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Everything You Need To Know About The Craig Jones Invitational vs ADCC Rivalry Explained

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Everything You Need To Know About The Craig Jones Invitational vs ADCC Rivalry Explained

I am resharing this article. It was written by Alex Lindsey. Alex Lindsey is the managing editor at JitsMagazine.


The Craig Jones Invitational vs ADCC Rivalry Explained

ADCC has been the biggest no gi grappling tournament on the planet for decades, with their first event taking place back in 1998. It was created as a passion project by Sheikh Tahnoun Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, son of the UAE president, and famous BJJ instructor Nelson Monteiro. Since then, the promotion has been operating as the most prestigious no gi title and has stayed that way despite the IBJJF No Gi World Championship emerging as a potential threat in 2007. It wasn’t long before no gi grappling started to gain more traction and a series of professional events like MetamorisPolaris, and EBI were founded. Throughout it all ADCC has remained the premier no gi event.

Tension Builds Over Time

ADCC offered a $10,000 grand prize to every male competitor who won their weight class and back in the late 90s and early 2000s, this was an incredible amount of money for such a niche sport which generally didn’t pay anything at all. Then the IBJJF started to offer prize money and all the aforementioned professional grappling shows were starting to pay the winners pretty handsomely. ADCC didn’t increase the prize money and before long, inflation and comparison with other shows made that $10,000 seem like a small sum.

That was what laid the foundations for the rivalry between the Craig Jones Invitational and ADCC. The sport had grown and moved to such a point that athletes could make more money selling instructionals than by actually competing at major events, and athletes were putting their body on the line over an entire weekend for what was comparatively little pay. Although this was a feeling that many athletes might have had, it’s not one that many of them voiced. That’s where Craig Jones came into it. He has been known to speak openly about his criticisms of other organisations like the IBJJF, and he took aim at ADCC.

Craig Jones And ADCC

Jones competed at ADCC 2015 for the first time, winning ADCC Trials to earn his place and going out in the opening round. He then went back to the drawing board to win Trials again, securing his return in 2017 and making a huge impact with a win over Leandro Lo among other great performances. He finished in fourth place that year and earned an invite for 2019 as a result, the year he first stood on the podium with a silver medal at under 88kg. Another invite came his way and he returned again in 2022, earning another silver medal in the under 99kg division this time.

Jones was very familiar with the way ADCC works and he was there to witness the meteoric growth of the promotion for almost a decade. He took to the mats in front of smaller crowds in Brazil and Finland before being able to stand in the gigantic Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2022. That’s why the prize money remaining stagnant didn’t sit right with him to begin with, and then the promotion announced that they were moving to an even bigger venue for ADCC 2024.

ADCC 2024 Is The Spark That Ignites The Flame

The event in 2022 was already expensive, with Bruce Buffer as the announcer and amazing production for every competitor. A move to the T-Mobile Arena for ADCC 2024 was only going to cost more money, and yet the prize money awarded to competitors was going to remain the same. The sport had been growing at a tremendous rate and ADCC would be bigger than ever before, but competitors were struggling just as much as they were in the early days.

In response to this, Jones secured $3,000,000 in funding with the goal of creating his own tournament instead. Details were few and far between to begin with and the fact that Jones almost never takes him seriously made all of them hard to believe. He claimed that he was going to offer a million dollars in prize money for the winners of two 16-man tournaments, at under and over 80kg. As a direct nod to the ADCC prize money, he also announced that he would pay every single competitor $10,001 just to show up. So even those who lost in the very first round would make more money than ADCC champions.

The Craig Jones Invitational vs ADCC Rivalry Begins

Jones was clearly burning bridges with ADCC with his comments, but the grappling world still wasn’t sure whether the tournament was real. Then he fired the first real shot in the rivalry by announcing that the inaugural Craig Jones Invitational would take place on the exact same weekend as ADCC 2024. Not only that but it was even booked for the same city and it would be taking place in the Thomas and Mack Center, where ADCC 2022 was held. The Craig Jones Invitational would take place on August 16th and 17th, 2024, while ADCC would be held across August 17th and 18th.

This meant that athletes would now have to make a difficult choice, as it would not be possible for them to compete at both events. Many competitors had already accepted invites to ADCC 2024, and they would have to weigh up whether it was better to have a chance to win $10,000 or to be paid $10,001 with a chance to win $1,000,000. That decision was pretty easy for some, and the very next day both Andrew and William Tackett announced that they were refusing the invites they won at ADCC Trials in order to compete at CJI.

The Rivalry Heats Up

The rivalry between the Craig Jones Invitational and ADCC was in full flow, and it was clear that CJI would cause some problems for ADCC. Then reigning champion Ffion Davies announced that she was choosing a superfight at CJI over another ADCC title. That was a huge blow, as Davies is one of the most popular female competitors in the sport and would be the main attraction in her division. Over the next few days several more ADCC medalists chose CJI instead and in one of the most unusual stories the sport has ever seen, four-time ADCC world champion Gabi Garcia withdrew from ADCC to fight Jones himself at CJI.

Garcia was open and honest about the reasoning behind her decision too, including the fact that she was going to be paid more than she ever had before. It wasn’t all one-way traffic either though, it was revealed that anyone withdrawing from ADCC 2024 would have to win ADCC Trials again if they ever wanted to return in the future and this would likely help stem the loss of competitors. Jassim has been courteous and even complementary in public, but obviously a rivalry with the Craig Jones Invitational is not good for business at ADCC.



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