Grappling promotion SubStars fails to pay fighters for debut event

SubStars
Image via @sub.stars on Instagram. Photograph by @lissakphotography

The upstart grappling promotion SubStars is reportedly unable to pay the fighters it employed at its debut event, which went down on February 21.

This news was first reported by GrapplingInsider.com. The grappling news website spoke to a representative from SubStars, who confirmed that the event was a financial failure, and that fighters will likely only be paid 10% of the purses — but not until April.

“Unfortunately I’m letting everyone know I can’t pay the fighters purses right now,” a representative from SubStars told GrapplingInsider.com. “The only money I have coming in is in April but will only be able to pay about 10% of the purse.

“I’m very sorry, but this will most likely be the end for SubStars. The event didn’t generate near enough income and from what I see from this event is that big names and the cost don’t translate into ticket sales.”

The first and only SubStars event certainly featured big names, including grappling stars Gordon Ryan and Aaron Johnson, top UFC heavyweight contender Curtis Blaydes, and former UFC light heavyweight title challenger Anthony “Rumble” Johnson. It was also expected to feature UFC lightweight contender Dustin Poirier and ONE Championship star Garry Tonon.

While one can only imagine the anxiety this event’s failure has caused its promoters, the onus is on those promoters to do preliminary market research to ensure the event is fiscally viable. It’s also the responsibility of those promoters to ensure there is enough cash on hand to pay fighters even if the event is a dud.

The fight game is littered with cautionary tales of this type.

In the recent past, upstart bare knuckle fighting promotion WBKFF failed to pay its fighters. Looking a little further back, South Korean MMA promotion Battlefield Fighting Championship also failed to pay its fighters in a timely way.

This SubStars situation should serve as reminder to promoters and fighters alike. Promoters should refrain from doing business if they’re not in a position to pay fighters no matter the circumstances. Fighters, meanwhile, should do their due diligence when aligning themselves with new promotions.

This article first appeared on BJPENN.com on 3/3/2020.