Payout Spotlight: ProElite VP of Fight Operations T. Jay Thompson – Part 1
July 11, 2011
MMAPayout had the opportunity to interview Vice President of Fight Operations for ProElite T. Jay Thompson. He spoke to us about the August 27 event, his goals for the promotion, and what we can expect from ProElite going forward.
ProElite hosted it’s first MMA event, which was televised on Showtime, back in February of 2007. In total, ProElite was able to produce 21 MMA events before it closed it’s doors in October of 2008, as it accumulated a debt of $55 million in the span of less than 24 months of operations.
With EliteXC’s previous failure and Strikeforce’s purchase by Zuffa earlier this year, despite both having historic network television deals and a number of MMA stars on it’s roster, begs the question: Can a viable competitor emerge? Can the market sustain another national promotion over the long-term? T. Jay Thompson believes becoming a profitable number two promotion is the initial goal this time around for ProElite.
MP: What will the name of the MMA promotion be under ProElite and does ProElite still have rights to EliteXC, Cage Rage, etc?
Thompson: We will be using ProElite as the name of the promotion, as the ProElite name still has value and brand equity. We still own part of the rights and library to EliteXC and Strikeforce owns others after the asset purchase, but we still have the rights to other promotions such as Cage Rage and ICON for example.
MP: So far, the rumors are Kala Hose vs Drew McFedries, Raquel Pa’aluhi vs Sara McMann, Jake Huen vs Mark Ellis, Andrei Arlovski, and Kendall Grove all possibly participating in the upcoming August 27 event taking place at the Blaisdell Arena in Hawaii. Can you confirm any of these fights? Will there be an emphasis in Women’s MMA?
Thompson: There will be an announcement this week but all I can say is that you guys have done a very good job. Those fights sound very plausible. I can tell you that we signed the first American woman in history to receive a silver medal in women’s wrestling at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Sara McMann and she will be taking on Raquel Pa’aluhi, who comes from a great Hawaiian MMA background. Whether male or female fighters, we are talking to anyone that’s available and that make sense for us and what markets we go into.
MP: How will MMA fans be able to watch the August 27 event? Are there any concerns about running the show on the same day as the monumental UFC 134: Silva vs Okami taking place in Brazil?
Thompson: The event will be available for fans most likely by streaming from a major MMA website. We are hoping for a TV deal to be in place, but realistically, it will most likely be streamed from Hawaii at 7PM local, which means it will air just after UFC 134 at 10PM on the west coast. We are not trying to compete with the UFC, and just like a fighter coming back from a long layoff, we have to work out the kinks and ring rust. We hope to do that in the first couple of shows.
MP: Does ProElite have any major sponsors lined up for the August 27 event?
Thompson: We are currently not aligned with any major sponsors. As for the event, nothing is official just yet, but we aren’t expecting many major sponsors for the first event.
MP: ProElite CEO Paul Feller has mentioned before that a lot of what PE will do in the future depends on what happens with Strikeforce on Showtime and UFC/Bellator on Spike TV. Is the goal to eventually land a TV deal with one of those big outlets?
Thompson: My job is to put ProElite in a position to capitalize on any opportunities that present themselves in the future. So we won’t rule anything out at this point. Stratus Media has talented people and many have worked in/with the TV industry, so we feel pretty confident we will be on a TV outlet by our second event.
MP: When will the second event take place and how many events are you planning for 2011?
Thompson: The second event will take place in November, which is when we believe we will have a TV deal in place. That means we will have 2 shows in 2011, then ramp up for 2012.
MP: How will ProElite be funded and operated this time around? It was well documented that the website, offices, employee salaries, etc were above and beyond what they should have been in terms of spending.
Thompson: ProElite will be ran lean and mean this time around. It was frustrating watching PE burn through money and there was nothing I could do. It’s a reason why we are only holding two events this year. We want to analyze and make decisions that make sense for the company and our shareholders.
MP: Will Hawaii be the home-base of ProElite, similar to what San Jose was for Strikeforce?
Thompson: We want to host about 2-3 shows in Hawaii every year but I wouldn’t say we have a home-base. Remember that our offices are located in California, so we will see. Our goal is to go into markets that make the most sense.
MP: Is running MMA events out of Hawaii a concern, considering the MMA tax after the sport was regulated there a few years ago?
Thompson: Hawaii gets 4% on the gate, 4% on PPV revenue, but it is capped at $50K, so it’s no different if we hosted the event in California or New Jersey. Dana White made those comments back when the UFC was looking into putting on an event in Hawaii, but those regulations have been modified since. I wouldn’t be surprised if the UFC came to Hawaii soon and ran a show from Aloha Stadium.
Part 2 of the interview will discuss the differences between the old ProElite and what Thompson envisions this time around. Also, his thoughts on Rich Chou, Dana White, Women’s MMA, being a promoter in MMA for the past 15 years, and being a huge MMA fan.