CarJitsu: Driving Niche Sports Into the Limelight

New sports are popping up at a rapid clip, thanks to enhanced online visibility and an insatiable urge for content. CarJitsu is one such niche sport that has garnered an online following. Pro League Network has been promoting the sport for some time; I spoke with co-founders Mike Salvaris and Bill Yucatonis to see what turned on the ignition for CarJitsu.

What Is CarJitsu?

Let’s have Mike Salvaris summarize this one:

“So CarJitsu, as the name suggests, is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in a car.”

Yeah, it’s not exactly rocket science. CarJitsu is exactly what it sounds like, which, in my opinion, is a supremely refreshing thing in the world of sports (that one’s for all my British colleagues who are still salty about our pilfering of “foot”ball; I hear ya, mates!).

CarJitsu was created and championed by Vik Mikheev, a Russian expat pursuing his PhD at Kansas State University. Salvaris and Yucatonis were surfing the internet for unique sports as they formed Pro League Network when they encountered the early iterations of CarJitsu. It took some prodding, but they eventually got Vik to chat with them. The pair flew out to Kansas, explained their vision for PLN and CarJitsu, and a partnership was born.

Here’s Salvaris again:

“Vik agreed to some and fight in the first series of matches we held. We filmed in what would eventually become PLN Studios in Branson, Missouri. We found a 2005 Toyota Scion for 600 bucks — it didn’t work, didn’t even have a motor — and towed it in. We disabled the airbags and altered the car to be a safe fighting environment, then we held our first event in October 2022.”

The crew recorded a handful of bouts and posted each one on YouTube as its own event. The first one they released went viral, gathering more than 70 million views early on. It appeared on ESPN and various news shows.

How Does CarJitsu Work?

The closest I’ve come to doing Brazilian jiu-jitsu is wearing a brown belt (gotta match my dress shoes). I’m guessing many readers are in a similar boat. Like me, you’re wondering: how does CarJitsu work? The PLN co-founders gave me the lowdown. Here’s Bill Yucatonis explaining how each bout works. Notably, he joined our Zoom call from his car, but he insists he wasn’t fighting anyone that day.

Athletes are paired by skill — which means their belt level — as well as weight divisions. There are five different weight classes. There’s a coin toss that starts each match. The winner of the toss decideds wehther they want the driver’s seat or passenger’s seat to start.”

Yucatonis said he’s heard amazing arguments for the benefits of either starting seat. The jury’s out on whether the steering wheel is a help or a hindrance. Either way, both competitors buckle up and the bout begins. Yucatonis continued:

“It’s a timed match; three minutes. The winner of a round is determined by submission, which could be any form of grappling, or when an athlete taps out. In Brazilian jiu-jitsu, you can use your Gi belt itself as a point of leverage. The seatbelt can serve a similar purpose in a bout.”

Once a round ends, whether by submission or time expiring, the fighters switch sides. Another round commences, again for three minutes.

If both rounds end and there’s a deadlock, a final bout takes place in the backseat of the car. It’s another three-minute bout. If it doesn’t end with a submission, it goes to overtime. In overtime, any jiu-jitsu point scored wins that player the game. Points in BJJ can be scored using various techniques, including mounts.

Salvaris expanded on how the match is monitored:

“We have two officials that stand on either side of the car to look at the fighers. Plus, the sanctioning body is up there keeping score and time. All the officials are trained BJJ officials.”

A Unique Appeal

Despite its seemingly niche existence, Yucatonis and Salvaris have found CarJitsu to have a fairly wide appeal.

“It’s certainly got that wow factor,” said Mike Salvaris, “but beyond that, it’s actually just incredibly watchable. It grabs you — pun intended — even though it initially feels unusual watching two people fight in a car. There’s something sort of visceral about that, and it draws a casual audience.”

While CarJitsu enjoys a casual appeal thanks to its virality and distinct structure, Yucatonis also notes that the sport can build a loyal audience in MMA communities.

“It has those combat sport elements to it,” Yucatonis said. “It fits nicely within our portfolio, especially with cross-promotion opportunities with Slap Fight.”

For professional fighters, being placed in a car allows for technical applications that have value in the wider sport. Yucatonis again:

“If you’re a BJJ fighter, a high-belted person, the confines of the space can be core to your training. It helps provoke additional ways these fighters can compete in a car or elsewhere.”

Yucatonis also said there were opportunities to promote self-defense and in-vehicle safety, particularly for those who wish to brush up on safety in rideshares.

The main appeal of CarJitsu remains in the digital space for now. Watching live isn’t exactly as electrifying when the contestants are within the confines of a relatively small vehicle. Even so, Yuctonis and Salvaris see the potential for live matches with big video screens.

Revving It Up: Selecting the Right Vehicle

CarJitsu has come a long way since its early days in a 2005 Toyota Scion. PLN has a partnership with EZ Auto, which provides them with vehicles and maintains them for bouts. The CarJitsu sanctioning body inspects every car before a bout to ensure it’s up to regulatory and safety standards for the sport.

A few considerations come into play when selecting a car for a bout. Yucatonis elaborated:

It’s got to be an automatic. You dopn’t want it to flip into gear during a bout. There are also some impediments that we look at around the middle console, like shift knobs, that would disqualify a car form being usable.”

Can You Bet on CarJitsu?

No, but you might be able to soon. The co-founders teased potential betting opportunities for CarJitsu fans.

“It’s before some Gaming Commissions for approval,” Yucatonis said. “it has all the necessary elements to get it licensed. We’ve spent a lot of time making sure the mechanics are well-suited to eventual betting. Some Commissions have reached out directly to learn more, so that’s a good sign.”

They both stayed tight-lipped about which Commissions are reviewing CarJitsu as a betting sport, but we’ll keep an eye out for any announcements from PLN on that front.


About the Author
Cole Rush

Cole Rush

Writer and Contributor
Cole Rush is an industry writer and contributor at Gaming Today. He is a Chicago-based writer in the gambling and media spaces. His work has been showcased in various gaming industry magazines and online columns. Rush also covers pop culture and books for Reactor Mag (formerly and, a sci-fi and fantasy book review site. He has more than eight years of experience writing about gambling and entertainment.

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