Does Judo Work In MMA? Why You Don’t See Much Judo In MMA


Is judo effective in MMA?

Judo is definitely an effective martial art for MMA.  Many of the greatest MMA athletes are black belts in judo. Of course, these judokas will have to cross-train in other arts and be able to adapt their judo for it to be truly effective and best utilized in MMA.

There are a few fighters that have brought attention to judo’s effectiveness in MMA. The most popular would have to be Rhonda Rousey.

This is for good reason too, I mean she did use judo to become one of the biggest MMA stars of all time. That said, a handful of judo black belts have done great in MMA that people often forget about.

Some of the greatest MMA fighters have black belts in judo and have proven it works in the cage.

Fighters Who Used Judo In MMA

Rhonda Rousey

The person who has brought more attention to judo’s effectiveness in MMA is Rhonda Rousey. This is simply because she used almost exclusively judo to win most of her fights. She won her first 8 professional fights via armbar or armlock in judo.

This is a very popular submission used in judo. In her fights, Rhonda would use judo to get her opponent to the ground and then quickly submit them with a judo armlock.

In other words, her fighting style was pretty much pure judo. That is at least in the beginning, later on, she would start to use more of her striking.

That said, it seemed to me that when she started relying less on her judo and started to stand up and strike with her opponents, she started to lose fights.

Fedor Emelianenko

Another amazing judo black belt that would often use judo in MMA is Fedor Emelianenko. Fedor is by many people’s accounts considered the greatest heavyweight fighter of all time.

His judo skills were the reason he was able to grapple with people much bigger than him. He was able to use leverage and momentum to take down his opponents. Of course, he is also a sambo expert as well, which in itself is heavily influenced by judo.

Like his countryman and fellow judo black belt Khabib Nurmagomedov, Fedor was experienced in multiple grappling arts and utilized all of them when fighting. So it must be said, that they are both sambo fighters as well. 

But Fedor was able to use his judo often in MMA and showcased its effectiveness. He was even able to use his judo against some of the greatest wrestlers in the world. If you want to see a good example of this I suggest watching his fight against Chael Sonnen.

Karo Parisian

The only person who might be as pure of a judo fighter as Rhonda Rousey is Karo Parisian. Karo relied very heavily on judo to win his fights.

He began training in judo when he was 9 years old and had the dream to become an Olympic gold medalist. When he was competing in the Olympic trials he got a call from the UFC and was invited to come to compete.

In need of money, Karo agreed and started his MMA career. During that time he was able to use his judo in MMA to defeat some of the greatest fighters of his time. A few good examples include Nick Diaz and Matt Serra. In addition, he went the distance with GSP and even got close to securing a kimura.

Hector Lombard

Another amazing fighter who was able to showcase judo’s effectiveness in MMA is Hector Lombard. Hector is a 4th-dan black belt in judo and had a great career in both judo and MMA.

He was the first-ever Bellator middleweight champion and defeated some of the best fighters in his era. Hector proved that his judo was effective in MMA and even used it to beat some of the best grapplers in MMA.

A great example is his fight with Jake Shields, who was one of the best grapplers in MMA during that time.

There are many other great judo black belts who have also proven judo can be effective in MMA. A few more honorable mentions would include Rick Hawn, Dan Severn, Don Frye, and Fabricio Werdum.

These are just a few of them, but there are many more. You can read more about those fighters in my article: 15 Judo black belts that have done well in MMA. Of course, I should mention that many of these fighters are experts in other fighting styles as well.

Is Judo As Effective In MMA As Wrestling?

When it comes to takedowns and throws the two best grappling arts are wrestling and judo.  Grappling is a crucial skill to learn for mixed martial arts. After all, the person with the best takedowns gets to decide where the fight goes. So then which one should you learn judo or wrestling?

When comparing wrestling and judo for MMA I am mostly talking about folkstyle, freestyle, and Greco-Roman. The biggest problem with these wrestling styles is that they lack submissions.

Of course, other wrestling styles have submissions such as catch wrestling. But catch wrestling is not as common.

So by itself, judo might actually be more effective in an MMA fight than wrestling. But when a wrestler can learn submissions and throw punches and elbows it’s a different story.

I am going to have to say that wrestling is probably more practical for MMA.The reason is that both MMA fighters and wrestlers don’t wear a gi when they compete.

If your only focus is to learn martial arts for MMA then there is probably no reason to spend too much time training in a gi. Instead, it would be better to focus on takedowns from the clinch.

If you want to learn grappling for MMA then you should probably focus on wrestling. This is simply because you will be able to pick up wrestling much faster than you would judo. So for most people wrestling is going to be a more effective art to learn for MMA.

Joshua Paul

Joshua Paul is a BJJ purple belt who lives in Austin, Texas. Joshua loves all forms of grappling and when he is off the mats he is likely spending time with his wife and son.

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