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It’s not easy launching a new combat sport organization in a town that’s already home to the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the king of all mixed martial arts promotion companies.
But Las Vegas-based Lion Fight Promotions is hoping to emerge from UFC’s massive shadow. Lion Fight’s counting on increased fan interest in the sport of Muay Thai to generate enough revenues by year’s end to let the company break even.
Scott Kent, a former casino risk management executive, launched Lion Fight Promotions about 2½ years ago to put on Muay Thai fights. Muay Thai fighting is similar to UFC battles, but without UFC’s ground fighting, wrestling and grappling.
Muay Thai, Thailand’s national sport, focuses on punching, kicking and elbow and knee blows and is known for its toe-to-toe stand-up fighting. Lion Fight Promotions’ next event is set for July 26 at the Hard Rock Hotel. It will be its 10th fight.
“If you love stand-up fighting, it’s the most exciting stand-up sport in the world,” said Kent, a Montana native who moved to Las Vegas from Phoenix in 1989.
Kent bought into the sport by investing about $500,000 to start Lion Fight Promotions, signing a sports marketing specialist to find sponsors and joining forces with Mark Cuban’s AXS TV network to broadcast his Muay Thai bouts.
Kent said his company is poised to draw more attention, and revenue, because his last two fights were broadcast by AXS TV, an entertainment network owned by Cuban, the billionaire owner of the National Basketball Association’s Dallas Mavericks.
AXS TV has broadcast mixed martial arts events since 2004 and plans to cover about 40 combat fights this year.
Kent is “a special breed. He’s introducing a new sport to the American fan,” said Andrew Simon, chief executive of AXS TV Fights.
Simon said his TV network has 41 million subscribers. Kent noted AXS will cover the costs of broadcasting the Lion Fight Promotions events.
Kent’s investors include Don Andress, president of Las Vegas Harley-Davidson, which will sponsor fight events. Kent said he also enlisted a high-profile investor, Wes Edens, founder of Fortress Investment Group, a New York-based investment management firm. Another investor is Ken Gardner, a former Las Vegas air conditioning company owner.
Kent is especially excited about the July 26 event, to be broadcast by AXS TV, because it will feature one of the sport’s superstars, Muay Thai legend Yodsanklai Fairtex.
Lion Fight Promotions held its first four events in Primm before moving the last five to the Hard Rock Hotel. Kent said two of the last three fight events were sold out as 2,000 to 2,500 tickets were sold. The cost is $45 to $95 per seat, with standing-room-only tickets selling for $25 each.
Kent has hired Gemini Sports Management to find sponsors. He envisions beer, energy drink and water companies signing on, along with sports-themed restaurants such as Buffalo Wild Wings and fast-food eateries like Subway.
Gemini Sports Management President Rob Yowell said he has been working with Kent since March.
“What he’s selling is Muay Thai at the highest level,” Yowell said. “They’re not trying to take space from the UFC and they’re trying to carve their own niche.”
Yowell said he is pursuing consumer product, nutrition, clothing, automotive, outdoor extreme companies as Lion Fight sponsors, with the core audience being males 21 to 40 years old.
“We’ve has some pretty good dialogue since working with Scott,” Yowell said.
He said companies that can’t afford UFC sponsorships could find a marketing alternative at the Muay Thai fights.
“It’s a ground-floor opportunity with Scott’s promotion company,” Yowell said. “The goal and the hope is to have partners grow with us. The goal is for Scott to grow this brand on a national scale.”
Kent launched Lion Fight Promotions with Christine Toledo, the company’s vice president and a former Muay Thai champion. He also hired a new chief financial officer, Matt Knipp of Las Vegas. Mike Ran of San Francisco is handling the website and social media.
Lion Fight Promotions plans to stage five or six fights in Las Vegas in 2013 and is looking to expand in Native American casinos in California and venues in Phoenix and Denver, Kent said. Los Angeles and San Francisco are also potential markets because of the Thai populations in those two cities, he said.
Contact reporter Alan Snel at email@example.com or 702-387-5273.
How did a lovely girl like you
find her way into a martial arts gym?
It all began when I was very
young. I loved watching films with Bruce Lee and other tough guys. Already then
I wanted to be as strong as they were and to help people (smiles).
And I kept
telling my mother: “Mum, I want to learn to do all that too.” After
much debate, my mother finally gave up and took me to a karate club, where I
stayed for several years.
And what happened next?
At 14 I had to decide what
future occupation to choose. I had always been interested in journalism, acting
and design. In the end design won.
I spent days drawing, sewing. At that time
sport was something I was doing for myself. Then I came to a fitness club and
met a Muay Thai instructor there.
I was standing next to the guys, trying to
remember my low kicks and mawashi-geri. And I realized that I had been missing
I spent some time going there and then moved to a Muay Thai club called
Varyag, where I began to make rapid progress. From there I was very soon sent
to a competition, the Russia Cup. And, to everybody’s surprise, I won it.
Is your mother a martial arts
She is (smiles). In recent
years my Mum has seen more fights than I have. She watches my rivals’ fights
and ordinary competitions too. Even I do not always have time to follow them.
Are your sparring partners all
When I trained at Varyag, yes,
they were all men. But now I am training at the Boxing Academy, with Alexander
Pogorelov, and my sparring partner is a woman.
But she is the kind of woman who
can throw many guys down on the floor. Her name is Ekaterina Izotova, and she
has won the world championship title many times.
She is slightly lighter than
me but she has a very good, interesting technique. A sparring partner like
that, who is also a teacher to you, is perfect.
She can explain, tell me, show
me what to do and what not to do; tell me when to raise my arm, how to block.
Do you have any favorites among
Gina Carano is a great martial
artist. She was the first and she is absolutely cool. It is like with Fedor
Emelianenko: no matter how much is being said about him, his status remains
Nobody can say anything about Emelianenko because he is the emperor
and will remain one. There is also Mike Zambidis, he is very cool.
one of those martial artists whose fights can be watched again and again. Batu
Khasikov? Batu is training in the same gym as me.
Anastasia Yankova vs. Anna Veselova. Source: YouTube
I am proud of it. I can see
with my own eyes what I should aspire to. Batu is at that high level when an
instructor can explain something to him but he can share his experience too.
Martial artists who have such a wealth of experience have an opinion of their
own. In the end, a compromise is reached and it brings a result: a beautiful
Do you do any other sports
apart from martial arts?
A change of activity is the
best kind of rest. On my days off I prefer to do something that is absolutely
different to martial arts. I love horses and equestrianism. When I have a free
day, I ride.
Wouldn’t you like to
take part in the Olympic Games?
Muay Thai is unlikely to ever
become an Olympic sport: it is far too violent for that. As for the International
Olympic Committee’s ruling on wrestling, it is very sad indeed.
At first I
could not even believe it was happening, could not understand who could have
come up with an idea like that. I often visit other cities and there are no
other clubs there apart from boxing and wrestling. Nothing else. And now they want
to take it away too.
Have you come across men who
are weaker than you?
I see them in the street every
day! (Laughs) I used to help guys lift weights but I don’t do it anymore. I
train with an instructor one-on-one.
Of course, people are different and I am
not saying that everyone should be able to lift a 150-kg barbell in a clean and
jerk. This not what strength is about, and male strength is not at all about
But if a man is puny, it is not my kind of thing either. Justin Bieber?
Sorry, men like him leave me unimpressed.
Kostya Tszyu: The Klitschko era will pass sooner or later
Story of a boxing priest: Playing a game between two minds and two forces
A woman’s place is in the ring
You have many tattoos. Have
they been a passion of yours for a long time?
When I was having my first
tattoo done, I already knew that it would not be my only one. I saw that I
could stand the pain, that it was not all that painful or terrible.
Most of my
tattoos are in the Japanese style. The latest one is a carp moving up a
waterfall and turning into a dragon at the top. I do see that tattoos are
mostly an aesthetic thing. But each tattoo marks something in my life.
instance, I will tell my son: “This, my dear, is a key. I once had a dream
that the founder of Kyokushin karate, Masutatsu Oyama, gave me a key and told
me: ‘You will open all doors with it.’ And I thought that I cannot lose this
key. So here it is, on my leg.”
Would you like to try your hand
at mixed martial arts?
Yes, I would like that. Mixed
fighting is an old dream of mine. I am very much interested in that, I like
fighting. But there I will have to start from the very beginning. That means a
different workload, a different kind of training.
First published in Russian in Gazeta.ru.
As a large number of local fans are fed up with ‘farcical’ international Muay Thai bouts, former world boxing heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe has promised that his debut in the Kingdom’s martial art will be for real.
Riddick Bowe tries a kick during a training session yesterday; below: Bowe takes a break during practice.
“Those who enjoyed my fights 10 years ago will again enjoy my Muay Thai fight,” said Bowe, who will take on Russia’s Levgen Golovin for the WBC and WPMF super-heavyweight titles on June 14.
“I want to make history as the first fighter who wins the heavyweight titles in both professional boxing and Muay Thai.”
In his boxing career, the former two-time heavyweight champion had an impressive record of 43-1-0 with 36KOs. He was the first fighter to beat Evander Holyfield.
While Muay Thai is different from boxing, Bowe believes he can do well in the Thai sport.
“I have watched Muay Thai bouts but actually I was only introduced to it three months ago,” said the ‘Big Daddy’, who will return to the ring for the first time since 2008.
“Muay Thai and boxing are close to each other and I can kick and use elbows.”
Bowe arrived in Bangkok last week for one month of training before fighting Golovin and he hopes to help make Muay Thai more popular around the world, particularly in the US.
“I am like a Muay Thai ambassador. If I do well here, I will keep doing it and coming back to Thailand,” the 45-year-old American insisted.
Bowe, who is visiting Thailand for the first time, said he was impressed by the country and its people.
“It will give my all because this is my second career,” he said. “Don’t miss my fight.”
Somphob Singhasiri, the organiser of the June 14 Muay Thai Superfight Champions 2013 event, said people around the world will see Bowe fight as it will be televised live internationally.
“All fights in the event will be competitive. I am sure that fans will enjoy watching our tournament,” he said.
Somphob added that in the past, many international Muay Thai bouts were one-sided.
“This can damage the sport,” he said. “I can assure you that all our fights will be close.”
The event is backed by Thailand’s Grand Prix group, which organises the annual popular Motor Show.
“With its support, everything is going well and many sponsors are coming to us. We target both local and international audiences,” Somphob said.
Somphob believes the tournament will be a success and he is looking forward to organising a women’s Muay Thai tournament in August.
“Our plan is to host four tournaments this year,” he said.
Somphob said he had approached Holyfield to fight here but he was not available.
“It is a good start with Bowe in our tournament,” he said.
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