So You Want to Be a ‘Sponsored’ Pro Fighter?

Having worked with some of the top guys in Australian MMA from both sides of promoting, I think it is time to layout some of the essential skills I believe will help the next generation of stars mature and achieve all they set to do and take advantage of the shortcuts that can be available to the right type of individual.

Obviously a key to all of this is to win fights and I have seen many a good fighter not get the best opportunities over a fighter that can fulfill most of the criteria I am about to outlay for you here today.

1. Speak well inside and outside of the ring/cage

Whether you like it or not you are the main representative for your prospective fan base. In today’s society with so many available forms of media, if you can communicate well when the opportunities arrive, you will be more attractive to prospective sponsors, promoters and fans.

Practice post fight interviews and get used to hearing your voice through a microphone. There is nothing less interesting than hearing someone being interviewed that lowers their voice or moves back from the microphone to speak. You have a captive audience at that exact moment! Use that opportunity wisely! Know who you want to thank, ask for what you would like to do next, thank your opponent for the opportunity and for the contest.

Sponsors will be attracted to those that can be articulate. Remember a sponsor is investing in their brand when they sponsor you. You do not have to have the speaking qualities of a Barack Obama, but be confident in the words you do choose to say and let them convey themselves well!

2. Have your own network of followers that you can promote your fights to

Fight Promoters like to make money and will give the greatest opportunities to those they can leverage making money off. The smartest (not always the best) fighters know how to promote their own fights and many because of this profit greatly from it. Not only in more opportunities but financially as well. Even amateur fighters can get commission on selling tickets and I know of first time fighters who have made over $1000 by leveraging this simple method.

If and when you do change promoters (see point 7), you will want to be able to take your fans with you.

3.Train with a reputable club/team

When you come from a known source, you are automatically given greater credence by Fans and Promoters alike. You also benefit from the expert advice within the club and by training with other stronger competitors who will likely have more experience than you.

From a promoters perspective they will take a fighter on a card much more readily when they are advised by a coach, with whom they know they can trust.

4.Build your own brand

This is closely related to point 2 ‘Promoting to a network of followers’. Your brand is what makes you marketable and profitable from a sponsor’s, a promoter’s and your own perspectives. Even though some friends and opponents may want to rib you a little, this is HIGHLY IMPORTANT and it is key to getting a name for yourself (or at least one that people will remember).

As you progress with your career I recommend you:

*Get a fight name or tag line (people are much more likely to remember you by this). If you are starting out, then maybe pick something that will not be too outlandish or cocky to begin with. Done right, you may not even need to use your last name.

*Pick a catchy theme song and stick with it and/or limit your changes until you have a strong following.

*Have access to professional quality pictures of yourself both fighting and training

*Create a Facebook Fan page (separate from a Facebook user page) so people can follow you and know what you are up to. This is far cheaper and an easier alternative to a website to begin with.

*Find someone who knows how to create a video and get some highlight reels put together and post them to your Facebook page via YouTube

5. 5) Be patient, humble and reliable.

People will like you if you are likeable! Be friendly and respectful (when appropriate). When you agree to terms, keep your end of the bargain. You will quickly end any prospects of a successful career by cancelling fights (without good reason), coming in over weight, not returning calls and the biggest NO NO of them all, no shows. If you agree to a certain amount of tickets that you will sell, advise the promoter as early as possible if you foresee any problems fulfilling this. You will not win any friends by giving back a row of seats at the weigh in.

Be patient in allowing your career to grow. Most people over estimate what they can do in 1 year and under estimate what they can do in 5 years. Take the right steps along the path and you will get the best outcomes that are available to you. See point 7

6.Let your fight results reinforce all of the above

Winning is a (not the) key ingredient but is unlikely to be the only thing to take you to the top (see point 9), it may be at your peril if you try and skip some of the steps I am outlining for you here. These are the keys that can help make all of the successes you have inside of the ring count on the outside (the real world).

“The champions are champions, because of what they do outside of the ring, which enables them to be all that they can be inside of the ring”.

7. Pick one (GOOD) promoter as your main source of fights and have your team/coach/manager work with them to help achieve your goals

In the fight business Promoters are rarely afforded a high degree of fighter loyalty. And a good promoter can be one of your greatest allies, so make sure they know what you want to achieve up front and ask them for their help in achieving that. A smart promoter will respect knowing what he has to work with and is far more likely to be able to work in with you if he knows what you want to achieve.

Note: Do this in consultation with your coach/manager. They can help you do this. See point 3!

8. Get the details confirmed in writing.

There are people who are unscrupulous out there and people’s version of events can differ. So make sure you get everything agreed to in writing, signed and dated. This includes relationships with Promoters, Coaches and Managers/Advisors. Have someone who is relatively successful in business read through the documents and give you an unbiased opinion. Remember you are your brand and in the fight game your ‘window of opportunity’ and ‘shelf life’ can be short. Protect your interests please!

9. Losses are where True Champions are born

My personal belief is the way that an individual responds to a loss has more substance than how they handle themselves in victory. There are far (FAR) more learning opportunities out of a loss rather than a win.

Mixed martial arts is the fastest growing sport in the word, like anything else to rise to the top you need to have a well thought out plan and diligently follow it. I wish you luck.

Fun With Model Fighter Planes

Back when I was younger, I remember spending long Saturday afternoons in my basement putting various plastic models together. At that time I favored racecars and ships, and my bedroom was filled with the finished products. I eventually grew out of the hobby, but now that I have kids of my own, I’m slowly getting back into it. My sons love model fighter planes, so now our weekends are consumed with finding the perfect jet and working to put it together.

One of the best things about toy models is the process of building something. I can see the excitement in my boys’ eyes when they unravel the instructions (which they insist on referring to as “blueprints”) and lay all the pieces out side by side on the workbench. Then they take turns assembling the plane, carefully putting each piece in place and securing it with glue. It’s amazing to see model fighter planes slowly emerging in this fashion from the individual pieces, and the kids frequently stop to admire their progress. Finally, once the main assembly work is done, they decorate the aircraft with stickers or paint and prepare it for display.

Obviously, putting together model fighter planes is a terrific way to promote family bonding. Models are relatively cheap, and no other special equipment is required. All we need are a few basic supplies and a clean workspace, and we’re ready to go. Usually the boys argue and bicker as much as any other pair of young siblings, but when they put their heads together over one of these model fighter planes, they really take the principles of teamwork seriously. As a parent, this is wonderful to behold!

Another great thing about this particular hobby is that model fighter planes are very easy to find. There are a couple of hobby shops within reasonable driving distance, so we usually take a drive out to one or the other store on weekends to check out the selection. If we don’t see something we’re interested in, we can also purchase model fighter planes online from a number of discount websites that offer free shipping. The bottom line is there will never be a shortage of projects to work on.

And you might not think it, but putting together model fighter planes is an excellent way to take in a bit of history as well. Whenever possible, I try to read up about a specific plane before our weekend sessions, and then as they’re busy with the project, I’ll tell the boys what I’ve learned. Interesting discussions usually ensue, and we all come away having learned something new about Japanese Zero Fighters, Soviet Migs, or P51 Mustangs.

All I can say is I’m very pleased that my sons are enjoying these plastic models as much as I did when I was their age. Model fighter planes have provided my family with countless hours of fun and quality time together; maybe they can do the same for yours!

Bull Fighter Exercise

Last week I got the chance to watch a little of the American Freestyle Bull fighting Championships on the Outdoor Life Network. I’ve done a lot of tough guy sports. I’ve lifted a lot of whacko heavy things. Things that most people are afraid to try. I’ve been a fighter and that’s some tough business. But these guys just might take the cake.

Let me briefly explain what they do. Many of them work as rodeo clowns, which means that their job is to protect bull riders and keep them from getting killed by distracting a 2,000lb bull. One of the biggest, meanest and possibly deadliest animals on the planet. In freestyle bull fighting there’s no cowboy to protect, only the bull fighter in the ring with the bull by himself. In freestyle bull fighting they use smaller Mexican fighting bulls, still probably 800lbs or better. It’s bloodless. They don’t kill the bulls like the Mexican matadors. The bull fighter gets points for artfully dodging the bull around the ring for about a minute. The closer and more dangerously he dances with the bull the higher he scores.

Things like jumping over the bull as it runs at him, “step thrus,” where he side steps the bull while turning his back to him, grabbing the bull by the horn and jumping along with him, etc. One bull fighter absolutely amazed me. To start his round he turned his back to the bull pen, when the bull came roaring out he jumped purposely allowing the bull to hit him in the calves and caused him to turn a backflip over the body of the bull as he ran underneath him. No fear at all. Think about that the next time you get a little nervous trying for a heavy PR or do a little sparring. Talk about tough. One guy had a wrist broken during the early part of his round in a little close encounter with the bull. He didn’t even consider calling the round short, he just kept going. Think about that the next time you have an ache and pain.

These are guys whose lives depend on their body’s ability to move. Their conditioning and agility as well as nerves of titanium and probably being tougher than they are smart (I know a bunch of us who are guilty of that), so we’re going to dedicate a little training routine to them.

One of the things that they did during the show to demonstrate the different moves was to take a small two-wheeled handcart or dolly and pretend it was the bull. This allowed them to use an implement that moved like a bull (the rear end has to turn to turn the front end), and slowly demonstrate the different dodges that the bull fighter does. It struck me how that kind of agility would be great to have in real life. Great for fighters and athletes because it’s very applicable to what you do, i.e., moving around in the ring or on the football field or self defense, basketball, baseball… or what have you. Also how this could be combined in a routine to help create those qualities of quickness, balance, coordination, control, agility, along with conditioning and strength.

So here’s how we’re gonna do it. We’re going to combine heavy barbell lifting, an alternative conditioner, and the “bull fighter” agility drill. So the first part of this workout; pick a heavy barbell exercise you’d like to do for singles. This could be squat, presses, deadlifts, whatever. You’re going to perform a warm up set or two as well as a little bit of light jogging, general movement to warm up and get a sweat going. From there you’re going to do 5 to 10 progressively heavier singles. Between each single you do 30 to 60 seconds of the bull fighter agility drill. Move back and forth as quickly as possible. If you have a small dolly and a partner you can do it by simply having your partner chase you around with the dolly. Now dodge it, but stay close. Don’t flat-out run from it. Work on your lateral agility, being able to change directions, body positions and the feet you drive off of. Kind of like a sprint, but only for a few steps in each direction and then immediately change direction. If you don’t have a hand cart but you do have a partner you can improvise this by simply having the partner chase you or chase you with a stick. (I guess the bigger the stick, the faster you move. LOL), don’t go out there and whack each other, just get some good movement. If you don’t have a partner, just imagine you’re being chased and move around.

Finish the routine by picking an alternative conditioner, i.e. a bodyweight exercise, kettlebell exercise, Indian club swinging or sledgehammers or cable pulls, etc, and do 5 sets of that mixed with 5 rounds of the bull fighter agility drill.

In this routine you’ve lifted heavy, done some high reps and built some athletic qualities. You should be sweating like a horse and desperately out of breath if you’re doing it right.

Have fun and no complaints. Sometimes we all need to toughen up a little bit.

As a side note, this routine might seem a little funny especially to you hardcore lift guys. I can just hear you now, “What kind of a goofball routine is this?! He wants us to pretend WHAT!? I just lift heavy stuff…I’m too macho to do anything else.” Well try it. The drill itself is really a simple movement based, sprint type agility drill. See how heavy you can lift when you’ve just sprinted back and forth for 45 seconds and your heart is beating at 180 beats a minute. The good thing though is that if you do this a few times, you actually can lift quite heavy when you adjust to it and your heart becomes efficient. This conditioning carries over. You’ll feel it. The whole routine shouldn’t take you more than 20 minutes and you get strength and cardio at the same time.