FloSports CEO Martin Floreani: With The Right Marketing, Grappling Could Be As Big As Football

FloSports CEO Martin Floreani is passionate about his product. When he speaks, you can tell he is a man who started out from the bottom – in a garage in Austin, Texas, to be exact – and struggled his way to the top with nothing more than the love of what he was doing to motivate him.

He is also passionate about the sports promoted on his website.  In fact, he believes that grappling is just as awesome as football; and if you ask him why one sport is selling out stadiums while the other is barely able to fill a high school auditorium, his answer is simple.


“I knew inherently football wasn’t deemed to be the greatest sport in America,” Martin told the Jiu-Jitsu Times via Skype on Friday afternoon.  “It was made that way through marketing the right celebrities and marketing the right events.

“Imagine for the last twenty years all you saw for football was the Super Bowl,” he continued later in the interview, “And you didn’t really get to fully tell the stories all year round.  Football wouldn’t be anywhere near where it it is today, because you didn’t do the fundamentals right.”

And that is precisely what Flo is doing for sports such as grappling.  It is making sure the world – or, at the very least, Flo subscribers – know the story lines behind the fighters. It is also giving athletes the marketing they need to one day achieve the type of fame football players have today.

And lucky for Martin and FloSports, they have the help of one of the greatest promoters in mixed martial arts, the American Gangster himself, Mr. Chael P. Sonnen.

Sonnen and Floreani go back far.  At the end of our chat on Friday, the FloSports CEO told us a touching story about Chael.

During the early days of FloWrestling, Martin was living in a hot garage in Austin. One day, Flo covered an Oregon State game. Unbeknownst to Martin or anyone else at Flo, Oregon State was one of Chael’s favorite teams.  The American Gangster was apparently so impressed with the small company’s coverage that he sent them $500.

“Believe me, at the time, that money was really, really important,” Floreani told us. “Not just from a money standpoint, but from a morale standpoint.”

Now Chael is much more than a morale booster for Martin; he is a partner who shares Flo’s vision of creating a better marketing strategy to help grappling grow.

“We can’t just put on the event and hope people come and tune in. They will come and they will tune in, but we want to make it big,” Chael told MMA Fighting back in May. “We want to do right by the athletes. We want to go to their hometowns, follow them for two or three days, build these packages, go to their opponent’s do the same thing. Release this to the public, tell the storyline, tell why these matches are happening, why they got into the sport, why they want to win, why they want to participate, why they think they’re the greatest submission fighter alive.”

And that is precisely what Chael Sonnen and Martin Floreani are doing with Submission Underground: they are putting on a well-marketed grappling event capable of growing into a sport that could one day rival MMA or even football.

Both Chael and Martin were shocked at the success of Submission Underground’s first event, which sold out before promoters even had a chance to start advertising.  With the upcoming second event featuring names like Jon Jones, Dan Henderson, Miesha Tate, and Jessica Eye, Floreani believes this event is bound to do even better.

Will it do better than the Super Bowl? Definitely not.

Will it do as well as any game in the regular NFL season?  Again, definitely not.

But let’s not forget that, 25 years ago, MMA was pretty much where grappling is today.  It performed at venues a fraction of the size of its current ones, and was unknown to anyone outside of a small but dedicated fan base.

Today, MMA is attracting celebrities to world-famous stadiums like Madison Square Garden. Stars such as Ronda Rousey and Georges St-Pierre make appearances in multi-million-dollar films, and some mixed martial artists even make their way onto Wheaties boxes and the covers of Sports Illustrated.

What changed between then and now? Maybe it was marketing.  Maybe it was a good fight that caught the public’s attention.  Maybe word slowly got out that mixed martial arts was worth watching.

Most likely, a combination of all those factors played a role and will continue to play a role in the growth of the sport.  MMA is still growing, and there is no reason to believe it won’t be able to attract audiences the size of basketball, baseball, or even football in the next twenty or thirty years.

And if MMA can do it, why can’t grappling?

Submission Underground II will be going down live from the Roseland Theater in Portland, Oregon.  Those who can’t make it to Portland can watch all of the action live on FloGrappling.



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