Shortly after FloGrappling made the announcement that Gordon Ryan had signed a seven figure fight deal with them, it was announced that UFC Fight Pass has acquired the rights to broadcast the ADCC Championships for the next two years. While I believe the announcements and timing were intertwined in ways, I talked about Gordon’s deal in a previous article so it’s time to focus on ADCC deal.
On one hand, broadcast rights to ADCC isn’t groundbreaking news in of itself, as the event rights has changed hands a number of times since it was live-streamed with such companies as ProElite, BudoVideos, and of course FloGrappling. UFC Fightpass getting the rights is big news ass it has a larger potential audience that any of the previous streaming providers.
Hard numbers for each platforms subscription base is difficult to find, but a report in 2017 stated the UFC Fight Pass had a subscription count around 250,000 subscribers globally, with a growth rate of 28% year to date and 23% year to year reported in 2020. If those numbers are anywhere near accurate, one can assume a subscription base of anywhere between 500,000 to 700,000 subscribers currently.
No numbers are available for either FloGrappling maybe it’s telling that their YouTube Channel with Free Content currently has 394,000 subscribers which is less than the paid subscribers to UFC Fight Pass by estimate (the UFC YouTube channel as 14.8 million subscribers. FloSports (FloGrappling’s parent company) claims 500,000 subscribers across 25 channels however, so the actual potential audience for an event like ADCC on either channel might be closer than it would seem on first examination.
Of course, a strong argument could be made that the audience that UFC FightPass provides (UFC / Fight Fans) is a stronger cross over audience to submission grappling than all of FloSports which includes Hockey, Cycling, Gymnastics and more.
There is also the potential of more mainstream media coverage for the ADCC in that UFC Fight Pass has certain ties to ESPN, although it has to be stressed that this is just a potential and doesn’t automatically come with the deal and a great deal of promotional work will need to be done. FloSports stated goal is to go after niche markets that other providers don’t.
It might seem that ADCC moving to the UFC Fight Pass is a graduation of sorts in that it the event is moving beyond niche into something there content platforms are looking to gain the rights on. There is a correlation between more viewers on the sport and more dollars in the sport, both in terms of direct payments and sponsors. (Actually sponsorship will be the next big plateau for the sport to conquer in can it attract a more mainstream sponsor in the way the UFC signed Reebok…another article I think).
Overall some big potential positives for the ADCC moving to UFC Fight Pass, but it’s important to note that so far this is just the potentials. There are some pitfalls to watch out for as well.
Firstly, it can’t be overstated enough the perceived plusses thus far is simply the potential ADCC pass on UFC FightPass, and nothing has been delivered yet. My thought is that this signing is merely the first in a series of steps going all the way to the actual championships in 2024, at which point we’ll be able to better determine metrics which will determine the success of the move or not.
ADCC on Flograppling was the premier event on an entire platform dedicated to submission grappling. ADCC no longer has that benefit on the UFC Fight Pass. How that relationship works out between the two when one party (UFC) is less dependent on the other (ADCC) or has an main product to push (the UFC itself) remains to be seen. ADCC will know likely have to work around UFC programming scheduling.
There’s a pretty big difference in how any grappling tournament (including ADCC) is run versus how an MMA event (like the UFC is run). ADCC, at least in the prelims have multiple fights going on at the same time. It remains to be seen if the capacity to select fights live will be available on FightPass. ADCC is also a much longer event than UFC shows are, with scheduling issues will this be allowed on UFC FightPass. There was a statement from the ADCC promoters that the goal was to provide the best live experience possible for attendees, how much will that shift now that they have a contract to provide content for the UFC Fight Pass?
I do think that ADCC moving to UFC Fight Pass is ultimately a good thing for ADCC, Submission Grappling as a sport and the grapplers themselves in that it opens up so much more potential, but questions should be asked and risks mitigated. I hesitate to say that we’ve gone “mainstream” (what does that even mean), but anything that has the potential to grow the audience and ultimately support the athletes (as well as everyone who loves this sport) is to be supported.
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