I just read a blog post from BJJbreak.com on the ills of FloGrappling and its potential negative impact on the BJJ community. I don’t have a don’t have a horse in this race, but I do think the hate on FloGrappling has been overblown by some in the BJJ community. At times, people tend to dislike change and disruption and will think of the worst case scenarios when a new player such as FloGrappling enters the scene and makes an aggressive splash on the scene. In the case of FloGrappling, the site has locked up rights to several major events and placed it behind its paid firewall. To me, its a big deal over nothing. Here are my counterpoints to BJJbreak.com’s arguments that FloGrappling’s splash on the scene is a big deal.
1. Copa Podio, IBJJF Tournaments, Polaris and others are signing on the dotted line to the detriment of bjj practitioners. Everything is now behind a paywall, unable to access unless you fork over $20 per month, or $150 per year. Counter Point: I have already $13 for one day of white and blue belt matches at Worlds, $15 to $20 for EBI 4, and $25 for a one day pass for of ADCC. Most quality BJJ events are already ‘pay to stream’ events. Putting on shows isn’t cheap, from fighter purses, renting a facility, staffing, and production costs. Selling the rights to the events helps to underwrite the costs of events and also helps increase the fighter purses.
2. The Opportunity Cost: the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen. In this case, all fights are locked up. The average viewer, student, or enthusiast cannot casually access exciting matches, or any matches for that matter. This will hamper the sport, turn away potential new students, and block vital real world learning opportunities from top level athletes. Counter Point: There is tons of exciting matches and content for free on YouTube. After a certain waiting period, most matches find there way there. Even before FloGrappling, the IBJJF and Budo Videos would yank content they owned and produced off YouTube. This is nothing new, but yet great content still finds its way onto YouTube and other video sites. Just google EBI or ADCC 2015 and most of the matches we would want to see are on there. Some are non-official recordings from camera phones, but they are up there to view.
3. Did I mention the site is trash? Counter point: How was the presentation of NoGi Pans compared to a Budo Video stream of an IBJJF event? The upgrades of having the scoreboard graphics was nice. All mats were covered, unlike the free feed of the IBJJF Masters Worlds the previous week. Is it perfect? No. The site is still in its first iteration and willing have a learning curve. I am hoping they will reinvest what they are charging into upgrade the site with content and improving the production value.
4. The hiring of AJ Agazarm. I envy no one who has the daunting task of commentating anything. Especially a sport with the potential to put people to sleep (literally in front of their screens from lack of action), but AJ is not ready for prime time. Missing out on top quality commentary from Dan Lukehart and Shawn Williams is criminal. Counter Point: AJ is an executive with FloGrappling. He is a polarizing figure in the sport. AJ likely shouldn’t be the lone commentator and hopefully this is a lesson learned. Like Renzo Gracie said, “there is now losing in BJJ. Just winning and learning.” Hopefully, Flo will get more experienced commentators for their next stream.
5. $20 per month…really? Counter Point: We are already paying around $20 a month for MGinAction and Mendes Brothers online. If the site can provide great instructional content, archives of great matches, and 1 to 2 events per month, is it a bad deal? Again, I was paying $13 for one day of white and blue belts at Worlds and $25 for a one-day pass for ADCCs. Ultimately, the market and Flo’s Profits and Losses will decide if the $20 per month.$150 per year price point was the right call.
6. The potential for well meaning professional athletes to be hoodwinked into exclusive deals that will hold back their careers. Exposure is the name of the game in commoditizing bjj, but if no on can see you, will you make money? First they came for our video stream, next they will come for our talent. Counter Point: When did Flo ever say they were signing competitors to exclusive contracts? That was Metamoris, not FloGrappling. Most high profile MMA fighters and boxers only fight on pay-per-view. EBI’s purse for the winner grew from roughly $2,000 for the first event to $20,000 during the last event. Paid streams and more sponsorship dollars from the eyeballs from the paid streams helped make that happen. Garry Tonon’s popularity rose through appearances on Metamoris and EBI which were both paid streams. He also leveraged social media, seminars, and sponsors to help promote himself. Public relations and exposure comes in many forms, not just during a major event.