Josh Barnett (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)Metamoris: UFC Star Power Could Bring Grappling to UFC Fight Pass Vince Carey July 4, 2014 Spotlight Let’s be honest, grappling events aren’t for everyone. At first glance, submissions are extremely confusing to most people. When you throw in various Gi chokes and some of the sneakier holds, it’s not hard to understand why people would be turned off by the sport. It’s hard to get excited about something when you can’t see what happened and wouldn’t understand it if you saw it in the first place. Even for many MMA fans, a grappling event is the last place they’d like to be on a Saturday night. That’s not to say that those fans don’t appreciate a good submission win inside the Octagon when they see it, but it’s hard to get fans to stick around when you subtract punches from the equation. Considering the crowd still boos at the slightest amount of inactivity on the mat at most UFC events, that really shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. However, the boos aren’t quite as loud as they were a few years ago, and as the sport gains popularity, the number of fans who appreciate the ground game has grown dramatically. Metamoris is hoping the number of fans who appreciate a good ground battle continues to grow as it attempts to take grappling events to the next level. With three events in the books, Metamoris has relied on a combination of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu’s finest grapplers and a plethora of MMA veterans to draw interest beyond just the grappling community. Metamoris may not always feature the most competitive pairings—some of the fighters are getting thrown to the wolves by competing against world-class submission specialists—but there’s no denying the organization has been able to get some eyeballs on its product. The Metamoris 3 main event between Eddie Bravo and Royler Gracie had longtime grappling fans nearly losing their minds with anticipation, and both men delivered in a fantastic match. It was without a doubt the promotion’s most successful show to date, at least as far as fan interest goes. Still, if MMA is considered a niche sport by most of the population, grappling tournaments are a niche wrapped inside of another niche. Most MMA fans had no idea that the Bravo-Gracie match had even happened, and about 90 percent of those fans probably didn’t care in the first place. That attitude may change with Metamoris 4, however, because the promotion has pulled off its biggest move to date: Chael Sonnen in the main event. The recently retired UFC veteran is one of the most popular names in the sport. Coming off his recent failed tests with the Nevada State Athletic Commission and the fallout that followed—he was dropped as a broadcast analyst by the UFC and Fox Sports—he’s about as hot in the public eye as he was before his Anderson Silva fight a few years ago. Sonnen may be walking into a trap against an incredibly gifted grappler in Andre Galvao, but he doesn’t care. And neither will the public. Those who hate “The American Gangster” will tune in to see him get tapped out by a superior grappler. Those who love him will tune in to see if their hero can try to pull off an upset and maybe cut a promo or two while he’s at it. Either way, Metamoris wins. Of course, there’s more than one way to draw a larger audience. Metamoris absolutely needs to keep using UFC fighters in its events if it wants to keep growing, but there’s only so much the organization can grow while charging $20 for a live internet stream. There’s no doubt that there’s a good percentage of MMA fans that want to watch Sonnen compete in a grappling match, but that percentage is going to drop significantly when they have to add another hit to their wallets. Between pay-per-views and UFC Fight Pass, the average UFC fan is paying at least $60-$70 a month on fights. With Bellator recently getting into the pay-per-view business and virtually every other company competing on AXS TV or another cable network that adds a few bucks to the cable bill, it’s insanely expensive to be a MMA fan. That makes it incredibly hard to justify dropping another $20 on a grappling event, no matter who’s competing. Last week, I wrote about the UFC’s new deals with Invicta FC and Shooto/Vale Tudo Japan to broadcast their content on Fight Pass, and how other small MMA promotions should jump at the opportunity if it becomes available. The same applies here for Metamoris. The UFC obviously doesn’t mind allowing its fighters the chance to compete at the events, so why wouldn’t the UFC give its guys some free promotion by showing the events on Fight Pass? And if you’re Metamoris, there’s no doubt that more people would watch the events on Fight Pass than via a standalone $20 live stream. Most MMA fans who are willing to splurge $20 on a grappling card probably have Fight Pass already, and Metamoris would be gaining a ton of potential viewers that may not even realize the organization exists. There’s no doubt that Sonnen vs. Galvao is going to draw more interest from the casual fans than anything Metamoris has put on prior to this card, but the promotion has made sure to throw in a few other familiar names in Josh Barnett and Vinny Magalhaes (taking on Dean Lister and Keenan Cornelius, respectively) to give the average fight fan a little more incentive to watch. Obviously, there’s no way Metamoris is going to get a star on the level of Sonnen to come and compete every time it holds an event, but maybe if the average fight fan tunes in to see Sonnen and Barnett compete this time, they’ll tune in to see Galvao and Lister next time. It doesn’t hurt that former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson has been rumored to compete for Metamoris in the past. If the promotion can keep borrowing UFC talent of this caliber, it may be able to keep drawing in a larger percentage of fight fans than it thought possible. There’s a chance that Metamoris can continue to grow and maybe even become a decently recognizable name in the combat sports world. The thing is, Metamoris is likely going to need the UFC’s help to make it happen.