POSTED ON MAY 27, 2009:
Taking the Hits
Osage Casino hosts yet another Freestyle Cage Fighting event, while the BOK Center still vies for a fight card
Sharp Noggin. Saturday, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (Big Nog) will be present. He’s a true icon of the sport. After 30 shows, is it necessary to lean on a star to fill the arena? Probably not.
Mixed martial arts talk forthcoming. Interested? Keep reading. Appalled? Move along.
Since this column's inception several years ago, I've professed that my lone goal in life is to have the Ultimate Fighting Championship hold a fight card in Tulsa. The BOK Center makes the likelihood more tangible.
Sadly, I can't do it alone. I need help. Because Dana White and I are not on texting terms, I took my fight to the BOK Center's booking staff.
I contacted Jerry Goldman, the assistant general manager with SMG, the group charged with booking the BOK Center. Give them credit; they are doing a knock-down job filling our arena. But where is my UFC action?
A few overtures were made while the BOK Center was still under construction according to Goldman. "We have contacted them but have not had much response back yet," he said.
The timing is an issue. Oklahoma City is rumored to be in line to host the next installment of UFC Fight Night in September. The Ford Center will be closed so the guess is the Cox Convention Center may get the gig. Why not the BOK Center? Maybe they're waiting to bring a PPV card here?
"We have strong interest (in bringing the UFC to Tulsa). We'd love to get them in the building. They haven't shown much interest on their end of things," said Goldman.
He promised to use his contacts at SMG to rundown the UFC. SMG manages the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. The UFC visits the city every March with a wildly successful event. Keep your fingers crossed.
In the meantime, we have plenty of hard-hitting action on the local circuit. Freestyle Cage Fighting launched a Tulsa-based MMA fight promotion in 2007. FCF will host its 30th fight card in Bartlesville at the Million Dollar Elm Casino Saturday night, May 30.
"Our first show was at the Convention Center. We had about 400 people there. We're consistently selling out casinos now," said FCF promoter Ken Nair.
FCF signed exclusive agreements with several northeastern Oklahoma casinos. Aside from the stability of having a facility each month, this saves FCF promotional dollars.
To promote a fight alone, he estimated the cost would run $5-10k per show. Casinos spend $60-70k per month on promotion.
"We have Freestyle Cage Fighting commercials going almost year-round. That familiarizes people with the FCF brand. That's how we've been able to establish ourselves as the top MMA promoter in the state. There is nobody that does as many shows. There's nobody that's had as many fighters go up to the next level," he said.
David Heath, Jason Norwood, Aron Lofton and the lovely Meisha Tate are just a few of the fighters who stepped in the FCF cage and then were seen in larger shows.
"[Fighters] want to fight where they get a chance to move up to the next level," said Nair. Like most MMA promoters, he refuses to artificially inflate a fighter's record ala your typical boxing promoter. Cupcakes and tomato cans need not apply.
Thirty shows in three years is quite an accomplishment. The meteoric rise of MMA the past few years has attracted money-hungry cash grabs by promotions across the nation. Just look at the disastrous ending to EliteXC.
Nair is confident he could hold a fight card every two weeks. Fighters and fight managers from around the country are taking notice. FCF is here to stay. FCF is becoming a power player at the regional level. The number of fight cards combined with the talent moving up the MMA ladder bode well for the future.
"The boxing commissioner has told me multiple times that there's (FCF) and then there's everybody else as far as the quality of the fighters, talent level, depth and quality of the matches," he said.
One of the staples of the local promotions centers around bringing in a high profile fighter to promote the cards.
Saturday, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (Big Nog) will be present. He's a true icon of the sport.
After 30 shows, is it necessary to lean on a star to fill the arena? Probably not. However, the casinos enjoy the star's power and it makes for a nice press release.
"I probably wouldn't have a celebrity guest every time. You can do it every now and then, but we have grown our product to the point where we don't have to have them to fill a venue," he said before conceding the fans get a real kick out of it. "They want a celebrity guest so they get one. We can bring in pretty much anyone."
FCF is lining up Nick Diaz for a card in July. They are also beginning conversation with Brock Lesnar for a guest appearance in August.
Fight fans can get autographs and photos taken with the MMA stars at the events.
"We're only growing with each show we do, our fanbase grows a little more. The fighters see our champions going to the next level and they see us as an opportunity to draw attention.
"The more of our fighters that fight in MFC, UFC, WEC--those organizations are starting to keep an eye on us and see who our champs are and what we're doing," he said.
Interested? Visit www.freestylecagefighting.com for more information.
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