Over the course of nearly a decade, Unified MMA has been able to consistently hold shows and develop talent in the Canadian market while other companies have only made brief excursions or have faded away.
Not only has Unified featured appearances by multiple UFC fighters both prior to their time with the company and after, but it has consistently been a place for numerous Canadian talents to get their first exposure on a large stage.
Speaking to MMAWeekly.com, Unified founder and President Sunny Sareen discussed how the promotion was formed, the Canadian MMA scene, and its plans to expand beyond its roots in the coming year.
MMAWeekly.com: Firstly, Sunny, what made you want to get into MMA promoting under the Unified banner?
Sunny Sareen: I’ve always been a huge MMA fan. I had a friend who used to fight in the UFC and has since passed away in Tim Hague and he was just entering the UFC at that time, and my family had a facility back at that time so we wanted to do an MMA event. October, 2009, was our first show and it’s been a learning experience ever since.
MMAWeekly.com: Did you have much knowledge of what it would be like to run a promotion prior to launching Unified or has it been more on-the-job learning instead?
Sunny Sareen: The whole thing was a learning experience. You can never understand all aspects of MMA promotion. You put together a puzzle and it just falls apart. You put together a fight card and fighters drop out or you have (issues with) sponsors.
Our first show we had 100 people show up. Every show you learn something new. You can learn something on entry-level shows, regional shows, or the UFC. There is constantly something to learn in MMA promotion.
Every show is different. Some shows are rule of thumb; other shows are going to constantly have problems. You can have as many main events as you want, but there are injuries, or something always go wrong. Other shows go great. That’s the thing with promotion: every show is different. You have to keep rolling with it because it’s constant surprises.
MMAWeekly.com: Are there any moments that stand out over the course of the promotion’s history to you or is it just one giant blur at this point?
Sunny Sareen: It’s not a blur so much, but there are some that I really like a lot, the shows with guys who have really grown with the promotion. I remember the Travis Briere and Chase Maxwell fight (from 2011), or the Tanner Boser and Tim Hague fight (from 2016), because they fought for us so much. You see both guys grow. When you see two guys grow through the years, and them climb the ranks, and compete against each other; those are the fights that I really look out for.
MMAWeekly.com: In terms of Canadian MMA, most people think of Georges St. Pierre and perhaps not much of anything else. What do you see of the current MMA scene in Canada?
Sunny Sareen: You’ve got GSP of course; he was a pioneer in MMA in Canada; but you’ve got so many up and coming guys like there. Guys like Teddy Ash, Shane Campbell, and Tanner Boser; there’s a new era of fighter and they are competing at a younger age. We’ve kind of seen an MMA plateau, especially internationally and within North America, but I think you’re going to see it rise with all these competitors, especially with the ones in Canada.
MMAWeekly.com: Lastly, what do you see for the future of Unified, and what do you feel the company can do to expand beyond Canada in the coming years?
Sunny Sareen: For this year we have Unified 34 on September 28 and the return of Ryan Ford. We have UFC vet Seth Baczynski taking on Teddy Ash (for the 185-pound title). And there’s Pat Pytlik and Vyron Phillips (for the 170-pound title). Following that, we’re going to do a show in Calgary, and then return to River Creek in December.
The biggest thing for us right now is wanting to sign a content deal. We want to get these shows on TV. The only thing we can do on our end is to keep doing what we’ve been doing. We’ve got to keep bringing in top guys and keep working towards finding a content deal so we can be showcased, especially in North America.