(The Bodog Girls: “ridiculously gorgeous.”)
Though he’s only thirty years old, Eric Nicholl calls the shots as matchmaker for BodogFIGHT‘s Vancouver-based operation. It’s a job that demands his attention 24/7 — Nicholl has to juggle phone calls, e-mails, meetings, fighters’ demands, contracts, and a host of other details on a daily basis — but he makes it look easy. Fresh off of a well-deserved vacation, Eric took a moment to chat with us about matchmaking, Bodog’s much-jeered payouts, Matt Lindland‘s gripe, and who his choice is to play him on the big screen.
CagePotato: How did you get the Bodog job?
Eric Nicholl: It’s kind of a unique situation. The company that really does all the marketing and advertising is Riptown Media, and I had transitioned from operations about 3 ½ years ago into marketing/PR for BodogFIGHT. So I was basically the initial person that was going through doing the media interviews. And it kind of developed from there. With mixed martial arts, I’ve got seven years of kickboxing underneath my belt and I wrestled in high school. And I also attended university on a full football scholarship. Contact sports and hand-to-hand combat has always been a passion for me. Basically, BodogFIGHT totally evolved. I kind of got to come along with it. I got to work alongside some really key people in the industry, like Miguel Iturrate, our original matchmaker. I studied under him since the beginning of August, 2006.
Describe what you do, in a nutshell.
Not only do I focus on matchmaking, but I also look at fighter relations. I look at scouting, single fight, multi-fight contracts, purse negotiations. I look at sponsorship proposals. My day, I come in, I’ll fire up my computer and I’ll just scan through the list of guys getting a hold of my e-mail and they want to be fighters. ‘What do I have to do?’ I’ve kind of taken the approach that I’m going to reply to every single one of these guys. If they reply back, fantastic. If they actually fill out the bio stuff that I need, if they have some amateur fights, I want to see video of it. I want to see what their style is, how finely tuned their skills are. I want to see what they look like in a ring, on a canvas. I’d say out of about a hundred people that actually reply back to me, I’ll get five or six that will actually complete the bio form that I need from them. Once it gets to there, I’d say maybe two out of a hundred will actually make it to the cut, where I can say, “Okay, great, you’re an up-and-comer, I can match you against another up-and-comer and let’s see if you guys can make the cut.” It’s a swift process.
Tape is critical. Typically what I’ll do (everyday), I’ll catch up on my e-mail, I’ll go through the forums, all the message boards, all the sites, just to see what’s going on to stay up on all the news as I possibly can. If there’s nothing super important, typically I’ll have meetings — planning for different events, who we want to work with. The people we want to work with — the different organizations — is a key factor. It’s a small niche industry and I want to surround myself with the most positive people.
Do you interact with other organizations’ matchmakers a lot?
All the time. The bigger camps all around the world…Brazil, the UK…again, these are like promoters/matchmakers, they kind of do everything. I also work very tightly with our commissioner and that’s Jeff Osbourne. I don’t think his word is gospel, but I certainly have a tremendous amount of respect for what he has to say. There are different philosophies that I find amongst these other matchmakers — some people are sport purists, other people are all entertainment value. I find that the right mix of personality of someone that can see the value of the sport as a sport — because it is — but also the value of the sport as an entertainment outlet. At the end of the day, you need to have people watching the show.
What happens when, say, an injury or something leaves you without a fighter just days from an event? Where do you look for a replacement?
Again, that has a lot to do with networking. If someone goes down, I will rely on a local promoter that I’ve made contacts with. And there are certain groups in various regions that have guys who train very hard. A specific example is Eben Oroz — I called him when we did our TV shoot in Vancouver in August of this past summer and it was to fight “DJ.taiki” (Daiki Hata). On four days notice. Daiki is a phenomenal fighter, he’s world-renowned and he (Eben) took the fight last minute. And he stepped in and won a great fight and an incredible upset.
It’s really setting up your network as to who you draw from — and at the end of the day, depending on the level of the fighter, I have probably a thousand bios of fighters all set up by the weight class and I’ll look at them. If there’s a guy that maybe deserves a shot, that’s on the cusp, let’s get him in the ring, let’s give him a shot.
The hours you keep must be crazy.
I have my Blackberry. I work 24 hours a day, every day of the week. One of the reasons for that is I’ve got people in Russia, I have people in Brazil, the U.K., we have fighters in Australia, Japan, so my phone rings all hours of the day…and I’ll answer it.