Tye Ruotolo praises Craig Jones Invitational, ONE Championship giving grapplers a chance to earn life-changing money (2024)

Tye Ruotolo never imagined he’d actually make a sustainable living competing in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Growing up alongside his brother Kade Ruotolo, the 21-year-old twin always understood that grappling was a passion rather than a career. Highly promoted world champions would routinely go home without much in their pockets after defeating some of the best grapplers in the world in tournaments as prestigious as ADCC where the grand prize is $10,000 and a fourth place finish yields only $1,000.

Times have changed lately, however, with promotions like ONE Championship opening grappling specific divisions and two-time ADCC silver medalist Craig Jones launching his own tournament with a $1 million grand prize on the line. Jones specifically thumbed his nose at the established ADCC tournament by running his upcoming invitational on the same day in August and just across town in Las Vegas.

Both Ruotolo brothers passed on invitations to compete in ADCC to instead join Jones’ upcoming tournament. Tye, who actually competes in a grappling match on Friday at ONE Fight Night 23 from Bangkok, Thailand, acknowledged that money played a part in that decision.

“My parents put their lives into us with Kade and I growing up in jiu-jitsu and there was no money in it whatsoever,” Ruotolo told MMA Fighting. “Very little opportunity. For you to be able to make a living, you had to go open up a gym and be committed to that gym and that’s where you’d get your money as a professional jiu-jitsu fighter. You couldn’t win the Worlds and these other competitions and support yourself. It just wasn’t possible.

“Nowadays, I just thank my parents so much for investing everything that they had. They gave everything to us and it was nothing [in return]. Now we’ve come full circle, thank god, because we have an opportunity to win a million dollars next month. ONE Championship is paying us the most we’ve ever been paid in our whole lives. ONE Championship set up a championship contract, which is something that’s never been done before. There’s just so much more money and opportunity in jiu-jitsu that wasn’t there before. It’s such good timing.”

Ruotolo couldn’t have imagined a better time for his career to really start flourishing than right now with the investment that promotions like ONE Championship have made in grappling.

He’s competing alongside fighters in MMA, Muay Thai and kickboxing with athletes from all four sports earning the kind of money that allows them to just focus on that one particular martial art.

“Super happy to be healthy enough and ready to get the money and the opportunity and the titles,” Ruotolo said. “That’s what it’s all about. You love what you do, you never work a day in your life. I’m stoked to do what I love.

“It’s growing so wildly. Everything that ONE’s doing, the platform that we have to compete on, jiu-jitsu has never seen it before. It’s groundbreaking. It’s such a good time to be a jiu-jitsu fighter.”

While he has a grappling match on Friday and the Craig Jones Invitational scheduled in August, Ruotolo still has plans to eventually cross over into MMA.

Because there just wasn’t a way to earn a living in Brazilian jiu-jitsu as recently as just a few years ago, most grapplers felt like MMA was really the only avenue available to them to make money. That’s no longer the case but Ruotolo always planned on fighting but now the timing is right to make that move.

“Kade and I, we have more of an aggressive style for jiu-jitsu,” Ruotolo explained. “So there’s often times we’re on top and our opponents are just stalling and Kade says it all the time — ‘I wish I could just hit him right now, it would be way easier!.’ I told him, you’ll get to soon!”

Kade made a successful MMA debut in June, although he’s also going back to grappling for that same Craig Jones Invitational as well as a super-match scheduled against Mikey Musumeci in September when ONE Championship returns to the United States.

Tye has every intention of doing the same as his brother and getting his first fight done before 2024 is over.

“I don’t have anything in stone but for sure by the end of the year, I want to make my debut no matter what,” Ruotolo said about fighting. “Watching my brother fight got me so fired up. I was telling the boys I want to do a Muay Thai fight after this! I’m ready to go! Not going to start with Muay Thai, I’m going to start with MMA first and it will be by the end of the year.”

Tye Ruotolo praises Craig Jones Invitational, ONE Championship giving grapplers a chance to earn life-changing money (2024)
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