Combat sports, although mostly known for their ruthlessness and skill, are growing in popularity among Filipinos.
Its rise, which is mainly attributed to the popularity of tournaments like the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), consistently reel in millions of audiences, allowing different mixed martial arts (MMA) to be showcased on a global scale.
However, other big-time promotions such as ONE Championship are held abroad, leaving both Filipino MMA fighters and combat sports enthusiasts to seek opportunities elsewhere or to anticipate international events instead.
This ambition of cultivating the local professional combat sports scene is left on the shoulders of the few who are willing to address these. But, FlipSports aims to fill this void by giving local fighters a chance to showcase their talents in the Philippine setting.
Accelerating the rise
For combat sports to grow, their potential to bring glory must be seen, such as local competitors excelling in major tournaments. Jiu-jitsu black belter, SEA Games gold medalist, and Atos Philippines coach Carlo Peña highlights, “If kids and parents can see that Filipinos can perform, hopefully it encourages them to get into the sport, too.” He furthers that, as a coach, his responsibility is to develop athletes that could represent and garner desirable results in major events, wishing that others emulate this as well.
Ensuring that enough talent will be produced from the current local amateur program will be key to developing the country’s professional ranks. Investing in grassroots and instituting gyms dedicated to jiu-jitsu will be essential. Furthermore, establishing a gym culture within jiu-jitsu athletes, as Atos states, will be better for the sport and the community.
A different approach
For emerging sports, gaining support through viewership and publicity are important in gaining traction in mainstream media and culture. Promotions play a role in bringing fresh eyes to a sport. Through this, FlipSports is able to showcase jiu-jitsu to Filipino fans and bring amateur and veteran athletes onto the mat.
Most promotions attract viewers by riding on the popularity of higher-ranked athletes to make an event relevant to fans. Meanwhile, FlipSports gives an opportunity for practitioners of all ages and competitive experiences to be showcased.
Straying from tradition can work wonders for the next generation of Philippine athletes. FlipSports’ success can be attributed to their utilization of social media and streaming platforms, as other combat sports promotions prefer using pay-per-view to televise their fights. As a result, not all audiences are able to watch and follow the fights. By providing platforms for streaming, fighters are encouraged to perform at their best and to promote themselves to both local and global audiences. Consequently, these factors contribute to the sport’s growth and to its influence on younger athletes who may just pursue combat sports professionally.
Although the pandemic initially halted the company’s operations, FlipSports successfully held its inaugural event, Emergence, in January 2022. “It’s the first time in Philippine jiu-jitsu history to have a pro event with this level of production,” Gallos claims. The event displayed talents of all skill levels, with athletes of varying belts and divisions facing off at the event. The success of Emergence signaled the return of normalcy for the sport and reignited the passion of competitors to get back on the mat. Aside from the comeback of the sport, a well-received event also appeals to those interested in trying their hand at combat sports.
Jiu-jitsu gold medalist Joaquin Dy (III, ADV) expects future events to bear similar results. “They are really professional in terms of conducting the whole event itself, and in terms of taking care of the athletes as well,” he comments.
As an emerging talent, Dy praises FlipSports for the benefits it gives to athletes, “I feel like the athletes, especially those in the lower belts, were given a lot of exposure.” “Despite being a blue belt, I had the opportunity to prove that [I] can perform just as well as those ranked above [me], whether it be in terms of technique or strength,” he furthers.
The blue belter also shares that FlipSports’ stage does not only reel in Filipino fans, but also a larger online audience, breaking the barrier for athletes who are looking to gain attention from a greater combat sports scene.
Beyond the mat
For avid fans and practitioners of combat sports in the Philippines, there is much to be excited about in the near future. FlipSports representative, Gerard Gallos, expresses his passion and excitement for the local jiu-jitsu scene, especially since the sport can expect more action-packed opportunities under the bright lights. “We want to showcase the skills of Filipino jiu-jitsu athletes and…to unite the Filipino jiu-jitsu community,” he expresses. The FlipSports representative also mentions that FlipSports’ current goal is to make events “more exciting than others” to increase the enjoyability of watching the sport.
But the recent emergence of FlipSports and the additional avenues for combat sports competitions go beyond fanfare. The dedication to further the combat sports and jiu-jitsu scene locally shows a deeper drive and passion of the athletes and the organization. “We do it not for the money, but for the love of jiu-jitsu,” Gallos remarks.
Eager to continue its recent success, FlipSports is set on having two more events in the coming year. Official dates and further announcements are yet to be made, these plans can most definitely further stimulate the growth of jiu-jitsu and other combat sports in the Philippines. With this development, the country can expect athletes to continue training to be on top of their game and for newcomers to be attracted to the scene—ultimately ushering in the future of Filipino combat sports.