Kurt Pellegrino vs Bill Cooper at Grapplers Quest, 2004 via www.kurtpellegrino.com
The term 'Superfight' is getting bandied about a little too casually for my liking these days, and not just in the realm of MMA and Boxing. None the less Grapplers' Quest has stated such a match up is happening with UFC Lightweight veteran Kurt Pellegrino taking on recent UFC Fan Expo 4-Man Superfight Tournament Champion Ryan Hall, as per the official Grapplers' Quest Facebook page:
Superfight: Kurt "Batman" Pellegrino vs. Ryan Hall signed for June 18 in Morristown, NJ, get event details here: http://www.grapplersquest.com/events/2011-us-national-championships
Not a stranger to GQ having competed for them as far back as 2004, Pellegrino was also on commentary for Grapplers' Quest last weekend and is rumoured to have requested to face the winner of the tournament, so its worked out quite nicely. My initial impression is I expect Ryan Hall to win since he's a full time BJJ and No Gi grappling competitor and has been taking part at a high level for the last few years now, but Pellegrino is certainly a game opponent.
The Grapplers Quest 2011 US National Championships is a big event for the promotion though not as prestigious as events put on by bigger, international organisations but having Hall vs Pellegrino as a marquee match should help generate interest and its part of a smart strategy by the New Jersey based league. Through their affiliation with the UFC Fan Expo they've been able to effectively promote "UFC vs Submission Wrestling" with Hall flying the flag against Hermes Franca, Diego Sanchez and now Kurt Pellegrino. So far the UFC doesn't seem to mind: Franca was no longer with the UFC when he faced Hall, Sanchez was still medically suspended from competing in MMA from his fight with Kampmann, and Pellegrino isn't a fighter UFC desperately need right now having fought (and lost) recently at the Shogun vs Jones card at the end of March.
Grapplers' Quest wisely aren't using the UFC name as part of the marketing (as you can bet a cease and desist would happen faster than Dana White losing a hand of Blackjack) but their relationship with the UFC allows a certain level of leniency as well. Plus their purses aren't competitive (Hall is rumoured to have got around $1000 for his two matches last weekend) and the dangers to 'fighters' tend to be less than in MMA due to no striking and no slamming (the biggest danger possibly being not knowing how to defend a heelhook or when to tap to one. See: victims of Rousimar Palhares).
It'll be interesting to see if any higher profile MMA fighters look to compete at Grapplers Quest in the future. Over the years the likes of Matt Hughes, Mark Kerr, Josh Barnett and Jeff Monson have competed at bigger events such as ADCC and the No Gi Worlds but at times when they were available or weren't as in demand by the MMA big shows. Rumours of Georges St Pierre competing at ADCC amounted to nothing a couple of years ago and previous regulars to big events such as Demian Maia and Ronaldo Jacare Souza haven't been as active since their commitment to (and more importantly contendership in) MMA.
UFC may put their foot down when it comes to champions, contenders and their own 'money' fighters taking part in grappling events for fear of a loss to a relatively unknown non-UFC competitor causing possible damage to their image, but otherwise I'd hope fighters can be allowed to keep their grappling skills sharp by testing themselves in this fashion.
The rise of submission grappling is a slow process; Randy Couture's match with Jacare a few years ago was supposed to spearhead the growth of a new grappling league but nothing came of it and there's still a large portion of the UFC fanbase who crave fists and feet flying to a KO destination above all else. However I do hope submission grappling can eventually provide a professional, competitive outlet to the older fighters who can no longer compete in MMA largely due to concussion issues and brain trauma which is rightly being looked at a lot more closely these days when it comes to full contact sports.