Recently the jiu jitsu world was in uproar against Metamoris president Ralek Gracie and his comments for MMAFighting.com regarding the lack of women’s fights at his events. The reason offered, in broad strokes, was that Ralek owns a business and as a business owner he wants to sell as many pay-per-views as possible, having assessed the market he concluded that there wasn’t enough demand for women’s pay per views to warrant a fight in his organization. Makes sense? For many it didn’t and some of the BJJ media was quick to catch on to this unrest, proceeding to light the fire on the subject.
Though there was outrage, the fact of the matter is that Brazilian jiu jitsu is still in it’s infancy and pay per view draws are hard to find. There are not many world wide heroes in our sport, and the stars we actually have, tend to speak in a different language and stay pretty focussed with their training. That dreaded PR is not something the jiu jitsu world is familiar with, there are way too many bowls of acaí waiting to be eaten and not enough time to bother with that marketing stuff.
The sport is ruled by a handful of small companies who do a fantastic job at providing us, jiujiteiros, with the supplies we require to maintain our lifestyle, but for jiu jitsu to grow in the direction of mainstream sports, it needs charisma, it needs stars.
In comes Mackenzie Dern, a well spoken American who just happens to be bilingual in Portuguese and English, a great quality for a Brazilian sport growing in America. Dern brings an exciting style of grappling to the mats, fearless and always seeking the submission the current Abu Dhabi World Pro open weight champion might very well be women jiu jitsu’s answer for a mainstream audience.
At the European Open earlier this year, Mackenzie gave us a glimpse of her star power, but this weekend, after a hard fought semi final against the most accomplished female in our sport, Gabrielle Garcia, Mackenzie sealed her destiny as the new face of women’s jiu jitsu, brightening up the division with technique and the always required entertainment value.
If some have not been quick to grasp the value in Mackenzie and the potential of the women’s division, others have kept their eyes wide open to the “Dern Effect”. The word on the street is that FIVE Grappling is well underway to starting a new endeavour, FIVE Super League in an effort to bring the sport’s first professional league. A few of today’s top athletes have been vocal through their social media, people such as Michelle Nicolini, Angelica Galvao, Tammy Musumeci, Luanna Alzugir, Luiza Monteiro and Mackenzie Dern all announced they would be competing in an exciting new format, hashtagging #5superleague, while the company’s promoters have been very busy in the backstages of jiu jitsu, gathering troops for their new event.
The great thing about the women’s division is the incredible amount of great match-ups available at the moment. This may be a new era for jiu jitsu with the sport growing each year, a serious promotion may be what the athletes and fans need. Promotions need stars, Ronda Rousy has done a tremendous job for women’s MMA, maybe Mackenzie Dern can do the same for our sport… In happier and generally less sulky manner.
Banner picture by William Burkhardt of @bjjpix.com