Mixed martial artists draw their arsenal of techniques from every possible martial art on the planet, and each of them has something that will work in the cage. But naturally, some styles are much better suited for use in the cage.
Being one of the popular martial arts, judo is very effective in MMA. Many world-class fighters have used judo techniques with great success in MMA.
Judo is a complex grappling-based martial art. To better judge its effectiveness in an MMA setting, we have to look at it from a few different angles.
You can use judo in MMA. Later in the article, we will provide some of the best examples of successful judokas in the cage. Judo is based on throws and control on the ground, two fundamental aspects of MMA.
You can use many judo techniques on the feet and the ground, but some may require a few adjustments because of the lack of gi and the addition of striking.
Judo is practiced in a gi that is used in almost every technique. Still, many of the principles are perfectly usable without the gi, as has been demonstrated time and time again.
One of the main goals in judo is to disrupt the opponent’s balance and throw him to the ground. Finishing the takedown with a well-timed trip is the most “judo way” of doing it. It’s not only very effective in MMA, but fewer fighters are prepared to defend Judo trips and throws and wrestling takedowns.
Judokas do their best work in the clinch, but they are also very competent with submissions. The variety is a lot less than in BJJ. Still, judokas are complete masters of the few submissions they use, like the all-mighty armbar, triangle choke, and rear-naked choke.
Is Judo Effective For MMA?
The most significant distinction we need to make is between traditional judo and modern sports judo. The creation of Japanese martial arts master Jigoro Kano aimed to provide a comprehensive self-defense system emphasizing throws and ground control but still capable of handling all kinds of situations.
With the recent sports development of judo, many rules were implemented after its inception as an official Olympic sport, transforming judo into a very narrowly focused martial art. Many perfect techniques for MMA, like standing submissions and various joint locks, are not allowed under the Olympic ruleset.
A crushing blow to the effectiveness of judo for MMA was the ban on standing leg grabs in 2013. While this decision helped differentiate judo and wrestling, it immediately tipped the scales heavily in favor of freestyle wrestling as far as effectiveness in MMA goes.
While all the forbidden techniques and moves are technically still a part of judo and can be trained, very few judokas practice them. And why would they, when they can’t use them in competition.
Judo is very effective in MMA, but you only have limited time and cannot meaningfully concentrate on everything. So many MMA fighters prefer to dedicate their time to wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Do MMA Fighters Train Judo?
Very few MMA fighters train judo specifically. While many have dedicated wrestling, BJJ, and boxing sessions, judo-specific training has little transferability to MMA training.
Regular judo training focuses on the sports ruleset and leaves a lot of MMA grappling out. There are no alternative rulesets like wrestling (Greco-Roman, freestyle, catch), so the transition to MMA is difficult.
With that said, a competent judoka still has a solid base that can be used as a building block for a successful MMA skillset. Let’s see some of the best examples.
A few notable Judo black belts and competitors transitioned into MMA and used their skills with great success.
Of course, we will begin with Ronda Rousey. The woman who singlehandedly put women’s MMA in the UFC. She had enormous star power and paved the way for the ladies in the sport. None of her victims were ready for her vicious skills inside the cage, and she became the face of judo in MMA.
Her first 8 opponents fell prey to a single technique- the dreaded armbar. Ronda executed flawless trips and throws, then locked in on the arms of her opponents like a shark. Before taking MMA by storm, Rousey was a US and Pan American champion in Judo and won a bronze medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Karo Parisyan was a very successful judoka before entering into MMA. Despite transitioning at a very young age, Karo used his skills extensively in the cage, perhaps better than any other judoka has. In fact, his dream was to participate in the Olympics, and he decided to try MMA out of boredom and then entered the UFC because he needed money.
His decision was correct, and he did more for Judo inside of the octagon than he would have if he had remained a judo competitor only. He remains a prime example of how judo throws can be translated into MMA with just a few minor but critical adjustments.
You can say a lot about “Sexyama” and his charisma inside and outside the cage. He started Judo at the tender age of 3. He went on to win gold medals in the Asian championships and Asian games as a member of the Korean national team.
Although Akiyama was an entertaining striker, his Judo skills were very evident. When he fought in Japan in Dynamite, he even wore his Judo gi during his MMA matches. He entered the UFC but couldn’t replicate his success on the domestic scene.
Still, his crazy ring entrances, unique charisma, and entertaining style made him a huge celebrity. He is still fighting at 46 years of age, which is impressive by any standard.
Lombard was a true beast, and while he became famous mainly because of his terrifying punching power and viciousness, he was, in fact, a very successful judoka. The Cuban had a very successful judo career before winning the middleweight title in CFC, Bellator, and fighting in the UFC. He won multiple titles, first in the Cuban championships and then as an international competitor.
Of course, these are not the only judokas that have succeeded in MMA. But if you are looking at pure examples of how you can use judo effectively in MMA, there is no need to look any further than Ronda, Parisyan, Akiyama, and Lombard.
Judo techniques such as throws, trips, dumps, and submissions are incredibly effective in MMA. However, the specialized ruleset, training requirements, and use of gi make it less efficient than other grappling martial arts such as wrestling and BJJ. Judo can be lethal in the octagon with enough practice, as has been demonstrated in action.