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Metamoris interested in Ronda Rousey, but claims financial realities preclude signing more women

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Metamoris will stage their sixth event on May 9, but once the card was announced, questions arose about the lack of women participating in the event. To date, only one match between women has ever taken place under the Metamoris banner, a draw between black belts Mackenzie Dern and Michelle Nicolini at Metamoris 2.

When asked by MMA Fighting why Metamoris has not employed women either prior to or since that bout, Metamoris President Ralek Gracie clarified the organization's stance.

"We're actually working on having some prelims on this next card, like gi prelims. More gi matches before the actual main card," he says. According to Gracie, more gi matches, bouts between women and bouts with unique rule sets will be part of the online subscription network, Metamoris All Access. Gracie says those who excel there could graduate to more senior Metamoris events. Insofar as the premium events are concerned, however, he claims tough financial realities make direct efforts at diversity difficult to enact.

"What it really comes down to is we only have six matches on the card and of those six matches, we have a lot of pressure to sell pay-per-views. An extreme amount of pressure. People think we're just rolling in the dough and we can just choose whoever we want and we're going to sell millions of pay-per-views no matter who we put on the card.

"It's not the case, at all," he continues. "It's absolutely not a joke who ends up on the card. With every match, there has to be a unique story and there has to be an element that will bring out people from all walks of life in a lot of ways. Even though we know the core audience and what they're interested in, we have to constantly be on the boundaries. We have to be constantly pushing the edge of what our viewership is, otherwise we won't survive. All we're doing is reinvesting all of our money into these athletes. We're spinning a wheel. We have to keep the wheel moving. I just don't think there's women who are really going to bring it on that level."

Gracie admits the bout between Dern and Nicolini was successful enough in terms of box office drawing power and even match complexion, but suggests the dynamic between the two isn't replicable at scale.

"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."

Gracie also concedes not every Metamoris match between men has lived up to expectations, but believes the men's game isn't as heavily influenced by IBJJF, guard-pulling sensibilities. Those tendencies, Gracie suggests, is why he's hesitant when the organization's financial priorities are so. "Because of the way we push it and because of the production value we bring, we're risking so much by putting one bad match-up together," he notes.

There is one notable exception to this rule, Gracie contends. If UFC women's bantamweight champion Rousey were interested in taking the Metamoris deep dive, Gracie says he'd find a way to make a match with her happen. 'Rowdy', he says, is both popular enough and competes with a style appropriate for Metamoris' audience.

"We're interested in having Ronda Rousey and we're willing to invest and potentially take a loss on that opportunity and risk that opportunity because of how big she is," he says, "but we can't do that on just any women as much as I'd like to."

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