Mads Burnell critiques modern state of jiu-jitsu: ‘It’s soft as f*ck’

Mads Burnell is a Danish martial artist that currently competes in Bellator MMA. He began learning under black belt Chris Hauter, one of the 12 original American black belts known as the dirty dozen.

Burnell would train all day and night in Hauter’s garage. This dedication would lead Haueter to award Burnell with his black belt after just 3.5 years of training. This was one of the fastest ever promotions to black belt.

Mads Burnell, a prominent figure in Bellator MMA, has voiced his concerns about the evolving landscape of jiu-jitsu, particularly its shift from a practical self-defense system to a more sport-oriented discipline. Burnell, set to return at Bellator 299, believes that these changes have made jiu-jitsu less effective in mixed martial arts (MMA).

Burnell, known for his impressive MMA record (17-5 MMA, 4-2 BMMA), shared his candid opinions during the Bellator 299 media day, ahead of his bout with Daniel Weichel (42-14 MMA, 11-6 BMMA). He didn’t mince words when describing his view of the current state of jiu-jitsu.

“To put it mildly, it’s soft as f*ck,” Burnell expressed. He continued by critiquing the shift towards techniques like the worm guard and spider guard, emphasizing that the old-school approach, exemplified by legends like Renzo and Rickson Gracie, focused on takedowns, top control, ground and pound, and submissions.

“They’re going for worm guard, spider guard, this guard, that guard. The old-school way like Renzo and Rickson (Gracie) did it like to get the takedown, get on top, get to mount, punch somebody in the face and choke people. That’s how it works in MMA. But this soft sh*t where they butt scoot and try to get each other’s foot, that sh*t don’t fly in MMA.”


Burnell’s criticism may come as a surprise given that jiu-jitsu is his primary weapon in MMA, with a remarkable nine of his ten stoppage victories achieved via submission.

“I’m good on the ground, but I actually think jiu-jitsu is soft,” Burnell stated, expressing his reservations about the modern iteration of the discipline. He questioned the current jiu-jitsu tournaments, describing them as less combative and missing the element of striking.

Nevertheless, Burnell’s primary focus remains on his MMA career. He aims to build on the momentum gained from his victory over Justin Gonzales in April and distance himself from the two-fight losing streak he faced in 2022. Burnell views his upcoming bout with Daniel Weichel as an opportunity to make a statement.

Weichel, whom Burnell respects as a legend in the sport, holds a record filled with notable opponents and a willingness to face anyone, anywhere. Burnell’s decision to call out Weichel was not only a professional challenge but also a personal one, as he recalls watching Weichel fight when he was just ten years old.

With this fight, Burnell seeks to prove his mettle and continue his upward trajectory in Bellator MMA. For more details about the upcoming event, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for Bellator 299.