"We really don't have that much contact with the boxing world. Oscar De La Hoya was at our last event because Golden Boy Promotions was doing an event the night after ours. We are much more in tune with the MMA fighters because a lot of MMA fighters train in muay thai...They know what muay thai is, you know what muay thai is, and part of our charge is that we're trying to educate the public on what muay thai is. When they see a Lion Fight promotion, they will see some of the best stand-up fighters in the world," stated Scott Kent, CEO of Lion Fight Promotions, who discussed his promotional company and their goal to raise the awareness of the sport of muay thai. Check it out!
JR: You are one of the first promoters to bring the sport of muay thai back on a pretty big scale. How do you think your promotion stacks up with the other kickboxing and muay thai promotions in America that are slowly on the rise?
SC: Well, I get this question quite a lot with muay thai being such an amazing and fan-friendly sport. I think we look at the type of promotions, the cost of the promotions, and we spend a lot of money flying people in from all over the world. When you go into a business like this, you have to have a game plan that you are going to lose money and that you are going to have to build from the ground up, regardless of how popular it is in Europe and Asia. We need to go through a growing phase and I think a lot of companies go into that being tied into their management plan. We've been lucky to have some investors and sponsors play a big part in Lion Fight. A lot of these promotions will come in and spend all their money on one thing and then they're gone. In 2 years, we've been able to put out more high quality fights than anybody and that's how we've been successful.
JR: What was your take on how Lion Fight Promotions looked for the first time on national television in January this year?
SC: I was blown away. I thought it was a first-class production and I was so impressed with the graphics and everything that AXS TV had done. Michael Schiavello and Pat Miletech were amazing, and we got a lot tremendous feedback from the fans on the production, along with the show itself.
JR: AXS TV seems to have other combat sports related shows on their network on a weekly basis. Why AXS and what did the AXS Network bring to the table that other networks were not able to?
SC: I think it was their approach. They have a fresh approach and were willing to take a chance on a company like us and a sport like muay thai. I think you've seen a lot of derivative MMA shows out there that you really can't distinguish from one another, and they struggle for a fan base due to the UFC having been so dominant. There is no mainstream muay thai press, so we have to tap into that market as well. We're focusing at it from a different angle because our sport is all stand-up and has a rich tradition. But AXS TV came to us and said, "Listen, we have 40 million viewers here and we love what you guys are doing. Let's give this a whirl." We've just executed an extension to do all our fights in 2013. So this is the first time that a broadcast company has taken a chance on muay thai and is broadcasting it nationally. Our contract calls for a fight every 2 months. We are thrilled to be with AXS TV and we are thrilled to be at the Hard Rock [Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada].
JR: What has been the reception that you received from the boxing and mixed martial arts world?
SC: We really don't have that much contact with the boxing world. Oscar De La Hoya was at our last event because Golden Boy Promotions was doing an event the night after ours. We are much more in tune with the MMA fighters because a lot of MMA fighters train in muay thai. Being here in Las Vegas, along with the UFC, we get so many of the UFC fighters to come through, like Uriah Faber, Dominick Cruz, Frank Mir, and the UFC CEO Dana White. It really raises our creditability to what we're doing when these world-class fighters come out. They know what muay thai is, you know what muay thai is, and part of our charge is that we're trying to educate the public on what muay thai is. When they see a Lion Fight promotion, they will see some of the best stand-up fighters in the world.
JR: How do you see muay thai trying to create its own identity and trying to fit in between boxing and mixed martial arts?
SC: I think there is plenty of room. Boxing has kind of fallen by the wayside in some aspects. Historically, boxing has gone the way where the heavyweights go. Your going to have the Floyd Mayweather's, the Manny Pacquiao's, and some other attractive bouts, but from my experience at the Hard Rock, we're selling 3 to 4 times the tickets that some of the boxing shows are doing at The Joint. I think I remember that's the way boxing used to be. Remember, there used to be this groundswell and boxers fighting each other from the big cities, and you don't see it too much anymore. Some, but not all boxing seems to be evolving into a television contract type organization. We had to start at the bottom; we had to fill the arenas and sell tickets. Even though we have a TV deal, it's not a TV deal where I can take a step back and say, "Listen, I don't care how many people are at the event, I'm getting my money from TV." That's not the way we want to approach this sport. We need to get many fans to the shows, expand our TV audience, and expand our tickets at the event itself. I think that's where MMA and muay thai can really fit hand and glove together.
JR: You have your second televised show on March 15, 2013. For those that do not have cable, will there be another way to watch the upcoming Lion Fight shows?
SC: The only other way right now is through businesses like Hooters, Buffalo Wild Wings, and other companies that have contacted us. What some people are doing is going to some of these establishments and requesting for 1 TV just to show the Lion Fight Promotion on AXS TV. We're not going to do a live stream now. We are negotiating with a Russian company right now, which is looking at the international rights for this upcoming card because of the presence of Artem Levin.
JR: On the last Lion Fight Promotion, Lion Fight 8, in January 2013, you had some very talented and big-name muay thai fighters. Tell us more about who we can expect to see on this upcoming Lion Fight promotions card and what matchup or fighter is a "must see"?
SC: Having Yodsanklai Fairtex, who is considered as the greatest muay thai fighter of his generation, in our very first televised event against Gregory Choplin, who Christine Toledo, the matchmaker, put together for us, we could not have asked for anything bigger. So the question was, well, after that show, how do we improve on that? I don't know if you can other than saying let's bring in the best 2 light heavyweights in the world, Artim Levin vs. Simon Marcus. Levin vs. Marcus was a fight that was supposed to go forward 3 times in Russia last year and once in Thailand, but we're never able to get it together. Let's throw out the WBC and WMC sanctioning body mess and let's just see the fight. We'll do our very first Lion Fight world title that these guys will be fighting for. After talking to some big-name fighters from Europe and Thailand, we're already working on our May card, so I would say stay tuned.
JR: Are there chances that your fans will be able to see "super fights" in the future?
SC: Yes, absolutely! We've talked to a couple of big-name fighters, but I don't want to put it out there until we have a contract. We're not really going to do it; not unless it really warrants it. These will be title fights with special belts and they are really going to mean something. The folks we have talked to about the super fights really love the idea and I think your going to see something like that in the next few fights.
JR: Would the super fights have bonus rounds?
SC: You know, I'm not sure yet. I think in muay thai, it takes a while when trying to figure out your opponent, so that's why we go with five 3-minute rounds. I don't know if we want to tinker with that system or tailor it like some other organizations. The formula we have now has been very successful, so I think we will stay with it for right now.
CHECK BACK SOON FOR PART 2 OF THIS INTERVIEW
Lion Fight 9 takes place on March 15, 2013 Live on AXSTV at 10pm. Tickets can be purchased by Ticketmaster and at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas. 5 Amateur fights & 5 pro fights. Find out more about Lion Fight Promotions on lionfight.com
MAIN EVENT: ARTEM LEVIN vs. SIMON MARCUS
COMAIN EVENT: TIFFANY VAN SOEST vs. NATALIE YIP
ALSO: KEVIN ROSS vs. BERNIE MENDIETA
OGNJEN TOPIC vs. PAOWARIT SASIPRAP
JOE SCHILLING vs. EDWIN AGUILAR
JASON ANDRADA vs. ERIK RUIZ
[ Follow John Russell on Twitter @theJ_Russ3ll ]