try to win $10,000 at ADCC.” (reddit)

- “Hard choice. 10k to show and 1 mil to win, or potentially 10k… If I was a professional bjj athlete and not some random guy, I’d be all over this.” (reddit)


Questions

- How will ADCC respond? How should they respond?

- Is the CJI sustainable for future events, with more weight classes?

- Do competitors prefer the prestigious history of competing and potentially winning at ADCC? Or would they prefer the $1,000,000 prize of the new CJI tournament?

- CJI is bringing attention to the issue of athlete pay, could this transfer over to other combat sports and organizations, like the UFC and its mma fighters?

- With the confirmed withdrawal of many high level competitors from ADCC, and potentially more to follow, does this mean winning ADCC would mean less to competitors if the level of competition was not as high as it previously was?



Craig Jones Invitational official website

CJI Instagram

ADCC official website

Video summary of ADCC vs CJI 


Thank you for reading - we hope this was a helpful summary of what’s going on regarding the Craig Jones Invitational (CJI) and ADCC!

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