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.