Gameness Makes Leap From Apparel to Fight Promotion

December 26, 2008

Gameness, the largest distributor of Jiu Jitsu Gi’s in North America took the next step in establishing itself as a company willing to take bold strides to cement its locale as a player in the business of Mixed Martial Art’s when it successfully promoted the inaugural Gameness Fighting Championships fight card December 11th at the Tennessee State Fair Grounds in Nashville.

In an attempt to extend its already firm hold on the sports local scene, the fight gear producer began the long and tenuous journey from gear manufacturer to fight promoter in an attempt to provide the growing amount of competitors in and around Nashville a platform from which to showcase their talents inside the cage in the hopes of transcendence to the next level.

After a hard fought process rife with obstacles July 1st marked the day Tennessee became another in the growing number of additions to the list of states who’ve recognized the universal rules of mixed martial arts when a bill known simply as 91-4 passed unanimously with the states legislature. The passage of the bill validated the sport in the eyes of the state thus clearing the way for legally sanctioned bouts to begin.

While the legalization has only come of late, the battle to acquire the sport the legal approval began several years ago, that according to Shane Messer, owner of Gameness.

“We employed a lobbyist about 2 years ago to begin the process of trying to persuade the state to adopt the universal rules of MMA. It wasn’t until this past summer that large steps were made when we were joined in our efforts by the Memphis Grizzly’s who also operate the FedEx Forum venue and are responsible for booking shows and events there”

With the exponential growth enjoyed by MMA fight promotions like the UFC, the Grizzly’s organization was whole-heartedly in agreement with efforts begun by Gameness to garner the sport the legal sanctioning required to promote events in the state, specifically with an eye on enticing Zuffa to hold a live event at there venue.

The idea was successful and according to public statements made by UFC management, the state which is the birthplace of one of the promotions biggest stars in Quinton “Rampage” Jackson could see its first live event as soon as this coming year, possibly featuring the Tennessee native.

The revenue’s a live event can create as well as the potential tax dollars generated for the state were more than enough to convince the legislature that legal MMA was the wave of the ever changing future and they displayed their approval when they agreed unanimously by a count of 30 to 0 to ratify the bill.

While the legalization was a great victory for the sport in Tennessee, the passing of the bill presented several new logistical challenges for companies willing to brave the uncharted territory of promoting professional and amateur MMA events in the state.

Since there were no major MMA events held prior to the passage of the bill, all of the processes required to stage a successful event were being done for the first time ever. There was no handbook on how to promote and stage a live event in Tennessee, Messer and his team were creating the formula as they went along.

And the issues they faced were not minor or even ones with steps in place in order to rectify. For one, the state had no appointed athletic commission from which to ensure regulations were enforced. Not having a commission also meant no approved officials, referees, or judges. There were also issues regarding amateur bouts as opposed to professional. The strikes that make a mixed martial arts bout were now legal, so amateur bouts could now be held with no problem since the results wouldn’t count as professional, but with the lack of a governing body to sanction the professional bouts, combatants who had already gone pro would not be allowed to count the results towards their professional records.

In spite of all these potentially crippling time bomb’s presented by the lack of a governing body, Gameness pressed on and successfully promoted the first of several events it has planned for 2009 “Gameness Fighting Championship” the first and only legally sanctioned mixed martial arts event in the state’s history.

“It went extremely well, we had a paid attendance of 1500 people for our first event, and that was in the middle of a snow storm”

The inclement weather was not enough to detour these die hard fans who had been starved for high level mixed martial arts entertainment, so much so, 300 of the tickets sold for the event were walk up sales during some of the worst weather in the states history. Dedication of this magnitude would make a postal carrier proud, fans willing to brave rain, sleet or snow in support of the sport they love.

Little did those fans know the event, which seemingly went off without a hitch was a hair’s breath away from being canceled just 6 hours before it was slated to begin.

In an emergency meeting of the states governing body which had been previously charged with the responsibility of regulating only professional boxing, the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance requested the presence of Messer and others involved to get an explanation as to what the evening’s event would entail. After the session with the board, the event was subsequently approved for amateur bouts only. Since there was no approval for the professional bouts, they would now be forced to become exhibitions.

Upon hearing the commissions decision Messer reluctantly accepted the boards decision but not before he informed the panel he would be back with a request for a 30 day temporary license similar to the one the state granted HBO for its recent televised boxing match between former undisputed middleweight champion Jermain Taylor and former fellow Olympian Jeff Lacy. The cable giant was granted a temporary license for its event held in Nashville and since mixed martial arts was now legal in Tennessee, common sense would lead one to believe that a if a license for boxing was acceptable, legal mixed martial arts should be as well…Right?

Well unfortunately only time will tell. Messer told us that he only hopes his next “appointment” with the board will bring him a step closer to bringing the local fans what they want and the local fighters the vehicle they need to make the jump to the larger promotions by granting his request for the 30 day temporary license. This will allow the professional bouts to count towards the fighter’s records and provide more opportunities for the fighter’s advancement as well as solidify the promotion as a viable organization.

The rousing success of their first event did more than its share to clear the way for the second set to take place February 14th once again at the Tennessee State’s Fair Grounds.

With efforts continuing to ensure the professional bouts slated for the card will count towards the fighter’s records, Gameness is undoubtedly doing its share to ensure the sport of mixed martial arts continues its proliferation throughout the great state of Tennessee and further establish its position as the fastest growing sport in history.

Comments are closed.