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If I am allowed, I would like to take some time and space to present a modicum of context for the grappling world and where the Craig Jones Invitational fits in.

When I say, “an autistic man on steroids dumped one million dollars in cash on a table in front of a comedian who, at one point, spent a week in the woods looking for bigfoot,” if you kept up on the current events in the grappling world, you would immediately know that Craig Jones went on the Joe Rogan Experience to talk about his new tournament.

                                                                                                Image – BJ Penn

If I were to elaborate further and say, “the same man on steroids will be fighting a woman on steroids,” you could extrapolate that Craig Jones announced his long-awaited super-fight with Gabi Garcia. This places Jones squarely in the realm of Andy Kaufman-esque commitment to “the bit.” His tombstone should read, “I told you I was on steroids.”

                                                                                Image – BJJ Eastern Europe

Beginning the Podcast Tour

Craig dumped a bag full of money onto Rogan’s table. Over the next two hours, the professional grappler and amateur bigfoot hunter pored over the details of Craig Jones’s new tournament. Rogan seemed skeptical at first. And then he seemed skeptical further and at length.

                                                                                     Image – BJJ Eastern Europe

Rogan asked repeatedly why have the event on the same weekend as ADCC; why market it as direct competition to ADCC? This spectacle is good to bring eyes to the sport, which is Craig Jones’s ultimate goal. The greater the antics that Jones gets involved in, the more the podcast and MMA media take notice. He has been making the podcast rounds. He has been on the MMA Hour, Chris Williamson’s podcast, and even doing a lengthy interview with the silver fox himself, Luke Thomas. All of them to highlight his main argument, which is that he believes that more of the production budget should go into securing the participation of grappling athletes.

Jones and Rogan also talked about a variety of other subjects. They went on at length about some of Craig’s old matches. They spoke about the one where he snapped Vinny Magalhaes’s leg bones on live TV. Don’t watch this unless you’re real cool with a lot of gnarly stuff.

A Short Window

Craig understands that the athletic window for combat athletes is much smaller than in other sports. Often, the consequences are dire in comparison. In other sports industries, it’s understood that the high rate of athlete pay is a kind of compensation for the short lifespan in the sport. This isn’t so in MMA in general, and even more paucity exists in BJJ. Tournaments like ADCC are trying to deal with the scarcity by using production values to bring fans to the sport. Celebrities like Gordon Ryan and Gary Tonon have done their part over the years, undeniably bringing in more fans.

However, Craig Jones is leveraging his brand of celebrity on the bet that not only is the fanbase adequate, but the sponsorship already exists to make more than a few grapplers into millionaires. The stunt is currently making engaging content for those already interested. It also is bringing new viewership spurred by the drama.

Metrics and Driving Traffic to the CJI

One of the biggest gripes Craig Jones has with FloGrappling is the lack of transparency in regards to event viewership. Objectively speaking, FloGrappling is utter trash. Its in app interface is bad enough to rival ESPN+. The editing and organization of live events and replays is infuriating. The price is incredibly prohibitive, especially given the lack of engaging original content that exists. This isn’t a comprehensive list, just some consumer end complaints.

From behind the curtain, Jones and other athletes have been open about criticizing the organization. For one, they paid Gordon Ryan a seven-figure deal to headline their WNO events. This would not be egregious except for the fact that they also refuse to pay for the travel costs of other featured athletes like Nicky Ryan, Gordon’s younger brother. Flo will also suspend monthly subscription options surrounding big BJJ events, making only the yearly subscription available.

All this aside, they are also very tight with their event metrics. Craig considers himself semi-retired from competition. Jones needs a carefully crafted online persona. His business needs to know how much of his social media drives his event viewership and vice versa. YouTube is not without fault, but they do track analytics very precisely and he will be able to see exactly what works and what doesn’t in the production value of CJI. If the event doesn’t crash and burn immediately, we’ll see a better defined event next year and the year after.

More Notable Athletes Jump Ship

The latest announced to be joining the CJI at the expense of ADCC are Joao Rocha, Lucas “Hulk” Barbosa, and Roberto Jimenez. Mason Fowler will also be competing.

                                                                                          Image – FloGrappling

These are all very prominent names in submission grappling and will no doubt leave a void. The interesting thing to keep track of is not just who is leaving, but who is staying. I’ll be watching closely to see what Victor Hugo does, as well as JT Torres. I will also be watching to see what kind of altered state Jones is in the night of the event.

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