Catch Wrestling Expert Jake Shannon Weighs In on the Sport’s Crossover into MMA

December 4, 2014
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Suffice it to say that without catch wrestling there would be no mixed martial arts. Catch wrestling’s influence in the American amateur circuit and its profound effect on the Japanese pro wrestling scene have helped shape the development of MMA into what it is today.

And while catch wrestling may have become something of a niche style today, it’s still going strong thanks to the likes of Scientific Wrestling’s Jake Shannon, and in 2014 has had one of its more noteworthy years of late.

In a conversation with, Shannon discussed the influence he sees catch wrestling having in MMA, the year the sport has had and the future of the Scientific Wrestling community. Firstly Jake, can you tell us about catch wrestling and its connection to MMA.

Jake Shannon: Catch wrestling is also a fascinating subject for people who are fascinated by MMA. Catch wrestling was a very popular form of combat sport here in the U.S. around the turn of the 20th century, kind of between the Civil War and World War I. The rules were very similar in a lot of ways to what we see in MMA in regards to submissions, but the difference was in catch wrestling, rather than allowing punches and kicks for a knockout win, they allowed the pin.

You have to understand that I’m something of a catch wrestling nerd, so I might see catch wrestling where others don’t. You’re going to find what you look for in anything in life, really, and I look for it everywhere, so I do see it in a lot of places.

You don’t see it as much here in the U.S., but clearly the influence in catch wrestling in Japan is quite big due in large efforts to a couple of friends of mine who passed away in recent years, Karl Gotch and Billy Robinson. They spread the influence there of the catch-as-catch-can style of wrestling.

You can look at it another angle, by seeing American folk style wrestling, freestyle wrestling, amateur wrestling, as derivatives of catch wrestling, then the impact they have had in MMA, you can see catch wrestling everywhere. If you look at the history of MMA, it’s been wrestlers who have dominated the sport. It kind of depends on the personal lens you use or the perspective you take. One of the most noteworthy things to happen involving catch wrestling was Josh Barnett’s submission win over Dean Lister at Metamoris 4 this past August. Can you tell us your thoughts on that?

Jake Shannon: Josh has really been crucial in getting respect for catch wrestling. We’re kind of the underdogs. We simply don’t have the numbers. So Josh has been seminal…

  • Jake Shannon

    Thanks Mick for the fun interview!

    • steve

      Jake, without a doubt, I believe that Erik Paulson is fantastic, Josh Barnett is legendary, and Kazushi Sakuraba is as well. But here’s the problem.These are the only three names in catch wrestling in relation to MMA even though there have been so many people who have trained in it. Aside from Paulson, Barnett and Sakuraba, it seems that the overwhelming vast majority of catch wrestlers in MMA have been mediocre or worse. Ken Shamrock has sucked since he left pro wrestling to get back into MMA, Nobuhiko Takada, Yoji Anjoh, Timura, and many other have flopped. Why is this? In fact,when a catch wrestler other than Josh Barnett, Erik Paulson, and Kazushi Sakuraba, went up against a bjj guy, more often than not, if it wasn’t a stalemate, the catch wrestler got beaten, in many cases, submitted. Even Shayna Baszler, who was certified under Billy Robinson, got chked out by a jiu jitsu chick. Can you explain why the hell this is? If you’re not Erik Paulson,Josh Barnett, or Kazushi Sakuraba, your catch wrestling doesn’t mean much, if anything at all? And what did Billy Robinson die from?

      • Darren Azzopardi

        I don’t get your point? Is it too mention how useless Catch is unless your one of the guys you mentioned in both your replies?

        There are probably thousands of not so good bjj guys/girls, because of this do we think jj is rubbish? No we don’t, we don’t because we’ve witnessed how successful it has been over the years. The fact is Catch Wrestling compared to JJ is lesser known, so you don’t get guys/girls wanting to practice it or talking about it unless you know. So you don’t get a large influx of catch wrestlers entering tournaments etc.

        Because fellow catch wrestler loses to a jiu jitsu person and vice versa, it doesn’t mean anything other than a person losing, not a realisation of a practical martial art being useless.

        You seem knowledge but don’t type pointless statements and I’m hoping you practice some sort of martial art because that last point is just rude.

    • steve

      Okay, four names, Megumi Fujii was unstoppable, but she trained in virtually every grappling system anyway like Paulson has. But bottom line is aside from the four, there hasn’t been any notable “catch wrestlers”. And isn’t it funny how after all the years that Josh Barnett has been around and was a former UFC heavyweight champion, it took Barnett literally squashing and flattening the significantly smaller Dean Lister for 20 minutes, something that I’ve never seen Josh do to any other opponent, in order for catch to gain more attention?

  • Ballsdeep

    This guy has long neck!