I was reading a piece on SHERDOG about MMA matchmaking by Jason Probst. Granted, the title states ‘One Man’s View’ so he was hedging his bet by stating it was just his opinion, but I’m not sure Jason has ever been a matchmaker, because he really managed to say nothing in his piece.
First off, matchmaking comes down to a rolodex. The MMA boards and blogs are full of great ideas for matches, but the point of the job is do you have the contacts and the negotiating ability to actually put the fighters in the ring?
After that, it is to know the fighter and to present circumstances where he thinks he can win and do his job. The fight can be won or lost before they even step into the ring or cage.
Let’s talk a little about fighter development, because I think that was the point of Probst’s piece. The job of the matchmaker is to know the talent he is dealing with, and know his mind. Not everyone needs 15 fights to show development.
I’ll give you an example. The first UFC champion at 185 lbs was a fighter named Dave Menne. Really tough kid out of the midwest, eclectic, well trained, super smart and well traveled. He had close to 15 fights and was the favorite of an Extreme Challenge tournament event in the midwest in 1998, and he was facing a guy with 3 fights in the first round. Piece of cake right? Well, it turns out this guy with three fights was Matt Hughes, and Hughes didn’t need 15 fights to show his talent, he showed us all that night and took Menne out.
So let’s look at this past weekend’s Strikeforce event, because there are several cases of fighters in the early stages of development.
First there is Roger Gracie. He fights with a lot of pressure, being the next generation of Gracie, and I believe that affects him. He has competed in Jiu Jitsu all his life, but has been slow to transition to MMA. I know there has been real talk about him doing dojo fights, for the experience, but they don’t seem to happen. He doesn’t have the mad dog instinct of Renzo or Royce or Ralph Gracie. There is something about his psychology that makes me feel he would rather do Jiu Jitsu and teach. By the way, I was the matchmaker for his first professional fight, and the manager of record for his second. I know Roger Gracie.
Then there is the case of Daniel Cormier. For every world class wrestler that has exceled at MMA there is a litany of guys with huge wrestling credentials that got their clocks cleaned.
I’ve talked to Mark Coleman about this, and there is a type of mindset some wrestlers have that crossover to MMA better than others. Some are athletic, some are technical, and some are meaner than others. To simplify things, Mark said it is the mean ones that win in MMA.
I wanted to see more from Cormier, specifically against a top notch opponent, and this weekend he came thru in spades. He is mean, and the fact that he is at AKA tells me he has a willingness to learn techniques beyond the scope of wrestling. That bugaboo has plagued guys like Mark Coleman and Kevin Randleman, but Cormier sought out one of the best schools in the country, and he is on a fast track.
So my point in this is that the SHERDOG article on matchmaking over simplifies things, because it is a job for a reason. It is about knowing as much as you can about each and every single one of your clients and working from there. You can look me up, I’ve made a few matches.