BJJ, MMA, & The Adult Industry — A Soap Box

One of the things I love about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is that it is enjoyed by all walks of life. Kids, moms, grandmothers, doctors, students, artists and pornstars. It’s like this universal adhesive that brings people together from different backgrounds and belief systems. It’s downright magical. A good portion of this project is about showing what a diverse and fun population female fighters are who all share a common love and strong character.

The two ladies in this photo are no exception. Dia Zerva and Dragonlily are both friends and rolling partners of mine (links are TOTALLY NSFW). We met in the wonderful and wacky world of fetish wrestling or what I like to call the “ultimate no-gi”. They are pretty awesome and talented women who also love Jiu Jitsu.

I did fetish wrestling for about 4 years. It was some of my first exposure to competitive grappling and I got paid. I hold 1 title in it and was 2nd place the prior year. I was still pretty new to Jiu Jitsu while I was doing it, but eventually Jiu Jitsu helped to get a championship in it and made me more than comfortable on the mat. If you can grapple naked, you can pretty much grapple anywhere. I actually really value my experiences doing it. While I was fighting professional MMA, I was training full time, which meant that I couldn’t work full time. I also had a very expensive diet and training expenses. Doing fetish wrestling allowed me to make money at something I loved and also train professionally. There is no way in hell I could realistically cover even the basic costs of living in SF let alone the costs of fighting. That’s the irony folks.

Professional female (and many male) fighters don’t make much money, in fact they often pay to fight. This was the first year I ever got a tax refund from the government. Most fighters (of all genders) have day jobs, which they squeeze around their training schedules and live in places where the cost of living is low, so scratch off any major metropolitan area. The sheer amount of sacrifices people do for the sport is beyond noble. Fame may or may not come with this, but truth be told, fame is not a reward. It is a JOB. Public relations, travel, taking time out of the day to do interviews, these things aren’t paid. The idea is that they lead to money, but most of the money ends up in the promoters or networks pockets. In the grand scheme of things in the fighting / entertainment industry, fighters are the front line, underpaid and more or less treated like disposable labor. After working over 6 years now in the adult film industry, I can tell you the conditions and amount of respect I receive there beats hands down those of the fighting world. And this is why I have such a profound level of respect for the people and especially the women that fight. It’s not just about conditioning your body, but it’s about conditioning your mind and emotions too in order to survive in a world that has very little respect for your existence let alone willingness to help create sustainable livelihoods. There are people and some organizations out there trying to improve this though and I hope to see them succeed.

Compounded with the financial difficulties of fighting is the ongoing issue that most female athletes (and arguably some males) face is that you are not only expected to be incredibly skilled, but you have to look good doing it. Sponsors and promoters want a face/body they can sell. This deeply impacts the depth of the talent pool, which has been the excuse of late as to why women’s MMA is not more heavily featured on cards. Is the talent there? Absolutely. The elephant in the room here is not the lack of talent, it’s that promoters want packaging, not content when it comes to female fighters and for the most part, the promoters who run the big cards have very narrow expectations when it comes to what that packaging should look like. In my entire time working in the adult film industry, I never met a bigger group of judgmental, catty, bitches than those that inhabit the realm of MMA fan-dom. It’s dumbfounding. The thing about porn that can be kind of cool is that if someone is watching something they don’t like, they just move one and find something else they do like. They don’t go on a forum and spending hours trolling about how they don’t like the way a girl looks in most cases. This is in an outwardly image-based industry for Christ sakes! But I digress. What I am trying to say is that there are many ways fighters have to support themselves. Training is hard enough work as it is and we should be doing what we can to support fighters so they can focus on just doing that. Advocating for more women on cards and showing a genuine interest in the skill of a fighter are some of the best things fans can do. Sponsoring and being a good training partner are other ways too.

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