In part 1, David Oblas, Owner of NFC Fighting, gave a peek behind the curtain of the person and professional things he and his business have gone through during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Now, Oblas gives 10 pieces of advice for how fight promoters can get back to business.
Written By David Oblas (Owner of NFC Fighting)
For nearly two decades my business plan was based on how many people can I shove in one building to watch fights. Now, I had to flip my mentality to how few amount of people can I have at a fight and still pay the bills and keep floating until we get back to the “new normal”. One way is raising ticket prices. But beyond that, there’s plenty of other ways to adjust your business model without asking the customer to pay more.
When we did our first event back we were the first sporting event in Georgia to take place and obviously the first to allow fans. When we did the second NFC event we were still the only sporting event in Georgia to allow fans. Same when we did our third event.
But how was it done?
Below I’ve tried to include my Top 10 pieces of advice for other fight promoters to show what we’ve adapted and improvised on. Hopefully it helps you stay in business and put on bigger and better events as we come out of this!
1. Talk to your staff. Ask them their opinions. What their level of comfort is with re-opening. If your staff isn’t 100% on board, you don’t need to start putting on events yet. Several of my staff members have children and families and if they weren’t 100% ready to get back to it, the NFC was going to wait. They all voted to get back to business.
2. You need a venue. And a backup. And a backup to the backup venue. In Atlanta we’ve had several venues close and a couple stay open, but at only 20% capacity. Since we started promoting fights again, I’ve several times had to change an event from venue to venue to venue.
3. Communicate with the fighters. The NFC MMA matchmaker Jesse Wable was constantly talking to the MMA fighters and for jiu jitsu Clay Bennett knows all the guys. Each state is different, but here in Georgia the fighters always wanted us back to putting on events. We’ve been overwhelmed with not only Atlanta fighters wanting on NFC shows, but an enormous amount of out of state fighters looking to travel due to the lack of shows near them.
4. Communicate with the gym owners. The fighters will always want to fight. But the gym owners are the ones that make the decisions. Several gym owners in Georgia asked us not to use their guys as they didn’t want their fighters cross training and involved in fights where other fighters might not be as careful about places they visit. So before putting a fighter on your card, make sure the gym owner gives the green light.
5. If you promote MMA and deal with an Athletic Commission, help them establish re-opening guidelines. As a promoter you probably talk to more fighters, trainers, gym owners and fans than anyone else in your state. Your opinion and knowledge is probably greater than anyone else’s in the state. In Georgia I offered my opinion of the re-opening guidelines for the state and they were followed almost to a t.
6. Whatever guidelines you set for your fights, make sure you’re prepared to follow them. If you put on your website and tickets that you’re going to take temperatures at the door and require everyone in the building to wear a face mask….make sure you’re ready to throw people out that are above the temperature requirement or refusing to wear a face mask. If you’re not going to punish those for breaking a rule, then you don’t need to have rules.
7. Plan extra fights! No matter if you’re putting on an MMA event or a jiu jitsu event...plan for extra fights! We always know there are going to be drop offs on a fight card, but it’s going to be multiplied now. Someone is going to commit to a fight, but then their wife or husband, girlfriend or boss, parent or gym owner, is going to sit them down and explain to them how cases have exploded and it’s best to back out of the fight due to potential exposure.
8. If Covid-19 tests are required in your state for your event, go take it a week early so you can properly explain to fighters and staff the process. I’ve now taken about 14 Covid-19 tests at CVS. I take one the week before each fight as we’re required to take one the week of the fight, so I essentially take two tests per fight. This way I can explain to all the fighters how long the appointment will take to get, how long the results are taking, etc. In Atlanta we’ve had times where we get the results in 1-2 days all the way up to a 7-day turnaround time.
9. Be prepared for the unknown with your shows. If you’ve been a promoter of fights long enough like me, you’ve seen it all! With Covid-19 and the new guidelines going around...be prepared for anything and everything to change at a moment’s notice. And you’re going to need to be able to adjust with it and have everyone on board with the change.
10. Figure out how few people you can do an event with. Part of this is about cutting expenses during the pandemic….but the other aspect is Covid-19 is all about reducing the number of people. In my case I’ve had to learn how to reduce the amount of people within 12’ of the cage. I’ve cut production people, photographers, I’ve even gone without ring card girls for each show since the pandemic. We reduced the number of corners a fighter can have from three to two. You’re going to need to think about how many people you have inside the barricades at your fights and how many you can cut and still do a successful show.