Battle Grappling co-founder and CEO Lara Carter spoke to Grappling Insider about why the organization left FloGrappling.
Pacific Northwest-based promotion Battle Grappling is forging its own path in the professional grappling competition scene.
Battle Grappling co-founder and owner Lara Carter recently spoke to Grappling Insider about the organization’s long and short-term goals, the decision to leave FloGrappling, and a variety of other topics.
Check out that full interview below.
Beginning first with kickboxing smokers, the organization transitioned to all-grappling shows in February 2020 and hasn’t looked back since.
Over the course of the past three years, Battle Grappling has differentiated itself from other promotions by using unique (and often silly) marketing tactics and creative angles – such as a “David and Goliath” tournament. The show has also made an effort to highlight female competitors, particularly in the higher and lower weight classes that might not typically get much attention.
And while there’s relatively little money to be made in promoting regional grappling shows, Carter says she has always paid her athletes:
“It makes me upset sometimes when they talk to me because they’re like ‘I’m so grateful that you pay me. Thank you for paying me.’ And I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me? You are an advanced grappler, why wouldn’t you expect to get paid?’”
In the short term, Carter will continue hosting shows in the Pacific Northwest, gradually attracting more and more big-name grapplers in addition to top talent from around the region.
Looking further ahead, she has much bigger plans. Carter recognizes that for many regional promotions like Battle Grappling, their fanbase typically wants to watch a single show that features a friend or family member. But when that promotion exists only behind a subscription-based service like FloGrappling, those fans are forced to purchase an entire year up-front, effectively pricing out a large swath of potential viewers and customers.
To combat that problem, Carter says she’s in the early stages of developing a Youtube-like streaming platform that will host regional grappling promotions in a pay-per-view format. The service – named Daruma – will give promotions the ability to market their shows on their own terms. And unlike other streaming platforms, Daruma will give the content producers 70 percent of the profits:
“The long-term goal… A streaming service for small grappling shows. The name of it is Daruma. And what it will do is it will be similar to Youtube where people can go and they can put their stream for their small show on there and they can promote it…
“We’re gonna take 30 [percent] because we have to run the website… then the person putting the show on the platform will get 70. So we’re flipping that script because I really do believe that how we build this community is giving the money back to the people who are making the shows. A lot of the shows on streaming services are not produced by the company that’s putting them on, it’s the people behind the scenes. By doing this I can provide the shows with more money to pay the athletes.”
Carter is also motivated to create a pay-per-view streaming service after her experience with FloGrappling. She says that after streaming four Battle Grappling events on Flo, she realized that, by not offering a single-event pay-per-view, she was losing potential income for every show:
“One big problem with FloGrappling is that they do not offer on-demand pay-per-view for a lot of their things and so, one thing I found over the last year that I’ve been with them, I was losing a lot of money. I would have people come to me, people’s family members, and they’d be like ‘Well we have family members all over the US. We just wanna buy the pay-per-view at like 40 dollars, 50 dollars.’ They don’t care, they wanna see Aunt Alicia go out there and kill it in the 185 bracket. And her family is telling me that they wanted to do it but they don’t want to pay 150 to 180 dollars a year. They want to pay 50 dollars, watch Aunt Alicia once, and say goodbye…
“I figured out for one show I was losing a couple thousand dollars. I’m like, crap, that’s money I can pay to the athletes. That’s a big opportunity we’re missing out on.”
Carter says she was disappointed with her experience working with FloGrappling while Battle Grappling was on the platform.
As a business owner and entrepreneur herself, she recognizes that a rapidly growing company like Flo will necessarily experience growing pains, but she saw systemic organizational dysfunction that made communication difficult:
“People also want to be able to market their own stuff. It’s really interesting when you work for Flo because everything is done still on Google Docs. Like they send you a Google Sheet and you fill that out with all of your show information and your logo and stuff. The problem is they’re growing so fast as a company that they can’t keep up with all the shows that they’re producing or outside producing or putting on the platform, so what happens is oftentimes you have to kind of nag them to put your cover photo up on Flograppling…
“It’s hard to run a company that’s growing and I understand that about Flo but you have to put the systems to catch all of these issues. When I signed with Flo, I got 10 emails from 10 different executives at Flo and so for a long time I didn’t realize who was in charge of our account because it wasn’t very clear.”
Carter also says that FloGrappling missed the mark when it came to promoting Battle Grappling’s unique brand.
More than just failing to actively push Battle Grappling shows on the FloGrappling website, she says that Flo uses a one-size-fits-all approach to promotion that simply didn’t work for her “eccentric,” often female-centered shows:
“I think in the case of Flo, I think that they want a lot of programming but they’re not so interested in promoting anybody but their own shows, and you know, Gordon Ryan in a bathtub. And that’s okay. Some people really like that kind of marketing.
“It’s funny because our marketing is very eccentric. We’re a little eccentric in our marketing… I think that Flo didn’t really understand what we were going for… I think that the market that they really want to appeal to is one, their own shows. But also they want to appeal to ‘jiu-jitsu is tough, look how edgy we are.’… I don’t want to be edgy, I want to have fun… I just think that they weren’t really sure what to do with us.”
Specifically, Carter believes that FloGrappling is missing opportunities to promote female-centered shows like Battle Grappling:
“I ran a women’s show in February and that was a great opportunity to market it. I know Seth Daniels has run a Fight 2 Win that was all women. And these things are getting very little attention, marketing. It doesn’t take but five minutes to put up, ’Hey look at this event, it’s interesting.’ It takes like five minutes to do that on a website, to do that, to just shift something so you can see something different occasionally.”
Despite those critiques, Carter is, overall, complimentary of FloGrappling and what it’s doing to grow the sport of grappling:
“I think that they are good overall. They’re really trying to put people out there. I think that the dangerous thing is when you get too much power, sometimes you lose the ability to innovate. And so by being very traditional, they’re risking being able to be creative.”
Battle Grappling returns to action on September 16 with an event featuring team-based competition as well as a number of superfights. Learn more at BattleGrappling.com.