by Al Yu – MMAWeekly.com
MMAWeekly: Hi Ski. For those who don’t know you, please tell us what your official position is with Steele Cage Promotions?
John Stachofsky: GM / Vice President. I oversee, direct, and manage literally every aspect of Steele Cage.
MMAWeekly: How did you originally get involved with Steele Cage?
JS: I started as the promotions marketing manager, but within a month was promoted to GM / VP. I knew MMA, the fight game and Steel Cage owner Steve Oshins. Steve is a full time attorney (voted top 100 in America) and Richard Steele was somewhat retired and really into training his boxers and the gym. So I stepped up, quit my sales manager job and have been full time since April.
MMAWeekly: MMA has become a very competitive business. What do you feel sets Steele Cage apart from the many organizations out there?
JS: Two reasons, one the fighters; the way Richard is so adamant about how fighters are to be treated. The way Steve (Oshins) doesn’t cut corners on their pay and covering everything that is to be covered; travel, meals, pay, room, etc. I have a sincere admiration for the fighters and what they go through to compete. They are professional athletes as well as any NBA, NFL, tennis player, golfer is. I actually go to different gyms, camps and competitions to support scout and get to know them. I even like to roll around from time to time with the fighters as well.
The second reason is we do something that other organizations don’t and come 2008 with my team we will be raising the entertainment bar to a whole another level!
MMAWeekly: Now that Cyrille Diabate is out with an injury, who will contend for Travis Wiuff’s light heavyweight IFO belt?
JS: Jesse Veium; who is an absolute stud out of the mid west. He is the 2X NHB King Grappler Champion and is currently riding an 11 fight winning streak.
MMAWeekly: Talk a little about the Dec. 28 card.
JS: There are some really exciting matches and the card is very multicultural and full of many nationalities so there is someone for everyone to cheer for. We have a Polynesian, Brazilian, Native American, and a Filipino. We have a guy with blue hair, a woman who is a world champion boxer; we have one of the most experienced MMA fighters in the world in Travis Wiuff, and a two time collegiate wrestling champion. As well, we have a perfect fighter for the holidays nicknamed “The Grinch”. There are 8 bouts with two title fights. The 135-pound title fight features a match between Brandon Foxworth from (World Extreme Cagefighting) who has won 12 out of his last 13 and Del Hawkins who is ranked second in the world. Then in the 205 title defense, it pits Jesse Veium, winner of his last 11 in a row, against our current champion Travis Wiuff (48-11) who is ranked 13th in the world.
MMAWeekly: Have you guys scheduled the first show for 2008 yet?
JS: As of right now, I have not set the date. We had Feb. 23, but Al Bernstein has a previous commitment so we are looking at others. My intention is to have ten shows next year.
I am extremely excited for next season; we have some amazing fighters from different parts of the world that people aren’t familiar with in the states yet – our own version of Kimbo Slice, some production things both for the live audience and then some neat things for the television fans as well. What we will be doing will completely blow away any other experience MMA fans have had, guaranteed!
Plus, after putting out a teaser with one show of our reality / documentary “The Life of a Vegas Promoter,” we will be able to take the viewer on a full year’s journey. Based on the responses we have received so far, I really look forward to providing the inside look for the fans.
MMAWeekly: With the first season of Steele Cage Promotions/IFO coming to a close, what are some things that you’ve learned?
JS: Although I have a fight background and have promoted many things, this is the first that has used all my talents and background together collectively for one thing. From Steele Cage owner Steve Oshins I have seen another view on success and what being driven means. Steve has been listed in the top 100 attorneys in America two years in a row now, along with many other accomplishments. In fact when I first came to Steele Cage, I did some research on him to see who it was that I was going to be meeting and possibly be working with. Beyond impressive! He may not have the fighting background or athletic accomplishments, but he has equally achieved if not more in areas I couldn’t even begin to compete.
From the stoic Hall of Famer and Steele Cage President Richard Steele, I learned what caring about fighters really meant. Richard has revealed to me about how the majority of fight promoters out there treat the fighters and I was adamant that we would never act like that. He also taught me the value of greeting fans, the public in the eye and the joy it brings them from receiving a sincere smile and warm hello. We can’t walk anywhere in Vegas that people don’t know Richard and regardless if we are in a hurry, tired and worn out from a long meeting, Richard faithfully greeted every person the same, with respect and kindness.
MMAWeekly: How about promoting?
JS: As far as the promoting side, I have learned there is no such thing as sleep or a day off. Always up past 3 a.m., to only have the phone blowing up by 7 a.m. because of fighters, managers, sponsors, media and such on the East Coast calling not realizing its only 9 a.m. their time, not mine.
No matter how well you plan, things always happen and not at the most opportunistic times either. Fighters get hurt or can’t pass medicals at the last minute. Sponsors you thought you had aren’t there for the next show. Regardless how good the event was, someone is always upset.
Then there is the managing of the events themselves, making sure all staff is there, fighters are in their areas, ring girls are ready, commission has everything they need, etc. But for all the bumps in the road, I wouldn’t trade them all for the challenge of putting on a show that both fighters and fans alike enjoy being part of.
To provide an arena for athletes to be able to compete as professionals and display their hard work and talent is very self-rewarding. What most people don’t know about fighters is they are some of the nicest, most appreciative people in the world. I have competed in all kinds of athletics from recreational leagues to professional sports and what an MMA competitor goes through year round, with no off seasons, is beyond amazing and something most athletes from other sports would not be able to do.
MMAWeekly: You recently signed Phil Baroni and Al Bernstein to helm your commentary team. Tell us more about the recent acquisitions.
JS: We signed ESPN and Showtime veteran Al Bernstein and the “New York Bad Ass” Phil Baroni, who is without a doubt is one of the most famous fighters in the world. Al is an absolute pro; it is an honor for Steele Cage to have him. Everyone knows that Phil is worth the admission every time he is on a mic. These two without a doubt will raise the fight experience to another level for both the fans that come to our events as well as the others tuning in on television worldwide.
MMAWeekly: With the sport growing the way it is and a year of promoting under your belt, where does ‘Ski’ see himself in 2008?
JS: That is something that has been in my thoughts and prayers, morning noon and night for the past month or so now. I have so many things I feel I can bring the sport, both from the fighter’s side to the production side as well. I have found some amazing individuals that I feel an obligation in continuing to provide them with a place to continue their careers and I have built an amazing team that I truly believe we can bring the entertainment experience to another level and then some.
Without a doubt, fans will see that Al Bernstein and Phil Baroni are the best MMA commentating team. Then you add in Olivier Gruner, a 2-time World Kickboxing Champion and action film star with Jon Fondy, a 2-time Emmy television award winner producing our events and reality show and you have the recipe for some amazing things. So the question for me isn’t whether I see myself in MMA next year, but rather I see myself taking Steele Cage and running with it. I see myself making a major impact on the sport!
MMAWeekly: When we talked the other day you mentioned something about networks, sponsors, investors, etc. Care to elaborate?
JS: Absolutely. MMA is the fastest growing sport both in America and the world. Head to head it draws more televised viewers than the NBA or MLB. The problem is that there are only a few organizations that are on a level to handle a major network and even fewer that are still available to either invest in or have a beneficial sponsorship with.
Both Zuffa (UFC and WEC) and Elite XC, the two largest organizations at this time, already have network deals and exclusive sponsorship agreements. There are a number of smaller local shows, but they don’t have the caliber of fighters or the type of show for a major network or that national sponsors would be looking for. I on the other hand have had numerous world-ranked fighters and our events have been held in Vegas. There is a mystic to Las Vegas, whether it’s CSI or something on the Travel Channel, everyone worldwide tunes in to Vegas.
The other thing is we are still young with no exclusivity with any sponsors as of right now. But at the same time we have pieced over 30 million televised viewers and still climbing so there is value to sponsors and valuable content to a major network since we are not signed with one yet. Then you throw in our twist on the production of the events along with the reality show and you have a great candidate for the networks, sponsors and/or an investor to want to work with.
MMAWeekly: Sounds exciting.
JS: Yes it is. I wanted to add that an awesome fight experience should be more than just a well-matched card with exciting fighters; it should also be about the atmosphere, commentators and even the National Anthem singer as well. I am really excited to have Grammy Award winner Skip Martin performing the National Anthem for “Fireworks in the Cage IV.” Skip has recorded twenty-seven albums, was the R&B Song of the Year recipient and has six consecutive top 100 albums.
MMAWeekly: What can fans expect from Steele Cage in 2008?
JS: A full season of pure excitement! A non-stop show from the time they enter the venue until the time the leave. I am working on some really exciting twists to the standard MMA event that everyone has come to know. Plus we will be airing our reality / documentary show “The Life of a Vegas Promoter.”