The notion of pay-per-view jiu-jitsu is relatively new. Copa Podio and Metamoris were early adopters of the live stream model, and their efforts helped to inspire organizations like Polaris, Budo Videos, IBJJF, Flo Grappling, and the Eddie Bravo Invitational to follow suit. The collective goal is a simple win: Elevate professional jiu-jitsu closer to the height of professional MMA and boxing. If this is successful, the sport as a whole benefits from increased attention, and jiu-jitsu businesses as well as athletes would enjoy additional revenue.
Here's the thing. Running a professional grappling organization is really really hard.
- The logistics are complex. You have to set up a venue, book athletes and their arrangements, and also coordinate all of the technology necessary for a smooth live stream.
- It’s expensive. Putting up the capital for a venue, hardware, and decent athlete pay requires some deep pockets or generous backers.
- The market is still in its infancy. Yes, events have been streaming for a few years, but the sport isn’t that big yet. Energizing an audience to pay for an event is not easy, and the pool of potential customers is pretty small.
We are at a point in our sport where we have grown at such a rate that pay-per-view grappling events are even viable, but we aren’t to the point where we can take them for granted. If we don’t support these events now while they are in their early stages, we might miss out on what professional grappling could become. While most of us in the sport are reasonable enough to admit that professional grappling is unlikely to ever rival MMA or boxing—let’s face it, we are a niche sport—we do hope that the world class athletes in our midst could make a reasonable living for devoting their lives to pushing the envelope of grappling technique.
As it stands now, a professional grappler makes most of their money from sponsorships and seminars and very little from actually competing. A growing PPV market would help to boost the size of purses, but more than that, it would boost interest from sponsors and accelerate seminar opportunities. So while competing itself might not become a fulltime career any time soon, elevating the stage even a little bit can create a number of positive ripples.
At Inverted Gear, we are fans of pretty every grappling organization (except the ones that don’t pay their athletes), so when we encourage you to support Polaris, we are not saying that you should be against other grappling organizations. Not at all. Instead, we want to highlight the things that we think Polaris is doing right in the hopes that other organizations follow suit:
- Athletes first. Nelson and Hillary got to travel to England alongside Reilly Bodycomb and spent time backstage with the other fighters. They reported that on the backend—the part of the event that few spectators ever hear about—fighters were taken care of and treated well. That’s a big deal.
- Credibility. Speaking from personally experience, the folks behind Polaris are a class act. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Matt Benyon (best known for his work with Scramble) on a number of projects, including a cross-promotion for Polaris 2, and he has never turned away someone looking for help or reneged on a promise. His word is his word, and you never have to worry about the contrary.
- Diversity. From the beginning Polaris has gone to great lengths to bring together a variety of grapplers, from different background, genders, and hemispheres. Polaris makes a deliberate effort to represent the grappling world rather than any single region or style.
- Engagement. Polaris actively participates in and listens to the community. If you interact with professional grapplers on Instagram or Twitter or post in r/BJJ, you have probably talked to someone that works for Polaris without even realizing it. By staying grounded in the grappling community, Polaris not only creates the match-ups fans wants to see but also runs their business in a way that is transparent and responsive.
- Quality. Polaris doesn’t skimp on production value. The event is run well and looks great, making you feel as though you got your money’s worth.