If you have ambitions to be an MMA fighter or are interested in learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Southern California is probably the best place you can be.
Although long associated with sunny beaches, palm trees, and movie stars, the Southern California area is also one of the best in the entire world for current and aspiring MMA fighters and combat sports enthusiasts.
There are several reasons for that, including the local fighting communities, top-tier MMA gyms, and the introduction of Southern California’s own fighting league.
The Fighting Community
First off, there’s the local fighting community. San Diego, for example, has one of the largest Jiu-Jitsu communities in the entire country. That translates to a large number of BJJ academies and a vast pool of fighters.
Of course, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area is the largest in the United States, which translates to a large population. A large population means more fighters, as well as potential fighters.
This history stretches back to the founders of modern-day Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu — the Gracie Family. Rorion Gracie, for example, first settled down in Southern California in the 1960s and eventually started a grassroots BJJ movement there.
There’s also a heavy military presence and a long association with both the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps in San Diego. This military presence is likely why the city is filled with great amateurs and professional fighters — military members are already trained warriors.
With so much competition and so many potential sparring partners, the BJJ community in Southern California boasts not just numbers but top-tier skill and talent.
All of those fighters have to train somewhere, and the Southern California region is no slouch when it comes to world-class combat sports instruction.
Southern California has some of the best fighting gyms in the world — including The Arena Jiu-Jitsu School in San Diego.
The Arena is notable because the BJJ program is headed up by legendary MMA fighter Baret Yoshida, who is a 3-time IBJJF Black Belt World Champion, a three-time ADCC medalist, and the only man in history to compete in the ADCC 10 times.
Of course, The Arena isn’t just a Jiu-Jitsu school. Potential members will find many fighting classes here, ranging from boxing to grappling to Muay Thai. All of the instructors are just as professional and experienced as Yoshida.
The Arena isn’t the only combat sports gym in Southern California, but it is perhaps the best example of one. It’s both the oldest continuously operated martial arts academy in North America and the largest on the continent.
And it’s trained some world-class fighters, too, such as Cris Cyborg, Diego Sanchez, Xande Ribeiro, Fabrico Morango, Joe Duarte, Rick Slaton, and Pat Speight.
Those top-tier fighters have to compete somewhere, which brings us to local fighting leagues. The Southern California region has a few noteworthy standouts.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship, of course, occasionally holds fights in Los Angeles and sometimes promotes events in San Diego. But the latter city also has its own fighting league.
Cage Warriors is an Irish-owned MMA promotion based in the United Kingdom. However, the headquarters of the promotion’s arm in the U.S. is in San Diego.
Back in 2021, Cage Warriors held its first fight in San Diego, leveraging the large pool of fighters in the city for both competitors and spectators. That was just the beginning for the promotion, however.
The president of Cage Warriors, Graham Boylan, says that his goal is to create a team of fighters who can compete with other MMA and combat sports experts across the country — and internationally.
While San Diego’s MMA and BJJ communities are vast, the city’s pool of talent is largely untapped. With Cage Warriors arriving in the past few years, that could change drastically in the future.
Cage Warriors isn’t a second-tier fighting promotion, either. It’s largely seen as an accelerator for UFC talent. In fact, more than 100 Cage Warriors fighters have made it onto a UFC card since the promotion’s inception in San Diego.
In other words, if you want to break into the MMA or BJJ sphere — and potentially compete at an amateur or professional level — then Southern California is the place to be.