how to transition from BJJ to MMA

Video and article by Mark Lajhner from Mark Lajhner is a long time martial arts practitioner and a seasoned trainer. Mark Lajhner is also the founder and chief instructor of Kaizen MMA Academy in Belgrade, Serbia. He comes from Judo where he produced noticeable results and was a national team member.

If you are a BJJ player looking to enter into MMA, there are some things you need to know to make that transition successful. Besides the obvious ones like “learn striking”, I’ve got 9 tips for you:

1. Buttfloppers – start wrestling before trying MMA.
If you are one of those BJJ players that doesn’t engage in wrestling and just jumps or flops to guard, then you’re out of luck because wrestling is an integral part of MMA and if you managed to get by without it in BJJ, you will not be able to do so in MMA. When you have an opponent that is striking, it is very difficult to jump or flop to guard sucessfully. Even if you do, bottom is not a good place to be in in MMA, as I’ll explain later. I’m not saying that all BJJers are buttfloppers – there are many that have embraced wrestling and judo, but if you’re not one of them – start now. Having said that – there are ways of jumping guard that is good for MMA. Check out a video from Firas Zahabi on this subject. There is a link in the description. This way of guard jumping puts you either on top or in a position to submit your opponent. But this shouldn’t be your go to way of getting the fight to the ground – just another option to have in your arsenal.

2. Top game priority
The effectiveness of the guard has dropped significantly since the first UFCs, and generally you do not want to be the bottom guy. There are not many BJJ fighters, even champions, that have modified their guard well for MMA. A fighter with a good base, solid top control and a devastating GNP can wreck havock on a BJJer, and often does. Of course there are exceptions and one of them is Fabricio Werdum who is probably immune to GNP. Even Damien Maia tries to stand up from the bottom and doesn’t play the guard game if he doesn’t have to. So always strive to get on top and do not go on bottom voluntarily. Being on top gives you positional dominance, which is great with the judges, and more importantly places you in a position to hit. Punches tend to soften
up the opponent and thus making it easier for you to get the submission. Or you just win with GNP.

3. Guard – be very close or very far
I did say to concentrate on top game, but there will be times when you will end up on bottom and in guard. When that happens, relax, don’t panic and work your technique.
You want to be very close to your opponent by using underhooks, overhooks or the Lister grip. These 3 are my go to grips. Some people also use the rubber guard and the rat guard with great success. When you keep your opponent close it is impossible to get hit. You can also be far from your opponent which then makes it easier to stand up. Mid distance is dangerous and that is when you get hit most often. Switch guard priorities. Usually the priorities for a BJJer look like this: Submit – Sweep – Stand up.
In MMA it should be: Stand up – Sweep – Submit.