Behind the Shout-out

October 29, 2008

In listening to the fighters in the after fight interview, it is often we hear the sponsors being thanked in their role call. Welterweight star Thiago Alves did one better in his victory speech after defeating Josh Koscheck. After naming off his sponsors, he also threw in a “You’re the man, Malki”, recognizing the efforts of his agent, Malki Kawa of First Round Management, in doing such a great job of bringing sponsors to the table. We caught up with Malki for a quick interview about his relationship with Thiago and his activities as Alves’ agent. so malki, we heard the shout out Thiago gave you the other night. how did you become involved with Thiago?

Malki Kawa: I represent Marcus “Conan” Silveria, head coach over at ATT, and he introduced me to him. We talked, and the rest is history. I’m not Thiago’s manager, but I’m his agent. I handle all appearances, endorsements, and sponsorship opportunities. Thiaigo seems to be very appreciative of your work, could you elaborate on your relationship?

Malki Kawa: It’s been a wonderful experience and I can tell you we’ve built a very good working relationship but better yet we’ve become very good friends. We speak almost every day, and some times its just to see what’s up with the other. We have a mutual respect for each other and I think that’s whats been the key. I respect what he does as a fighter, and he respects what I do for him as his agent. You seem to have quite the relationship with ATT? How did that all start?

Malki Kawa: Again, because of Conan, he introduced me to one, then to another and another, and for the most part I’ve been able to get them deals, and very good deals. So I help almost all the fighters there in some capacity or another. I hear that BJJ black belt Dan Lambert has been key in your success, could you elaborate a bit?

Malki Kawa: That particular black belt is the owner of ATT, and the manager for Thiago. he’s the reason why Thiago is here in the us, and probably the reason for his maturation as a fighter and as a man. He’s helped me in MMA in ways no one could understand, and mentored me indirectly. anything I ask he answers, anything I need, he gets done. more importantly, he allows me, a person who also manages fighters, to represent his fighters in a huge aspect of their careers, marketing and sponsorships. says a lot about him and I am indebted to him. anyone that knows him knows he’s a stand up guy, and is very humble. He has the number 1 fight camp for a reason. Besides all the fighters, coaches and trainers, I think it starts with him. You have also managed NFL guys, what made you make the leap over into MMA? You have made some contacts in the NFL world, how are those serving you now in mma?

Malki Kawa: I haven’t left the NFL, I love football and it still continues to be my first love, but MMA is huge and growing every day. As I started to speak to fighters and the type of deals they had, I knew they needed someone like myself. My NFL contacts are helping in a huge way. Don’t be surprised if you see some of those NFL sponsors get involved with MMA very soon. I have to thank Peter Schafer, of All Pro Sport and Ent., my partner in football for helping me develop those contacts. We hear that you have been getting some big deals done for Thiago, like the deal with Champion Nutrition. What’s your gameplan when bagging these sponsorships?

Malki Kawa: No real gameplan. It goes back to a very basic concept in negotiating. Both sides need to feel they won, so, I try and make that happen every time. I never do a deal just because of money. I want the sponsor to know he’s getting his money worth, and I make the fighter understand what his role in this company is. I always make sure that whomever the sponsor is, that they meet the fighter to make sure the synergy is there. Then, once the deal is done, I ensure that both sides deliver on their promises. What would you say is the best deal you’ve done so far for Thiago?

Malki Kawa: Honestly, all of his deals have been good. Every one of them is six figures, and I’m proud of all of them. I’ve been able to get him more than champions in the UFC, and I am continuing to do that for other fighters as well. Honestly, its a testament to Thiago and his marketability. He’ll be the most marketable guy in about 1 year.

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