Ralek Gracie recently appeared on the Inside BJJ podcast to tell his side of what happened with Metamoris, the professional BJJ event he founded. In recent months, Ralek has been accused on social media of not paying athletes, venues, and freelance employees who worked at his events. He was also called out for website glitches that caused automatic renewals subscribers didn’t agree to and has been accused of trying to poach Garry Tonon from EBI. Based on his interview on Inside BJJ and recent comments of fighting in MMA to pay back his debts, Ralek has the chance to rebuild Metamoris into what many thought would be the UFC of professional grappling. Here are 10 pieces of advice I would give Ralek Gracie to help him save Metamoris.
Get a trusted person to be the face of Metamoris: Yes, it is your company and baby. However, based on your public relations missteps, it would be best to bring in a trusted ambassador of the BJJ community to be the face and voice of Metamoris. Black belt Chris Hauter has already served as a referee for your events and is very smart, insightful, well respected and articulate. Your uncle Rickson has been seen hanging out at your events and has a vision for what he believes competitive BJJ should be. Why not see if you can bring him into the fold as an advisor and face for Metamoris while you focus on the background work and logistics of putting on an event.
Get a finance/accounting person to budget and forecast profits/losses: Before planning your next event, sit down with a finance person and come up with realistic financial forecasts so you can put on an event without breaking the bank. Maybe your next event can do without the extra lighting and drummers. Know what your cap is for athletes salaries and stick within the cap. Every marketing and production guy with big ideas needs a bean counter to be the bad guy that helps keep the production within budget.
Partner with production and streaming company: There were security and payment issues with your past online subscription services. Also, putting on an event requires cameras, crew, lighting, producers, and directors. While you focus on the event, why not outsource or partner with an experienced production company like Budo Videos or Flograppling. Also, by partnering with a well known production company with established customer bases, you will be able to tap into their marketing resources including their email database, social media presence, blogs, and podcasts to help promote your event.
Mend fences and make things right: There are competitors and gym owners that hosted Metamoris Challengers who claim they haven’t been paid yet. Eddie Bravo believes you tried to poach Dillon Danis and Garry Tonon from him to ruin EBI 3. Reach out to competitors, coaches and promoters and work to mend the fences. Make phone calls, set up meetings, and try to bury the past so you can work together towards the future.
Build partnerships with other promotions including EBI and Polaris: Rather than viewing other promotions as rivals, view them as partners. In the old professional wrestling days, the National Wrestling Alliance was made up of various promotions from around the world that shared wrestlers, resources, and planned out events together. Since major professional grappling promotions only host quarterly events, why not work with EBI, Polaris, and Copa Podio to coordinate event dates, share talent, have combined rankings, and pursue broadcast and sponsorship deals together.
Keep it in the family: The main event for your next event is your cousin Roger Gracie vs. Buchecha. In your last major event, your brother Ryron bailed you out by stepping in to face Josh Barnett on short notice. If you need talent and well-known names for your events, work with your family to get them or their students to fill out your event cards. Sometimes family, will give you a discount on their salaries to help you out of jam.
Don’t overpay athletes: You were too generous with your pay outs. Once you pay out that much, it is hard to dial the paychecks back down. At this point, keep the base salaries low and provide bonuses based on the athletes’ marketing efforts and if the event turns a profit. Make your athletes into partners and give them an incentive to market your event through online affiliate marketing where they get a cut of online streams and tickets sold directly through unique sales URLs you provide to them.
Build your own stars: On your recent appearance on Inside BJJ, you said you built up Garry Tonon. The truth is Tonon had already had his match with Kron Gracie at ADCC and won EBI 1 by the time you signed him to Metamoris 4. EBI 1 also introduced us to Geo and Richie Martinez. Since you are based in So Cal, the biggest BJJ region outside of Brazil, visit the gyms and local tournaments to discover home grown talent. Drop by Cobrinha’s, Romulo Barral, Jean Jacques Machado’s, Atos, Mendes, and other top level schools to scout out and discover top male and female competitors you can turn into stars. They don’t have to be black belts in order to become stars. Just look at Riley Breedlove and Grace Gundrum at EBI.
Have definitive winners: With each edition of Metamoris, the number of draws went up. Fans want a definitive winner whether it comes from a sudden death overtime, points or judges decision. In your past events, it felt like fighting for a draw in one of your super fights was a win for both participants since nobody lost. There needs to be more at stake with a defined winner and loser for each of your matches at Metamoris.
Go back to venue with live audience: Hosting events in an empty Blackhouse Gym creates a stale environment and doesn’t create a sense of energy for a fan streaming the event. There are a number of low cost theaters, high school gyms, and backdrops like the beach or Santa Monica Promenade where you can host your next event. Any of those venues with fans and a positive vibe will heighten the production of your event.