New Territory Equals New Promotions, the UCFC in Pittsburgh

June 26, 2009

            This past February, the state of Pennsylvania finally passed legislation to regulate the sport of mixed martial arts. It took 19 months for the many committees and politicians to finally give the green light for MMA regulation in the Keystone state.  The UFC quickly capitalized on one of the markets, with plans to hold UFC 101 in August in the historical fight town of Philadelphia. But as diverse the state of Pennsylvania is, contact sports are popular throughout. On Saturday, this theory will be tested for the brand new Ultimate Cage Fighting Championship.

             Looking to make an immediate splash in the MMA world is the UCFC, headed by Kenny Holtzman, his wife Tiffany, and brother Gregg, owners of Still Standing Productions, LLC. The trio are going all out for their first event, Rumble on the Rivers, at Pittsburgh’s Mellon Arena. There is an impressive debut card featuring UFC veteran Rich Clementi against WEC vet Kyle Jensen in the main event, along with several other notable names such as Micah Miller, Phil Davis, and Paul Bradley. Also looking to pull in Pittsburgh football fans, former Steeler offensive guard Carlton Haselrig is on the card.

            In this family run and operated promotion, each person has their own job. Tiffany works with the outside ticket sales, while her husband Kenny works with sponsors, and brother Gregg handles advertising, promotions, and negotiations with the arena. Gregg is a businessman that attended Roy Englebrecht’s Fight Promoter University last year to learn the ropes of putting on a fight.

            “It was just the best experience for me, as it gave me the knowledge, and more important the confidence that I could be a successful fight promoter,” said Gregg, the VP of Still Standing Productions. “It allowed me to price my tickets correctly, realizing the type of show I was offering.”

            Englebrecht owns Roy Englebrecht Promotions, which is the third largest boxing and MMA promoter in California. He has run five classes at FPU, with Holtzman’s ending this past November. That’s when Gregg got the ball rolling on the event this Saturday in front of his hometown.

            “I wanted to bring MMA, a sport finally sanctioned in PA just this year to my hometown of Pittsburgh, plus I am a huge MMA fan,” said Holtzman.

            Home of the Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins, the arena holds 16,940 for hockey and 17,537 for basketball. MMA fans can think back of notable promotions like the IFL and Elite XC that tried to get too big too quick, however Holtzman says that’s not the case with his show. They’ve also been getting help from one of the sports’ biggest stars.  

            “Roy’s philosophy of any first show has to be the best, as he says “You don’t get a second chance at making a good first impression”, so we are spending more on the entertainment portion, as well as a few more dollars on the fight card which Paul Domenech has done such a great job in matchmaking,” said Holtzman. “We have had Tito Ortiz in town all week doing three to four appearances a day, so that has just make a huge impact and really build the buzz in town.”

            The Huntington Beach Bad Boy threw out the first pitch at a Pirates/Indians game at PNC Park on Wednesday evening as apart of his promotional work this week. Based on how well the nine fight card on Saturday goes, the UCFC plans to have two more events this year, and have plans to put on six to eight shows in 2010. Ticket prices range from $30 to $98.50 on ticketmaster.com. For more information, go to ucfc-mma.com.

Main Event- Rich Clementi vs. Kyle Jensen

Co-Main Event- Micah Miller vs. JC Pennington

Co-Main Event- Phil Davis vs. David Baggett

Paul Bradley vs. Leonardo Pecanha

Carlton Haselrig vs. Shawn Jorden

James Brasco vs. Matt Brown

Dave Sachs vs. Brock Kerry

Angela Magana vs. Meghan Wright

Joe DeMore vs. Jason Trzewieczynski

 

 

 

 

Rise of a Salesman: Joe Cavallaro and the WCF

June 15, 2009

by Eric Tamiso

With more and more states regulating the sport of mixed martial arts, there will be plenty of new promotions trying to capitalize on the sports’ popularity. In different markets, there are different shows, and different levels of success for each promotion. In New England, World Championship Fighting has put its stamp down just a few miles north of Boston.

As WCF prepares for their seventh event on June 27 from the Aleppo Shriner’s Auditorium in Wilmington, MA, promoter Joe Cavallaro is a very busy man. Running the organization is a labor of love for Cavallaro, who is a product of the Boston area. After working as a salesman at Sun Microsystems for 10 years and having always been around the realm of fighting, Cavallaro is working diligently to put on another solid show.

“Two straight years I’ve spent every waking hour that I’ve had, and that’s not me making it sound more than it is. It never, ever ends,” said Cavallaro. “In the morning, I roll out of bed, I go right into my office to check e-mails.”

Cavallaro does most of the work by himself, but brings in help on a fight to fight basis. His background in sales helps in selling fights, but his background in combat sports has also helped immensely. Cavallaro took several business classes at Northeastern University, but didn’t finish. He has experience working in the camp of former middleweight boxing champion Dana Rosenblatt, and as well as working with former UFC fighters Sam Hoger, Drew Fickett, and Kevin Jordan. He is the current manager of Marcus Davis, Patrick Cote, and the Florian brothers. But that’s not where his connection to the UFC ends, he’s been friends with UFC President Dana White for 20 years.

“When I first started I talked to Dana and those guys and I said, what do you think, and they said it’s a very tough business, you could lose a ton of money, and it’ll be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, and they were right,” said Cavallaro.

Despite the amount of work, Cavallaro has turned a profit with the promotion, as well as turning it into the top promotion in New England. Despite the sport not being regulated in Massachusetts, Cavallaro has been putting on events in Wilmington since September 2007. He follows all of the guidelines a regulated event from the boxing commission would require. There are doctors, ambulances, and sometimes two.

“I run the show as though the boxing commission was there,” said Cavallaro. “I don’t start a fight until a doctor is there ringside, sometimes a backup doctor is needed. A dear friend of mine is a doctor and she comes to most of the events and she’ll help out as a backup doctor.”

At the last show, the next fight was delayed for 20 minutes while waiting for the ambulance to return to the Shriner’s Auditorium. While Cavallaro has been running the show as if the commission was there, it may not be long until they will be there. Alongside Kenny Florian, Cavallaro testified to the Massachusetts State Senate in favor of a bill to regulate the sport.

For World Championship Fighting, it has grown step by step since their first event. The first event had over 2,100 attendees, where the last event in March packed out the Aleppo Shriner’s Auditorium that fits over 4,000 people. There is a sponsorship with a local Harley Davidson dealer, and several other local sponsors. Within the last few months, a television show called WCF Rewind has been broadcast on Comcast SportsNet New England. Still with this steady growth, Cavallaro isn’t shooting for the stars just yet.

“The goal is to slowly go down the east coast, and go from market to market, get bigger and bigger, and hopefully be able to do some pay-per-views at some point, but one thing at a time,” said Cavallaro.

Spotting when the time is right, Cavallaro hopes to make his promotion the brand name of MMA in Boston as what the Celtics are for basketball. However, when the time comes to expand, Cavallaro will not take shortcuts or try to rush things, as seen in the past with EliteXC and IFL leaving the MMA landscape within just a few years.

“I think that’s been one of the mistakes with a lot of the companies, they go out and try to get too big too quick. If you don’t have the right infrastructure and you don’t have the right people working for you, you’re gonna get caught somewhere in the middle,” said the promoter.

The promotion is more concerned in making stars out of local fighters, instead of bringing in other names. Notable names that have fought for WCF are Jon Jones (UFC), Dan Lauzon (UFC/Affliction), John Franchi (WEC), Sam Hoger (UFC), and Mike Dolce (UFC). With the television show, Cavallaro hopes to create new names for the future of his company, as well as to tell their stories to the viewing public.

“It’s not just showing people the fights and hope they enjoy them, that’s what happens when a fight fan watches. When you show the human interest, you show the backgrounds of these guys and everybody gets interested,” said Cavallaro.”It works just the way The Ultimate Fighter works for the UFC. You have to show personalities, you have to show characters. I want to build stars that are household names in New England.”

After the card June 27, Cavallaro looks to have one more event this year, and three in 2010. He is currently negotiating with a second venue, to help solidify the WCF’s hold on the top spot in New England. The next edition of WCF Rewind airs this Sunday and Monday at 8:30 PM ET.

Pan-Regionalism in MMA Promoting

May 10, 2009

Total MMA’s Alan Conceicao takes a look at when regional MMA doesn’t really mean regional MMA:

The problem is that “regional MMA” is generally not actually regional. King of The Cage is a small feeder show and accepts that, but it is not regional. Its been franchised out to a number of promoters all across the world who’ve put on events everywhere from Wisconsin to Singapore. There are no touring fighters that go from place to place for 6 months, challenge for titles, lose by DQ, and go to the next territory. Bellator and SHINE may be guppies, but they certainly aren’t regional, and they definitely aspire for more. MFC is among the many organizations that has been open about expanding their operations to new locales with aspirations of joining the big dogs of the sport.

The problem is that “regional MMA” is generally not actually regional. King of The Cage is a small feeder show and accepts that, but it is not regional. Its been franchised out to a number of promoters all across the world who’ve put on events everywhere from Wisconsin to Singapore……. Bellator and SHINE may be guppies, but they certainly aren’t regional, and they definitely aspire for more. MFC is among the many organizations that has been open about expanding their operations to new locales with aspirations of joining the big dogs of the sport.

In the case of someone like Bellator, whose ethnic based appeal would lend itself to a more tightly focused regional approach (Texas, Florida, California) has seen them branch out beyond those areas in the Northeast, Canada, and beyond. XFC has jumped from Florida to Knoxville, Tennessee and has entertained the thought of entering the Canadian market if Vancouver proper once again allows MMA in that city. MFC’s Mark Pavelich has looked at reversing that move and heading south of the border and extending his promotion into the States. The promotions seem to be “tweeners” – to small to be national, but to big to be regional. TV often plays a factor in the tweener status. Strikeforce played very much the same role, being a bit of a tweener when it had the NBC and HDNet deals and worked shows in Denver and the Pacific Northwest.

Conceicao’s piece is well worth a read and looks at how these burgeoning super-regional shows might tie in to a future landscape where the UFC puts on weekly live television show. Go check it out.

SHINE Behind The Grind: Digital Players, Star Power and Too Many Conversations To Count

May 3, 2009

Editor’s Note: MMAPayout will be taking a look at the process of bringing a new MMA promotion to market. Freelance writer Rhett Butler will be our guide in sharing the story of the birth of a fight company, Shine Fight Promotions. Shine Fights will debut with “Genesis” in Columbus, Ohio May 9th. Our series will give an inside look to all the steps that have been taken to get the promotion to that point.

SHINE Behind The Grind: An Inside Look at the Making of An MMA Promotion

Issue #3: Digital Players, Star Power and Too Many Conversations To Count
By Rhett Butler

The Digital Gameplan

With ShineFights.com, the promotion hopes to add new interactive elements and deeper insight via articles on the promotion and its fighters. Content is gold in the digital realm and Shine wants to come with new innovation. Just recently the ability for fans to be able to vote for the fighter they think will win was added. This give a great measuring stick to how many people are really following the card and logging on to the Shine web portal. The fighter individual biographies were completed and uploaded to the website as well. Shine understands that once people really know how truly world-class the events are everyone will want to be there live in attendance.

Outside of the Shine web portal other MMA websites have reached out to interview Shine executives. Dorian Price and Devin Price, the brother duo that spearhead the Shine MMA promotion did an interview for a popular MMA blog and field more and more inquiries into their vision for the Shine Fights brand.

Celebrities and Communications

Often with local and start-up promotions, non-MMA elements are added to the mix to spike interest in the card. In Shine’s case this is not a problem as members of the Pittsburgh Steelers will be attending the fight and several current UFC stars have also confirmed that they will be in attendance. Daily, Shine is working on solidifying other celebrity appearances ad fans should expect to see many of their favorite personalities across various entertainment platforms.

Shine Fights conducts a daily call with the entire Shine team, which consists of marketing director, matchmaker, finance and Devin/Dorian Price. The Shine matchmaker, Ron Foster checks in with the fighters on a weekly basis to make sure their training is going well while marketing continues to secure sponsors and vendors for the event. In addition, Devin works on the hotel arrangements for Shine fighters and corner men.

Amid all of this Shine has already begun putting the card together for the next event. Matchmaker, Ron Foster recently awarded the honor seeing his main event being listed as no. 9 by Sherdog.com as one of the “10 May Tussles Worth Watching,” is grinding hard to out due his first effort. The life of a promotion company is never dull but it certainly is tiresome.

SHINE Behind The Grind: MARKETING IS OUR MIDDLE NAME

April 29, 2009

Behind the Grind brings you into the world of Shine Fights making its debut with “Genesis” in Columbus, Ohio May 9th in the Celeste Center at the Ohio Expo Center.

Issue # 2: MARKETING IS OUR MIDDLE NAME

by Rhett Butler

Guerrilla Warfare?

You have to hit the streets and touch the people to continue the impact in a market and Shine understands this. So what do they do? Get guerrilla with it and promote! Guerrilla warfare is the term for asymmetrical marketing, reaching the end customer by non-traditional means. After placing an order for additional marketing materials the Shine team distributed 10,000 4×6 flyers and over 200 posters in the central Ohio market. This surely reinforces the show in the minds of the Ohioan.

In addition, Shine placed an order for banners to be displayed outside popular bar and nightclubs in the Arena District of Columbus, OH. If you know Columbus then you understand the value of this hot spot region of the city. Also, appearances for some of the local fighters on the card were arranged at different bars and restaurants throughout the Columbus area where people can see and touch their favorite hometown heroes. It’s hard being a fighter but hey the public is a waiting. Pressing the flesh and doing meet and greets with the public personalize the experience and inspire increased participation.

Radio Revives The Video Star

Don’t believe the hype, radio still matters folks. Yes TV makes one more legitimate but radio touches people on a totally other cerebral level. The best marketing efforts are able to find the proper mix between radio and TV to maximize turnout for your event. In the case of radio, Morning and Afternoon drive time are still listened to widely and Shine understands how to tap into this.

Main event fighter, Antwain Britt served the public by doing a radio interview with Q96 FM in Columbus, OH. In addition, tickets were given away on Q96 as well. Recently, the Shine commercials ran on Power 107.5 FM while Marketing worked on arranging interviews and ticket giveaways for the station.

Next Issue: The Importance of Digital Outreach, Star Power and Inter-company Communication

SHINE Behind The Grind: PROMOTION, PROMOTION, and PROMOTION!

April 27, 2009

Editor’s Note: MMAPayout will be taking a look at the process of bringing a new MMA promotion to market. Freelance writer Rhett Butler will be our guide in sharing the story of the birth of a fight company, Shine Fight Promotions. Shine Fights will debut with “Genesis” in Columbus, Ohio May 9th. Our series will give an inside look to all the steps that have been taken to get the promotion to that point.

SHINE Behind The Grind: An Inside Look at the Making of An MMA Promotion

By Rhett Butler

MMA has truly exploded. From invading the annals of reality television to capturing the attention of corporate behemoths as sponsors, MMA is mainstream. Still outside major promoter’s like the UFC and Affliction pushing the global envelope there lies the foundation of the MMA world: the regional promoter.

Shine Fight Promotions (Shine Fights) lives in this category of regional promoters although they are a hybrid of sorts. Focusing on truly world-class cards that can only elevate the sport for the average MMA layman, Shine looks to consistently bring an entertaining show.

Behind the Grind brings you into the world of Shine Fights making its debut with “Genesis” in Columbus, Ohio May 9th in the Celeste Center at the Ohio Expo Center.

Issue #1: PROMOTION, PROMOTION, and PROMOTION!

What is a fight without the proper marketing and promotion to let the public know what is coming to the city? Shine is no different and as an upstart promotion it is crucial to grab the public’s attention and draw them into this first fight.

The Shine marketing mix: Billboards, TV commercials, Online advertising, Publicity, Radio and Fighter Appearances. The trick is to have everything synched to create a crescendo effect in the minds of the target market. This takes coordination and a huge dose of hurry up and wait.

Bill-Boarding It

Devin Price is a Shine Fights co-owner & brother of fellow co-owner and alumnus of The Ultimate Fighter 6, Dorian Price. Devin spearheads the marketing efforts and one of the major tasks is designing and erecting a billboard in Columbus. The surprise for the public is that the billboard will be in the same place the UFC had theirs when UFC 96 came to Columbus. To see a Shine billboard in place of a Rampage vs. Jardine billboard mentally should trigger some type of reaction; or at least they hope if Dr. Phil is telling the truth about the dormant psyche.

After much grind the billboard was finished and went up in Columbus, OH. The billboard is 14’x48’ is on the main highway in Columbus, OH SR 315. Channel MMA, Columbus, channel!

TV: The Great Legitimizer

Cosby kid Malcolm Jamal-Warner a/k/a Theo Huxtable said it best of his instant rise to fame and legitimacy in Hollywood after doing the play circuit to no fanfare, “TV is the great legitimizer.” Well folks, the fight game is no different and it is a must to have a television presence in the Ohio area. As usual, Devin Price jumped to the task and began putting the first draft of a commercial together with the Marketing Director. After a few rounds of editing the commercial went into final edit and was approved by the whole staff. Even Mr. “Don’t Film Me Bro,” Doran Price made the cut and was happy to see himself on the legitimate maker.

The commercial began airing for the first time on Fox Sports and the Shine Fights staff was ecstatic about the reach and impact they believe it will have. In addition, the commercial will on Fox Sports air during the Cleveland Cavaliers and Columbus Blue Jackets games, hitting the general sports fan. It will also air on Spike TV and the Versus channel during all Ultimate Fighting Championship and World Extreme Cage fighting programming, pulling in the MMA-specific fans.

Next Issue: Marketing Is Our Mission

Clementi Proves Mettle In Promotional Field

March 23, 2009

New Orleans City Business has a piece up that details the promoting efforts of former UFC 155’er Rich “No Love” Clementi. While he has bounced in and out of the UFC over the past several years, the one constant for Clementi has been his efforts at promoting at the local level. The article details his efforts to tie in his promoting feats to a local car show, and his fighting uphill to convince the organizers to play up the MMA angle. The article gives a good view of the depth of Clementi’s efforts:

Clementi is a world-class MMA fighter and president of No Love Entertainment, a Slidell-based MMA promotion company. In his eight years with No Love Clementi, 33, has produced more than 70 events at regional venues including the Northshore Harbor Center, LSU’s Pete Maravich Assembly Center, the Baton Rouge River Center and the Imperial Palace Casino Resort in Biloxi.

“Some people think they can just jump into this business, that they can set up a cage and throw two fighters inside and that’s it. When people do things like that, the fans don’t get their money’s worth and it hurts the sport as a whole because it misrepresents it,” Clementi said.

After promoting the MMA for more than eight years, Clementi is used to being challenged by people unfamiliar with the sport who tell him it is too violent and will horrify women and children. But once they attend one of his events they walk away with a different perspective, Clementi said.

“Some think the people who go to my shows are the same crowd as the WWE. But most people at my shows are 25 to 40 years old and business professionals. I think something that hurts me is my age. I look like a younger guy who doesn’t have a lot of experience. But I’m the longest running and most successful promoter in the state.

While much is made of MMA fighter’s using gyms as fall back careers once their days in the cage are passed, Clementi seems to be ahead of the game in this respect. I believe Clementi also had his hands in the gym business, but going the one step further into promoting field

World Cagefighting Alliance Announces FEBRUARY 6TH COMPLETE FIGHT CARD

January 19, 2009

NEW YORK, January 19, 2009 – World Cagefighting Alliance (www.WCAfights.com) a Mixed Martial Arts Organization completes their first fight card called “Pure Combat” which will be premiering in Atlantic City, New Jersey on Friday, February 6, 2009 at the Boardwalk Hall Ballroom. Weigh-ins for the event will be at the Host Hotel Bally’s Hotel & Casino in the Bally Room Thursday, February 5; on scales at 7:00 pm. Tickets are priced at $100, $75, $60 and $50. Cageside seats are available at $150. Tickets can be purchased at the Box Office, all Ticketmaster locations, at ticketmaster.com or by calling 800-736-1420. More information on fighters, tickets and a seating chart can be found at out www.WCAfights.com. The first fight begins at 7:30 PM.

The World Cagefighting Alliance, “Pure Combat” event will feature some of the best East Coast rising talent in the sport. The Co-Main Events will feature a Lightweight UFC, EliteXC veteran and Ring of Combat Champ Chris Ligouri (Team Ligouri) out of Tinton Falls, New Jersey vs. Former UFC and Pride Standout Marcus “Maximus” Aurelio (American Top Team) from Coconut Creek, Florida and Welterweight undefeated Ultimate Fighter 7 alum Paul Bradley (Lionheart MMA) out of College Station, PA will face Matt Lindland’s prodigy Nathan Coy (Team Quest) fighting out of Gresham, Oregon.

Other notable fights will feature a North Jersey connection pitting Welterweight Rich Ashkar (Team Oliveira) out of Redbank, NJ against USKBA Champ Tom Gallicchio (Team Pellegrino) from Toms River, NJ. Homegrown Vineland, NJ and former Cage Fury Lightweight champ, Al Buck (Team Evolution) vs. Jose Rodriquez (Rhino Fight Team) out of Keansburg, NJ. Doug Gordon (Team Rush) from Newcastle, Delaware will go against Mike Medrano (Rhino Fight Team) from Paterson, NJ and Brian Demuro (KPOZ Fight club) out of Blackwood, NJ will fight Cortland, NY’s Eric Henry (Bombsquad MMA).

February 6, 2009 Fight Card (order TBD):

155 lbs.: Chris Liguori (Tinton Falls, NJ) (Team Liquori) (9-7) vs. Marcus Aurelio (Coconut Creek, FL) (American Top Team) (16-7)

175 lbs.: Paul Bradley (College Station, PA) (Lionheart MMA) (9-0) vs. Nathan Coy (Gresham, OR) (Team Quest) (5-1)

170 lbs.: Tom Gallicchio (Toms, River, NJ) (Team Pellegrino) (9-3) vs. Rich Ashkar (Redbank, NJ) (Team Oliveira) (5-1)

155 lbs.: Matt Lee (Worcester, MA) (MMA Training Center) (11-6) vs. Dave Jansen (Team Quest) (Gresham, OR) (6-0)

170 lbs.: Al Buck (Vineland, NJ) (EVO Fight Club) vs. Jose Rodriquez (Keansburg, NJ) (Rhino Fight Team)

170 lbs.: Doug Gordan (Newcastle, DE) (Team Rush) (8-6) vs. Mike Medrano (Clifton, NJ) (Rhino Fight Team) (4-2)

145 lbs.: Kevin Roddy (Bricktown, NJ) (Team Pellegrino) (9-6) vs. Charles Oliveira Dasilva (Gold Team Fighter) (4-1)

145 lbs.: Steve D’Angellis (Toms River, NJ) (Team Pellegrino) (6-4) vs. Felipe Medeiros Avantes (Team Gold Fighters)(4-1)

145 lbs.: Lester Caslow (Tom’s River, NJ) (Team Pellegrino) (2-2) vs. Joey Comacho (NJ) (AMA Fight Club) (2-4)

170 lbs.: Ryan Smith (Delaware) (Team Rush) (1-0) vs. Anthony D’Angello (NY) (Panza MMA) (4-4)

170 lbs.: Brian Demuro (Blackwood, NJ) (KPOZ Fight Team) (4-4) vs. Eric Henry (Cortland, NY) (Team Bombsquad) (8-6)

145 lbs.: Anthony Leone (Cortland, NY) (Team Bombsquad) (2-0) vs. Patrick White (Pittsgrove, NJ) (EVO Fight Team) (debut)

205 lbs.: Roger Mejia (Tempe, AZ) (Arizona Combat Sports) (10-3) vs. Glen Sandul (Whippany, NJ) (AMA Fight Club) (3-2)

155 lbs.: Daniel Tavares (NJ) (KPOZ Fight Team) vs. Brian Danner (NJ) (EVO Fight Club (debut)

Fight Card subject to change.

“We are pleased to announce Bally’s Hotel and Casino(www.Ballysac.com) as a sponsor and the WCA host hotel for our event along with our new radio partner The Pulse 87(www.Pulse87.com) out of New York City” said Derek Panza, President of WCA.

Note: The $50 & $60 box office tickets are almost gone.

New Orleans, Utah Added to List of Possible Venues For UFC

January 15, 2009

The Shreveport Times breaks the news that the UFC could look to put on a card there as early as this summer. New Orleans is an interesting choice for the UFC, adding to a move into the southern states. The UFC recently did the Fight for the troops show in North Carolina, has shows coming up in Tampa and Nashville, and have held a PPV from Atlanta. While the Northeast remains somewhat starved of UFC action, the Southeast is getting a surplus of action. The Times has the details:

Alvin Topham, chairman of the Louisiana Boxing and Wrestling Commission – the state’s governing body over mixed-martial arts – says recent talks with UFC owners could result in a fight card in just a matter of months at New Orleans Arena.

“I have a good rapport with the Fertitta family,” said Topham, who met with UFC’s brass at the organization’s blockbuster show featuring Brock Lesnar and Randy Couture in Las Vegas on Nov. 15. “They told me there were interested in coming to Louisiana and putting on a show sometime this summer.”

“Louisiana and New Orleans is on our radar,” UFC vice president of regulatory affairs Marc Ratner told The Times on Thursday from “rainy” Ireland, where UFC 93 takes place Saturday. “We’ve already had a couple of different dates, but had conflicts. We’ll keep looking and find a date that works for everyone.”

“We like to go to places we haven’t been for a long time,” Ratner said. “We have good pay-per-view numbers and TV ratings in Louisiana. We’re very bullish and confident we would have a good crowd.”

Another state being added to the mix is Utah, according to Fight Ticker and The Salt Lake City Tribune :

“We have a big fandom in Utah and I’d like to do some kind of show there,” said Marc Ratner, UFC vice president of regulatory affairs. “I can tell from the television ratings that there’s a lot of interest. They watch our Spike [cable TV network] shows. Pay-per-view numbers, percentage wise, are very good there. And Salt Lake’s a great sports town.”

Ratner didn’t rule out a Utah-based pay-per-view event, though he said the limited number of such events makes it less likely Utah would host one in the near future. More likely options include a UFC Fight Night or a WEC event.

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.

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