Adrenaline MMA promoter Monte Cox says in the fight business, things can go either way.
Things like your choice of fights, venue, and production budget. It can take very little to change a proposed MMA show. Just like the fights, the margin for error is slim -- especially when you're in a foreign territory.
"Anytime you go somewhere for the first time, you're always going to encounter resistance," said Cox. "You have hometown promoters that don't want you there; you don't really know who the local fighters are that draw; you don't know where to go to get the best sponsors. And you're not always treated fairly because you're the out of town guy."
At one point or another, Cox faced challenges with all the above elements when he promoted Adrenaline 3 in Birmingham, Ala., last week. The one that made headlines was tough enough: New Jersey and The Association of Boxing Commissions saying a collective "no" to a boxing bout between main eventers Tim Sylvia and Ray Mercer. Until the day of the weigh-ins, there was no fight. At the last minute, it was changed to an MMA event, favoring Sylvia.
There were other struggles that remained off the record.
When all was said and done, Sylvia and Mercer delivered, even if the result was exactly the opposite of what Cox, also Sylvia's manager, expected or wanted. Sylvia showed up at 300-plus pounds wanting to trade with the former heavyweight boxing champion and got knocked senseless in nine seconds, prompting calls for early retirement.
Cox, however, is positive about the overall experience and wants to do it again in September.
"I think there's a need for it, not just for that level of fighter, but there are lots of guys trying to either make a name or start their comeback," he said.
While there were more front-end costs that took from profits, Cox is confident he can turn that around next time.
"We'll be way more successful," he said. "I feel like I know what needs to be done in Birmingham now."
Meanwhile, longtime properties Extreme Challenge and ICE will go on, local shows with reliable margins and loyal customers.
Cox says Sylvia won't retire.
"He's an MMA fighter, that's what he does for a living," said the big man's manager. "He's got to keep fighting -- he's too young to quit."
Cox says he learned plenty from his short involvement with M-1 Global, his first foray into national promotion. The company made big promises, many contrary to Cox's business instincts, and eventually fractured before putting on an event. The plan for Adrenaline is to stay regional and build slowly.
"We're a company," he said. "We can lose on one, and we make it up on the next one. When you're doing 60 shows a year, all that really counts is the bottom line at the end of the year.
"I'm not trying to do anything with Adrenaline, other than try to find a place that I can run a show that's profitable."