The staff here at MMA Gospel noticed a disturbing trend in MMA media. Amateur fighters, the fighters who need exposure the most, are the least covered athletes in MMA. In fact, most sites tell their writers that amateurs are off limits and even when attending a pro/am event, they are only allowed to cover the professional fighters. We decided to not only cover amateur events, but to dedicate an entire series to local shows and amateur fights. I will personally be covering the Chicagoland area and possibly a few promotions in the southeast, starting with the Naperville, IL based Cutthroat MMA production. The main goals of this series are to provide exposure for amateur fighters that may otherwise not garner any attention from larger organizations for several years of competition and, perhaps more importantly, provide amateur fighters with an easy resource to find out which small shows are the ones to fight for and which shows are the ones to avoid.
The basic information every fighter needs to know before agreeing to fight for an amateur promoter can be summed up in one simple acronym: MOMMIE. If you were to ask your dear old mom about any of the following and she wouldn’t approve, stay clear of that show.
Medical: What kind of EMT and ringside physician presence does the event provide? Is the doctor a sports medicine expert? Is he an emergency trauma doc? Or is he just a family practice doctor or worse, not a practicing doctor at all? Are there EMTs on site with easy access to the ring? Are pre-fight physicals a real examination or just a questionnaire and a quick once over? Even if a show has insurance, the cost of lasting damage that could be prevented with top quality on-site medical care can’t be measured in just dollars and cents.
Officials: Who is in charge of officiating the event? Is a state commission involved? Are the referee and judges provided by the state or another third party or are they provided by the promotion itself? It’s important to realize that amateur MMA isn’t as regulated as its professional counterpart and you don’t want to climb in the ring with a referee who is biased towards your opponent or even worse incompetent and ignorant of the subtleties of the rules. Remember, that’s the man/woman responsible for YOUR safety and that of your opponent. You also don’t want to fight a member of the promoter’s favorite camp with a group of judges he picked himself or fight a close match before a group of people that may as well have been pulled from the crowd.
Matchmaking: Look at previous cards. Has this promoter established a history of pairing members of certain camps with less experienced competition? Have there been numerous examples of large skill, weight, or size (i.e. reach/height) differences between opponents? The occasional mismatch is inevitable, sometimes two 5-0 amateurs both 5’9” at 170 look even, even with comparable video to look at, and it turns out otherwise. But when a promoter consistently pits guys with 10+ fights against fighters with fewer than five fights, you know something is off. Amateur competition is about learning, growing, and testing your skills before the pro circuit and a huge mismatch is a disservice to both fighters.
Media: Is this fight well promoted? Was it advertised on radio, TV, and print? Are local papers or Internet MMA news sources going to cover this show? Unlike boxing or wrestling, there are no Olympic trials at the end of the year for an amateur MMA fighter. A fight, no matter how well matched, in front of 100 people at an old airplane hanger or back country rodeo arena is a waste of an amateurs time. It is important for amateurs to get recognized as early as possible so that they are firmly entrenched in the minds of those WEC/TUF/UFC/Strikeforce scouts and the local and Internet news sites.
Insurance: If a promoter wasn’t willing to pay for event insurance to at least partially cover an injury to a fighter, that promoter isn’t worth fighting for. Period. A promotion that skimps on the insurance will surely have cut other corners and clearly doesn’t care about what happens to the young fighters who put their bodies on the line, often for free, to make them a buck.
Exposure: Going hand in hand with media exposure for the show itself is exposure for the fighters themselves. Is this promotion going to reward good performances with promotion of the individual or do they simply want the fighters out of the cage ASAP so they can extol the virtues of ABC Combat Extreme Fighting? Do these guys your risking your neck for report your victories and defeats to www.mixedmartialarts.com or another official database to provide you with a legitimate paper trail to show that first professional show that you are the real deal? Especially if you come from a smaller fight team that lacks the backing of a major name, this is your only defense against getting jobbed out to some regional promoter’s poster boy for $500.
MMA Gospel Amateur Spotlight will explore these local promotions in an effort to answer these questions and more about the smaller shows on the MMA scene. We’ll tell the fans which shows to go to in order to experience a quality show for far less than the cost of a night out on the town and we’ll let the amateurs that are the future of our beloved sport know where they need to go to start their journey, and who to steer clear of in order to ensure that you’ll receive the care and credit they’re due.