It is pretty hard as a new coach to learn how the fight game works. It is even harder to explain to young fighters who just want to be champions and make money in it. I’ve been pretty lucky; I’ve been on all sides at one point or another training fighters, working as a referee and judge, promoting events and even working with several commissions and sanctioning bodies. It is a hard game, it is also a corrupt game. But it’s still the best game in town.
A lot of people disagree with me, but I really believe in amateur sport. Of the students you have, very few will want to compete. Of those, even fewer will ever want to be a professional fighter. However, even professional fighters benefit from amateur competition. While Larry Holmes only had about 20 amateur bouts, Oscar Dela Hoya had 240 amateur bouts. I firmly believe that once you turn professional, it is hard (almost impossible) to adapt and change your game.
There was a time in the US when the ONLY mixed martial arts contests were professional. Many people did one or two professional style MMA bouts, and never did it again. I looked at Japanese Shooto, with an amateur system with three classes. Their professionals were well rounded and looked like professionals. I am very proud of the fact that I worked with people like the late Paul Rosner and NJSACB official Nick Lembo to develop an amateur MMA program in the United States.
I think very few people understand how championships and titles work. They might be the most corrupt aspect of combat sports. Certainly in boxing we know they were heavily manipulated. In kickboxing, Muay Thai, mixed martial arts etc you frequently saw the guy who sold the most tickets promoted to champion. Or more simply, promoters put their own students up for titles on their own shows.
When I promoted shows, I never put my own students up for titles. I always felt that it looked bad and tarnished the title. We won our titles in open tournaments, or on other people’s shows. We won an IKF national title fighting the promoter of that show’s student with one of his other students as one of the judges! THAT is an accomplishment. Also, entering an open tournament where the matches are randomly selected brackets is a good test.
I had a guy who was very flashy, a former TKD champion, and sold a lot of tickets. He was offered a title because of that, against someone the promoter knew he could beat. I knew perfectly well what that was all about but it wasn’t my show.
I had an amateur fighter in my gym complain that he hadn’t been offered any titles and people he had beaten had been offered titles. NO, they hadn’t been offered titles! A promoter knew they would lose and they were set up for SOMEONE ELSE TO WIN A TITLE. That’s a big difference. I have told my amateurs, the fact people aren’t offering you titles is often a good indication you are a dangerous fighter. AND it’s always better to remain independent.
For those who dream of going pro, don’t be so quick about it. You think sponsorship is easy to get? Often, people will turn you into a billboard for their products and give you very little (or NOTHING) in return. I can’t tell you how many young fighters have signed away their name and likeness for a pair of shin pads, a bar of soap or a T-shirt!
Sponsorship = MONEY $$$. But you aren’t likely to get it until you are (1) high profile, people are looking at you, (2) you are on a high profile show, a LOT of people are looking at you, and finally (3) that you represent the product well. Guys with 2-1 records don’t get sponsorship. Guys who foul and get DQ’ed and the fans boo also usually don’t get sponsorship (ie in my professional opinion do NOT go the Chael Sonnen route!).
Want to go professional? Learn how to sell tickets! In the beginning a lot of the money you make is from ticket sales. Don’t rely on your deadbeat friends who want discount tickets. Don’t expect your gym to do it for you. Get off your butt and hustle for it.
I also think far too many people turn professional before they completely develop their game, but that is another blog!
NOW GO AND TRAIN!