Athletics build pride and unite people from a common area. It is why World Cup, the Olympics, the Superbowl, and the World Series are among the most watched events on the planet. People rally behind athletes who in turn can become champions who lobby on behalf of their homes to causes many might not pay attention to.
Athletics are a major economic needle mover too. In our last Central American Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Championship in Nicaragua, the foreign athletes and their entourages spent over $16,000 in hotels, food, and transportation without adding in tourism expenses. Considering minimum wage at the time was $125 a month, the event helped pay a lot of salaries. It also got media attention on tv, radio, and newspapers for the local academies and even for the foreign academies in their own countries, allowing us to help grow businesses across seven countries!
In 2016 a number of East St. Louis students and #GoPartner, Jimmy Downing from Playas del Coco, Costa Rica went to Senegal to help organize Senegal’s first ever MMA event with the Lionheart MMA Initiative. The event was covered on national tv, and we fought in front of around 500 spectators. Since then, with the further work of Lionheart, Senegal has its own locally owned MMA promotion and several MMA gyms.
In November of 2018, Jimmy Downing went through to Arusha, Tanzania to work with the Lionheart Initiative again to work on the region’s first international BJJ tournament. There were 70 participants from more than ten countries. He went on to teach in Kenya and Uganda as well, and we would follow up in March 2019 with our East St. Louis crew to tour the same three countries and promote the next international tournament in Nairobi among the grappling academies where we were teaching seminars.