Monte Cox is a busy man. With his own MMA organization, Adrenaline, set to put on their first show on June 14th, and with many of the high-profile fighters that he manages facing some interesting career decisions, he’s in no danger of getting bored.
Cage Potato got in touch with Cox earlier today to discuss rumors that Ben Rothwell would be facing Andrei Arlovski in the upcoming Affliction event, and after a little prodding we got much more than we expected from MMA’s super-manager, as he discussed a range of topics, from the chances of success for Affliction to the problems plaguing MMA organizations on the whole.
CagePotato.com: So Monte, what can you tell me about Ben Rothwell and Andrei Arlovski?
Well, they’re both heavyweights.
Thanks. Are they going to be heavyweights who fight each other in this upcoming Affliction show?
The only thing I can say is Rothwell is going to fight in Affliction. It’s up to them who he fights. I’d love it to be Andrei, but they’re the ones who ultimately get to make that decision. They had at one point talked about having Ben fight Aleksander Emelianenko, and then of course they talked about Andrei, but I don’t know what his contract status is. He was supposed to be free from his UFC contract on May 1, but I honestly don’t know if it will be Ben and Andrei fighting in that show. [Affliction] is supposed to have a press conference in the next week or two to announce some of that, but I honestly can’t say at this point.
It seems like having guys like Rothwell and Tim Sylvia signed to Adrenaline, your organization, and having them also fight in Affliction makes it difficult for you to schedule your events.
A little bit, but I said from the beginning that we were going to be a different type of organization. One of those main differences is we allow our fighters to fight other places. If one of our guys gets a good opportunity somewhere else, then we don’t want to keep him from that. It doesn’t help anyone.
The rumors have been flying about how much Affliction is spending on this first show. Since you manage a couple of the guys who are fighting in it, what can you tell us about the amount of money they’re spending? Some estimates have it at $6 million. Do you think that’s accurate?
I really can’t say what they’re paying out. The only people I know about are my guys, but if everything I’ve heard is correct they’ll have one of the biggest fighter payouts in history.
Is that a cause for concern about their long-term viability? How long can they keep shelling out that kind of money?
Well, you can’t compare them to the UFC. They’re not the UFC. They’re a clothing company. If they go out there and lose $3 million, but they sell $5 million dollars worth of clothing, is that really a loss?
No, but that’s a lot of t-shirts.
I’m not just talking about selling them at the event. Think about all the press they’re getting now. Their website is buried in hits. Affliction shirts are everywhere. Everyone thinks he’s crazy and he’s going to lose his ass, but maybe he’s smarter than all of us. His marketing plan has clearly worked so far, so he must know what he’s doing. He’s getting tons of exposure, and he’s got those shirts everywhere right now.
But by starting the Affliction MMA promotion they got banned from the UFC. Doesn’t that hurt their exposure?
It probably does, but they do more than just the UFC. They did a couple of boxing shows where they bought the center of the ring. Their shirts are everywhere. I went to a Van Halen show and those shirts were all over the place. You turn on that stupid “Rock of Love” show and Bret Michaels is wearing it.
If they decide to do this, they’re big boys. They’re not going to just throw money at it and then quit. From what I’ve heard, they’re committed to at least three shows, no matter what happens.
Is it true that they plan to have the winner of Fedor-Sylvia face the winner of Barnett-Rizzo?
I don’t know, but if I was them I wouldn’t commit to anything. I like the way the Japanese do it, where they have tournaments but they decide what the next round will look like based on who wins. I think that’s the smart way to do it.
Say Fedor beats Tim and Ben knocks out Arlovski. I mean, hypothetically. Then say Barnett wins, but it’s a snoozefest. Then it would make more sense to have Ben fight Fedor. What if Tim beats Fedor and Arlovski beats Ben and Barnett wins a so-so fight. Would it really make sense to do Sylvia-Arlovski 4? Probably not, so then you’d want Barnett to fight Tim. You see what I’m saying? There are lots of possible scenarios, so I wouldn’t lock myself in to any of them.
Like I said, the Japanese model works really well in that sense, like in Dream right now. We’ve got [Eddie] Alvarez there. He’s doing great, and we don’t know who he could fight. All the possibilities make for interesting fights. It’s funny, because now I’ve got more guys doing well outside the UFC than in it. It used to be all UFC, thirty-four guys I had in the UFC. Now I’ve got guys like Alvarez and Robbie Lawler doing really well outside of it.
Do you think the MMA world is really diversifying in that sense, or have we yet to reach the market saturation point? Will the UFC stay the biggest show in town?
The UFC is still number one. Nowhere can you go and make more money. As far as whether some of these other companies are still going to be around in a few months, like the IFL and Elite XC, you know, I hope so. I like these other companies, but they wanted to take on the UFC, and that’s crazy. You’re not going to take on the UFC. All I can tell you is that Adrenaline will still be around because we’re not going to dump $40-50 million into it and lose our ass right off the bat.
It seems like you’re really relying on the local appeal of your cards as a draw in the Midwest. Is that your plan, to stay in the Midwest and push local fighters and depend on ticket sales to get you through?
I have to. I don’t have TV. I might get something like an HDNet, but that’s not money. That’s breaking even. Take a look at the WEC. They never drew more than 2,000. Then they get Urijah Faber and they decide to go to Sacramento and they get a huge draw. I have to depend on grass roots marketing and local appeal and stuff like that. I’m not going to take all these Midwest guys and go do a show in San Diego. That wouldn’t make sense.
I have sixty fighters and I promote about sixty shows a year all over, with Extreme Challenge and XFO and like that. I’ve always been busy. Just doing Adrenaline and doing around three shows a year, I could do that in my sleep.
Then why do you think it is that so many other MMA organizations haven’t managed to be profitable?
I think it’s a mixture of things. I know what I do. I’m a promoter and I have a lot of experience in this. I’ve promoted 500 shows and made money on all but six. I remember them all, too. The last was in San Diego, which is why I bring that up. Here with Adrenaline, I’ve got my marketing figured out, I’ve got my radio spots, I’ve got my card set, and we’re still four weeks out.
You look at a company like the IFL – and I’m not throwing stones here – but they were run by an architect and a guy who did trade shows. They had an idea and they wanted to make it work, but they didn’t really know how. I have experience that I think a lot of these people don’t, and I think makes a lot of the difference.