Cheating in BJJ – the most common ways to cheat in BJJ

Not everyone likes to play fair. Cheaters can be found everywhere. No sport is free from them. Unfortunately, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is not free from them either. Cheating in BJJ can be spotted at various tournament levels. Starting from the small local competitions even to the biggest, international ones. Below you will find the most common ways to cheat in BJJ.

Many faces of cheating in BJJ 

Cheating in BJJ can take many forms. It may be using prohibited substances to increase your abilities or doing some dirty tricks when the referee is not watching. Cheating can be a long-term planned strategy or using the moment. Here cheating is divided precisely because of the time in which it takes place. Whether it was before competing or during the fight itself. 

Before competing

Let’s start with the forms of cheating that can be used before competing. It’s a fairly wide range of time. It includes time long before the competition and also the moment of the tournament itself, but before the fight. It will, therefore, include, for example, the use of prohibited substances during preparations for competing but also cheating during weighing taking place before the competition. 


Doping is an artificial increasing physical and mental efficiency by methods that go beyond normal, “natural” training. Generally, doping is considered to be medical methods that are potentially harmful to health and have been officially banned. In most professional sports, the use of doping is punishable by disqualification (for a limited period or life), withdrawal of a medal or a ban on participation in sports competitions for a certain period of time counted in months, years or for life.

However, the use of doping allows athletes to achieve results much better than after using only natural training, and this is the reason why many people still decide to use it. Unfortunately in BJJ as well. Champions that were caught using doping are among others 

  • Braulio Estima – BJJ World Championship gold medalist in the medium heavyweight division
  • Felipe Pena – gold medalist of the BJJ World Championship in the black belt category
  • Leo Nogueira – World Super Heavyweight Champion


Sandbagging generally means hiding the strength, skill, etc. In games like billiard, it is deliberately playing below one’s actual ability to fool opponents. In grappling it refers to competing at a lower level than one is deemed capable of. When it comes to BJJ competitions and sandbagging, it is commonly said that some competitors are staying at lower belt levels too long to achieve successes at the most important championships before moving to the next belt level. However, due to the fact, it is the athlete’s coach who decides when to promote the student and it is not a voluntary choice of this person, it is questionable whether staying on some belt level long is sandbagging or not. 

The above practice is a debatable issue. However, this is not the only situation in BJJ when you can talk about sandbagging. In the IBJJF rules, you can read: “The athlete who has proven to be a black belt in judo, has proven experience in wrestling or has fought MMA professionally, can’t compete in any league as a white belt”. Therefore, someone thoughtfully hiding their experience in the above-mentioned disciplines and enrolling in the category of jiu jitsu white belts for a tournament using IBJJF rules may be called sandbagger. 

Weighing cheating

Getting the right weight for a competition is problematic for many people. Some choose extreme methods of weight cutting, while others decide to cheat. In IBJJF tournaments where they check everything before your first match, cheating at weighing would be practically impossible. But in competitions where weighing is e.g. the day before or in the morning of competition and generally wherever judges are less attentive cheating attempts may occur. 

More hardcore way of cheating is asking someone a little lighter to go for weighing for you. If nobody is looking at your documents carefully while weighing or doesn’t check them at all and the weight difference between you is not drastic, it can work. This way the cheater can fight in competition with people even a few kilos lighter. Much less drastic way of cheating in BJJ weighting is also not putting on the belt for weighing. People checking weight can forget about it and you will get away with few extra grams.

While competing  

The above cheating methods can be used before the competition. Now it’s time for things that cheaters use during the fight itself. In general, all these ways can be determined as what the referee does not see. Examples of such not playing fair behaviors are given below. 

Fake tapping 

This is an old trick used both in BJJ and MMA. Fake Tap is the act of tapping out just once or tapping discretely out of the referee’s field of vision, to get out of a submission. For example, one way of doing it is to discretely tap under the opponent’s Gi jacket so that they let go of the submission. Cheaters do this so as not to lose by submission and continue the match with the hope of winning.

Inaccurate reset

It is rather small but probably the most common form of cheating in BJJ. It occurs when competitors have to reset because, for example, they fell off the mat. The person with the advantage position never gets as deep control as they had before the reset. And the disadvantaged person will always try to get the most out of the reset. Because it is almost impossible to recreate perfectly the previous position, inaccurate reset can be called such a delicate way of cheating. It is more use of the situation than some plan for unfair victory. 

Dirty tricks 

This is a very broad category. It includes all the dirty tricks that will make your opponent’s life more difficult. It can be pinching, pulling hair, sticking fingers in the eyes, biting, etc. Generally, everything that comes to your mind that is not allowed and that the judge will not notice. 

In conclusion 

As you can see there are many ways of cheating in BJJ. Just don’t treat this list as a guide, because cheating, regardless of what discipline is always against the spirit of sport. The use of methods such as those mentioned above is always frowned upon and unsportsmanlike.