This week has been a busy one for MMA. We've got the eighth UFC On FX card coming up this weekend, fighters getting popped for weed, and the very first MMA Combine in our sport's relatively young history. To me, an MMA Combine marks a great step forward for the mainstream exposure of the sport.
Through the combined efforts of UFC batamweight star, Urijah Faber, light heavyweight contender, Phil Davis, and their business partners and investors, MMADraft.com will be able to showcase to the world a series of aptitude and skills tests for athletes to use as a measuring stick for their talent level in the sport. It's a very unique premise that could provide wonderful opportunities for up and coming fighters.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Faber to get a more in depth look at the system they've implemented and the particulars of the combine. Here's what he had to say:
The website is kind of like Rivals.com, which is all about amateur athletes in basketball, football and baseball in college, and Maxpreps.com, which is the same, but for high school. It's all free, and there are technique videos on there and interviews with professional fighters that everybody knows and loves.
There's a show where we interview some of the top, up and coming talent and give them a chance to be seen by Frank Trigg. The articles on there are really helpful to someone trying to navigate the mixed martial arts world as a young kid or an adult who is wanting to go pro. You have kids at all different levels who are competing and doing all sorts of cool stuff in their own right, and don't really know exactly how to approach becoming a professional mixed martial artist at the highest level, so we're providing that (information) for them.
We've been working on the site for almost two years now, and it's been all about creating relationships and raising awareness. What we've been working on the most; building these relationships and letting people know that, 'Hey, we're here to help', and we spend our money sponsoring professional fighters in the UFC and bigger shows so that traffic gets drawn back to our site where kids and young athletes and amateurs are getting put on a pedestal, and the organizations that are giving them opportunities are also getting exposure.
It's a win/win for everyone at our expense. We want to make this the one stop shop for everything amateur and really have our eye on the future of our sport.
People that have long, celebrated careers in the amateurs and have put in their time and effort, don't have anything to show for it. There are no opportunities for a guy who is a star college athlete like there are for a star basketball player or football player, with millions of dollars waiting for them, endorsement opportunities and managers trying to buy them stuff. In mixed martial arts you don't get that yet.
We're trying to create that for guys, so that all that hard work is worth it, and they have something to show for it at the end of the day and they don't have to wash dishes till they're 5-0 and hope they know the right people and get in the right circles and so on. That's what Phil Davis and I want to change, and that's why we started this project. It was the first time that we spoke that we came up with the idea and decided to go into business together and make it happen. It's been almost two years now, so it's pretty cool to see it come to fruition.
Plans for the Combine
We're having our first combine at the UFC expo, where we'll show how the athletes stack up with their age group and with their weight class. We'll take all of that stuff into account. There will also be the standardized tests where we look at pure athleticism and how it compares to a lot of the MMA professionals we have doing it, so you can see how you match up to them, as well as the people who do the same tests for baseball, basketball and football.
We'll also be doing discipline testing like a two minute wrestling criteria test, a two minute jiu jitsu criteria test, and striking, as well. It's going to be getting these guys exposure and showing where everybody ranks and fits. We'll even be doing interviews for their profiles on MMADraft.com
We'll be doing a lot of filming of the whole project. We have a real friend in mixed martial arts, Will Farrar out of Utah. He has Showdown Fights and the Pit Elevated Gym, where a lot of top MMA fighters from Utah are. He has been really helpful in creating the backing for this to happen, so we'll have some cool technology there, and if we can live stream it, we definitely will.
Criteria for Entry to the Combine
We have a selection process in which everyone has to have signed up for a profile on MMADraft.com , so we understand where you come from, what your credentials are and what your involvement is in the sport. You have to be verified, so we have our staff look at all these folks who are signing up and say who is and isn't verified. You have to be selected by them. There is a small fee of $100 and we also do invites for some of the athletes that we've already been scouting through the website.
If there is someone who has put in their time and we recognize them as one of the top amateur athletes out there, but they are having a hard time financially, we can waive the fee.
It's going to be a who's who of the amateur world, and all they have to do is apply. We'll make sure they're going to be capable to take the assessment. We have all sorts of professional fighters there, strength and conditioning guys, a sports psychologist, and all sorts of insiders from our sport will be there taking a look, judging and giving their expertise.
I had a phone conversation with Dana and Lorenzo, and at first they didn't really understand what it was all about, but Lorenzo is actually a huge football fan. His son is a high level high school player and his nephew is as well, so I explained it to him as a Maxpreps.com type of set up and told him what our bigger picture is; that we're trying to build up notoriety for these amateurs and they were all for it.
Of course it's not in any way linked to the UFC, but they were very supportive in letting us have our first combine at the UFC fan expo, so i'm very thankful to them for that.
You can follow Urijah via his Twitter account, @UrijahFaber