While most remember Shawne Merriman for his “Lights Out” defensive play on the gridiron, the former All-Pro linebacker has created a big impact off the field in his business venture, an upstart MMA organization named after his on-field nickname, Lights Out Xtreme Fighting.
Merriman, who retired from the NFL in March 2013, embarked on other business ventures, including WWE and NASCAR, before launching the Lights Out brand in ’19.
But Merriman quickly learned that navigating the business world was far different than executing a defensive game plan. In an interview on The Bag podcast with Rashad Jennings and Lindsay McCormick, the three-time Pro Bowler opened up about the parallels and the “big difference” between the daily grind of the NFL and running his own business.
“Everybody wants to be a coach until there are 10- to 12-hour days,” Merriman said. “… Sometimes now, you don’t see what goes on behind the scenes, the time and effort. Being a decision maker is a lot more pressure.
“If you are working somewhere and it’s not on you, it’s like OK cool. I mess up, I go to the next thing. Here (in Merriman’s business), messing up can mean partnerships … having something not go well with the event. There are a lot of tentacles to this ship, which I am enjoying.”
As Merriman continues to navigate his post-football career in the business sector, the former Chargers and Bills linebacker said he seriously began thinking about his life after football when he underwent reconstructive knee surgery to repair torn ligaments in 2008. At that moment, his desire to constantly learn and grow went to a new level.
“My mindset switched,” Merriman said. “I started learning about branding, marketing. … As athletes, we all walk around as if nothing can happen to us. … I realized I was not made of steel.
“I try to tell a lot of guys, especially the ones coming to their tail end of their career, whatever you want to do, start honing on it now.”
While Merriman engaged with media opportunities and other ventures before LXF, he said there were still days where he questioned what his daily routine in life would be.
“I had some apparel stuff I was doing and there was still days where I was like, ‘Damn, is this really it?’ It just wasn’t the same,” Merriman said.
Merriman’s brand-building process allowed him to forge a relationship with Dana White and pick the UFC president’s brain about the MMA world.
Although LXF has not promoted a fight since December, Merriman said his goal is to give guys more “opportunities to fight and build better a life for themselves” as well as get White to see the value in his brand.
“I would like for him and the UFC to acknowledge the talent we have and pull some of the guys up,” Merriman said. “If that is going to UFC to build their brand to get more eyeballs and make more money, I’ll do that. There’s no competition. There’s always been a mutual respect and more of an admiration for what he’s built.
“I’m just coming at it from a completely different angle and platform that I’ve had with the NFL and being able to build it with this.”
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