UFC Fight Pass have been involved in the professional grappling world for quite some time now, but it’s only recently that they have decided to start promoting their own events as well. The streaming service was launched back in 2013 and although many early subscribers will only have signed up to watch UFC events, it quickly became a great place to find top grapplers competing regularly. In the earliest days of UFC Fight Pass, the interest they had in the grappling world was solely down to 10th Planet founder Eddie Bravo, as he used the service to broadcast EBI events.
Since those early days, Eddie Bravo has expanded his work as a promoter and even invented a completely new format for grapplers to compete under as well. First he came up with the idea of Combat Jiu-Jitsu and although it started as an interesting idea at EBI events, it quickly developed into something a lot bigger than that. From those small four-man tournaments in the beginning, Bravo eventually put together a world championship tournament for the ruleset. Although that’s as far as he has gone when it comes to developing new rulesets, Bravo has continued to branch out into other areas and recently started a female-only promotion; Medusa.
Although these three promotions alone form a pretty regular offering of professional grappling for fans to engage with, that would never have been enough to compete FloGrappling alone. UFC Fight Pass hasn’t stopped there though, as the organization has hosted a number of smaller grappling promotions from the US like Fury Pro Grappling and Rise Invitational. It was the brainchild of UFC veteran Chael Sonnen that proved to be one of their biggest successes though, as Submission Underground played host to some incredible talent and was incredibly well-received by fans all around the world.
Although SUG are no longer active, Sonnen has previously confirmed that the door isn’t closed on them forever. UFC Fight Pass has branched out around the globe at the same time though, and they also have exclusive broadcast rights to the biggest promotion in Europe as well. Polaris has been staging dozens of events and has featured some of the best grapplers and most famous MMA fighters on the planet on a regular basis. They have been pretty inventive as far as formats go as well, as they have even delved into the world of team grappling with their Polaris Squads events.
UFC Fight Pass did used to be the home of the original team grappling promotion, Quintet, as well. Although Kazushi Sakuraba originally broadcast the first eleven editions of his promotion on UFC Fight Pass, Quintet hasn’t been exclusive to them for it’s entire run. When it returned after a two-year hiatus with Quintet 4, Sakuraba decided to take his promotion down a different route for it’s choice of streaming service. Quintet left UFC Fight Pass and instead signed a deal to broadcast their comeback event on FloGrappling instead.
Although that change could be seen as a signal that competition with FloGrappling is an exercise in futility, it actually shows that direct competition is a huge benefit to the community. Thanks to UFC Fight Pass, there is another major grappling promotion out there for athletes to compete for and they’ve been able to encourage both streaming services to compete for what they can offer. Another great example of this happened at the beginning of 2023, when UFC Fight Pass was actually able to entice the biggest no gi event in the world away from FloGrappling.
ADCC signed a multi-year deal with UFC Fight Pass at the beginning of 2023 and announced that they were moving away from their original home of FloGrappling. Although ADCC returned to FloGrappling shortly after the initial announcement was made, it was too late to undo the impact that it had made. Regardless of why the deal fell through, this was a clear signal that UFC Fight Pass are able to compete with FloGrappling on a level playing field and have the potential to attract existing major promotions instead of just growing new ones. This pattern repeated on a smaller level too, as Submission Hunter Pro joined the UFC Fight Pass family later on in the year too.
Perhaps the biggest impact that UFC Fight Pass have had on the world of professional grappling is with the introduction of UFC Fight Pass Invitational. The move to producing their own events has been a huge benefit, as it allows them to have a consistent and permanent place at the very top of the sport. Although it started out as a team grappling event at first, it has blossomed into booking superfights with many of the greatest competitors on the planet. It’s still relatively early on in the life of UFC Fight Pass Invitational, as their first event only occurred at the end of 2021 and there’s a pretty long break between each edition.
UFC Fight Pass Invitational might still be a new face in professional grappling, but they’ve already positioned themselves as one of the biggest promotions around. Not only are they a direct competitor to FloGrappling’s own Who’s Number One events, but UFC Fight Pass also play host to many of the other major events on the planet now too. This has a fantastic effect on the sport as there are more opportunities for grapplers to compete and for the very best around, more promotions battling it out to secure their services.
This is a huge financial benefit to every level of the sport, as there are more spots open for the lower ranks of professional competitors and the truly elite will be able to leverage their name for bigger individual paydays. It isn’t just good for the grapplers though, as promoters are now able to leverage two streaming services against one another just like Quintet did. As an added bonus, promotions making more money means that they’re also able to pass some of those gains on to the athletes who compete for them as well.
The final benefit is for the consumer though, because they now have the ability to choose between streaming services. When FloGrappling dominates the market they essentially have control over the sport, and they get to dictate what practices the fans have to put up with. They’ve even settled a class-action lawsuit levied against them by subscribers as a result of some of their business practices. If fans have two services to choose from then it puts pressure on whichever one is losing that battle, as they will have to improve the level of service they provide by lowering the cost or simply offering more.
For the moment, FloGrappling is still the king of streaming professional grappling competition. While they still hold the rights to broadcast ADCC and ever major IBJJF event, it’s going to be almost impossible to take them down from that top spot. Those broadcast deals don’t last forever though and as UFC Fight Pass becomes more and more appealing, the odds of it securing one of the sport’s two biggest events grows even further. When that day does eventually come, that will likely mark the turning point in who has the biggest presence in the market.
For more of our opinion pieces on various topics, visit our opinion piece archives.