The purpose of this weeks blog is to talk about marketing yourself as a fighter. A marketable fighter is someone who attracts attention, eyeballs fix on them and stay there. People want to see what they will do next. Even if their skill level isn't as good as the next fighter, they still seem to maintain interest. I overheard a conversation of couple fighters the other night, looking at another group of fighters laughing, dancing and horse-playing around saying "Look at those guys, they are attention whores" and it made me think.... these horse-players had personality, flare, charisma and they were headlining local cards and getting lots of attention. Coincidence? I think not.
I spoke before on what it takes to get started in MMA, now let's talk about raising your fighter stock value.
So you've decided you want to be a fighter, and you're serious about it. You've found the perfect camp to train with and put in your time and are paying your dues. You've consulted with your coaches and they think you are ready to get in the cage and test your recently acquired skillset. Or maybe you're a seasoned vet with skill to spare and your looking to get yourself on to more cards and get yourself back in the spotlight a bit and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It's not egotistical to want your hard work and sacrifice appreciated, what good is having the talent if you don't have the opportunity to showcase it, right? Right.
Unfortunately for us all, we can pour our hearts and souls into something and become very passionate about it and even get really good at it only to have people undermine it and even hate on you for it. But that's not the fight game, that's just reality. You see, you can have the most amazing product in the world, a product that is revolutionary, that you spent years and years developing but if you don't sell it, it will sit on the shelves because no one knows about it, or doesn't quite understand it. And even if they do know about it, it's not enough motivation to spend their money on it.
Now on the other hand, you can have a mediocre product, and with the right sales team and build up, everyone and their mother buys it. For example the Ipad or an even better example the Snuggie. It's damn blanket with sleeves. But put in a great marketing team, and salesmen and blam, you got a winner.
I spent several years of my life doing door to door sales, cold calling on businesses and homes selling the most useless shit in the world and I became very good at it once I learned how to sell the sizzle, not the steak. Lately I have ran into quite a few fighters looking to get on our fight cards or have asked for more money than they are particularly worth in my opinion. This post will highlight what we look for in fighters, and hopefully give you guys our perspective on things as a company, as well as some tips on how to make yourself more attractive in your fight career.
I would personally recommend everyone add sales ability to their professional resume of skills, it helps in many areas of life and business. I mean, are you going to fight forever? No, there is a expiration date on every fighter. And wouldn't sales skills help out when you negotiate your lease on your own MMA Gym, or get a new house or a new car, or how about sponsorships, fight purses and other expenses. And many of you are now muttering "That's what I have a manager for..." You just want to train and fight, and not worry about all the other stuff. Right? Well if you have a good salesman selling you, then great for you, but a great salesman can only call a pile of shit fertilizer for so long..... if you get my drift. If you give him nothing to sell, well... don't be upset when no one's buying it.
Here are a few suggestions to help you sell yourself and be more marketable.
Not Outstanding? Well at least stand out.
Do you realize, there is a new MMA gym popping up like Starbucks these days? MMA is the new Tae Bo, everyone is doing it. And not just the fitness places, but there are legitimate gyms expanding rapidly, and the practitioners are getting younger and younger. So we all know what that means, the skill levels are getting higher and higher, more and more dynamic. The skill level is the same for many, many other fighters looking to do the same thing, what makes you different? That being said, it is quite obvious that skill is a major factor, but let's for one minute pretend that everyone is of equal skill... what do you do then?
This is no different than the way I have to look at my business on a day to day basis. How do I separate the perception of my company from the new promoter that pops up every week doing a new show in some bar somewhere. That thinks if you put a cage in a building people will line up in droves to come see it, because this is such an easy business. So people paid money to see this shitty show, and feel a bit disappointed that only a hand full of people actually came to it so their guard is even higher for any MMA show now, and I somehow have to show them I am different. How can I be more attractive than my competition?
What is attraction?
In order to know how to attract, you have to know what attraction is... it's not always what you think. If I were to ask you what is the opposite of LOVE. I bet right now you'd say, "Duh, it's obviously HATE." But you couldn't be more wrong. Remember the ole' thin line between love and hate cliche'? It is true. If we were looking at a circular clock, and 12 o'clock were labeled LOVE, then HATE would be 11:59, right next to it. Now, the 6 o'clock point which is the OPPOSITE side, would be labeled INDIFFERENCE. Which means, no one gives a damn either way. You see, it takes effort to hate. If you actually hate someone, you are using energy to do so, like booing. If you are indifferent, you put no effort and could care less. Nobody likes being in that indifferent zone. And if the crowd hates you, they will invest energy in watching to actually hope you lose. But the key to it is they will still WATCH you. (Brock Lesnar) Which is what sponsors, promoters and anyone else involved in the business side of the game want. Now, it only takes a little bit of effort to go from hated to loved like when Tito first became a coach on TUF, he moved from the hated to the appreciated .... then later drifted in to the indifferent land. So how does he fix it, he gets you to hate him again. It's a vicious but effective cycle.
A Fashionable Entrance
I attend some local shows because not only am I a fan of the sport itself, I am a fan of certain fighters and try to show support when I can. While visiting one of these shows I saw a great example of standing out and just how true the LOVE/HATE thing really is. A young guy with only a couple pro fights makes his entrance when for at least a minute straight he sat there kneeled down on the floor completely surrounded by booty dancers dancing. It was different, at first it was cheesy, then it was annoying, and by the time he made it in to the cage he was an instant villain. Arrogance oozed from him, and EVERYONE was booing him. Yet 3 minutes later when he stood over his KO'd opponent the entire place erupted in cheers for him! It attracted attention, and it is no coincidence I have seen him on every poster of that show since.... even after a recent loss.
A little character never hurts
Why is TUF so effective in producing new stars for the UFC? Because it builds characters. When the UFC comes to an area to do try-outs for the next season of TUF, they put 50% time into verifying skill, and the other 50% into finding character. If you have an amazing skill set, but are completely bland in every other aspect, it is possible you will be picked, but you don't see very many of those guys on the show. It seems with every season, a new set of characters are developed, like a video game where you have your favorite guy who has a special characteristic like a cool move, hair-cut, tattoo or entrance. Not that you need any of those, but what characteristics do you have that define you?
Hyping the Fight
"Im not in to all the hype stuff, I will let my skill do the talking...." ZZZZZZ zzzzzz zzzzz Oh sorry, what were you saying? Something about being boring and struggling to get on a card ? Look no one is asking you to be disrespectful, or be completely out of character and come across trashy. But come on fertilizer, give me something to work with here. If you are being interviewed you don't have to make up a big story, or pretend your a bad ass, just tell the truth. If you think you are better, say it. Say why. If you are more confident, say it. Your coaches and managers might tell you different, but their the same guys I'm saying no to when they ask for more money for you, or why I havn't booked you lately for a fight. Be honest, be real and if you don't want to sell... give me something to work with and I will be happy to do the selling for the both of us!
In these days and times you have to have a web presence to call yourself marketable. If you are not net savvy you should find someone who is who can help you. The easiest way to start is to create a Facebook profile, and possibly a fan page. It is usually the first place we check when looking for a particular fighter. Use your real name, or at the name you fight under so you aren't difficult to find. Then add ass many of your real friends as possible, there is a step by step process to do so in case you aren't familiar. If you don't intend on checking it, put an email address on it that you do check, or a phone number. If we have two equally skilled fighters, one has good web presence and the other doesn't we always pick the one that looks connected because there is a better chance he will have people interested in him.
Some fighters do not like to post their past fights online for fear that their opponents will study them. If you don't have video, I recommend getting a highlight clip made. Even if it's ten seconds, it is better than nothing. Just seeing a fighter has a highlight, gives us ammunition to sell and promote you and makes your stock value rise. If you do not have ANY video to post, try to find a gallery of pics and post the link on your page. If we see that a guy or girl is in shape, and has the look of an athlete, it again is better than nothing.
Not everyone can afford it, but one great tool for marketability is professional photos. If I have to choose between two guys of equal skill and record, I will choose the one with the better image. If someone has taken time to do a photo shoot it again shows interest and investment into your career, even if that someone is you, it shows commitment.
Put effort into the promotion of yourself, don't just rely on the promoter and the show. Every person you talk to who comes to the show tells all their friends how they know you and you start to develop a fan base. Update your Facebook with things you are doing in training and send out invites from the event page, to keep your fanbase informed. Nothing special, just tiny reminders that subliminally say "Hey, don't forget about me". Some guys change their profile picture to the fight poster, this is a constant reminder that you are fighting soon.
Get the event poster and hang it up in your gym and at your work place. Hand write a note saying "Hey guys I'm fighting on this show, let me know if you want to see me kick some arse" or "This guy said Starbucks employees can't fight, Im gonna have to show him different, call me if you want to see it" or something of that nature so people look deeper at the poster which they may have thought was just spammed there. Give a poster to your mother, or father or someone else to post at their job, because moms are the world's greatest promoters.
A pet peeve of mine is a fighter who doesn't give any effort into selling tickets. I know some people are single orphan loners, but effort is everything. Now, if you are traveling to another state obviously this wouldn't apply but their is no excuse for a local fighter to be lazy in ticket sales. Selling tickets presents you with negotiating power when it comes time to determine the purse for your next fight. If you are not a motivated seller, find someone close to you who is, like a girlfriend or relative who can call on friends for you. I will be doing a full post on ticket sales soon and feature input from some of the best ticket sellers in the region. It only makes sense to learn since it puts extra money in your pocket and shows a willingness to work along with the team which goes a long way in developing relationships.
Go Big or Go Home
Many fighters have this attitude naturally, but their are some who don't. They play it safe, and it is understood, but that doesn't raise your stock value. If you want to raise your value you have to bring something dynamic to the table. Give me something to use in my highlight videos. Whether it be a stunning knock out, submission or even screaming into the camera after a hard earned win. Some fighters won't even mean-mug during the photo shoot, how boring. And it's no coincidence the ones who do, or scream or something exciting, get put on marketing materials, which is good for your stock value in the future.
Be low maintenance
I know fighters who sell tons of tickets, they are extremely popular in their peer groups and frequent local show posters. But when it comes to finding them a fight, it is a literal nightmare. Instead of challenging themselves with tougher opponents, they have put so much pressure on themselves that they won't take a fight they might lose. So my matchmakers work for days and days on this one fighter alone finding a suitable opponent. There are other fighters who show up and demand an extra hotel room or extra comp tickets or something ridiculous. Chances are you won't receive these things and will also come across as a diva and not worth the headache. Make promoters life easier and they will want you back, win or lose.
You don't have to do a complete overhaul of yourself, or pretend to be someone your not, the point was to give you an inside perspective on what we look for when seeking out talent for our organization. Hopefully it helps.