World Champion Kaynan Duarte Talks of IBJJF Low-Pay

It’s no secret that BJJ is a relatively niche sport and it’s difficult to make enough money in it, but what about those at the very highest levels of the game who medal at world championships? Arguably, the IBJJF and ADCC World Championships are seen as the two most prestigious events to win in BJJ and if there was money to be made anywhere, you would think it was here. However, Kaynan Duarte tells otherwise.

Kaynan Duarte is not only one of the top competitors to ever come out of ATOS but he’s also a multiple-time champion of the IBJJF Worlds and now he is unsure if he will be making a return in 2022. Duarte recently gave an interview with Vitor Freitas where he opened up about how low the pay is at the tournament compared to other high-profile events. He was nothing but grateful for the attention that he’s gained thanks to his performances on the IBJJF stage, but he does have a good point that it doesn’t make sense for him to continue competing multiple times over a single weekend for less money than he could make in one superfight:

I still don’t know if I’ll fight the next Worlds in 2022,” Duarte said (Translation provided by Vitor Freitas). “I don’t know if it’s going to be something I’m aiming for, you know? I want to be better paid, have more support. Surely the reward could be better. What they (IBJJF) are paying is nothing, you know? I did seven fights in their event. I fought because I wanted to, you know? I’m fighting because I want to. When I don’t want to fight anymore I won’t fight. They helped me in some ways for sure. Where I was and where I am today is because of the IBJJF. I can’t not be grateful. But a fight I do in another event I win three times or four times more than I win at the Worlds. I won $5,000 at the Worlds. In a fight with Meregali I would make a lot more money, you know? A big fight. That $5,000 amount doesn’t even pay for my preparation.”

Watch the full interview on YouTube from Vitor Freitas channel where Kaynan Duarte explains his issues with pay at the IBJJF worlds, conducted in Portuguese.

Pay at the IBJJF

The IBJJF is the single-biggest organization in terms of revenue and their world championship events are more regular than their competitors ADCC, with both a Gi and No-Gi World Championship every single year. Just as a bit more of an insight, here are the stats. These statistics come from StrictlyFighters.com

Only the winner is awarded anything, podium placements don’t get you anywhere, but a victory in your weight-class will earn you $4,000 as a minimum, $5,000 if there are 9-16 competitors, $6,000 if there are 17-32 competitors and $7,000 for 33 or more. This pay-scale stays the same regardless of whether you win a male or female bracket, but of course the women’s divisions tend to have much less competitors, so will understandably tend to earn less.

The absolute division comes with it’s own reward of $10,000 for winners, but again, still does not reward any other podium placement. For an athlete who is able to become a double champion, the maximum prize available is $17,000, provided they had to fight at least five matches in their weight-class. Even a competitor who becomes double champion both in and out of the gi in the same year, will still max out at $34,000. To put it into perspective, an ADCC superfight can earn you $40,000 and Kasai Pro offers $20,000 per champion – so there is a lot more money to be had in superfights.

Lucy Wynne

BJJ Blue Belt from Southampton, England. I'm an avid writer, music lover and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) enthusiast. I began training BJJ when I was at university, and I've trained ever since. #OSS

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