In five to ten years, fans and practitioners of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and grappling will look back on EBI 6 as the landmark event that changed the landscape of professional grappling. If EBI 6 moved the needle and drove a high number of subscriptions and views for UFC Fight Pass, it will open the door for other high-level grappling promotions to stream their events live and result in higher payouts for both the promoters and athletes. UFC Fight Pass already has a strong base of hardcore mixed martial arts and combat sports fans, but hosting BJJ events can help to pull in and attract a new niche segment of the martial arts community. While the UFC doesn’t release numbers on their subscription counts or profits and losses, we will know if EBI 6 and its subsequent events are a winner if UFC Fight Pass continues to add grappling events to it schedule. Keep in mind, the growth of grappling events on UFC Fight Pass will likely be slow and controlled with constant monitoring to see if the events generate subscriptions and streams. Here are the major implications of the success of EBI 6 on the professional grappling community.
More professional grappling on UFC Fight Pass: The UFC won’t be in the business of producing and promoting its own professional grappling cards, but it will acquire the rights to well-run, top-tier professional grappling events with high profile athletes and world champions, a high level production featuring multiple camera views, attractive venue, and built-up brand equity.
EBI may produce more events: Currently, EBI runs events two to three times per year with its 16-man, single elimination, submission only format. If this format proves to be a subscription driver for UFC Fight Pass, EBI can expand to produce more tournaments or super cards. Since they are already on UFC Fight Pass and have a proven brand name among grappling fans, they can choose to increase or diversify their current line-up of events to a monthly or bi-monthly schedule.
Streaming rights for marquee events like ADCC, Abu Dhabi Pro, Metamoris and Polaris will increase: The game changed in 2015 when FLOGrappling snagged the rights to major events including all IBJJF events from Budo Videos. As Metamoris can attest, promoting and distributing grappling events online hasn’t been proven to be a money making venture. Focusing on production and having a third party such as UFC Fight Pass or FLOGrappling can provide a more stable, less risk averse, and guaranteed revenue stream, while also giving sponsors more metrics to measure their return on their investments. Now, FLOGrappling will have another potential bidder in the marketplace if UFC Fight Pass pursues the streaming rights for the same events FLOGrappling signed away from BudoVideos.
FLOGrappling may have to lower pricing: If UFC Fight Pass does increase the number of high-level BJJ events on its scheduled, FLOGrappling might be in trouble. FLOGrappling currently charges $19.99 per month on their month-to-month plan, while UFC Fight Pass charges $9.99 per month on their month-to-month plan. While FLOGrappling has additional content including documentaries and instructional videos, grappling fans have been known to be very fickle and price sensitive. UFC has deeper pockets than FLOGrappling and is in much better position to compete on price and set the market value of content lower than what FLOGrappling can afford to set. A combination of losing major subscription driving content to UFC Fight Pass, paying more to retain streaming rights, while lowering price to retain subscribers who see comparable content on UFC Fight Pass will definitely squeeze the margins on FLOGrappling.
Less Pirating of matches on YouTube: Immediately after the recent Polaris card, the headlining match between Garry Tonon and Rousimar Palhares was uploaded to multiple social media sites. The UFC has done a great job of protecting its content from pirating and unauthorized uploads. This is another selling point for professional grappling promoters who wish to protect their content and preserve the ability to generate residual income from their event libraries.
Crossover marketing opportunities on UFC cards and other Fight Pass Content: If you watched the UFC 197 prelims on UFC Fight Pass, you likely saw several promotional videos for EBI 6 during the live stream. The promotion clips are promoting the events and the athletes to a whole new audience who already have a strong interest in combat sports, but might not have discovered professional grappling. Reaching this segment of the audience will build up the names of both the promotion and the athletes featured in the clips, which will mean more money in the promoters in athletes’ pockets.
Sponsor dollars for athletes on pro grappling cards will increase: Convincing sponsors to pay you in dollars rather than rash guards is still tough for BJJ competitors not named Rafa, Gui, or Marcelo. Sponsors want hard metrics and proof of a return on investment from their competitors. With UFC Fight Pass, metrics from the live stream and replays will provide athletes with metrics they can present to sponsors. Additionally, being part of major events on UFC Fight Pass will help build the athletes brands as they continually grow their social media followings, promote their own schools and businesses, and get booked for other professional grappling events and seminars,
Instructional videos from UFC and BJJ stars: If EBI and other professional grappling events become a consistent content of UFC Fight Pass’s schedule, the content can expand to being a hub for instructional videos from top UFC and BJJ stars. Instructional videos, are a fairly fast, easy and low cost to produce and can provide additional content to draw in fans. There could be acquisition of libraries from video producers including Budo Videos or creation of fresh content that features breakdowns of UFC fights.