How Metamoris Missed An Opportunity

If you train, you’re probably aware that Metamoris 5 is this Saturday. The high-profile submission-only superfight event is something that I always look forward to. I’ve bought every stream.

But then, I’m obsessed with and fascinated by jiu-jitsu. I watch an insane amount of matches and instructional videos: I’m always going to purchase these events. In order for Metamoris to be financially viable over the long term, it has to expand its audience beyond people like me.

This is a classic marketing challenge, and I’m sensitive to it. I’m glad Metamoris exists to deliver amazing matches, and I want it to succeed. Which is why it was so heartening to see the organization seize a key moment to engage a broad base of fans this week … and so disappointing to watch the group undo the good work at the last minute, turning what could have been a bunch of goodwill into some hard feelings.

Still excited to watch these matches.

Still excited to watch these matches.

The story starts this past week, when Kevin Casey sadly had to undergo surgery and pull out of his match with Vinny Magalhaes. As anyone who has been around combat sports knows, injuries are a fact of life and can play hell with a card at the last minute — in fact, Casey himself only got onto the last Metamoris card after Magalhaes got staph.

The good news: Metamoris moved swiftly to fill the slot in a creative way that got their fans involved. They solicited applicants for the spot against Vinny on their Facebook page, offering a $10,000 prize for someone who could beat him.

People got excited: tons of black belts would love the opportunity to roll against a world-class guy like Vinny on the big stage. I nominated my instructor and sent the announcement to other black belts who also applied. And I wasn’t alone: suddenly there was a buzz, and Metamoris was inundated with outstanding jiu-jitsu people lobbying for the spot.

Support your local black belt.

Support your local black belt.

It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times. It was the best of times because Metamoris rallied fans to help them select from among 10 finalists, and people really got into it.

It was the worst of times because this was where Metamoris made a huge, critical blunder. They posted 10 entries to Facebook, one for each of the finalists, and put this notation in every one of them:

We will make our final selections based mainly on the support of our audience. The only way your “support” will be measured is by sharing, liking and commenting on the post of the athlete you support most, here on our Facebook page.

 This is exactly what I would have advised them to do, frankly: this way, people are motivated to help spread the word. That means a tremendous amount of free advertising, generated by an energized fan base that wants to support their instructor, their training partner, their teammate or their friend.

And that’s how you reach casual fans. That’s how you get beyond the core market of obsessive fans like me: you encourage us to like and share the post with the implicit contract that, if we build enough support for you, we’ll get to see the guy we want on Metamoris. Everybody wins!

Unless, of course, the fans give you a different result than the one you want, and you decide to pick someone else.

Jeremy Arel.

Jeremy Arel.

This is one of the finalists, Jeremy Arel. Arel is a Gordo black belt who runs Great Grappling and has a popular YouTube channel. (To be clear: although Jeremy is a Carolina guy, I did not vote for him.  I’d have been happy to see Jeremy get the slot, too, but I voted for Super Dave Zennario.)

Let me be clear about one thing: among the 10 finalists, there were varying levels of qualifications — but I think most viewers would have been happy with any of the finalists. Especially this late in the game, finding a perfect match is difficult. Allowing the viewers to choose seemed like a great way to make lemons from lemonade, especially with options like James Puopolo, Bruno Bastos, Matt Arroyo and more.

After a day of voting, Metamoris announced the pick: Matheus Diniz, a Marcelo Garcia brown belt. No doubt he’s a beast and I’m looking forward to seeing him compete.

Here’s the problem, though. Jeremy Arel got by far the most votes, and generated about three times the amount of online support as Diniz.

People who supported Arel are understandably very upset, and the situation has generated a firestorm of comments on the Metamoris Facebook. What started as a great, feel-good underdog story turned into hard feelings in a hurry.

Now, I’m not going to say who I think Metamoris should have picked, or even who I think would make the best match. All I’m going to say is this: it’s a disastrous marketing error to tell people you’re going to operate by a set of rules, let them get excited, and then dash those expectations. In this situation, you can either pick who you want to be on the card and let people know, or you can let them vote and abide by the results of the vote (especially when the results are as clear as they were here).

What you can’t do is tell people that you’ll make the decision based “mainly” on votes, then let them spend hours working to advertise on your behalf for free — and then pull the rug out from under them.

This isn’t just about this Metamoris card: it’s about future events. I think having a “Rocky” match on each card, where fans vote for a relatively unknown black belt, could have had great potential. Let’s say the Metamoris folks had gone with Arel. Now, every average blue belt who is obsessed with jiu-jitsu — yes, I’m talking about myself, but every other guy out there like me as well  — knows that we can get our instructors on Metamoris if we work hard enough.

Almost 4,000 people liked or shared Arel’s post in fewer than 24 hours. Imagine the reach of that effort. Imagine the goodwill following through would have created. Imagine the kind of effort guys like me would have put out lobbying for our people. Now, though? I’ll still buy the streams — I’m still addicted to jiu-jitsu, after all — but I’ll think twice before I share content like this again. I do enough marketing for my day job that I don’t need to do it for free if my people won’t get anything out of it.

Some people might say that they wouldn’t have any interest in having an Internet poll make matches. They might just want to see the best competitor take his shot against Vinny, and that’s totally fair.

My point is simply this: if you raise expectations among your fans, you have to meet or exceed those expectations. Either let the people vote and give them what they want, or just pick the guy you think is best and let the chips fall where they may.

I hope Diniz puts on a tremendous performance on Saturday and for many Metamoris events to come. But while I watch that match with a sense of excitement, in the back of my mind I’ll be thinking about the thousands of people who are watching with a bad taste in their mouths — or maybe not watching at all.

The Top 10 Things To Think About Before Your First Tournament

Some of my training partners are competing for the first time at Toro BJJ Presents US Grappling Greensboro this weekend. This is great, and I’m proud of all of the people who are stepping on the mat to compete. Jiu-jitsu competition has real benefits for your training, as this article by Jake Whitfield shows.

Partially for my friends, and partially for other folks who will dip their toes into tournament waters in the future, I thought I’d put together some advice. When you’re getting ready for your first tournament, here are 10 things I think you should consider.

10. Registration

Seems like it goes without saying, but put some thought into what division you want to enter. Many tournament offer both gi and no-gi divisions, some offer age groups, and most offer “absolute” divisions where you can compete against anyone of any weight class. In general, I advise entering as many divisions as you can: you’re in this to learn jiu-jitsu, and the more matches you get, the more you’ll learn. Besides, you can always drop out if you’re exhausted after one or two divisions, but you can’t enter new divisions the day of the event.

9. Preparation

Not just physical preparation through training, either. That part goes without saying, and your instructor and teammates know what you’ll need to do in training to get ready. For your part, make sure you show up ready to compete. Get a good night’s sleep beforehand. Pack a bag full of healthy food, water and other fluids, and whatever gear you’ll need. You never know what the food options will be at the event, and it’s best to have healthy fruit between matches rather than a greasy piece of pizza.

Your teammates will be proud of you when you compete, but may not have food and water for you to bum. BYO Acai Bowl.

Your teammates will be proud of you when you compete, but may not have food and water for you to bum. BYO Acai Bowl.

8. Goals

Maybe you want to win every match (and good luck with that!). Maybe you have a lot of experience competing in other things and you know you enjoy the challenge. Or maybe this is your first real athletic experience, and you just want to see what it’s like. Your goals for the tournament depend on your own background and training. So be clear with yourself about what you expect from the experience.

7. Survival

If this is your first tournament, you’re probably a white belt, and if you’re a white belt, your focus should be to survive first. From there you can advance to the other aspects of the game. Jiu-jitsu is a defensive art, and surviving is a victory! If we look at success as a pyramid, with survival at the base and submitting your opponent on top, you have to start at the beginning. You can’t achieve success without surviving, so be sure your defensive game is tight.

Medals are awesome! It's tough to get them without good survival skills.

Medals are awesome! It’s tough to get them without good survival skills.

 

Most of the things I’ve listed so far are things I think that new competitors should think about and consider. The next few are specific techniques that work for me, and that I hope help you as well.

6. Best-Case Strategy

Have a plan for your match. While it’s unlikely that your match goes exactly the way you envision it, the very act of visualization helps. Multiple studies have shown that visualization improves athletic performance, and the practice of thinking through how you want your matches to go only helps remind you of the techniques you want to use.

For example, my first tournament I planned to do this: take my opponent down with a single leg; open and pass his guard with a stack pass; control him in side control; pass to mount using a knee drive; try to collar choke him from mount, and either finish, or force him to give me his back; and finally finish with a rear naked choke.

Exactly zero of my matches went this way, but I firmly believe that the tournament went better because I had a plan in place. What’s your plan in the ideal world? Even if we don’t live in the ideal world, you should be able to answer this question.

At least one match at my first tournament went kind of according to plan. And without a plan, that wouldn't have happened.

At least one match at my first tournament went kind of according to plan. And without a plan, that wouldn’t have happened.

5. Techniques For Each Major Position

Things go wrong. In the middle of life we lose a toe or we discover our girlfriend loves Nickelback. Jiu-jitsu matches are the same. So maybe you take your opponent down as you planned, but then she hip bump sweeps you, and whoops! You’re under mount.

Before my first tournament my goal was to have at least one, ideally two techniques that I knew from each major position. That way, even if I couldn’t escape the mount of a more skilled opponent, at least I wouldn’t feel like a flailing imbecile.

Because I’m proudly a nerd, I make spreadsheets of all the techniques I’ve learned broken down by position. This helps tell me what to drill, what I know fairly well and what I need to work on. For your first tournament, I’d suggest you get at least one or two good back escapes; mount escapes; side control escapes; guard sweeps; guard submissions; guard opens and passes; and submissions from the top. Again, focus on the defensive concepts and build upward.

Nerd alert. (And you should see the whole thing.)

Nerd alert. (And you should see the whole thing.)

4. Perspective

You’re going to be training a long time, and whatever results you get are just a small blip on that larger radar screen. Saulo Ribeiro is a legend, and he never won a tournament until he got his black belt. Don’t plan your UFC career if you win, and relax if you lose. Either way, try to improve next time.

3. Down Time

You should know that many tournaments will have you waiting for a long time before your division. This is especially true of white belts, who usually go last. This isn’t something you really plan for, unless you want to bring an MP3 player or a book, but something to be aware of.

2. Learning

Whatever happens, it’s not a wasted experience if you learn something — and you will. Consider having a friend videotape your matches, or at least take photographs. I’ve had perhaps 100 tournament matches, and was able to reconstruct what happened in most of them based on video and pictures. This will be very helpful to you down the road, so don’t miss that opportunity.

With luck, you will get some medals and not make a stupid face.

With luck, you will get some medals and not make a stupid face.

And the number one thing to think about before your first tournament is …

1. Nothing.

Just go out there and do it. Don’t stress yourself out too much: this is what you do for fun. As a wise man with ties to Durham once said: “Don’t think too much. It’ll only hurt the ball club.”

Good luck, have fun, stay safe, and go train.