In Brazilian jiu-jitsu competitions, it sometimes happens that competitors who come from the same training team will find themselves facing each other at the end of the day when all the other opponents in their division have been beaten. Sometimes the two competitors in this situation agree between each other which of the two will take home the first place medal (and thus, who gets second place) instead of competing against each other on the mats to see who the best competitor is that day. This is known as the gentleman’s agreement.
There are multiple reasons why this happens. The risk of injury is probably the biggest reason to not have the match. While BJJ tournaments are generally a very safe environment, as in any contact sport there is always the risk of injury. Further, coaches of competitors in this situation feel they’ve already proven that their team is the best and they have nothing else to prove. For an in depth discussion of why this sometimes happens, you can listen to or read our conversation with Flavio Almeida where he discusses the rationale for not competing against fellow Gracie Barra teammate Roberto “Tussa” Camargo at the 2009 Jiu-Jitsu Pan-Ams.
There are however reasons to definitely go through with the match no matter what flag the two jiu-jitsu competitors train under. As our sport becomes bigger and draws more spectators at the large events, they come with the expectation of watching the best jiu-jitsu competitors go at it. The purpose of competition is to find out who is the best, is it not? Consider again the 2009 Pan-Ams: the matches to determine the winner of 3 of 10 divisions were not held because the two competitors verbally agreed who would walk away with first place! Spectators (including fellow competitors) could only be disappointed as a primary reason they traveled far and paid to enter was to see these matches go down. After the recent IBJJF New York Open Luca Atalla, editor in chief of GracieMag, laments the possibility that one day the final match of the Absolute division of the BJJ World Championship (considered by many to be the climax of the jiu-jitsu competition on the global level) is not held because two opponents from the same team verbally agree who wins. He goes on to suggest that to avoid the possibility, opponents from the same team be pitted against one another on the same side of the brackets to avoid them facing off at the end of the division.
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