If anyone recalls, Rodolfo Vieira (reigning world and absolute champion) skipped the Pan Ams of 2012 in favor of the Abu Dhabi Pro Trials. Let me repeat.
He skipped the 2nd biggest Gi specific BJJ tournament in the world (that is also the closest warm-up for the Mundials) to compete less than 2 months before in a moderately different rule set.
Ostensibly b/c making friends with the biggest patrons of the sport ( Sheik Tahnoon and company) and getting paid (assuming he won) was a more tantalizing proposition.
The IBJJF has realized the trend as it appears on the horizon and answered the calls of its elite poster boys for cash prizes to winners. They've announced an IBJJF Pro League.
Judo recently has also seen the advent of cash prizes for those that make the podium as well.
Grappler's Quest has turned into an event known across North America due to the level of competitors it attracts. Cash prizes mean that not only do people with names and reputations show up, but I've found, the matches are pretty serious as that added incentive of $5,000 and your reputation on the line lead to shall we say "spirited" competition.
The NYC Absolute with it's 10,000 cash prize attracted some serious NoGi competitors and was much talked about amongst the grapplers that I know personally. I saw a fair bit of talk, speculation, and interest across various social media and grappling forums.
There are those of us who will suckle at the teet of the sport for the sake of sport
Why does American Judo lag behind other countries?
The organizations in other countries fund far more training than the USJA and similar organizations do here. Athletes in Judo in other countries have far more corporate sponsorship. Athletes in Judo in other countries (at the highest levels) make 6 figure salaries and are true, paid, professional athletes.
American Judo wants to do what it has done since Judo came to the United States then we sit back and wonder, complain,
At the club level, at the local level, Judo programs have shied away connecting Judo to MMA, from making sure that the public knows it is the birthplace of Jiu-Jitsu.
Judo has done much to insulate itself from the general American public. To say that Judo cannot be in every school or every neighborhood flies in the face of the Tae Kwon Do schools I see in every other strip mall.
Tae Kwon Do is proof to the commercial viability of the martial arts.
The birthplace of true, Olympic champions is in the kids programs.
I've lost count of the TKD demonstrations and kiosks I've seen at malls, in schools, and after school programs. The mere fact that when people find out I do Judo they ask if that's like TKD says more about the ability for TKD to self-promote itself.
If you do what you've always done, you'll get the results you've always gotten. Travis Stevens progressed pretty far into his bracket and made the semifinals only to lose to his rival Ole Bischoff, and for those that watch International Judo, Ole Bischoff is a top level elite Judo player. And yes, I'm aware Kayla Harrison took Gold. However, Delpopolo ( with or without the metabolite positive test) busted out in 7th place I believe. We have occasionally over the years (with Swain and Pedro leading the way) medalled in Judo.
America is a country that reaps more medals in more sports than virtually EVERY other country in the world.
Do not tell me we don't have the athletes, the drive, or the components to produce gold medalists in Judo.
But as someone who watched most of the 2012 and 2011 Grand Prix's in Judo, I saw very, very few American competitors. The Grand Prix's are the time for International competition and time on the mat with players around the world. Training is just that, training. Visiting the Euro clubs and Japan but not competing at those big, trial run events is like working out at the Olympic Training Center but not going to the World Championships. Or doing the World Championships but doing one International level competition that year to prepare.
For Judo and the other sports to continue to evolve and for us to send delegates to compete on the World Stage, they must have the opportunities (competitive and financial) to prepare at the same level as their competitors.
Mid-Week MMA News Flash
Rua Versus Gustaffson, Penn Versus McDonald and Daiz vs Henderson booked for UFC on FOX 5.
Bellator's champ Curran Injured, Freire awaiting new opponent (wants Warren rematch).
Fight Card booked for next ONE FC event: It's got everyone from Aoki to Bibiano to Arlovski to even, yes, the inimitable Tim Sylvia. But that's not all! It has Gregor, Igor, and Rolles Gracie and even Jens Pulver.
Mayhem Miller found naked in a church. Sigh.