Since coming on board with the RFA in 2012, Ed Soares has helped position the promotion as one of the top feeder leagues to shows like the UFC and Bellator. Years of steady growth and success could have easily remained the order of business for RFA, but Soares thought differently.
A couple years into his ownership stake in the company, Soares pushed for an idea he had early on in his dealings with the company, a merger with fellow AXS TV MMA stalwarts Legacy Fighting Championship.
After the promotions ran a joint show last year, it was clear that RFA and Legacy FC could do more as a unified group than apart, so recently the two companies merged into the Legacy Fighting Alliance, with Soares taking over as CEO.
Speaking to MMAWeekly.com shortly after the announcement of the merger, Soares discussed how the deal came together, the logistics of a new joint promotion, and the LFA’s mission going forward.
MMAWeekly.com: Firstly, Ed, tell us how the deal came together to merge the RFA and Legacy FC promotions.
Ed Soares: Back when I came on board with the RFA and we had changes in ownership and all that, myself and Sven (Bean) got together. I had a little piece when I came on board, but then I took a bigger piece once we bought out the owners and figured that all out. I remember sitting with our attorneys and looking at my partner, Sven, saying what we have got to do over the next few years is find a way to merge with Legacy. As we were progressing, I knew that they were a good promotion on AXS TV, we were a good promotion on AXS, and I just felt that being together would just make us stronger.
In 2015, we came up with the idea of doing an RFA versus Legacy show, and AXS liked the idea. We had a really good working relationship with Mick (Maynard, Legacy FC owner and new UFC matchmaker), and after the show, I looked at Sven and told him that’s what we have to do, we have to merge with them. I knew it was going to make us stronger. It’s going to give us a lot more power with the promotion. It’s going to make our champions a lot more valuable. We started talking about it towards the end of last year, the beginning of this year, and here we are eight, nine months later announcing the deal.
MMAWeekly.com: How difficult was it to bring both the RFA and Legacy FC together and get the merger done?
Ed Soares: To be honest, it wasn’t that difficult at all. Mick, his wife Andrea, myself and Sven, when we met to talk about this, we kind of came with the right frame of mind and right intentions. We really believed that by us joining, we were going to be powerful. Mick has a great promotion and we have a great promotion, and if we wouldn’t have done this, we would have continued to be successful and continued to go our separate ways, but I felt that when we joined, we both had the best intentions when doing it. So it really wasn’t that difficult when we were working things out.
It was very even. We both brought equal things to the table. It made sense for us to merge. It made sense for all of us. It really wasn’t that difficult. The difficult part was the attorneys getting involved and the attorneys making sure everyone was protected. We’re not trying to screw anybody over. I wanted to make sure this deal got done with everyone protected. We both put our best foot forward, so it was actually a very fast process.
MMAWeekly.com: After the announcement of the merger, AXS TV said that they signed a deal with LFA for 30 events in 2017. Do you see any difficulty in putting together that many shows?
Ed Soares: Obviously, we’re not a regional promotion anymore. Until we start yanking a ton of money in TV licensing and sponsorship, we still depend on ticket sales. We have to be very creative and strategic about how we plan our cards. We don’t have endless amounts of money. We’re completely self-funded. We’re not in any debt. And we run our business very smart. So we have to be strategic on how we do those things. It seems to be a lot more complex, but we’ve been working on this for eight months. It was just announced, but this has been in our minds and how we were going to do this for a long time. I think we have a good plan of attack, and I’m looking forward to showing the world what we’re going to do.
For (AXS TV), it’s really no change in what they’re doing. When you think about it, Mick is doing 14 shows in this calendar year, and we’re doing 13 shows, so between both of us, we’re doing 27 shows. So doing another three shows isn’t really stretching it. Yes, there are going to be different dynamics when we’re involved with all 30 shows, but there are regions and the venues and arenas that Legacy is doing, they’ve got their team in place. We’re really merging our teams, too.
I’m sure we’re going to have some adversity here and there, but with the experience and the knowledge of the team of people we have around us – having partners like AXS TV that are very supportive – the way I look at it, we’re going to be the No. 3 promotion in the world. Nobody is going to be doing as many shows as we’re going to be doing outside of the UFC or Bellator. I’m very proud to say we’re going to be the No. 1 developmental promotion the world, and the No. 3 largest MMA promotion in the world.
MMAWeekly.com: Developing fighters has always been a big part of the RFA. Do you see that continuing with LFA?
Ed Soares: I really enjoy the place we’re in. I really enjoy the position we’re in as a developmental organization; it’s very refreshing to work with guys at this level. They’re very grateful and very hungry. One of our goals is not only to prepare these guys inside the Octagon for their future challenges, but to prepare them for their future. We have all these things that will help them prepare for the next stage, the next level, in their career. Not only do we want to prepare these guys for what they’re up against inside the Octagon, but we also want to prepare them for the other things in the fight business that is as important as the fights.
MMAWeekly.com: Thanks for taking time out for us, Ed. Is there anything you want to add in closing?
Ed Soares: I have no doubt that we’re going to make this work. I’m very excited. I’ve had a lot of great things in my career, in my life, and have had a lot of success, but I can tell you that I’ve never been so motivate or so excited about something that I’ve been involved with. This is one of the biggest things I’ve been involved with in my life, and I’m really excited to help make a difference in a sport that I love so much.
We know it’s not going to be easy, because if it was easy, everyone would be doing it, but with the experience we have, the reputation we have in the business, and the television partners that we have, I feel that it all makes sense. I’m sure we’re going to have to overcome some adversity, but you have to overcome adversity in every business that you do, so I feel very confident and very strong about what we’re doing. I’m just looking forward to giving fighters the opportunity to showcase their skills and move on in their careers.