We had a chance to talk to Monte Cox, President of Adrenaline MMA, on the day of the big announcement of his most recent event (two days before they strap the gloves on). He talks about the Southeast region for MMA, about Mercer and Sylvia, and about his picks for the Next MMA Fighter.
Next MMA Fighter: How did you get your start as a promoter, and as someone who has been very successful and well-known in this business, what advice do you have for promoters who are just starting out?
Monte Cox: I got my start when I was working at a newspaper as a sports editor, and an old friend of mine, Fred Burns, who was a boxing promoter, called me and wanted to start doing shows in my area. As I began helping him with his shows and gradually started doing this fulltime, I went from show to show and quickly became intrigued with the business.
Next MMA Fighter: What is the best way to promote grassroots MMA shows to the mass market, and how do you appeal to fans who might have heard of MMA but don’t know much about it?
MC: As far as grassroots shows go, we try to go to a lot of different parts of the country where there isn’t a lot of other stuff to do. You end up at fairgrounds and places like that, and you really try to get the local martial arts gyms involved. You get a number of fighters from in town, along with bringing some in from out of town, and you just do your best to get the word out by passing out flyers and going out every night to promote the show.
Next MMA Fighter: Do you follow the MMA scene in the Southeast, and do you have an opinion on what part of the country produces the most fighters?
MC: I will have to say that I am definitely partial to the Midwest because that’s where I got my start, and the success of wrestling there really leads to an interest in MMA. If you grow up in Iowa, everyone wrestles, and that definitely gives you a good start, so I definitely feel there are more shows in the Midwest than anywhere else for that reason.
If you go between Iowa, Illinois, and Ohio, you will find that there are multiple shows every weekend. There’s probably more shows in the Midwest than anywhere else, but you will find that places like California might have bigger shows but not nearly as many.
Next MMA Fighter: What are your plans for Adrenaline MMA as a brand, and are you targeting the Southeast for any future shows?
MC: Adrenaline is really an event that just comes together. Once I know that I am going to do a big show, the first thing I do is see what is opening up and what kind of main event I am going to do. Once you have that main event, you figure out where it’s going to fit and where you’re going to sell the most tickets. In regards to the Southeast, we have Birmingham coming up and we hope it does well, [and] then we will see what other Main Event grabs us.
Next MMA Fighter: The main event of Mercer vs. Sylvia is going to be great test for both athletes, and we are very excited to see it. As we focus on the next MMA fighter, are there any other fighters on the card whom you feel have a long career ahead of them that we should watch out for?
MC: I definitely think that John Salter, who is fighting Roberto Traven, is one of those guys. Salter was a 2007 national champion in wrestling and has a pretty good submission/grappling background. He is a kid who is going to go somewhere, and furthermore, I think he really has a great chance of upsetting Traven.
Chris Davis, who is fighting Jeremy Horn, is 5-0 coming into this fight. I have yet to see him, but everyone keeps telling me I am going to be super-impressed when I do, and alot of people think he might beat Jeremy, so he is someone we definitely have to look out for.
The other fighter is a guy I brought in from Philadelphia named Tuan Pham, who is 1-0 as a pro and 7-0 as an amateur. I have already brought him in once to fight for me, and he is super exciting at 125 pounds, so I think he’s definitely one to watch.
Next MMA Fighter: In the past year, we have seen ESPN do a weekly show covering MMA; Georges St. Pierre do a nationally televised Gatorade commercial; Dana White on late-night talk shows; and most recently Robbie Lawler throwing out the first pitch at a pro baseball game. Do you think MMA is reaching its peak, or is there still room to grow further into the mainstream sports universe?
MC: I still think there’s plenty of room to grow. I think half of the people in the country don’t even know what Mixed Martial Arts is. We’re starting to get out there into television and get seen, but I still think you can go to any mall, interview 100 people, [and] at least 50 of them won’t know what MMA is. So you have hardly reached your peak when you can’t go anywhere in the country and ask them what basketball is and have everyone tell you, “I’ve never heard of that.” I think that when we can go everywhere and have everyone know what MMA is, then we’ve reached that level.
Next MMA Fighter: At the last Dream event in Japan, we saw Jose Canseco come into a bout solely based on his fame, without even going through a training camp. Do you feel fights like this, and in particular the Super Hulk Tournament, is good or bad for furthering the sport?
MC: Not every show is going to advance MMA, and the Japanese are definitely famous for doing their quirky David and Goliath tournaments and general craziness, but it just fits in with what they do. We wouldn’t be able to get away with those kinds of events over here because no one would be interested and it would be looked down upon. However, over there it fits with what the Japanese do, and they are into that kind of entertainment.
Next MMA Fighter: We understand that news came out today to switch the Birmingham main event to Mixed Martial Arts rules. Do you feel that Mercer will have what it takes to be competitive with Sylvia in MMA?
MC: Well, I think that by changing it to MMA, we took a fight that was 50/50, and we weren’t sure who was going to win, and we put it into the hands of Sylvia who is probably a 5-to-1 favorite to win this now. If I had my choice, it would have been a boxing match, but since we didn’t have that choice, it was either change it to MMA or cancel it all together. Cancelling it wasn’t really something we considered because it wouldn’t be fair to these fighters or to all of the fans that bought tickets.
Next MMA Fighter: Monte, on behalf of all of us here at Next MMA Fighter – we understand you are a busy guy and we really appreciate the time you took to talk with us today.
MC: Sounds good. We are looking forward to the show on Saturday night in Birmingham, and fans can get tickets starting at $30 from Ticketmaster or at the BJCC Box Office.
It was great that Monte could take time out of his schedule to talk with us, so if you are in the Birmingham area, make sure you come and check out the fight with us: We will be live-blogging the action. The fight card as it stands right now is listed below.
ADRENALINE MMA III: Bragging Rights in Birmingham
Saturday, June 13 @ 8pm BJCC Arena in Birmingham, AL
PROFESSIONAL MMA BOUTS
Ray Mercer (36-7-1) vs. Tim Sylvia (24-5)
Sasuke Zapata (17-0) vs. Rich Clementi (34-14)
Chris Davis (5-0) vs. Jeremy Horn (80-19-5)
Juan Zapata (17-1) vs. Joe Jordan (44-12-2)
Keith Johnson (5-2) vs. Nick Rossborough (11-10)
John Salter (1-0) vs. Roberto Traven (6-3-1)
Josh Martin (6-2) vs. Tony Godbold (3-2)
Kerry Schall (22-11) vs. Brad Tidwell (2-1)
Bryan Goldsby (10-4) vs. Joey Maimberga (5-2)
Tuan Pham (1-0) vs. Sean Hall (0-0)
Justin Trawick vs. Brandon Esch
Keith Cunagin (5-3) vs. Robert Rodda (1-0)
Daniel Ritchie (6-1) vs. Adrian Miles (5-2)
Ron Mitchell (7-1) vs. Brandon Powell (2-0)
Barry Clifford vs Matt Smart
BUY TICKETS for ADRENALINE MMA III from http://www.ticketmaster.com/event/20004290E72B15EC?artistid=1316972&majorcatid=10004&minorcatid=830