With the recent conclusion of the summer Olympics, jiu-jitsu practitioners and fans are once again asking an important question: Why is jiu-jitsu not in the Olympics? With other martial arts and combat sports like wrestling, judo, karate, and Taekwondo in the Olympics, why not jiu-jitsu? In the video below, ADCC and IBJJF world champion Robert Drysdale tackles that question.
“It’s simple. It comes down to ticket sales,” says Drysdale. “The Olympics is a private organization like any other, it’s aimed at making money just like any other business. If they feel that they can sell tickets, they’ll put jiu-jitsu in the Olympics, and they’re gonna have their own ruleset. They’re not gonna be under IBJJF or anyone else. They’re gonna have their own ruleset and own set of organization… It’s a possibility but the great question is can they sell those tickets? So a good way of measuring that is looking at professional events in jiu-jitsu. How many people are buying tickets to watch these events. In my experience, not many.”
Essentially, Drysdale says that jiu-jitsu simply isn’t a popular enough sport in terms of viewership to justify entry to the Olympics. Drysdale then gets at the key sticking point: jiu-jitsu struggles to gain viewers because it is hard to understand if you don’t practice it.
“A huge problem that jiu-jitsu has, and I don’t know if it can overcome this problem, is that it is a practitioner sport and not a viewer sport… It has many practitioners, very few fans.”
In other words, the vast majority of people watching jiu-jitsu are jiu-jitsu practitioners, so the overall viewership of the sport is necessarily limited by the number of people that practice jiu-jitsu. And because the art is so complex and nuanced, people that don’t practice jiu-jitsu will have a difficult time understanding what is happening in a jiu-jitsu match. This has the effect of putting a ceiling on the number of sport jiu-jitsu fans, and for that reason, it remains out of the Olympics, says Drysdale.