Fight 2 Win is making its return next week, becoming one of the first grappling events to host events again after being forced to postpone their schedule due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s a development that will reveal a different Fight 2 Win experience than we’re used to, with matches taking place without an audience, smaller cards, and two back-to-back events each weekend. At the events themselves, multiple measures will be in place to keep competitors and staff as safe as is possible for an event involving a sport that involves as much physical contact as jiu-jitsu. Everyone that’s not competing will be wearing masks, and a doctor will be coming in at weigh-ins for basic health assessment — if any competitor has even one symptom of the virus, they won’t be allowed to compete. Everyone will also have to sanitize their hands and feet before competing, and mats will be cleaned between each match. “Other than COVID testing — which would take too long to get the results back — I don’t know what other measures we can take,” F2W CEO Seth Daniels told the Jiu-Jitsu Times.
This difficult balance between wanting to keep people safe and needing to keep businesses and livelihoods afloat is one that people around the world — especially in the United States — are experiencing due to the pandemic. Daniels is among the many business owners who have taken big losses due to the outbreak, starting with the expensive and abrupt cancelation of F2W 138.
“When you’re facing economic disaster with something you spend your entire life building… this is a difficult situation for anyone, and I took it hard in the beginning. But then I said f*** it, we can’t just sit around and lose $5,000 a week —because I kept paying my staff, insurance, lawyers, truck payments, semitruck payments… My insurance alone is $5,000 a month because I insure every fighter. When you mitigate that by hosting events, that’s fine, but I’m down $70k from where I was before March.”
“Finally, I said to myself, ‘Alright, kid, you gotta figure something out, or you’ll have to sell the house and car and your possessions,'” said Daniels. He and FloGrappling worked together to figure out what would need to happen in order to resume F2W events, and the answers involved a lot of sacrifices. “It pretty much came down to me begging every single venue that I worked with to give me a price low enough to do back to back days or weeks or an entire month. All my staff’s getting 60% of what they’re normally paid, no one on the undercard can get paid, vendors are underpaid. We’re doing four people to a hotel room. We have all these moving parts happening in unison to make this work.”
The combination of all the cuts and changes has meant that the promotion can (and indeed, has to) cut their budget from $80,000 to $20,000. Even with all those sacrifices and modifications, though, Daniels and the rest of the crew have to face the challenge of putting on a profitable show without any ticket sales. “We just have to make adjustments for everything,” said Daniels. “I’m probably going to play music so there’s some noise happening. I’m sure the first couple shows are gonna be pretty rocky, but once we get it dialed in and everything feels good and looks good, we’ll keep making adjustments. Quit talking about conspiracies, quit blaming the government. Look around you and ask what you need to do to be successful at this time in this world.”
Daniels has stated from the beginning that his mission with Fight 2 Win is to grow jiu-jitsu, and rather than seeing that dream as being limited by the effects of the outbreak, he sees a unique chance to get people interested in the martial art. “I think this is a good opportunity to build interest in BJJ with people who don’t have other sports right now — no MLB, NBA, NFL. We’ve been working on this for six weeks, figuring out how much we can afford every week to keep this going. In doing so, we hope to keep the sport relevant and try to grow it as much as possible. No offense, but Submission Underground isn’t going to turn anyone into a new student. We create new white belts. Hopefully with these events, we can turn people into Zoom students for now and real students later.”
Daniels doesn’t pretend like his promotion’s comeback is going to be easy, but he has confidence that his own expertise and the community’s support for the sport will help make the events happen. “I was smart enough to know how to build this business from nothing. I can put on a full-scale event and you won’t know the difference except for the lack of an audience. I know I have the best product in the world right now. I wouldn’t be able to build that if not for the support I’d be getting. I’m using the talents of the people I’ve surrounded myself with over four or five years.”
The opportunity and need to focus completely on his own product has left Daniels unbothered by anything that other promotions are doing or saying. “If this thing has taught us anything, it’s that all the petty s*** doesn’t mean anything at all. Who cares about beef between promotors or fighters? Who gives a s***? We’re looking at the worst economic crisis in history. I think it’s time we all let go of all the petty s***.”
Daniels also hopes that other people use this opportunity to put their own money back into the industry that they miss so much. “We’re trying to keep the sport alive and keep reminding people what we do. People keep saying how essential it is, well, we’ll see how essential it is when it comes time to support BJJ events. Get a FloGrappling account and watch the shows. As long as they get memberships, they can fund the events and we can move forward. If you want to see jiu-jitsu survive, you have to pay for their membership.”