by MMAWeekly.com Staff
WEC is bolstering their line up for this Thursday night’s show as the WEC has signed Ricco Rodriguez and the we will see the return of John Lober as he takes on Jeremy Freitag. WEC Vice President Reed Harris talks with MMAWeekly about the upcoming show which can be seen nationally on HDNet.
Ryan: Reed, I think it’s been about a year and a half since we last did an interview. It’s a great time to be an MMA fan. Just this month alone you have UFC on Spike TV, you guys on nationally on HD Net, it’s a good time to be an MMA fan.
Reed: We are very excited. Scott and I started World Extreme Cagfefighting about the same time Zuffa bought the old UFC. At the time, the sport was struggling and I remember hearing from Chuck Liddell that some group had bought the UFC and we all talked about how we hoped they would bring the sport back, as at the time MMA was actually in a decline. Little did we know that this group called Zuffa and this guy we knew from dealings with Chuck named Dana would do what they have done over these last 4 years, it really is amazing.
Ryan: It’s great to see it finally happening and as you know it hasn’t happened overnight.
Reed: And who thought it would, not me. Creating a business takes time. You develop a business plan and try to implement it as best you can, making adjustments as needed along the way. You know, I go on the forums, including our own at WEC.tv and read all posts from certain fans who always seem to criticize the promotions. Ours, UFC, some of the other shows, and I think, if they only had some idea of the difficulty in not only putting on an event like ours, but to do it and not lose money. There is a reason people see events come and go. It’s very difficult to do an event profitably. To put on events that make money and above all, entertain your paying customers has been our goal from day one. When I read that a fighter or fan thinks they should earn more then they are being offered, I think, hey, it’s a free country. This is a business. Now, granted you always look for a win win when working with fighters and their managers. But the point is that it has to work for everyone involved. I know UFC goes though this as well. There’s a lot of matches I would like to see…..but then again, there’s a lot of things in life in general I would like to see, it doesn’t mean it’s going too happen. And of course, if I really wanted to see a certain fight, I guess I could mortgage the house and put it on myself, but from a business standpoint, that just doesn’t make sense.
Ryan: Talk about Scott Adams role with your company.
Reed: My partner Scott Adams has an uncanny ability to match up fighters where the fight compliments both their styles. It is a lot harder then it looks. Like other promotions, we have no control over what happens once that cage door closes, but we do control what happens the days and weeks prior to the event. The other thing is that money has nothing to do with heart. Some of the best fights I have ever seen were the result of a fighter telling me afterwards that his girlfriend or Dad was in the audience and he wanted to put on a good show. The other thing is that we love certain guys like Shonie Carter, cause they are “drama” free. They show up, suit up and fight their hearts out. No BS before or after the fight. Chuck Liddell is like that. I have never heard him complain about a fight, being hurt, UFC, fans or anything. He loves the sport, truly enjoys the fans and loves to fight. I know for a fact that Chuck has showed up to fights hurt pretty bad. I asked him why he didn’t just cancel, and he told me the thought never occurred to him. I mean, you have gotta love that.
Ryan: I know you and Chuck talk a lot. How is training going with Liddell?
Reed: I was with them last night. It is going really well. Chuck has been working with Scott Adams for a couple months now. I think the fans may be surprised with Chuck in his fight against Horn. Chuck is actually great on the ground and has been working on submissions with Scott. I really think he would like to prove once and for all that he is an all around fighter. I know Jeremy is good on the ground, in fact, Jeremy fought for us at WEC 4. He is a great kid and another one of those guys who shows up and fights. But I hear Jeremy is working on his standup, and Chucks working on his ground, so we may see a contest that surprises all of us. Anyway, I am happy that Jeremy is getting a shot, I know Monte Cox has worked hard to get him here.
Ryan: Do you get a chance to roll with these guys? I know you’ve been 39 for quite awhile now.
Reed: Ha ha, nice dig Ryan. I do. But I will tell you that as Chuck gets close to a fight, they won’t let me go near him as I am labeled as a “spaze”. Last night Scott told me to “Stay Away” (laughing). I do roll and I love it. I studied and taught Tae Kwon Do for many years. Then one fateful day about 6 years ago I met Scott Adams and he told me “Ill teach you how to really fight”. I will be 49 this month and I am in a pretty stressful career, so working out keeps me focused. I try to stay in shape, I take my vitamins, Chuck turned me on to Xyience a few months back and I have been really happy with that product. At my age is can be difficult to keep the weight off, but I have found a good combination of exercise and supplements, diet etc.
Ryan: WEC has grown into one of the best organizations in the entire U.S. Why do you think you’ve grown so quickly?
Reed: I guess a few things. First, we have always put the show first. We have tried to make decisions based on what would be best for the show. Build the company. Like I said before, there are always financial considerations and we certainly weigh those. Many times because of Scott’s knowledge of the fighters and their respect and trust for him, he is able to match make an event within budget but where the fights are world class. I mean, listen, Scott has called me a lot saying, can we spend just a little more on this show. Most of the time, Ill agree. The other thing that I have to mention is the work Zuffa has done. The real credit for all of the promotions like ours doing so well lies partially with the UFC and their work getting MMA on television. To not realize that would be to not face reality. Love them or not, UFC has brought the sport back and I believe the best is yet to come. I was at a party a couple of weeks ago and this couple in their late fifties heard that I was involved in promoting. They both told me that they love the show “Ultimate Fighter” because by watching it they realized that the fighters were really athletes, not just brawlers….and the light went off in my head and I thought, BINGO, this is what it’s all about. I mean, a professional couple in their late fifties is certainly not the demographic we are used to. They told me they were now fans and had ordered the last PPV of the UFC. The wife said “my husband used to like boxing, but now it seems so boring”. Of course, the conversation wouldn’t have been complete without them hitting me up for free tickets for my next event (I’m serious), but the point is that our sport is going to grow one fan at a time, and this is what will make this the sport we all know it can be. I know that there is not a more exciting sport in the world. I also want to say that without the support of The Palace Indian Gaming Center in Lemoore, we could not have done it. They supported MMA before it was popular. They have backed us in every decision and event we have done. It is truly a team effort and guys like Adam Gonzales, and especially Christian Printup have been absolutely instrumental in our success. It has been fun to watch their interest in the fighters and the sport grow over the last few years. Christian is very knowledgeable on events and how to stage them etc. but has actually learned a lot about the fighters and sport as well. So when we are planning an event, we have a lot of input that I don’t think most promotions have access to. It is very valuable. It has been really the best case scenario dealing with them. Scott and I have certainly worked very hard to make it a success, but so have they.
Ryan: Your next event is coming up next week. I see you guys just signed Ricco Rodriguez. Talk about your next event.
Reed: It’s August 18th at The Palace. We are having a Super Heavyweight Championship event between Ron H20 Waterman and Mike Serr. Waterman has fought in both Pride and UFC, as well as WWE and is an outstanding wrestler, where Serr has won a number of Ju Jitsu tournaments throughout the world and is a world class submission expert. A quick story, when Waterman fought for us a couple of years ago we took him to a rock radio station in Fresno to talk about his upcoming fight. As he was on the air, he asked the DJ if he could use the phone book sitting next to the DJ. Now, I’m going to tell you that this was not an ordinary phone book, this was the phone book for the entire Fresno area, and it was probably about four inches thick. Well, Ron took the phone book and firkin tore it in half. The DJ and I sat there stunned. That dude is strong!
Ryan: And the great part about this upcoming event is it will be televised nationally on HDNet.
Reed: Absolutely, Scott and I have a long term relationship with HDNet and we are very happy with the national coverage. For those who don’t know, HDNet is the high definition channel available on Direct TV, Dish Network and about 100 cable networks throughout the United States. Our show has become one of the premier events on the network and we are very excited about that. The network is owned by Phil Garvin and Mark Cuban who saw the potential in our event and the sport early on. Cuban is apparently a big fan of MMA and loves the show. Being that he owns the Dallas Mavericks, Scott and I are flattered that he likes our events so much. HDNet has also what I call the “dream team” of television production staff. They are the most professional group of people we have ever worked with and again, make it easy to do what we do. Ron Kruck is their on camera guy and it has been fun to see him grow in his knowledge of the sport and his enthusiasm for the event. He will usually start calling us a couple of months before the events to start brainstorming about how to make the production and event better. I mean, that really is what it’s all about. I remember the first event I think one of the guys broke his nose and there was a lot of blood and Ron looked at me with that deer in the headlights look and said “oh my God, this is great”…I knew at that moment that he was going to fit right in. I also Ryan have to mention that you and of course Jeff Blatnick and Stephan Quadros have been an integral part of our team. The one thing Scott and I always depend on is the announce team, and you guys have always come through.
I also want to thank our sponsors, as they are so important to the show. Warrior Wear, Fairtex, Tap Out and of course, Xyience Extreme Supplements, they have supported us and we are truly grateful for their involvement!
Ryan: Reed, thank you and we look forward to the broadcast on Thursday. Anything else you want to say?
Reed: Just a genuine thank you to all the fans, fighters, The Palace and everyone who has helped. You know, I’m going to close with a little story. Last year my son was in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban. He and his squad were stationed pretty much in the middle of nowhere. It was pretty rough. So I’m talking to Charles (mask) and Dana and they asked about my son and I told them how proud I was of him for stepping up. I told Charles about the Tap Out gear that I had sent him and mentioned to Dana that my son really enjoyed the UFC wristbands I had sent as it was about 30 below and he wore them to keep warm. Over the next couple of weeks, Charles emailed me and asked what my address was as he wanted to send me something. Dana’s secretary Donna also called for my address. I really didn’t think anything of it. Soon I started getting boxes delivered to my house from both Tap Out and UFC. They sent me cases of gear and asked that I forward it to my son and his squad over in Afghanistan. I was absolutely taken back. I mean, this was some serious love. My wife said “wow, these are good people”. I don’t think most people really know the guys in this industry like I do. A lot of people talk about supporting the troops etc. But this was for real. The funny thing was that a couple of months later my son sent me a photo with about 20 guys all with machine guns, rocket launchers, pistols all wearing Tap Out and UFC gear looking like bad asses with the caption, they can run but they can’t hide. I mean, here these guys are doing what our solders do, and to know that we may have made it just a little bit more tolerable, well It made me feel really good. It also made me realize that I have had the opportunity to meet some of what I consider the best people on the planet.