In the pre-pandemic world, it was hard to keep up with all the grappling shows that were happening. The competitive world of jiu-jitsu has grown significantly in recent years, and we’d grown accustomed to having the option of watching grappling nearly every weekend, often with multiple events on a single day.
That, of course, was before the world was slapped with COVID-19, canceling basically everything within and outside of the jiu-jitsu world. As the U.S. struggled — and continues to struggle — with significantly more cases and deaths than any other country, people are also facing very valid concerns about their ability to provide for themselves and their families. Then, of course, there’s the question of how the impact of All Of This can affect mental health as people’s support systems and healthy coping mechanisms give way to isolation and easy vices.
In a perfect world, everyone would know exactly how to handle this, but the reality is that every individual person is walking around with a pie chart of worries in their mind. Some have at-risk loved ones they’d do anything to protect, others are unable to work and haven’t gotten the support they need from the government, and others still struggle with dark thoughts that can normally be kept at bay through social interaction and exercise.
Fight 2 Win’s re-emergence as one of the first promotions to host an event (and not just one, but two in the same weekend) since the outbreak really took over daily life is almost symbolic of the fight that many of us have experienced over the past couple months. The promotion is faced with a unique challenge: host two events in which competitors will be flouting all social distancing recommendations in the interest of helping both the individual business and the industry as a whole, all while attempting to prove that such an activity can be done safely in a state where case numbers are still growing by the day.
With familiar competitors like Johnny Tama, AJ Agazarm, Roberto Jimenez, and Vinicius Ferreira (among many others) on this weekend’s Dallas-based cards, F2W is giving us a taste of normalcy with modifications that reflect a very abnormal time.
The decision to host the events in the first place has been controversial — not that the promotion or its founder, Seth Daniels, are strangers to controversy — but even those in the BJJ community who disagree with putting jiu-jitsu back on the map so early will likely have their eyes and ears alert in the aftermath of F2W 139 and 140. Daniels has outlined a series of precautions that will be taken to keep competitors and staff safe, including additional sanitation measures, no live crowd, and fewer competitors on each card.
The question that remains now is if those measures will be enough to both accomplish the promotion’s goals and keep the event from becoming another coronavirus headline about people attending a gathering and getting sick from it.
While Daniels and his team are focused on pulling off a safe and successful chain of events, with the first one kicking off tonight and the second going down tomorrow, there are many people who will see his competitions as a test for whether or not they should be thinking about hosting cards again. Daniels is used to being an experimental type, but the stakes are particularly high this weekend. For better or for worse, F2W 139 and 140 could help determine the number of grappling events that will take place in the near future, if they’re allowed to happen at all.
Just like they weren’t the first sub-only professional grappling event on the scene, F2W isn’t the first or only grappling promotion to host events during the COVID-19 outbreak. But they will be striving to do what they do best: taking something that already exists, and improving on it to the point that they set a new standard.
We’ve seen time and time again how Fight 2 Win has changed the competitive grappling industry, from the way they emerged onto the scene with a mission to make jiu-jitsu look cool, to the addition of judo matches on their cards, to their production work with ADCC last year. In one of their biggest challenges yet, they’ll be helping to answer the question that’s on all of our minds right now: Is it time to bring jiu-jitsu back?
Fight 2 Win 139 and 140 will take place tonight and tomorrow night, respectively. You can watch both shows live only on FloGrappling.