Image courtesy of James Jefferson
Global Proving Ground CEO, James Jefferson, gives an inside look at their new MMA reality show, Warrior Island.
What if there were a reality show set up in the fashion of an old kung fu movie? Maybe it's like Enter the Dragon, but you have to get voted onto the island, and in order to get off of it, you have to be the last man standing. All the glory, fame and prestige is yours, not to mention a $500k grand prize. To the victor go the spoils. That concept is actually the brainchild of James Jefferson, CEO of Global Proving Ground. I recently had a chance to speak with James, and got some insight on his innovative reality series, Warrior Island.
Warrior Island came from the love that I had from a little movie called Enter the Dragon, and as a martial artist myself, I wanted to do something a little bit different. We brought together the original brain trust that were involved with the UFC. Our director, Ben Perry, is one of the original UFC announcers, and is actually a black belt under the Gracie family. Dan Severn is the original UFC champion, and is one of the masters on the island.
We wanted to figure out was working for reality TV, and show mixed martial arts in a different way. We wanted to get the fan integration, so we took what has already proven successful with American Idol, and let fans vote the fighters from around the world onto the island. We took the social networking, Facebook and Youtube, which is obviously working, and then we wanted to have it on an island, like Survivor, which has been very successful. As I said earlier, I'm a major junkie for the old martial arts movies, so we have the black dragon with us, Ron Van Clief, who was the original commissioner of the UFC.
The outpouring of fighters signing on with us started out very slow, but now we're getting the likes of Eric Prindle, James McSweeney. We're getting high level veterans from Bellator and the UFC that are jumping on board. I think people are getting sick and tired of seeing a bunch of people in a house, crying on each other's shoulders. They want to see something interesting. We're going to train these fighters old school, on an island, with rudimentary stones and pulleys, like in the movie Kickboxer. The fans can be interactive while all this is going on, and then these guys are going to fight. It's going to be knock em down, no holds barred rules, back to the days when Dan Severn was with the UFC.
We're going to shoot the pilot this winter, and that pilot will be about two weeks of footage on the island. From there, we plan on doing two seasons per year, and the fighters will be there for about a month each season. They are paid very well while they're there, because it's all SAG (Screen Actor's Guild) due to being a Hollywood project. They'll get room, board, travel , plus a nice salary while there. Even the losers get paid from the fights. The overall winner not only gets an amazing prize, but also gets a contract in the Global Proving Ground Fight League, which is another unique concept in MMA.
We're going to have fights on six continents. We're not competing with anybody. We're going to have three main card events on existing promotions. For example, we're launching in Branson, MO on November 17th on the Midwest Ultimate Cagefighting card. We'll have a lightweight, middleweight and heavyweight bout on that card. Our whole production crew will be coming in to film it. We're taking a small to mid-level promotion, and bringing in the same powers that be that built the UFC. We've upgraded it to a full PPV event. That card stays in existence under it's own ownership and management, but jumps up three or four levels in production. There will be quality fighters, better production, HD cameras; a crew of 25 people will be coming in to run everything. We don't want to compete with anybody. We want to enhance other promotions. It's all in the spirit of martial arts, with honor and respect.
Jefferson says they have private investors backing this project, as well as sponsors. While most promotions do exclusive deals with their sponsors, GPG will do one off deals to keep viable options open. He stressed the fact that smaller companies that have been locked out of the UFC due to the hefty sponsor tax will have a stable home with his company, at no cost. Whatever deals they work out with the fighters is theirs exclusively, with no interference or interaction from the promotion. In a landscape where we're seeing one organization after another fold up, it will be interesting to see how this one fares. The concept is unique, and their willingness to cooperate with other organizations just might be the ingredient to their longevity and success.
You can follow James via his Twittter account, @Warrior_Island
Warrior Island Trailer 2012 (via GlobalProvingGround)