Is Jiu Jitsu Better Than Wrestling?

Jiu Jitsu and wrestling are the two most popular grappling sports in America. Wrestling has a long tradition in the US dating back to the 1700s while BJJ has experienced an explosion in popularity following the emergence of MMA. While the two sports share some similarities they are distinct from each other and based on your goals one may be more suitable than the other.

Is Jiu Jitsu Better Than Wrestling?

Wrestling is better than Jiu Jitsu for developing explosiveness, endurance and athleticism. Wrestling is also a better base for MMA with many UFC champions being former wrestlers. Wrestling is also more lucrative than BJJ with top wrestlers earning millions from government funding and sponsorship deals. 

Wrestling Makes You A Better Athlete Than BJJ

Gr 85kg 1/8: Davit CHAKVETADZE (RUS) df. Kristoffer Zakarias BERG (SWE) by VPO1, 5-2

Wrestling is a far more athletic sport than BJJ. Wrestling places a large focus on building speed, explosiveness, strength and endurance. 

Wrestling training always begins with a long warm up where athletes improve their coordination through performing gymnastic movements and speed through jumping and sprinting. 

Then wrestlers continue to work on their speed by doing reaction drills where a coach will repeatedly blow a whistle and athletes will have to sprawl or shoot. 

When it comes time to drill wrestlers are much more intense than BJJ athletes. Drilling is done at high speeds, partners will often offer resistance and breaks are minimal to ensure athletes are getting a cardio workout in.

After the tough drilling session it is time to spar. Which again is much more intense than BJJ sparring. Wrestling has to be done at a much faster pace at BJJ making it so much more exhausting. Wrestling is also more physically demanding with athletes roughing each other up and slamming their training partners into the mat.

At the end of wrestling training athletes will build their strength by performing rope climbs, dips, sit ups, pull ups and bridges. They will also further develop their flexibility by stretching.

In contrast to wrestling training everything about BJJ training is slower and less intense. BJJ training starts off with a warm up but it is often a poor imitation of wrestling warm up. It is typically much shorter, the gymnastic movements are simpler and there is a lack of speed development.

Drilling in BJJ is often done at a leisurely pace. Athletes will be joking around taking breaks. Many athletes won’t even break a sweat during drilling. This is in contrast to wrestling where athletes will be sucking wind after performing 10 double legs in a row as fast as they can.

Then when it is time to roll BJJ athletes use much less energy and explosive movements than wrestlers. BJJ has this rule about not going hard in sparring and not using your athletic abilities and instead relying on technique. This often results in slow sparring rounds.

Also as BJJ mostly occurs on the ground there is a limited amount of explosiveness and speed, making BJJ sparring easier than wrestling.

After BJJ training finishes most athletes won’t do extra strength and conditioning work. They will either leave or just hang out and talk to their training partners.

Wrestling training is also nearly always much longer than BJJ training. A typical wrestling session is 2 hours while many BJJ sessions are only 1 hour long.

If you are looking to turn yourself into an explosive, strong, powerful, highly mobile athlete with endurance for days then you are better off learning wrestling. Wrestling is much better at building athletic prowess than BJJ.

Wrestling Is Better Than Jiu Jitsu For MMA

If you want to compete successfully in MMA you have to train both BJJ and wrestling. However, knowing wrestling is much more important. 

A great wrestler who has a basic understanding of BJJ is going to be much more successful in MMA than a great BJJ athlete who has average wrestling.

A great wrestler can choose where the fight takes place. You often see that when a wrestler fights a BJJ black belt they will just use their wrestling to prevent any takedowns and keep the fight standing. Now the BJJ black belt can not use any of their submission skills and if left in a hopeless situation where they have to rely on their poor striking.

A high level wrestler also has an advantage over a BJJ black belt because it is so hard to finish submissions particularly from the bottom when you have a wrestler who knows the submissions, understands how to position his body and at the same time can punch and elbow you.

There is very little a BJJ expert can do when they have a world class wrestler pinning them in half guard, maintaining good posture and throwing a barrage of hard punches. There is a famous saying that if you punch a black belt they become a brown belt, you punch them again they turn into a purple belt. 

It is made even harder because in MMA athletes compete shirtless with shorts, making it extremely difficult to control a fighter. You often see UFC fighters simply slipping or exploding out of submissions being attempted by world class BJJ athletes. The lack of friction poses serious problems for BJJ specialists.

Wrestling Is More Lucrative Jiu Jitsu 

Compared to major sports like football, soccer or basketball both wrestling and Jiu Jitsu pale in comparison in terms of the potential riches on offer. However, on average the top wrestlers earn more money than the top BJJ athletes.

Wrestlers in certain countries such as Russia are making serious money. Wrestlers on the national team are being paid $10,000 a month from the government, get gifted an apartment in their home city, make large amounts of money from sponsors and receive huge cash bonuses and prizes for international results such as brand new G-Wagons. 

A wrestler like Sadulaev is a multi millionaire and is surely richer than any BJJ athlete in the world. Not to mention that he will be looked after by the Russian government and wealthy businessmen for the rest of his life. When he retires he can do whatever he wants, a powerful political position will be waiting for him or red tape will be cleared to ensure his future business project succeeds.

Wrestlers in the US do not receive as much government support or private support as some Russian wrestlers. However, this is starting to change with private donors putting up huge prize money for Olympic and world medals, USA wrestling increasing their stipends, flowrestling having big time paid events and athletes signing deals with companies such as Nike.

The living the dream fund was set up by two former wrestlers and hedge fund managers to ensure wrestlers get rewarded for their success. Currently, they are paying $250,000 for Olympic gold, $50,000 for silver and $25,000 for bronze. They also payout $50,000 for a world gold, $25,000 for silver and $15,000 for bronze.

USA wrestling has a stipend program where they pay athletes monthly to help them train full time and cover training expenses. Currently, US wrestlers can earn as much as $3500 per month.

Flowrestling has started putting on more and more paid events where athletes can compete for big prize money. Bajrang Punia recently won $25,000 for winning a flowrestling event in Austin in December, 2020.

Wrestlers are starting to sign lucrative sponsorship deals with major sports companies. Jordan Burroughs has a big time deal with Asics where he produces his own line of highly popular wrestling shoes.

While the top BJJ athletes are making good money the majority of their money comes from teaching the sport and selling instructionals. The sponsorship deals are low, few competitions have any prize money and there is no government support or stipend program. The BJJ athletes who make big money have to teach private lessons, travel the country teaching seminars and sell instructional content.

The biggest BJJ earner in the US is probably Gordon Ryan who is still not making nearly as much money as Jordan Burroughs and is making nowhere near as much money as Sadulaev.


Wrestling is superior to Jiu Jitsu. Wrestling will make you much more athletic than BJJ. Wrestlers perform better in MMA than BJJ athletes. Wrestlers make more money than BJJ athletes. Wrestling is far more competitive than BJJ and winning an Olympic gold medal or a world championship is significantly more impressive than winning a world title in BJJ.

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