Payout Spotlight: ProElite VP of Fight Operations T. Jay Thompson – Part 2
July 14, 2011
In part two of MMAPayout’s interview with ProElite’s Vice President of Fight Operations T. Jay Thompson, he spoke to us about some of the smaller details regarding the August 27 event, the differences between the old ProElite and the new, plus his thoughts on Rich Chou, Kimbo Slice, Dana White, Women’s MMA, promoting MMA for the past 15 years, and being a huge MMA fan.
MP: What type of cage/ring will ProElite use on August 27? Are you a fan of the ring or the cage?
Thompson: We will be using a standard circular cage, similar to what was used in EliteXC. I am a big fan of the ring but I believe that era of MMA has passed. The ring was great back in PRIDE and in Japan, but those times have passed. As for the cage, I’m a big fan of the smaller cages, so I’m hoping that we can make it a bit smaller in the future because they create exciting fights.
MP: How do you feel about co-promotion?
Thompson: I am all for co-promotion. Not only did I host the first co-promotional sanctioned event for Shooto in the U.S., but I was fortunate enough to work with several Japanese promotions and I was able to bring fighters like Rumina Sato stateside, which was a proud moment for me.
MP: How do you feel about working with ProElite again after your first stint. It appeared that MMA fans were waiting for the more experienced MMA promoters under the banner to take over the direction of ProElite last time around, but it never happened. How does your position in ProElite differ this time around?
Thompson: I had nothing to do with decision making the first time around. It’s no secret that Gary Shaw and I didn’t see eye to eye. It was an extremely frustrating situation. Like I said before, this time around I will be working with Rich Chou, and as a team, our goal is to place ProElite in a position to capitalize.
MP: Speaking of Rich Chou, were you surprised that he was let go after Zuffa purchased Strikeforce and can you talk about what his acquisition means for ProElite?
Thompson: I’m excited to work with Rich again. I’ve worked with Rich for a long time now and he is a hard worker and not many people realize this, but he does a lot more than just the matchmaking. He will be a valuable asset for us… but am I surprised that Zuffa let him go? No. Zuffa’s entire company is filled with excellent employees and he was just another for them. So no, I am not surprised at all.
MP: If Strikeforce ends up being absorbed by the UFC and Women’s MMA needs a new home, do you see ProElite becoming a home to them the same way that Strikeforce was able to capitalize on the female fighters they acquired from EliteXC?
Thompson: First of all, I am a big fan of Women’s MMA. Like I said before, we are talking to anyone that’s available. We’ve already scheduled Sara McMann, a U.S. Olympic medalist, to our first event, so they will have a place in the promotion.
MP: Did you watch the recent fight between Sheila Bird and Kim Couture. What did you think of that fight? Is Bird the type of fighter that you would be interested in signing?
Thompson: The officiating was terrible, but I was thrilled to see a win via leg-scissor choke. You can ask anyone that trains out of my garage, that is my favorite choke and I’ve been practicing it for years. As for Sheila, of course we would be interested in signing any top prospect. You have to realize that I am a huge MMA fan, just like you guys. I go to the UG, read the websites, and watch the fights on Youtube just like everyone else. I try to catch as many fights as I can and keep an eye on up-and-coming talent.
MP: Kimbo Slice was heavily featured in EliteXC during the initial run. Would ProElite be opposed to signing someone like a Kimbo Slice, Dave Bautista, or Bobby Lashley?
Thompson: There were many decisions I did not agree with that ProElite made, but signing Kimbo Slice was not one of them. I am a big Kimbo Slice fan and I don’t have a problem with fighters who bring new eyeballs to the sport. Kimbo Slice was a big part of why ProElite and CBS still hold the record for highest rating on a major network for MMA. As for Bobby Lashley, I am a bit disappointed in his progression in MMA. I was rooting for him and hoping he would have had more of an impact on the sport by now. In terms of signing any of them, I would not rule anything out.
MP: Now that you are the VP of Fight Operations for ProElite, what do you think you can bring to the table this time around that you weren’t able to last time?
Thompson: My strong-point is not only discovering and developing new talent, but reviving already established talent. I was able to do it for Robbie Lawler, Frank Trigg, and Jason Miller, and it’s something that I look forward to doing again in ProElite.
MP: What is your vision of ProElite in the near future and where would you like them to be in 5 years?
Thompson: Our goal is to become the number two promotion in MMA in five years and be profitable. If we could do that, we would be in a great position to capitalize on opportunities. As for ProElite, I hope it becomes a mixture of all my previous promotions (ICON Sports, SuperBrawl, etc). We want to put on exciting and entertaining fights for our fans.
MP: What type of reaction has ProElite received from the fans and MMA sponsors since announcing the company’s return?
Thompson: We are getting a great deal of support from MMA fans and those involved on the business side of the sport, so that’s great to see. I was and still root for Strikeforce, so it’s good to see others do the same for us.
MP: In a recent interview, Dana White said “T. Jay [Thompson] has been involved in some great fights — SuperBrawl — I would call him an early pioneer of the sport. Good for him” regarding ProElite being resurrected. What is your reaction to that comment?
Thompson: Actually, it makes me think that I’m doing something wrong. Joking aside, I am a huge Dana White fan, and we are just a small blip on the radar, so it could all change in the future.
MMAPayout was also able to briefly catch-up with ProElite new hire Rich Chou. Chou insisted that he was “very blessed” to have many opportunities presented to him after he was let go by Zuffa, and is now just trying to find a way to transition his life into working for ProElite. Chou now finds himself frequently flying between San Jose, Los Angeles, and Hawaii. He also points out that he has been extremely busy preparing for the August 27 show in Hawaii, and hasn’t had much of a chance to settle down.
Chou along with T. Jay Thompson and a couple of Stratus Media Group executives currently make up the team for ProElite, a vast contrast of how the original company was managed. “I am very blessed with the opportunities that were available to me after Strikeforce” said Chou. “I think MMA promotions realized what type of work I can put in and the success the companies I’ve worked with have had in the past. I’m looking forward to working with T.Jay and putting on great fights for the fans.”