Everything You Need to Know About ADCC – “The Olympics of Grappling”

Last updated on 14.02.2022 by

What is the ADCC?

The Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC) championships, otherwise known as “The Olympics of Grappling,” are among the most popular Jiu Jitsu championships aside from IBJJF competitions.

The ADCC submission grappling competition gives competitors the chance to compete with the best talent in the grappling community for cash prizes. Competitors are not limited to Jiu Jitsu practitioners and the competitors from catch wrestling, sambo, and Judo, and other grappling arts have participated.

What makes this competition unique is that you can’t just sign up to compete. You can only become a competitor one of two ways: by invitation or by winning Abu Dhabi Combat Club trials. Keep reading to learn more about the most prestigious no-gi competition!

Abu Dhabi Combat Club History

Sheik Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, son of former United Arab Emirates (UAE) leader, Sheik Zayed, created the ADCC. Sheik Tahnoon had spent his college years studying in the USA, where he was exposed to and fell in love with MMA. His desire to bring that passion to the UAE inspired him to create the Abu Dhabi Combat Club.

Sheik Tahnoon organized the ADCC in coordination with his BJJ instructor, Nelson Monteiro, as a premier MMA club, ultimately training top competitors in the sport of grappling. In time, they hosted the first tournament of the kind, which took place in March 1998.

Rules were kept loose to accommodate competitors from various grappling styles. The tournament’s popularity quickly spread and the ADCC championships were born.

In 2007, an Abu Dhabi Combat club competitor, Mo Jassim, joined the promoter team and has been organizing events since. Jassim became the main organizer of the 2019 ADCC events is the current organizer for future tournaments as well.

In 2019, he brought on Fight 2 Win owner Seth Daniels to help make the championships the best they have ever been. This partnership has set the scene for the future evolution of the championship and similar competitions.

Leg Locks in ADCC

ADCC weight classes and prizes

Weight classes and prizes for ADCC championships and trials are split between males and females, where males have five weight classes, one absolute, and females have two weight classes with no absolute.

Weight classes differ for the ADCC team and open championships. Open tournaments include a kids divisions as well.

ADCC Male Division Weight Classes

  • under 65.9 kg (- 145.2 lbs)
  • under 76.9 kg (- 169.5 lbs)
  • under 87.9 kg (- 193.7 lbs)
  • under 98.9 kg (- 218.0 lbs)
  • over 99 kg (+ 220.5 lbs)
  • Absolute (No weight limits)

ADCC Male Division Cash Prizes

For all of the non-absolute weight classes: $10,000 for first place, $5,000 for second, $3,000 third, and $1,000 for fourth.

The prize money for absolute raises the stakes significantly with $40,000 for first place, $10,000 for second, $5,000 for third, and $1,000 for fourth.

ADCC Female Division Weight Classes

  • under 60.0 kg (- 132.2 lbs)
  • over 60.0 kg (- 132.2 lbs)

ADCC Female Division Cash Prizes

There is slightly less prize money to be had in the women’s divisions, with both weight classes offering $6,000 for first place, $3,000 for second, $2,000 for third, and $1,000 for fourth.

Other ADCC Prizes

In addition to cash prizes for division winners, the ADCC offers extra prize money for Super Fights and also encourages high-energy performances with prizes for the best fighter, best takedown, fastest submission, and best fight of the competition.

Super Fight

  • Winner: $40,000
  • Looser: $10,000

Miscellaneous Awards

  • Best Fighter: $1,400
  • Best Takedown: $1,400
  • Fastest Submission: $1,400
  • Best Fight of Competition: $1,400 (split between both fighters)

ADCC rules

The ADCC championship is a single-elimination tournament where only the winner of each match moves on to the next round. Gis and wrestling shoes are allowed, though most choose to compete no-gi. Winners are decided based on submission, points, or referee decisions.

Time Limits

The length of matches varies based on the type of competition and the position of the match within the bracket. National championships and Trial matches have shorter matches than World Championships and qualifying rounds are shorter than finals rounds.

If a match ends in a draw it will go into an overtime round. Trials and Nationals both include a single overtime round per match, while Worlds and Super Fight matches have the possibility of two overtime matches if the first overtime round ends in a draw.

The ADCC Trials and National Championships have the same time limits for matches:

  • Qualifying Rounds: 6-minute rounds / 3-minutes of overtime
  • Finals: 8-minute rounds / 4-minutes of overtime

On the other hand, the world championships and Super Fights offer longer match times

  • World Championship Qualifying Rounds: 10-minute rounds / 5-minutes overtime
  • World Championship Finals: 20-minute rounds / 10-minutes overtime
  • Super Fights: 20-minute rounds / 10-minutes overtime
  • Any choke (except for using the hand to close the windpipe).
  • Any armbar, shoulder lock, or wrist lock
  • Any Leg Lock or Ankle Lock

Illegal Techniques:

  • Slamming is allowed only if you are locked in a submission.
  • No neck cranks
  • No Full Nelson
  • No crucifix
  • No striking of any kind
  • No eye-gouging 
  • No fish hooking
  • No grabbing the ears
  • No hair pulling
  • No holding of fingers or toes (less than four fingers or less than five toes)
  • No thumbing
  • No scratching/pinching
  • No kicking
  • No biting
  • No touching groin area
  • No hands, knees, or elbows on the face
  • No slippery substances allowed on the body or clothing
  • No cross-face guillotine twisting the chin
  • No use of T-Shirts and no holding the shorts
ADCC rules


Similar to IBJJF rules, all positions must be held for three seconds before points are awarded. However, unlike the IBJJF points are not counted for the first half of each qualifying match. Finals matches are a bit trickier – negative points can be scored at any time while positive points are not counted until after the first half of the match.

The point system for the ADCC includes positive and negative points. While the point system differs from the IBJJF, the Abu Dhabi Combat Club scoring system works similarly: in the event, no competitor submits the other, the one with more points wins. Unlike the IBJJF, there are no advantages.

Negative points operate differently to the IBJJF’s penalty system in that the negative points modify a competitor’s final score. In the IBJJF penalties are used as a tie-breaker in the event that competitors are tied and have the same number of advantages, or in rare cases, if a competitor gets 4 penalties they are immediately disqualified.

Positive points:

  • Guard passes = 3 points
    • When passing the guard going straight to mount or knee on belly in less than 3 seconds, points will be given only for passing the guard.
  • Knee on belly = 2 points
  • Mount = 2 points
  • Back mount with hooks = 3 points
  • Takedown (ends in the guard or half guard) = 2 points
  • Clean Takedown (ends with the guard passed) = 4 points
  • Sweeps (ends in the guard or half guard) = 2 points
  • Clean sweep (ends with the guard passed) = 4 points
    • A sweep is considered when both fighters face each other and change the position from bottom to top.
    • Reversals are considered sweeps.
    • Every sweep has to be done in one continuous motion to be awarded points.
    • Points for a sweep will be awarded only if the fighter initiates the sweep, not if his opponent is attacking him and he ends up on top.

Negative Points:

  • When a fighter voluntarily jumps in the guard or goes from a standing position to a non-standing position by any means and remains down for 3 seconds or more.
  • When a fighter disengages from contact, backs up, and avoids re-engaging.
  • A passive fighter will be warned twice and then will be given a negative point. The referee will warn the passive player by the words “WARNING PASSIVITY” – after the first negative point, given there will not be any more warnings. 
  • If a fighter is very passive during the first half of the regular fights when there are no points, the referees will still give him WARNING for passivity and will provide a negative point when the second half of the fight starts.
  • If two teammates make a fixed fight, they will both be disqualified from the tournament.

Super Fight

If a Super Fight is held, it starts at the end of the tournament and consists of the Legends match and the Championship match. 

The legends match involves two “legends” or former champions competing against each other. The championship match is where two top competitors fight for the Abu Dhabi Combat Club Super Fight champion title.

Super Fights are not held at every tournament and are usually announced every two to three years.

ADCC champions

Many big names in Jiu Jitsu achieved their fame by becoming ADCC champions. Gordon Ryan, Augusto Mendes, JT Torres, Felipe Pena, Marcus Almeida, Marcelo Garcia, Royler Gracie, André Galvão, Bia Mesquita, Mackenzie Dern, and Michelle Nicolini, to name a few, are all former Abu Dhabi Combat Club champions.

Augusto Mendes, JT Torres, Matheus Diniz, Gordan Ryan, and Kaynan Duarte currently hold the 2019 male divisions championship titles in their weight classes, with Gordan Ryan also holding the absolute title.

Marcelo Garcia has the honor of the most championship wins out of all competitors, with four wins and fourteen total submissions.

Bianca Basilio and Gabby Garcia hold the 2019 women’s titles in their respective weight classes. André Galvão holds the Super Fight title for 2019.

Due to the worldwide disruptions caused by COVID-19 and the near-complete cancellation of the Trial matches around the globe in 2020, the 2021 ADCC World Championships were postponed until 2022.

Abu Dhabi Combat club

ADCC Trials and World Championship schedule

Entry into the ADCC championships is acquired by winning any of the continental trials or via invitation. Invitations are reserved for the best, elite fighters. Therefore, most competitors hoping for a spot in the tournaments will have to fight their way through the Trials to gain their place.

  • 1st ADCC Asia and Oceana Trial – 6 March 2022 (NSW, Australia)
  • 2nd ADCC North American Trial – 2 April 2022 (Las Vegas, Nevada, USA)
  • 2nd ADCC European, Middle East, and African Trial – 7 May 2022 (Ciorescu, Moldova)
  • 2nd ADCC Asia and Ocean Trial – 28 May 2022 (Singapore)
  • ADCC World Championship – 17 September 2022 (Las Vegas, Nevada, USA)

While nothing is certain, rumors abound that Gordan Ryan and Atos leader Andre Galvao may compete in their on-again-off-again Super Fight after all!


The ADCC championships include some of the best grapplers in the world, and it has certainly lived up to the title of “The Olympics of Grappling.” The future looks bright for the Abu Dhabi Combat Club and likely it will continue to grow and evolve as a place where champions seek to demonstrate their prowess and inspire those who follow in their footsteps.