“I have always approached my fighting career like I was building a business. You must first build a local clientele and expand from there”.
These are the words of #11 ranked UFC Bantamweight Cody Stamann when asked about the importance of using local promotions to gain exposure for taking the next step. In the top promotions of MMA, fighters who are having great success can often be traced back to their local scene and the following they built there. With shows such as Dana White: Looking For A Fight, Dana White’s Contender Series and The Ultimate Fighter, we have seen the UFC create platforms to promote fighters prior to them taking that big step into the UFC. The UFC is doing a great job of creating hype behind prospects prior to them entering the big leagues; however, that is a small percentage of fighters getting that exposure.
Even once you’ve made it to a large promotion, there is no guarantee of a push from the company as we’ve seen with many fighters along with the entire Men’s Flyweight Division who don’t fit the profile of an “exciting fighter.” For those fighters, this leads to a creation of WWE-like personalities, “The President’s favourite fighter” Colby Covington, “Triple C” Henry Cejudo, and “TMZ” Tyron Woodley to name a few. Fighters who have success inside the octagon are being forced into creating personalities and personas to sell themselves to the UFC and fans. The path of stringing together wins to get recognized become increasingly difficult, and we are seeing more and more fighters building their brand locally as a selling point to get signed by big promotions.
The work that goes into building their personal brand consists of countless hours spent obtaining sponsors, social media work, selling tickets to events, and much more. All of this, while focusing on a training camp for a fight that if you lose all your work, building yourself up, takes a significant step backward. When a fighter does get their opportunity of a fight, the month of the fight itself will be the toughest part of the road. Newly signed Bellator prospect Tyson Miller says, “The month a fighter fights, the pay-cheque will help…but it’s going to be gone at the end of the month for sure. It’s up to the athletes to do their homework and get to the next level working hard, researching, and training.” This is a confirmation of how early fighters are realizing what they need to be doing to separate themselves from the pack.
So the next time you have a chance at going to a local event, buy the shirt of a local MMA fighter or simply follow a local fighter on social media, think of what they go through to get to the next level and show your support for those working the hardest for it.