I’m conflicted about Metamoris. On the one hand, I really love watching these matches with other BJJ practitioners. It was exciting to see high level matches, hang out with teammates, and learn some new-to-me names in BJJ. I don’t follow BJJ folks obsessively, so this was literally the first time I’d seen Keenan, and it was fun to watch.

My internal conflict is that the organizer, Ralek Gracie, has come out with some disheartening words about women in jiu jitsu, and why they will not be signing women now. You can read the whole article on MMAFighting.com.

“We had that one match and it was cool, but that was more of, ‘That’s cool and that was interesting and I want to see that again if the girls are cute.’ You know how it is. The UFC wouldn’t even have a women’s division if it wasn’t for Ronda Rousey. They wouldn’t even have it. It’s a really, really tricky thing.

We’re not a charity right now,” he states. “I have aspirations beyond Metamoris that are charitable and everything I need to do, but right now we have to succeed. We have so many people riding on it with so many things and people wanting to see it succeed. Our obligation is to make sure people say, ‘Holy shit! I need to watch that!’ Otherwise, there’s no way.”

–Ralek Gracie at MMAFighting.com

Here are the main points I see Ralek making (from the article, not just the quote):

  1. Successful women athletes must be good looking to draw an audience.
  2. It is not financially sound to include women in Metamoris.
  3. Including women in Metamoris would be furthering women in BJJ at a loss of profits to them (ie. charity).
  4. A women’s match is of lower quality than a men’s match in terms of excitement and/or viewability.
  5. One female pairing would bring fewer viewers than having all six matches be men.
  6. They do not have enough money to pay for women.

There are some unfortunate realities that are true, such as female athletes who are good looking (Anna Kournikova) tend to be more successful than those who are not (Martina Navritilova). There is a great documentary about that – “Branded,” part of the “Nine for IX” series. However, it is so disappointing to have a high level organizer claim that having women on the ticket is an act of “charity,” and that the only women worth including are cute ones. Not just that, but claiming you can’t afford women after someone turns you down for a $140,000 per year contract rings false. ($140,000 for 12 different female matches times 2 women = $5,833 per person per match.)

What a lot of people don’t know is that one of those goals and ideas is that we were going to sign these guys to a year-long contract with, let’s say for Garry and his case, I think it was $140,000 in a year that we offered him and an opportunity to do up to 12 matches.”

Ralek’s refusal to risk having a female match reminds me all too much of the notion that video games will not sell if there is a female protagonist. Check out this quote from CNet.com, on The Risk of the Female Game Protagonist:

The reasons for why this might be the case are well documented: from the belief that games with male protagonists make more money (which could very well be explained by the fact they receive more marketing money) to the fact that games development is massively dominated by men — women only make up 22 percent of the game industry workforce — and, of course, the idea that the larger core gaming demographic (men) don’t want to play as women.

If you just tweak the subject words, you can see that they are operating under the very same underlying belief system!

  • The belief that male fighters make Metamoris more money (which could very well be explained by the fact that they have only heavily marketed men)
  • BJJ is massively dominated by men — women make up only 10%* of the BJJ population. *Statistic based entirely on wild speculation.
  • The larger core viewing demographic (men) don’t want to watch women.

Ralek’s statement affects people, and not just the would-be female competitors. A Skirt on the Mat addresses the “afford” issue, and my teammate, Maggie Moo, did a funny, angry gif series about it. Edit: Chelsea, a black belt from ATOS, wrote an interesting article about it as well.

I don’t know about you, but I would have been really excited to watch a women’s match at Metamoris, regardless of how attractive they were. Women are growing in this sport, and making these women visible is a way to help encourage women to start training and to continue training. I’m not talking about charity – I’m talking about reaching a larger audience, which can translate into dollars.

Unfortunately, I think it’s a catch-22. You don’t include women because they don’t bring money, but they don’t bring money because you don’t include them. Is their decision a good, long-term strategy, or will it negatively affect them? I want to believe this will have some repercussions, but I predict that the folks who complain will be drowned out by folks paying for Metamoris. The question remains: Can Metamoris afford women, or can they afford to exclude women?

Jiu Jiu’s Question: What are your thoughts on Ralek’s statement? Do you disagree or think there is some merit to what he is saying, and why? Does this position affect whether or not you would watch/purchase/attend any Metamoris events?