Monday Morning Matchmaker: Anatomy of a Fight Card
If you look at the fight cards I have put together recently, you will see a lot of young fighters making their debuts early in the card. This week, I would like to focus on that aspect of matchmaking and then talk about how I decide the fight order.
I put a lot of young fighters on the cards for a few reasons. The first reason is simple: economics. You can fill out a fight card relatively inexpensively with two or three fights between fighters who are 0-0. A 5-0 fighter will demand (and rightfully so) a higher purse. But, fighters making their debut are just looking for an opportunity to shine. Some of the best fights you will get at an event are two inexperienced fighters giving 100% to get another opportunity in the cage/ring. Some may have been waiting a long time for this opportunity, so they give it all they have in there.
Another reason is: talent building. Obviously, not every fighter who steps in the cage will become the next Georges St-Pierre, but the goal of every matchmaker is to find the next superstar. There is no better feeling than to take a 0-0 fighter and help bring him to the level of the UFC. Obviously I have a small part (along with his trainers, manager, etc) but it is a great thing to be part of something that special. An example I like to use is UCC/TKO. Stephane Patry did a great job of developing talented fighters in this fashion and you see it paying dividends with fighters like David Loiseau, Georges St-Pierre, Mark Hominick, Sam Stout, Jonathan Goulet and Pat Cote getting their start with UCC/TKO and then moving onto the big shows. It also helps that the fans will get heavily invested into the fighter’s career as they saw their progression from raw rookie to MMA star.
One thing you will notice is that a lot of the fighters who make their debuts come from camps I work with on a regular basis. When a fighter makes his debut, I need to make sure that he is ready to take the leap into professional fighting. It would be almost impossible for me to see every fighter train on a regular basis, so I have to take the word of the coaches I trust. I know if Fabio Holanda tells me one of his young fighters is ready, he is ready. I know that Zahabi MMA will not let someone represent them unless they are ready to shine. There are about ten to fifteen coaches that I know run great MMA programs within Quebec and Ontario and I trust their judgment. They (along with my gut feelings) are the key to my success.
Debut fights are hard because you are never 100% sure what to expect. But, I have been fortunate that I believe I have the trust of the coaches I work with. The more I know about certain fighters, the more I can put them in a position to succeed. There can only be one winner in every fight, but at least I know everyone got a fair shake. By us working together, we have had many exciting fights involving young, hungry fighters.
Casual MMA fans love to see two fighters slug it out for three rounds or have someone get knocked out. However, there are still different aspects of MMA that can shine on a night. When I put together an event, I like to really try and highlight the different disciplines of MMA. For obvious reasons, I love to put a striker against another striker. One of two things can happen, either it will become a kickboxing bout or the fighter with the best ground game will win. I also like to put two submission fighters against each other. As this will either become a chess match on the ground or they will both decide to stand and see who is better at the other aspects of their game. Then you can also have a contrast in styles, where whomever can dictate where the fight ends up will ultimately win the fight. That is the beauty of MMA, anything can happen. The key is to not have too much of the same type of fights as the variety of finishes is what makes MMA so exciting.
The fight order is an important part of the matchmaking. My goal is to make the crowd excited about the event from the start to the finish. I always want to start the night with a fighter from the local area who sold a lot of tickets. If the night starts with a local fighter, the fans will get into the show immediately and once they are in, it is my job to keep them there. I usually follow that up with what I think is a darkhorse for Fight of the Night. It is usually a debut fight and I have to admit, it is usually between two strikers with limited ground skills. I am hoping for a slug fest and I recently got it at a W1 event when Vito Attanassi and Josh Hill fought an exciting bout that was voted Fight of the Night. Both guys have solid ground games and come from great camps, but my gut told me that they were both going to come in and give 100%. I was right.
There is only so much you can plan for because MMA is so unpredictable, but so far so good. I have had a lot of superb fights and a lot of great people involved with our shows. I have made some good friends along the way as I hope people know they will be treated fairly and I try to put everyone in a position to succeed. Sometimes it does not work out, but the great thing about MMA, is if you work hard enough and give 100%, you will always get a second chance.
*** The three photos and Featured Gallery photo are all courtesy of Deejay Sherman. Check out his W1 pictures at combatpix.com