by Brandon Corley for MMAWeekly.com
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Mr. Kwang Park, CEO and President of Spirit MC at their headquarters in Seoul, South Korea. The unassuming man behind the scenes was very candid about the state of MMA on the peninsula and his plans for the future.
MMAWEEKLY: Please introduce yourself to the fans around the world.
Mr. Park: My name is Kwang Park, President and CEO of ENTLIAN, Co., the parent company of Spirit MC.
MMAWEEKLY: Tell me when and why you began your work with Spirit MC?
Mr. Park: I was working as a strategic management consultant at the time of the first event in 2003 when my friend asked me to come in and help with his business model. Before, I had little knowledge of MMA. After the second show, in that same year, I thought it was great. I was addicted. I wanted to be part of something that hadn’t been done yet in Korea. Eventually, my friend decided to go elsewhere and I took over completely.
MMAWEEKLY: What were the early days like?
Mr. Park: In the beginning it was difficult getting sponsors or buyers for our content because of the belief that MMA promotions must be connected to organized crime. My number one rule from the beginning was to have only legitimate investors in the company. Then Pride FC and K-1 began broadcasting on Korean cable channels. Public awareness about MMA grew quickly and so has Spirit MC.
MMAWEEKLY: What do you think about the level of Korean MMA fighters today compared to in the beginning?
Mr. Park: I am really proud of the Korean fighters. Nowhere in the world have MMA fighters improved so rapidly. The fighters have had to overcome a lack of infrastructure, like big gyms with multiple trainers. The lack of feeder promotions was also a problem. That is why I have Spirit Amateur League once a month with anywhere from 25-30 matches in one day. We have also created a mid-level promotion, Spirit Ranger, to further develop talent in each of the three pro-level weight classes.
MMAWEEKLY: Steve Bruno is the first non-Korean champion in the history of Spirit MC. Will more non-Koreans get title shots in the future?
Mr. Park: Definitely. My goal is to take Spirit MC global. I have a good relationship with American Top Team, BJ Penn’s MMA, and Elite XC. For example, I plan to have a couple of more fights in the middleweight division to establish a number one contender. Some of the current contenders include Ross Ebanez, from Hawaii and George Sotiropoulos, from Australia.
MMAWEEKLY: Do you have any plans to put together matches between women?
Mr. Park: We may have single matches in the future. The problem is that there are only a few women training exclusively for MMA in Korea. Korean women fighters mostly train in only Judo or kickboxing. Women fighters have been requested to fight outside of the country, but there are none that we can send.
MMAWEEKLY: What about Spirit MC makes you most proud?
Mr. Park: I am most proud of being the pioneer of the bottom-up business model for a sports organization in Korea. Other professional sports, like baseball and basketball, were initially managed from the top down by the government. Now, professional teams in Korea are sponsored by huge corporations like Samsung and LG. These companies only use the teams as marketing tools and are not concerned with making a profit in the sports market. Spirit MC is business for business’ sake. The company is making money.
MMAWEEKLY: Is there anything you would like to change about your organization?
Mr. Park: I want to expand the content that is put out. I want to make our reality program, “Go Super Korean!” even more popular than it is. I am negotiating with broadcasters in other countries to begin selling our content overseas. Of course, I want to inject more foreign fighters into the mix.
MMAWEEKLY: Can you tell me what the fans can expect to see in the future?
Mr. Park: Our events will continuously improve. The fans will keep coming and they will be entertained. Spirit MC fans can always expect a quality product. This company has a single-tracked mind. Grow MMA.