There have been plenty of unique concepts when it comes to mixed martial arts, kickboxing or grappling.
YAMMA tried to put fights in a bowl. The IFL attempted team scoring for mixed martial arts fights. Chuck Norris tried something similar for kickboxing with the World Combat League.
On early Wednesday morning in the U.S., PRIDE Fighting Championships legend Kazushi Sakuraba and former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett will take their own stab at a new concept as they present QUINTET — a five on five grappling competition that’s based in the world of Brazilian jiu-jitsu with a healthy dose of professional wrestling flare used to create the rule set and the pageantry surrounding the event.
Sakuraba says he came up with the idea based mostly around two past experiences in his own life. The first was growing up on the mats where he saw wrestling and judo teams competing for a grand prize as much as they were for individual fame and glory.
“When I was in high school and college, the style where the winner moves on attrition style was pretty typical and recently I went to a judo competition where I saw them doing something similar. I thought this was way more interesting than just the typical one on one match,” Sakuraba told MMAWeekly.
The second part came from his own experience when he was involved in a grappling match with Renzo Gracie that wasn’t exactly the most thrilling affair, mostly thanks to the rule set.
The last thing Sakuraba wanted was to be involved in any kind of sport where the fans watching weren’t interested in what they were witnessing so he wanted to add a dash of excitement into grappling.
“The match with Renzo Gracie definitely was a part of it. When I was doing amateur wrestling back in the day you would get a warning [for stalling] and that’s something I dealt with in my years of MMA as well,” Sakuraba said.
The end result was a five on five grappling competition that involved strategy in putting the team together, matches that could see heavyweights taking on much smaller opponents, and a sort of chain wrestling match where winning keeps you on the mat.
It didn’t take much for Sakuraba to describe this concept to Barnett before he was ready to sign on to help build QUINTET and even jumped at the chance to participate in the debut card.
“He approached me about this project and he knew that I was something in the grappling scene that had a lot of experience and was highly regarded. Also the fact that I could help him with a lot of connections but between the two of us we have quite a reputation in Japan. He came to me with this project idea and said ‘what do you think?’ and for me it was pretty a much a no brainer. I just said let’s do it,” Barnett said.
“Working with Sakuraba was something I’ve wanted to do. This five on five match and the fact that both he and I have the same approaches with how we believe grappling can be done to be exciting. It just seemed to be a perfect fit.”
Sakuraba and Barnett already have plans in place for several events this year in hopes of not only presenting a new product but also giving fans something more exciting to watch than the typical one on one grappling match.
Considering both are life long practitioners of wrestling, jiu-jitsu and several other styles of grappling, they are banking on a way to make QUINTET a unique approach that will get fans excited to witness something they’ve never seen before.
“I wanted people to be able to enjoy grappling,” Sakuraba said. “At the same time, every martial arts event since the beginning of television martial arts events, it’s been one on one matches. It’s time for something new.”
Barnett definitely agreed and he believes QUINTET will be a great opportunity to explore a new concept in grappling.
“We expect there to be some good matches and constant action,” Barnett said.
The debut QUINTET event will kick off on UFC Fight Pass starting at 5:30 a.m. ET.