Skip to content

ADCC The Definitive Guide

Reading Time: 10 minutes
Credit: ADCC


It’s ADCC year, and the 2022 ADCC championship is set to be the biggest yet.

Gordon Ryan and Andre Galvao are set for their super fight which should be the biggest grappling match in history.

This years ADCC is going to attract a lot more new viewers who have not watched a ADCC championship.

So in this article, I will be going into great detail about all things to do with the ADCC everything from the biggest champions and competitors to the rule-set and more.


Abu Dhabi Combat Club or ADCC is a no-gi based grappling promotion that only holds championships every two years.

With a one year delay in this year’s championship due to COVID-19 restrictions throughout the world.

It has a point-based rule-set where the first half of the match has no points, and the second half does. 

The methods of victories are submission, points, referee decision, disqualification and knockout in certain circumstances read the rule-set section for more.

The rule-set also allows many submissions, read more about it in the rule-set section of this article. 

Weight Classes

In its current form, there are five male weight classes that have sixteen competitors and two female weight classes that have eight competitors.

These are the following weight classes for the men.

66kg, 77kg, 88kg, 99kg and plus 99kgs, and these are the weight classes for the women under 60kg and over 60kg.  


The Abu Dhabi Combat Club was created by Sheik Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Who at the time was completing his advanced studies in the USA.

After watching Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in 1993 Sheik Tahnoon became a massive Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fan.

In 1995 Sheikh Tahnoon started his BJJ journey training at Gracie Barra San Diego under instructor Nelson Monteiro.

Sheik Tahnoon returned to the U.A.E with a passion for martial arts and set out to build his vision.

Which was implementing Martial Arts in his native U.A.E, and creating a standard for which all ground fighting martial arts would be measured.

To implement his vision he created ADCC or Abu Dhabi Combat Club after converting an idle facility into a martial art club.

He then began to hire top instructors for all the various Martial Arts BJJ, Judo, Wrestling, Sambo, Muay Thai etc.

Giving them a world-class facility to minster their classes and to train professional fights.

Soon the ADCC became the top MMA gym in the Arab World.

The Competition

The second part of Sheik Tahnoon’s plan was perhaps harder to accomplish but even more rewarding after the implementation of his plan.

As he became more proficient in Gracie Jiu Jitsu, Sheik Tahnoon saw the flaws in the then philosophy of Gracie Jiu Jitsu where a majority of practitioners ignored lower body submission. 

Sheik Tahnoon proceeded to learn Russian Sambo in his thirst for knowledge as Sambo has a lot more emphasis on lower body submission.

This led to him practicing other Martial Arts like Wrestling and Judo.

While learning all these different grappling arts Sheik Tahnoon learned many instructors thought their Martial Art was the best, and they could beat anyone from another Martial Artist.

The problem was each Martial Art had their own rule-sets and it was impossible to establish one that was effective for all Martial Arts.

With this idea in mind, Sheik Tahnoon set out to create a new competition and a set of neutral rules which would allow practitioners of various martial arts to compete against each other without strikes.

The same idea behind the creation of the UFC.

This was to prove which was the best grappling style available.

So in 1998, the first ADCC was created the rule-set rewarded all grappling styles equally.

Allowing most submissions.

Creating a competition where practitioners of Gracie Jiu Jitsu, Sambo, Wrestling and many other Martial Arts could compete against each other.

ADCC 1998 had 16 competitors in 5 different weights and an absolute weight class competing for the title.

On March 20, 21 and 22 1998 in Abu Dhabi the first ADCC took place.

Even with its novelty and lack of publicity the tournament did attract some of the best grapplers in the world.

After the completion of the first event competitors were raving about the quality of the event. 

With that, the ADCC was born, of course it changed over the years see the timeline section for many details.


Now the ADCC rule-set is very unique and favours, someone, with a good wrestling base a lot more than the IBJJF rule-set.

Seeing grapplers with good wrestling like Nick Rodriguez do extremely well in this rule-set.

Now let’s take a look at the rules.

How You Can Win

  • Submission, Points, Referee Decision and Opponent Disqualification
  • If a competitor submits verbally or by tapping

Time Limits And Overtime Periods

World Championship

Qualifying rounds are 10 minutes long with a 5 minute overtime if its a draw (Max 1 Overtime)

First 5 minutes no points.

Second 5 minutes with points.

Overtime with points

Finals, Absolute Finals & Super fights are 20 minutes with 10 minute overtime if its a draw (Max 2 overtimes)

First, 10 minutes only negative points will be counted

Second 10 minutes with points.

Overtime with points.


Qualifying Rounds are 6 minutes with a 3 minute overtime if its a draw (max 1 overtime)

First 3 minutes with no points.

Second 3 minutes with points.

Overtime with points

Finals are 8 minutes with a 4 minute overtime if its a draw (Max 1 overtime)

First 4 first only negative points.

Second 4 minutes with points.

Overtime with points.

Legal Techniques

  • Any kind of choke ( except hands across the windpipe)
  • Any arm bar, shoulder lock or wrist lock.
  • Any leg Lock or ankle Lock

Illegal Techniques

  • Striking of any kind.
  • No Full Nelson
  • No spiking your opponent on their head
  • No holding of fewer than 4 fingers or fewer than 5 toes
  • No holding of the shirt or shorts
  • Slamming is only allowed when in a locked-in submission

Points (Positive Point)

The ADCC scoring criteria are slightly different to the IBJJF rule-set, ADCC has reversal points and IBJJF doesn’t.

The key difference between a sweep and a reversal is when you reverse position when your opponent is past your guard or your in turtle.

Another key distinction is points are only given if you initiate the action.

If your opponent falls back on a foot lock and you escape and come on top, zero points are scored.

Compared to the IBJJF, you would score 2 points.

The best thing to do is to watch the ADCC rules seminar I’ve embedded in this article.

  • Passing the guard = 3 points – (In order to get the points, the judges will be looking for control, where at least 75% of the opponent’s back should be on the mat).
  • Knee on stomach = 2 points – (Either the inside or outside knee can score, the knee must be in the middle of the stomach and not chest or the sides of the stomach. An opponent can’t be on their side. If you score with your knee on the stomach, and then remove your knee for 3 secs or more, then put your knee back on the stomach for 3 secs or more, you will score again. The positioning of the other leg is irrelevant).
  • Mount position = 2 points – (Both knees must be touching the floor. If there is a size difference between both fighters in an Absolute fight, and if the fighter can not possibly touch his knees on the mat, the referees will decide if there is enough control to score points. Reverse mount will score as well. If your opponent gets one or both hands trapped under your legs it still scores. Both of your knees must be below the shoulder line. Your opponent’s back must be on the floor).
  • Back mount with hooks = 3 points – (Both hooks and body triangle are acceptable. If you take one hook out or release your body triangle for more than 3 secs, and put your hooks or body triangle back in for 3 secs or more, you will score again. Your hooks must not be over any of the shoulders).
  • Takedown (ends Guard or Half Guard) = 2 points – (Opponent’s butt or back needs to be on the mats for 3 secs. If you take your opponent down and they put on a submission you will not be awarded points until you escape the submission threat and solidify for 3 secs).
  • Clean Takedown (ends passed the guard) = 4 points – (You must be outside the guard and not be in the threat of a submission and 75% or more of your opponent’s back must be on the mat. You must solidify the position for 3 secs or more).
  • Sweeps (ends Guard or Half Guard) = 2 points – (Sweep is considered when two athletes are facing each other, change the position from bottom to top and establish for 3 secs or more. You must not be in the threat of a submission).
  • Clean Sweep (ends passed the guard) = 4 points – (When facing each other, change the position from bottom to top ending up outside guard, while more than 75% of the opponent’s back is on the floor and establish for 3 secs or more. You must not be in the threat of a submission).
  • Reversals are considered sweeps. If you are being held in side-control or mount and reverse the position from top to bottom you will be awarded points as well, either 2
    points if you end up in guard and 4 points if you end up in side-control.
  • Every sweep must be completed in one continuous motion in order to get points awarded.
  • Points for a sweep will be awarded only if the fighter initiates the sweep, not if he is being attacked by his opponent and then he ends up on top.
  • When changing multiple positions, points will be awarded only for the position that has been established for 3 seconds or more.
  • When passing the guard straight to mount or knee on the stomach, points will only be awarded for passing the guard.

Negative Points

Unlike other rule-set ADCC does negative points similar to penalties in the IBJJF have they carry more weight as the ADCC does not use advantages.

The most well known negative point in ADCC is for pulling guard which is why the rule-set is favoured by wrestlers.

Here is a list of things that score you a negative point in the ADCC rule-set.

  • 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, he will be punished by a minus point.
  • When a fighter disengages from contact, starts backing up and avoids engaging again, he will be punished by a minus point.
  • A passive fighter will be warned twice and then will be punished by a minus point. The referee will warn the passive player with the words “WARNING PASSIVITY” – after the first minus given the referee is not going to be any more warnings and the minus points will be given right away if the fighter continues to be passive.
  • If a fighter is very passive during the first half of the regular fights when there are no minuses, the referees will still give him a WARNING for passivity and will punish him with a negative point when the second half of the fight starts!
  • If a minus is given, the referee will halt the action to inform the athlete and their coach that they received a penalty.
  • If two fighters (team-mates) make a fixed fight, they will both be disqualified from the tournament.
  • If a fighter disengages from the fight by constantly fleeing the mat, he will be given a minus point.
  • If a fighter tries to escape a submission by fleeing the mat more than once, he will be punished by a minus point.
  • Minus points can be given for bad language or bad behaviour from a fighter or his coach.
  • Minus points can be given for not obeying the referees’ commands during the fight.
  • If a fighter intentionally hits or kicks his opponent, he will be disqualified right away.
  • If a fighter tries to initiate any of the ILLEGAL TECHNIQUES, he will be disqualified right away.

How To Qualify

With there only being a limited number of places in the ADCC championship 16 competitors for male divisions and 8 for the female division.

Only a limited amount of people get to compete at the ADCC every two years.

There are only two ways to qualify, being invited or winning a trials event.

To be invited you either have to medal at a previous ADCC, even then it’s no guarantee that the bronze medalist will be invited, or be very well known in the no-gi grappling scene.

Winning lots of big super fights or possibly a few decent runs at that your trials, but coming up short.

The easiest way to put it, is unless the people know who you are in the BJJ world you will not receive an invite.

Now trials can be won by anyone as there are no requirements for entry, its a single elimination tournament and the winner gets to compete in that year’s ADCC championship. 

Region For Trials

So there are four regions of the world for ADCC trials.

They are North American, South American, (Europe, Africa and The Middle East), and (Asia and Oceania).

There are two trials per region, and women can only qualify in the 2nd trials.

A trials victory means you are eligible to compete at the next ADCC championship and that one alone.

Due to the recent popularity of the ADCC trials, an unofficial 256 competitor cap has been put on each division after the 2nd North American Trials’ 77kg division was going to go over the limit.

At the moment, there is no qualifying requirement for ADCC trials, turning up on weight and paying the entry fee.

There is no classification in regards to belt level, time training or any other deviations.

Now let’s go into which countries belong to each region of the trials. 

North American 

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Aruba
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Bermuda
  • Bonarie
  • Canada
  • Cayman Islands
  • Costa Rica
  • Cuba
  • Curacao
  • Dominica
  • Dominican Republic
  • El Salvador
  • Grenada
  • Guatemala
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Jamaica
  • Mexico
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama
  • St. Kitts and Nevis
  • St. Lucia
  • St. Vincent and The Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Puerto Rico
  • United States

South American

  • Argentina
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • Guyana
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Suriname
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela
  • Falkland Islands
  • French Guiana
  • South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

Asia and Oceania


  • Azerbaijan
  • Bangladesh
  • Bhutan
  • Brunei
  • Cambodia
  • China
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Japan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Laos
  • Malaysia
  • Maldives
  • Mongolia
  • Myanmar
  • Nepal
  • North Korea
  • Pakistan
  • Palestine
  • Philippines
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Sri Lanka
  • Taiwan
  • Tajikistan
  • Thailand
  • Timor-Leste
  • Turkmenistan
  • Uzbekistan
  • Vietnam


  • Australia
  • Papua New Guinea
  • New Zealand
  • Fiji
  • Solomon Islands
  • Vanuatu
  • Samoa
  • Kiribati
  • Tonga
  • Micronesia
  • Marshall Islands
  • Palau
  • Nauru
  • Tuvalu
  • French Polynesia
  • New Caledonia
  • Guam
  • American Samoa
  • Northern Mariana Islands
  • Cook Islands
  • Wallis & Futuna
  • Niue
  • Tokelau

Europe, Africa and The Middle East


  • Albania
  • Andorra
  • Armenia
  • Austria
  • Belarus
  • Belgium
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Georgia
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Kosovo
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Macedonia
  • Malta
  • Moldova
  • Monaco
  • Montenegro
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • San Marino
  • Serbia
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine
  • United Kingdom (UK)
  • Vatican City


  • Algeria
  • Angola
  • Benin
  • Botswana
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burundi
  • Cabo Verde
  • Cameroon
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • Comoros
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Republic of Congo
  • Cote d’Ivoire
  • Djibouti
  • Egypt
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Eritrea
  • Eswatini (formerly Swaziland)
  • Ethiopia
  • Gabon
  • Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Kenya
  • Lesotho
  • Liberia
  • Libya
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Mali
  • Mauritania
  • Mauritius
  • Morocco
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Rwanda
  • Sao Tome and Principe
  • Senegal
  • Seychelles
  • Sierra Leone
  • Somalia
  • South Africa
  • South Sudan
  • Sudan
  • Swaziland
  • Tanzania
  • Togo
  • Tunisia
  • Uganda
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

The Middle East

  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Syria
  • Turkey
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Yemen
  • Bahrain
  • Cyprus
  • Egypt
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Israel
  • Jordan
  • Kuwait
  • Lebanon
  • Oman
  • Qatar

Dual Nationalities

In certain circumstances, some athletes hold multiple nationalities over two different regions examples of this are Oliver Taza, Magid Hage and Roberto Jimenez.

Taza holds Canadian and Lebanese, Hage holds American and Brazilian and Jimenez holds American and Ecuadorian nationalities.

This means all these athletes are eligible to compete in two trials regions.

This effectively means they have four chances to make the ADCC instead of the usual two that most people have. 

The Superfight 

Credit: Gracie Mag

The ADCC Super fight has become one of the biggest titles in all of grappling, but how do enter the Super fight?

The Super fight is contested between the previous ADCC Super fight champion and the previous Absolute winner.

If either pulls out, the ADCC well put in another competitor.

This year’s super fight is between current champion Andre Galvao and current p4p number 1 and current absolute winner Gordan Ryan.

How To Watch

The only way to watch ADCC in its entirety is on FLOGrappling.

This is because they have exclusive rights to stream and replay it.

One year’s worth of FLOGrappling will cost $149.99.

If you’re a big BJJ fan it’s definitely worth it, if you just want to watch ADCC.

Other ways to watch is you either borrow an account from a friend or be happy with what is released on social media.


I’ve written an article detailing every single ADCC trials and championship that have happened in the past 24 years.

It’s the most detailed and up to date article about the ADCC competition on the internet.

Click HERE to read.


ADCC had become the biggest and most enjoyed BJJ event in the world.

The importance and popularity are only going to bigger as more events happen.

ADCC 2022 is set to be the biggest in history and could be the turning point that turns BJJ into a popular mainstream sport.