This is the Judo blog of Lance Wicks. In this blog I cover mainly Judo and related topics. My Personal blog is over at where I cover more geeky topics. Please do leave comments on what you read or use the Contact Me form to send me an email with your thoughts and ideas.

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On the UFC and BJA partnership. 

Today the BJA announced the UFC partnership that was hinted at earlier in the year. The BJA Facebook group is currently debating the heck out of it over at

I thought I would write a blog post to help me clarify my thinking on the partnership. So, below are my ramblings:

* A Big Sponsor.
It has been a stated objective of the BJA for more than a decade to secure a big name sponsor. This has been a massive failure until today. Finally the BJA has a big name sponsor.

* UFC and Judo.
The BJA is following the lead of USA Judo here. USA Judo has had a relationship with UFC for a while now. The USA Judo brand has appeared in the octagon and there has been advertising in UFC magazine etc.

But should Judo be involved in the UFC at all?

I am not sure it should. For me I have watched many (including the original UFCs) and can appreciate the combat. But although I can watch and appreciate UFC, I don't consider it something I want to be associated as it is a bloodsport.

It is impossible for me as an individual to remove the fact that the purpose of a UFC match is for two people to beat upon one another until one is unconscious, can't continue or is forced to submit to prevent being injured.

I don't like the fact that the UFC is basically a plot device from a whole sub genre of B Action movies. You know the ones where the hero ends up in an underground cage fighting ring.

It is a throw back to the days where we watched men kill one another for the entertainment of others. It is like the WWE in that it is entertainment NOT sport. The combat is real, but from that point on it is almost as scripted and dramatised as WWE. I might contend that WWE is more of a sport as the feats of agility they perform are incredible.

So for me, I don't like my sport being associated with a bloodsport.

Whats in it for the partners?
This is a tough one, especially as so far only the BJA have put anything on it's official website and that is a simple press release with few details.

If we look at the UFC we have a multi-million dollar, multi-national entertainment business. They have money, huge audience and are riding a wave of success.

If we look at the BJA we see a small niche Olympic sport NGB with shrinking membership and poor competition performance internationally. It struggles with marketing and promotion.

So on the face of it, people seem to see a cash injection and lots of free publicity for Judo.

I am more skeptical and don't see why UFC would invest large amounts of money into the BJA. The only asset mentioned in the BJA release is advertising UFC to the membership and via the BJAs social media channels.

This I suppose is worth the UFC investing some money in, but not much. Perhaps the BJA is giving the UFC access to the membership; which they might consider a target rich environment to see pay per view and tickets to live events.

It is conceivable that UFC see the BJA as a talent ID and development project. Unlike BJA or boxing; UFC fighters are salaried employees so you sould conceivably see them using Walsall as a place to identify fighters.
Of course this would skim the cream of the talent out of the BJA potentially... so I don't see that as a plus except for those individual athletes who suddenly find themselves with regular income and a more stable financial future.
But from a BJA perspective it is suicide as it's potentially depleting the talent pool for future Olympic cycles.
I would further suggest that the UFC really does not need to do this; the lure of money must be pretty gigh already for our players that are already forced to self-fund are being let down by the BJA and see the success of people like Ronda Rousey and see a new path potentially.

* Tieing our "Brand" to UFCs
Not that our brand is worth much, but we really have to consider the entity that is UFC. It is a business with the aim of making money for it's shareholders.

The UFC has finally started putting doping controls in place. But like most american sports they are not signed up with WADA. Doping has been and remain rife in the UFC.

Then there is the scandals. The BJA has had it's share but the UFC makes the BJA look pure as driven snow by comparision. It takes about a 5 minute google session to find lots of news reports about UFC scandals. Armed standoffs with the police does not really sound like a brand we necessarily want to be associated with to me.

* Confuding the Judo brand.
So, Judo has been a mainstay skill in UFC for years. Ronda is making it even more so. Yet a harai goshi is a "hip toss" and juji gatame is a "straight arm bar" still.
Although the word Judo perhaps is being used in UFC; it does not seem to be translating into any form of education about Judo to those in the UFC universe.

Judo is not UFC, we don't punch, we don't kick we don't aim to knock out our opponents. We are a sport and to quote the EJU we are "More than sport". We are not part of the "kicky punchy" crowd; parents looking for an activity for their kid can easily understand that Judo does not have kicking or punching.

But if Dad follows UFC and suddenly learns BJA is partnered with UFC; won't he rightfully expect what we do in the club to resemble whay he sees in the octagon?

Won't some parents like myself see the partnership and say "I don't want my son/daughter involved in cage fighting!"

So both sides of the coin are potentially end up with the key decision makers in our "market" deciding Judo is not for their child as potentially what Judo is is more confused than it was prior to the partnership.

Given that 90%+ of the membership are kids under 12, we need to think about what parents reactions will be. I suspect there is a much smaller group of parents looking for a hobby for their kids that is cage fighting than are looking for something like what Judo really is.

* Incompatible markets
I don't feel that a partnership with the UFC is going to help grow Judo. Our key market demographic is not a UFC demographic. be that counting the actual members (kids under 12) or parents of those kids.

The UFCs market is guys in there late teens and above. Preferably single with lots of disposable income to spend. This is not the proven market of Judo in the UK.

So the partnership ties us top the UFC, excludes us from partnering with a compatible brand. I.e. a someone like McDonalds who target kids directly and their parents. I'm not suggesting we go with junk food companies either; merely highlighting that McDOnalds knows, markets to and gives access to our proven market better than the UFC.

* UFC Cage fighting is not compatible with Judo.
Where Judo aims to improve society and individuals; UFC aims to entertain people for profit.

Judo "fights" are controlled, safe and sport where the aim is to test yourself against others. UFC "fights" are brawls where the aim is to injure the other person to the point they can't continue; for the entertainmet and profit of others.

They punch and kick, we don't.

We try to avoid bloodshed and in fact avoid even televising blood injuries; they revel in it.

* Losing Judo.
Another problem I see whenever UFC comes up is the attracting of internet trolls. The BJJ/MMA/UFC trolls see no problem with basically saying Judo needs to be BJJ/MMA or it will die.

Judo on the other hand looks at it's long history and says, Karate came and we grew; Aikido came and we grew; Kung Fu came and we grew, Karate came and we grew; TKD came and we grew, BJJ and MMA has come and we are still growing (at least outside of the microcosm of the BJA).

For me, when I hear UFC announcers talk about Hip tosses and straight arm bars after years of Judo being in UFC I see that UFC does not draw in Judo culture it strips it out.

When I hear Judo people coaching in Judo clubs talking about "sweeping the guard" or being in the guard position I fear we are the creators of our own destruction.

We seem so focussed on the scary news kids on the block with their fancy octagon and tap out clothing brand that we forget that the eason that the UFC is popular is because the UFC organisation promoted UFC and had the timing and luck to catch the decline of boxing.

The BJA seems obsessed with selling everything except Judo. We have seem multiple projects like JudoFit and Gymnastics for Judo yet we still have no national competition structure.

We have staff who do all sorts of jobs, but no staff organising competitions locally around the country.

We have a NGB that sees the volunteer coaches as "work force". That has lost the engagement with the members so badly that a mere 30 (of approximately 800) clubs attend the AGM.

An NGB that does not even cover it's international athletes performances in real time.

The BJA is for me not focussed on Judo enough and I see the UFC partnership as another giant distraction from just helping people do Judo and enjoy doing!

What are your thoughts?


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