“Being a professional Jiu Jitsu athlete beats having a 9-5 job.”- Craig Jones.
You wouldn’t think Australia would be home to one of the best no Gi grapplers in the world. But Craig Jones has quickly risen to become one of the best grapplers on the planet.
Since his breakout performance at the 2017 ADCC, he has established himself as one of the world's best. Tapping elite grapplers and developing one of the strongest and most diverse games in all of Jiu Jitsu.
Craig had worked hard to get where he is at and still getting better. Check out the full story on Craig Jones as we detail his journey to being a top BJJ athlete.
Craig's Start in Jiu Jitsu
Jones grew up in Adelaide, Australia. He was a very active kid doing all sorts of sports. His first entry into martial arts training was doing some TaeKwondo and Judo lessons for a little while.
At 15, he started taking Jiu Jitsu classes after he began watching MMA. He joined his first gym called ISOHEALTH that was run by his cousin Matt Jones.
Craig would train passively for the first years he did Jiu Jitsu. He lived in a small town that really didn’t have a big Jiu Jitsu scene - there was maybe one tournament a year to compete in if he was lucky!
After a few years of training Craig was a purple belt and active in the Australian grappling circuit. But due to such minimal opportunities there, Craig didn’t see much of a future for him in BJJ.
But after vacationing in the US, he decided to compete in a tournament. Jones was amazed at what he saw at this tournament.
Jones saw that there was an actual Jiu Jitsu scene there, swimming with top level BJJ athletes! Motivated from his trip, Craig was ready to start making his dream a reality.
Craig moves to Melbourne
If Craig wanted to make something happen at Jiu Jitsu, he had to go to a place to get more high level training opportunities. He then decided to move to Melbourne and joined Absolute MMA(then called Maromba Academy).
At Absolute MMA, he began receiving coaching from another standout BJJ athlete, Lachlan Giles. Up until this point at purple belt, Craig really hadn’t taken his training to the next level. He hadn’t even trained with a black belt until he started training at Absolute MMA.
According to Lachlan Giles, Craig rolled very passively at first. But as he saw the pace of competition style rolling, he started to up his pace and improved dramatically.
In just two years of training at Absolute under Lachlan’s tutelage, Craig had made it in competing at IBJJF Worlds in 2015. Jones had a fantastic performance there and became a world champion at purple belt.
After Craig’s win, Lachlan promoted him to a brown belt and just a year after that to black belt.
Jones Keeps Working
If you didn’t already know, there wasn’t much money in Jiu Jitsu. You have to work day and night to be a professional Jiu Jitsu athlete. This is something Craig understood and started working day and night to make his dream a reality.
Jones would only sleep about 4 hours a night and spend every day coaching and training, On weekends, he would travel to competitions hoping to win and improve his skills.
Since brown belt it was like this for Jones. He never had a lot of money and would spend what he had to go compete at tournaments. On top of training, Craig was also studying for a Bachelor’s in Behavioural Science.
He knew one day his work would pay off and he could make a living as a pro grappler.
In 2017, Craig wanted to take a shot at competing at the 2017 ADCC championships that year. But first he had to compete and win at one of the qualifying events to punch his ticket.
Short on funds to make it to the qualifiers, Craig sold his car for a plane ticket. At the US West Coast Trials, Craig felt he wasn’t the best there, but he was the best that day. He had punched his ticket to the ADCC championships in Finland.
Jones was a seemingly unknown Jones would make quite a buzz on his first day of competition. He drew 2 former world champions in the under 88kg bracket against Murilo Santana and Leandro Lo.
Craig shocked the world submitting both former world champions on his way to the semifinals. He would unfortunately come up short against Keenan Cornelius and lost the 3rd place match against Xande Ribeiro.
But all in all ADCC was a huge success for Craig. Just one year after getting his black belt, he submitted two world champions in the world’s biggest no Gi tournament. This would open up huge opportunities for him in the pro grappling circuit.
Pro Grappling Opportunities
After his performance at ADCC, Craig started to get numerous opportunities in pro grappling.
One of his first was at the 2017 Eddie Bravo Invitational. He earned 3rd place there not before submitting his first 3 opponents in under 90 seconds with heel hooks.
In the next year he would win the 2018 Polaris Championship at 185lb and 205lb. Also at the Kasai Grand Prix getting 3rd place.
2019 would earn him yet another 185lb championship at Kasai and another 3rd place finish at Kasai. He would also make his return to ADCC and earn 2nd place after submitting 3 opponents.
Covid-19 slowed down Jiu Jitsu competitions, but not Craig Jones. He competed and won at 3 Submission Underground events. Beating Kevin Casey, Vinny Magalhaes, and just recently Vagner Rocha.
Craig's Leg Lock System and Back Takes
Jones has gained quite a following with his Jiu Jitsu game. With the help of Lachlan Giles, Jones has created one of the best leg lock systems in Jiu Jitsu.
He starts many of his leg lock entries from the Z guard and has proven effective. Craig has heel hooked many of the top grapplers in BJJ from his stellar Z guard.
On top of being an ace at leg locks, he is also a wizard at back takes. The RNC may be his best submission as it’s what he beat Leandro Lo with!
What's Next For Jones
You can expect Craig Jones to still be one of the top grapplers in the world for many years to come. He is only getting better every year and is looking to keep his streak going and hopefully win the title at the next ADCC!