Space barrel - The Italian startup that wants to send wrestlers into space

Space barrel - The Italian startup that wants to send wrestlers into space

Everyone ready. - 5. -4. -3.

Second after second, one number after the other, the adrenaline peaks cadence countdown.

- 2. Everyone, mentally, prepares for battle. Because even if in microgravity, the shots will soon be heavy.

- 1. 0. Go!

Inside launch tubes the astro-athletes are fired into the orbiting arena. To accelerate, the most skilled take advantage of the mass of their companions, clinging to their back to use it as a catapult. In the competition area, a space in which the above and below lose their meaning and where the physics is not that of the earth, geometric barriers of pure energy will determine the rebounds and the trajectories of the shots. In the middle, suspended in midair between the doors of the two teams, is the disc, to be grabbed by any means, including punches in the face, jerks, blocks, detours. And to be thrown on the net to win.

It's an Echo Arena match and it's science fiction for now. Better yet, it is a video game launched in 2017 by the Californian Ready at Dawn, a video game that became the first virtual reality eSports: a new electronic discipline, with its own rules, tactics and dynamics.

In a few years, however, viewers and computers will not be necessary to enjoy sports never seen before: it will be the possibility of really floating in orbit that will revolutionize the competitive spirit as we know it today, and perhaps tout entertainment -court. Producer Andrea Iervolino is convinced of this, according to whom to embark on a rocket Mixed Martial Arts fighters and involve them in a challenge lasting an entire orbit, or even take them to an arena built to host matches or shows just beyond the earth's atmosphere. , will be “one of the new frontiers of entertainment”.

Better think about it; judging from his career, it would seem that in terms of new frontiers in entertainment, Iervolino is quite capable of catching a glimpse of them ahead of the competition. Born in Cassino in 1987, owner of 85% of the Exclusive Media Group catalog since 2015 (400 titles including Donnie Darko, Rush and Memento), knight of the Republic since 2018 and in the "Variety500" list in 2020, the year in which together with the Serbian actor Miloš Biković he launched the animated series Puffins starring Johnny Depp, the Italian-Canadian film producer says that at 17 he was shooting films with a digital Canon, an approach then considered, at best, a gamble: " Everyone thought it was crap to do what I did. The executives of the majors chased me, horrified, from the offices: today 99.9% of films are shot digitally ”. Mutatis mutandis, the message is clear: "Talking about sports or entertainment in space can make you smile, but I am ready to bet that in seven, eight years, it will be something so normal that laughing remembering this moment will be those who, like us, will he deems it possible now ”.

Iervolino founded Iervolino Entertainment (now Iervolino and Lady Bacardi Entertainment, Ilbe) in 2011; ten years later he decided to bring everything to 400 kilometers of altitude, to rewrite the rules of the game with his new company: Space 11. Not that hearing him tell it, for him the step was so complex, indeed: "yes it is about thinking and treating microgravity as an element to be exploited also for entertainment ". Not only in theory: "among the many already hypothesized, the first format we are developing concerns zero gravity mixed martial arts, which we call 'Mma-Zero G'. The techniques of Mixed Martial Arts have been identical since the discipline was born, but a fight in a weightless environment inevitably acquires innovative characteristics ".

An approach, that of the reconfiguration of the known, applicable not only to the fight; Iervolino swears that he is already developing fifty different formats: "If we exclude some regulatory tweaks, football, tennis or boxing have never experienced a revolution, there has never been a true evolution of their techniques. This gives Space 11 a great chance. " Some time ago, telling the Financial Times about his life, he confessed to having been a stutterer and a victim of bullying up to the age of 15: “An MMA competition is people fighting; I've received a lot, so I don't like them. But for nothing in the world I would miss a zero gravity fight, precisely because of the new element. Let's say I'm a person who only does things he believes in, driven by passion. With a fortune: I was born unlucky ".

A profitable misfortune, judging by how you want to channel it: for example in" Galactic Combat ", a format designed to show the training and training phases of the stars. wrestlers. In other words, even the reality show rises in level, indeed in share. It is in fact foreseen that the "preliminaries" will be held aboard parabolic flights, inside civil aircraft for a few minutes in free fall, in order to cancel the effect of the acceleration of gravity (a training vehicle already exploited by space agencies): “Only the last fight will be fought on a rocket launched beyond the atmosphere, which will then return to Earth; certainly, the long-term dream remains an orbiting station dedicated to entertainment. We have made an agreement with Nanoracks and Voyager, two companies that have just won a NASA tender to build a commercial space outpost ".

That will be the arena of the future: a Madison Square Garden beyond the sky , to host sporting events but also concerts. “We believe it can be ready for 2027, 2028. John Lewis, a pioneer of MMA, is already working on the selections. The future Champion of the Galaxy will also be among the nominees. We call it that ”.

Iervolino says that everything is in the pre-production and development phase. Space 11 is the company that has imagined all this, while the television format will be produced by Ilbe. The business plan has as a vector the proposal to change the physical rules of the game, in a place where the physics is no longer that of the earth's surface. With a market of great prospects, which rides the tsunami of the space revolution: "Revolutionizing an existing format means having great value in the exploitation of television rights, in the sale of tickets for live events and in sponsorships. They are all our fans. We believe this is a business that will have a great reception, because the cost of space transport, thanks to private companies such as Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, Elon Musk's SpaceX, or Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, has dropped dramatically. Branson sells tickets for suborbital travel for $ 250,000. We are convinced that within a decade the price will drop tenfold: you will be able to go to space, spend the weekend there with a cost of 25 thousand dollars for the trip and maybe with an extra ten thousand for the orbiting hotel and our event. Of course, it's not an affordable figure for everyone, but it's what a return ticket on an intercontinental business class flight costs today. The customers we will be able to draw on are those, 6% of the world population. A vast market ”.

Space, however, is a difficult environment, the most hostile of all. Iervolino knows this and admits there are still a few boxes to "tick". You need a large team or, he explains, to leave nothing to chance, just like space agencies do for their astronauts. “We have experts who study the reactions of those who take a punch in weightlessness. Blood circulation changes, in case of injuries the blood fluctuates; there are many doctors' offices. Same thing for shooting techniques, or for combat techniques. We are constantly looking for experts to understand and innovate ".

Waiting for a space station for entertainment, the first space battles will be hosted on a capsule that Iervolino does not name, but which, he guarantees, is already operational. The choices, for now, fall on a couple of solutions, perhaps three, already on the market. When Nanoracks and Voyager have built the station, the horizon of his dreams opens up. "Everyone understands entertainment. It's not like talking about satellites and orbiting connections. The technology is there, it is reliable and if there are no accidents all this will happen sooner than you can imagine ". You will not need headsets or the virtual beaches of Echo Arena. It will be enough “the will to make this happen, madmen like us who invent these things”.

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