Frank Trigg is a one-man industry. How many other fighters can claim to train in a gym they own, show up to fight in a shirt they designed, then talk about it the next day on their own radio show? In this exclusive interview, the man behind Triggonomics, TAGG Radio, the R1 Training Center, a handful of truly bizarre TV appearances — as well as some legendary beatdowns in the UFC, PRIDE and Icon Sport — gives us the “Twinkle Toes” perspective on fighter branding, reality television, and why he would kick Robbie Lawler‘s ass in a rematch.
CAGEPOTATO.COM: Let’s get this out of the way first: Who, where, and when are you fighting next?
FRANK TRIGG: I don’t know yet. I thought I was going to have something set up and ready to announce this week, but we don’t have anything finalized.
But you are still actively pursuing your fight career, right? It’s not like your five other jobs are getting in the way…
Absolutely, I’m trying to get as many fights as I can. I was trying to be in the DREAM middleweight tournament, but it didn’t work out.
You told MMAJunkie that doing that tournament wouldn’t benefit your brand. What exactly did you mean by that?
That’s really what all of us are trying to do — Chuck Liddell, Roger Huerta, Georges St. Pierre — all of us are trying to brand ourselves to a big enough name that we can make money outside of the fight world, and I have to make choices on what’s going to help me accomplish that. Doing commentating for TNA Wrestling helps me as a brand — it pushes me forward, it gets me in front of a different demographic and increases the size of my network. And when you’re with an organization that’s not going to do that for you, whatever level you’re at, it doesn’t help.
DREAM was waiting and screwing around, and I was trying to figure out whether or not the tournament was going to be shown in America on HDNet. They finally agreed to a deal like three days before the event, and I thought “that’s just stupid, they should have had this stuff done a long time ago.” The way that they’re running the organization, it just wasn’t going to be any good for me in trying to get my brand out there.
Do you think you’ll still try to deal with DREAM? Their fight-booking process seems disorganized at times, to say the least.
I would have gone back to them, but somebody sent me a link to a story in the Japanese press where they said I was a liar and that I agreed to do the tournament but backed out. I’m not going to work with someone who’s going to call me a liar. It’s not gonna happen.
I know that fighting is just one aspect of the Frank Trigg brand. What’s an average day like for you?
I’m up at 4:30 in the morning, my first workout is at 5:30 until about 8 o’clock, then I come home, take a shower, and go do the radio show. I’m on the show from 9 until 10:30, then I usually have a meeting with [TAGG Radio’s] George Garcia until about 11 o’clock. I go back to the house, do some design work for Triggonomics, work on some e-mails or article-writing, eat a little lunch around 2 o’clock or so, take a nap, and get up for another workout at 4 o’clock. I come home around 6:30, the wife and I sit down to have dinner, then I do a little more e-mailing, some prep-work for the radio show the next day, and then I’ll be in bed between 9 and 10.
What’s going on in the world of Triggonomics these days?
I’m actively pursuing new sales reps. Right now our sales are done directly on the Internet at Triggonomics.com, and the entire show is run by myself. I had an assistant for about eight months but he couldn’t really pull it together so he left. Now it’s me on my own, and the designs come out very slowly because I develop and approve each one. It’s a one-man show, completely funded by me. I don’t have any investors. I have some advisors that kind of help me out, but other than that I do everything by myself.
Besides commentating for TNA wrestling, do have any other TV projects in the works?
I actually cut a reality show. I had cameras follow me around for three days, we edited a sizzle reel, and it’s out there right now. We’re pitching it, but nobody’s really grabbing onto it yet.
What’s the premise?
Being a professional fighter is not all it’s cracked up to be. People think it’s nothing but great cars and nice houses and the whole bit. I’ve been a pro for 11 years and it’s how I make my living, yet I still have to do other jobs to create an income in order to survive — to pay for my kids’ college fund, and my mortgage, and all that other stuff. And the show would follow me around as I’m trying to build a name brand by doing different things, whether it’s broadcasting or my clothing line or what have you. We almost had a deal worked out with BET, but they decided to pass on me and do a reality show with Rampage instead. I thought I had something worked out with HDNet, but Mark Cuban just doesn’t like reality shows, and they passed on mine.
Speaking of TV, who convinced you that it would be a good idea to be a contestant on VH1’s Kept?
Actually my wife did. I was living in L.A. and she was living in Vegas, and I was flying out to see her, and some girl kept checking me out on the plane. I’m like, “wow, my mojo’s doing good.” So I got off the jetway after the flight and she’s standing there waiting for me, and she’s like “Hi, my name is Tracy. I’m a producer on this new reality show called Kept, and I’d like you to come try out for it.” I tried out and I got the job. I told my wife about it and said “I really don’t want to go on this thing, the premise is me trying to pick up this girl and be a ‘kept man’ — I really don’t know if it’s gonna be good for our relationship.” She said, “it’s the branding, it’s the marketing, it’s gonna be a big deal on VH1, you have to do this thing.”
If you won, you’d have to put your career on hold to be Jerry Hall’s kept man. Were you prepared for that?
Come on, there’s not much reality in reality television. The guy that won now works for MTV as a producer. He got his $100,000 or whatever, and ended up having to pay back taxes, and taxes on the money he won, and by the time all was said and done he had like twenty grand. He also got a Jaguar, but I think he crashed it in like a month. And all the time we were on the show, Jerry Hall actually had a boyfriend. It’s a reality show, but it’s really not reality. People couldn’t believe that I turned down TUF4: The Comeback. Well, it was really easy for me to turn it down because I don’t want to live in a house with 12 guys. That wasn’t something I wanted to do.
This is an exciting time for MMA. What are your thoughts on EliteXC’s upcoming Saturday Night Fights event with CBS
No matter what happens, it’s gonna be a success. It’s going to be on network television and three or four million people are going to watch it. That’s crazy. The new face of MMA is going to be Kimbo Slice, Robbie Lawler, Gina Carano, and Phil Baroni. Whether we like it or not, these guys are going to be bigger than Randy, bigger than Chuck, bigger than Tito. EliteXC is kicking the UFC’s ass right now in their marketing.
Do you think that’s good for the sport?
Right now, everything’s good for the sport. Any exposure we can get is good for the sport.
What about some of these other upstarts like Affliction’s MMA promotion, or Adrenaline MMA — what would they need to do to be successful?
Break even. People come into this sport thinking they’re going to make a bunch of money just walking in the door, but you don’t make money right away. The UFC makes money because they’ve been around for 15 years. For Affliction, if they can go out there and spend $4 million on their card getting fighters to compete, and then they turn around and sell $4 million worth of t-shirts, it’s great marketing for them, but in reality it doesn’t work that way.
Which one of your career losses would you most want to avenge?
Probably the Lawler loss.
Why is that?
Because he’s not that good. Nothing against him as a person — I think he’s a nice kid, he’s very humble, very respectful — but he’s just not that good. And when I fought him, he was the third fight I had in four months, and each time I fought it was a guy in the top 10, from Jason Miller, to Kazuo Misaki, to Lawler 30 days later. I had a concussion at the time, so I had headaches and vision problems to begin with. Lawler should have been able to knock me out in the first round, and he couldn’t finish me until the fourth. I was horrible that night. There’s no way I should have been competing at all.
Who’s winning at UFC 85: your former rival Matt Hughes or Thiago Alves?
I think Hughes will be exposed again. I think Thiago Alves is the new coming. For as gifted as Hughes is, and as strong and dynamic a fighter as he was, he doesn’t train all the time. He spends a lot of time on the farm, working the farm and spending time with his family. Which is good for him, but he only goes in and trains three or four weeks before the fight. You have to train and work on your skill set all the time, and Thiago Alves does that, so when he got the phone call to fight, he wasn’t too far away from being able to compete. A lot of these cats are eight weeks away before they’re even halfway in shape, and then another four weeks to get prepared for a fight.
Thanks so much for your time, Frank. Is there anything else you want to shout out before we sign off?
Just buy Triggonomics clothing and listen to TAGG Radio every day. Hopefully I’ll be at a city near you very soon and folks will be able to come by and see me.
— Ben Goldstein