Monday Morning Matchmaker: Truth or Consequences?
Before I start with this new column, I just would like to thank everybody for their kind words about my first column. I am glad you enjoyed it. Feel free to ask me any questions by commenting at the bottom of this post or email me using the Contact Us link and I will try to answer your questions in future columns.
Truth or Consequences?
As a matchmaker, you have the ability to help a fighter’s dreams come true. Especially with the huge growth in MMA, there are many fighters looking for opportunities. A lot of them believe that all they are missing to become rich and famous is an opportunity. Many believe if they can get on your good side, you will give them opportunities.
If you are someone in a position of authority, you are never really sure if someone is being nice to you because they genuinely feel that way or because you can do something for them. Unfortunately in my case, usually the people being nice are not attractive actresses, but other men who are interested in punching people in the face.
That leads to a problem I have now. I am in a very unique position right now as I am the matchmaker for three different events in Quebec. So some may believe that if you are in my good books, I can give you the opportunities you need to succeed. I can help you get rich and famous.
Every time I speak to someone involved in MMA, in the back of my mind I think about whether or not they are being nice to me because I can help them advance their own personal agendas. I have to admit that this has made me somewhat jaded. It is an extremely tough situation to be in because I have to try and decipher if I am being spoken to as Alex the person or Alex the matchmaker. I will always give people the benefit of the doubt and hope they are genuine. But never being sure makes it hard to realize who your friends are.
An example of genuine is Robin Black. I consider him a friend. I met Robin Black about a year ago and we have met at different events and I have spoken to him on numerous occasions about MMA. Unfortunately, Robin lost his fight this weekend. I do not know the details of the fight as I have yet to see it but it looks like he got caught in a submission. As you learn early, in MMA anything can happen. I’m sure that Robin will be back in the gym soon because he realizes that the harder he works, the more improvements he will make. I know Robin will come back stronger and be back, better than ever.
I have a massive amount of respect for Robin. He came into MMA with a lot of buildup (due to his music career) and many people thought he was getting involved in MMA as a publicity stunt. He stepped into the ring and on that night, it did not go his way. After that, it would have been easy for him to quit, but he stayed involved in the sport and proved to everyone that he has always had the best intentions. There is no denying Robin loves MMA. Anyone who says different has no idea what they are talking about. I know he lives, breathes and sleeps MMA. Long after his fighting career is over, Robin will still be involved in the sport, doing what he loves.
Another fighter I enjoyed having fight for me was Nuri Shakir. Back when I was involved in APEX, I got to know Nuri pretty well. He is a tough fighter who has fought almost all the top Welterweights in the world. One conversation with Nuri and you realize that he is an extremely likeable guy. At that point, I would have considered him a friend. Maybe not in the traditional sense of the word, but someone I respected and wanted to see succeed.
For APEX: A Night of Champions, I matched up Nuri against Jeff Joslin for the APEX World Welterweight Title. I thought it was a great opportunity for both of them as Nuri was looking forward to becoming a champion and Joslin was making his return to MMA after losing a controversial decision to Jon Fitch.
On that night, Joslin hurt Nuri standing and eventually knocked him out from strikes while Nuri was on the ground. As he was lying in the ring, Nuri did not look in good shape. I have to admit I was worried for him. It is not a good feeling. It was a different feeling than the Sims vs. Francois fight, as that was more about the anticipation of injury and this was actually seeing that in front of you. The worry was less about MMA but more about how you would feel seeing a friend lying there unconscious.
Obviously, Nuri ended up being OK (other than a bad headache) but there are times where a fight may be difficult to watch. It is a love/hate relationship while watching the MMA fights I put together. Throughout the whole event process, from booking the fight to fight night, I try to get to know all the fighters participating in the event. It is an easy way to see what makes certain fighters tick, but it also makes some fights very difficult to watch. Whether you admit it or not, there are some fighters who end up becoming your friend. Even though this is a rough business and injuries are bound to happen, it is never easy to see it.
The fights are great and I enjoy watching them, but I am always concerned about the safety of the fighters. There is always a knot at the pit of the stomach during every fight I watch because MMA is so unpredictable. It may be strange to hear this from a MMA matchmaker, but I really do not like to see people get hurt. That is a big reason why I try not to have any mismatches on my events.
My job is to put both guys in a situation of an even, well matched fight. It is my responsibility to put them in as safe a position as possible. At the end of the day, all I ask of myself is that I want to feel like I did everything in my power to put both guys in a position to succeed. If I feel that, my conscious is clear (somewhat) should any injuries occur. Even though you can say that fighters are grown men and can make their own decisions, I still believe you need to protect some from themselves.
As in any part of life, you want to see your friends succeed. It is at times difficult to not go against better judgment. But, I feel I do a good job of keeping any biases out of matchmaking. Obviously there are certain fighters and camps I feel more comfortable working with, but at the end of the day I feel it is my obligation to put on the best fights for the promoters I work for and the fans who watch the event. There are times I would like to do a favor for a friend but I feel it would be a disservice to everyone else involved. The only thing I can do is listen to my gut and do what I think is right. So far so good.