For many would be promoters and fighters within the MMA bubble, the secret is out. It’s been out since Muhammad Ali first used his alter ego to raise awareness for his bouts, and no doubt, himself. Get yourself out there, be seen, be heard and the money will likely follow soon.
This is something that has been a part of my daily routine since I first entered the MMA scene in the late nineties. Constant reminders litter my social media streams but it was back in October of 2014 where it was forever ingrained in my psyche.
Sitting in a hotel boardroom with the legendary Jim Ross and the under appreciated and often misunderstood Chael Sonnen, we were doing our pre-fight interviews for BattleGrounds MMA 5 - a one night 8 man welterweight tournament that took place in Oklahoma City.
My job was obvious - I knew more about each and every fighter than Ross and Sonnen may have, but the team’s goal was to get each and every fighter to tell us a story or two about themselves; one that had nothing to do with MMA or at the very least, how they got into the sport.
But then something special happened.
Sonnen and I were mesmerized by ‘Good Ol’ Jr’s’ stories and advice to the athletes. Pulling from his vast experience working in professional wrestling with the likes of Ric Flair, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin and so many others, he would try and instill the virtue of a simple adage: “Make Some Noise”.
So many fighters believe that their fighting will simply do their talking for them. While that’s fine and dandy, it will likely not produce the financial reward they are hoping for throughout their careers, and especially once that very career has come to an end.
J.R. would tell stories and give examples of what made some of professional wrestling’s biggest stars catapult from the indy scene to mass stardom in the WWE / WWF / NWA / AWA and WCW. Each and every sports entertainer made some noise along the way to get noticed, and the best of the best took that noise and raised it to an all time high.
Ross would always end his analogy with “That’s what puts cheese on your Whopper”.
As simple and basic as it may sound, Sonnen and I would look at each other as if we were witness to one of the greatest philosophers sharing his lifetime experiences to a student yearning for the life-changing knowledge to go from a nobody to a somebody instantaneously.
In the world of MMA, there are countless examples of fighters and situations, whether fabricated, staged or by complete accident, where their careers or bouts went from near mental obscurity to major headlines and can’t miss attractions.
Case and point: Kevin Lee vs. Michael Chiesa. When this bout was first announced and rumored to headline the upcoming June 25th, Fight Night (ironically, or perhaps coincidentally) in Oklahoma City, many pundits, including yours truly, were not impressed. The lightweight matchup between two solid fighters simply do not have any luster to offer any excitement and intrigue. Quite frankly, interest levels were basically null and void.
Then the UFC had their summer kickoff press conference where Lee mentioned Chiesa’s mother. Chiesa warned him to never use his mother’s name in any fashion ever again. Before you know it, both fighters stood up, approached each other and Lee threw a right hand, sparking a melee on stage. To be honest: it was absolutely epic.
As it stands today, it is one of the most anticipated bouts on the UFC schedule. Anyone and everyone within the MMA world cannot wait to see these two settle their score. It was ugly and promises to be even uglier as we get closer to the bout.
It’s a perfect example of making some noise. It did not seem fabricated. It was genuine. It was real and it was raw. And I cannot wait for these two to fight.
Other examples would be Chuck Liddell as of late. Follow his social media posts and he is talking about a potential trilogy bout with Tito Ortiz. And it’s got people talking. If it takes place, ‘The Iceman’ took what many see as complete silence from him into a money making opportunity … all by making some noise.
We have Wanderlei Silva missing Bellator MMA press conferences as he does not want to be anywhere near the aforementioned Sonnen. It is something I believe Bellator should be all over. Use this scenario as a massive selling point to raise more awareness of this main event. I do not know if they are upset with Silva for no-showing, but it can easily be spun to show that these two fighters despise each other, and there is only one way to settle the score: in the Bellator cage.
And when you make enough noise, you can guarantee you will have more than enough money in your bank account when you retire that if you are smart with it, your kids will live financially free as well. Perhaps even their kids will do so as well.
The prime example of this is Conor McGregor. Less than five years ago, 99% of the MMA bubble had zero idea of who ‘The Notorious’ was. In just over four years, Conor went from an unknown fighter on the European fighting scene, to making his octagon debut, winning the UFC featherweight title, then the lightweight title to become the first ever two-division champ … at the same time.
Now, come (potentially) August 26th, McGregor may actually face Floyd Mayweather in a boxing bout that will have Conor make more money than any mixed martial artist will ever make in their career, five times over.
How did he do this? He made some noise. He made a lot of noise along the way. And he’s going to be financially rewarded for his hard work outside of the cage.
It cannot be stressed enough for all fighters, promoters and heck, even in business or personal life. There’s a good chance if you make some noise - you’ll get paid.