Mahamed Aly was the proud winner of the 2nd World Series of Grappling event last weekend and netted himself $20k for his troubles. He put on an impressive performance and even took out the formidable Keenan Cornelius on his way to the gold.
After the tournament Aly posted the following message on his Instagram which posed the following question: “Is it better to win worlds or a tournament that pays 20k?”
Judging by my Instagram feed the post was very well received by the active professional grappling community with many others echoing his statements. It seems that Aly’s comments struck a bit of a nerve and it has left many people asking very honest questions about the future of the professional sport.
Potential demise of IBJJF
This made me think about where the sport was heading and if might soon get to the stage where the top professionals in the Gi stop entering the Worlds, Pans, Europeans, and Brazilian nationals in order to focus on the grappling competitions that offer cash prizes.
If this did become the norm it would be a massive shame in my opinion. The Worlds is generally accepted as the pinnacle of the sport and it is the one place we get to see the best vs the best at the height of their ability. It is hard to imagine a World Championships without Buchecha, Leandro Lo, and Bruno Malfacine. Howevert this scenario is becoming more likely every day.
The IBJJF are not known as an organization that responds quickly to change. However if they do not review their current prize structures they run the risk of becoming less relevant.
The IBBJF currently reward the top ranked fighters at the end of each year. Last year Erberth Santos won the $15K cash prize but did so by entering approximately 10 IBJJF events that were hosted in several different countries. While it is a nice prize to win it does not take into account the amount of travelling and expense that is incurred by the athlete in order to win the prize. All added up it is likely that Erberth (and his sponsors) spent the the guts of $15K on his way to the 1st place prize.
Including the female and absolute divisions there are currently 17 world champion brackets at black belt every year. There is a massive discrepancy across the divisions in terms of number and quality of entrants so would be hard to provide a standard cash prize for each medalist.
Instead why not have absolute divisions at +100kg and -77kg and reward the top 3 finishers in each division? This makes for a total of 12 cash prizes which seems very reasonable. Surely the IBJJF could budget approximately $200k to be distributed among this medalists.
Rewarding the top athletes that they depend on to promote their product seems like common sense from a business point of view. In light of the changing professional landscape this decision appears to be a no brainer. They are already making money off these athletes by selling their live events to content providers such as Flograppling. Instead of the athletes it should be the IBJJF asking themselves: Is it better to win worlds or a tournament that pays $20k?
Featured photo by: @kosinskibjj