Going Global-NAGA’s Joe Cuff Discusses How Grappling Is No Longer A Regional Sport

By on November 22, 2013

With the recent boom period for Mixed Martial Arts and it’s various forms of discipline within the sport, there have been certain people to act upon the growth in popularity and really take their company or product to the next level.

Many regional promotions have popped up in the MMA world, offering local fighters a chance to shine in their backyard. Clearly, companies such as the UFC and Bellator have leaped in popularity and recognition, however, it doesn’t apply just to MMA. For us Brazilian Jiu Jitsu die-hards out there, it’s been a treat seeing how much the North American Grapplers Association (NAGA) has grown over the past few years.

With the boost in popularity of MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has also enjoyed a nice rise in its growth. Waiting in the wings to capitalize on it was Joe Cuff, the brains behind NAGA. What was once just a regional company has grown to be a national powerhouse in the grappling world. Yet, Cuff isn’t content with just being known here in the States, he has the entire globe on his radar.

Helping Cultivate The Grapplers of Tomorrow

NAGA is recognized as holding the largest grappling competitions on earth - and with Europe - their reputation is likely to get stronger.

NAGA is recognized as holding the largest grappling competitions on earth – and with Europe – their reputation is likely to get stronger.

“I think competition gives students an added motivation when training,” Cuff proclaimed. Joe is aware of the role he and his company have had on aspiring grapplers worldwide by giving them a platform to showcase their abilities.

“NAGA feels that by giving participants of all grappling arts a forum to compete in, this helps all involved in the sport” Joe continued. “Those looking to compete need a place to train. This helps bring students to academies. Grapplers need clothing to compete in, this helps bring customers to the many grappling specific vendors. It is a circle which I think all benefit from.” Cuff realizes that there is a clear trickledown effect in the sport of Jiu Jitsu, and combat sport community in general, which is something he has no problem supporting.

With the NAGA brand well established here in the States, Joe has continued to take the name worldwide, and has no signs of letting up. Check out the sweet video below that you guys will like of some highlights from the NAGA Gi divisions.

Grappling Without Boarders

“We have always had ideas of expanding worldwide but it was something that was not in our immediate plans a decade ago,” Joe confesses. However, times have clearly changed for Cuff and his company. “In 2013 we had events in Germany, Monaco, and our upcoming European Championship in Paris (Levallois). We have multiple new European locations in the works for 2014.”

Joe was quick to credit the French Olympic wrestler, Jean Francois Court, for helping bring the NAGA brand overseas. “There is a strong BJJ community throughout Europe. NAGA also gets many competitors from judo and wrestling backgrounds.” Curious as to how the typical North American grapplers compares with the typical European grappler stylistically, I picked Joe’s brain about it to see if he has noticed any differences or similarities.

“I think the styles are quite a bit alike,” Joe shared, much to my surprise. “Maybe a few years back you would have seen a larger percentage of European grapplers with a more traditional, I guess, old school approach.”

But what has made the European grappler less “old school”? Joe feels that’s a simple answer. “But with the extensive network of YouTube and instructors with their own online courses, the newer cutting edge techniques are available to all,” Joe shared, which is something I couldn’t agree with more! “Technology has made it possible to share techniques from thousands of miles away, it is quite remarkable.” NAGA Europe now has their very own Fanpage, too, which features tournament clips and updates.

Seeing the constant evolution of the sport and what it has to offer in terms of new talent and styles, Joe couldn’t be more excited for the future and what it holds for himself, NAGA and the sport of Jiu Jitsu. When I asked what was on the docket for NAGA, an ardent Cuff pulled no punches.

“NAGA will continue to promote more events throughout Europe in 2014 and beyond,” yet, it doesn’t stop there. “We are also looking into having an event in Brazil in 2014. Beyond 2014, locations such as Russia, Japan, Africa, and Central America are being considered.” With great success in their expansion into Europe under their belts, and with strong footing already established in the United States, it would be an understatement to say that the sky is the limit for Joe and NAGA.

I guess all we can do now is sit back and enjoy the ride as they continue to thrive. Happy grappling,

Dan Faggella

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About Daniel Faggella

I'm 130 pounds, absolute medalist, Brown Belt No Gi Pan Am champion, and total fanatic about lightweight BJJ technique and strategy. I've written for Jiu Jitsu Magazine, Jiu Jitsu Style, MMA Sports Mag, and others.

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