The age of the super camp in MMA has already happened.
From Jackson’s MMA to American Kickboxing Academy to Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and others, the best fighters in the world generally flock to some of the biggest camps to prepare for fights.
It appears that the management side of MMA is starting to lean in that direction as well. Three notable managers have teamed up to try and provide a competitive edge in representation in the expanding sport of mixed martial arts.
Suckerpunch Entertainment, formed originally by Brian Butler, has expanded to add two more high profile managers in the MMA industry to form a sort of super agency, combining rosters as well, all under one banner.
In addition to Butler, Suckerpunch Entertainment now includes international MMA manager Shu Hirata and Bryan Hamper and their clients under one roof.
Butler believes this is just the next natural step in the evolution of the sport, and for the fighters to have more choices in representation.
“The sport’s growing drastically and we felt it was important to have management grow alongside the sport,” Butler said. “We see a lot of fighters not having confidence in their management. A lot of management companies are doing the best they can, but a lot of people are in the fighters’ ears, so I figured the best way to kind of give that confidence back to the fighters is to keep our reputation solid, but get together with people that I believe are good people in the industry and put us all under one roof.
“Bryan Hamper and Shu (Hirata) are two people in the industry I’ve become friends with and I’ve heard nothing but good things about them. I’ve seen nothing but good things about them.”
In MMA’s infancy, many fighters had managers that also doubled as their trainers, but as sponsorship has grown along with the sport, the atmosphere in the management world has changed as well.
Gone are the days where fighters are only represented by one or two clothing companies. The MMA world has gone global with expansion into new areas, while companies supporting the sport have grown as well.
The UFC added on major sponsors like Bud Light and Harley Davidson, while major brands like Gatorade, Under Armour, Alienware Computers, and Microsoft have featured MMA fighters along with their labels.
Hirata, who has been a mainstay in the international MMA scene representing fighters like Takeya Mizugaki, Dave Herman, and Roger Gracie, sees this as something that simply had to happen.
“The reason I decided to do this is because the sport has evolved so much, and I think management also needs to step up,” Hirata explained. “Actually better more professional sports management in MMA. Making it less about sponsorship and more about creating a life after fighting for the fighters as well. It’s beneficial for us to join because we’ll have a good roster between the three of us, and be able to form a better corporation.”
The roster of fighters under the new company obviously multiplies greatly, with all three of the leaders in the new management group taking an equal share in leading the team forward.
Hamper, who currently works with fighters like Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Leonard Garcia, has worked in the MMA industry for years, and agrees with his new company mates in saying that forming a team like this was something not only good for their fighters, but necessary in the long run.
“The climate in the MMA industry, it just really supports this kind of move,” Hamper stated. “It will give us a greater roster, it will give us more leverage in the market place, so we’re going to be to do a lot more by sharing and leveraging each other’s resources.”
With other major sports like football and baseball having strong unions to represent their athletes, in MMA the fighters rely almost solely on their managers to negotiate deals with promotions and sponsors. In the MMA world, the manager really does become the backbone for an athlete’s career for the now and for the later.
Butler feels that putting together a team like this will help them expand as well as represent their fighters in an ethical way.
“We’re going to bring solid ethics to a business that quite honestly there’s a lot of shady practices going on, and I don’t think you’ll ever hear a bad word about Suckerpunch. I’ve never heard anything bad about Bryan or Shu, so I’m excited to see how far we can take this,” Butler said.
The fighters under the new company have already embraced the idea of more people helping to build and expand the brand and also combine resources to make sure all of them are getting the best deals possible.
UFC lightweight Bart Palaszewski has worked with Suckerpunch for years, but the new direction the company is taking has him excited for the future.
“I am so fortunate to be one of the original fighters signed with Suckerpunch. The sport needed an honest management company that goes above and beyond for the fighter,” said Palaszewski.
Former UFC and WEC fighter Jeff Curran echoed those sentiments as well as UFC heavyweight Pat Barry.
“Pairing with two of the other forces in the management world of MMA, I think the sky is the limit for all of us,” Curran said. “It should really let all fighters know they have the best in the business taking care of them.”
“All the training and performing aren’t enough. Suckerpunch is the gun to our bullet,” Barry commented. “It allows us to be seen, to be known, to let the world know who we are and what we are! We can be great but if Suckerpunch don’t shoot us where we need to be, we wouldn’t get there.”