To begin this column on Houston MMA, I wanted to share some insight into our humble beginnings. MMA in our city would not be where it is today without the contributions of such luminaries as Saul Soliz, who initially began promoting MMA events in Houston with Renegades Extreme Fighting, and fighters such as Yves Edwards, Jose Santibanez, and Chad Cook, who were amongst the first to fight in these events. It is amazing to see these individuals, and many others from the old days, still around and contributing to the sport at both the local and national level.
Next, I want to shine light on some of the influential figures currently shaping the Mixed Martial Arts landscape in Houston. By speaking in-depth with these trailblazers and sharing with you, the fans, what I hope to do is provide even more insight into Houston Mixed Martial Arts.
When I think of our fight scene, the first person to pops in my head is Mick Maynard, the head of USACA and its promotional arms, Lonestar Beatdown and Legacy Fighting Championships.
In the aftermath of Bellator 27, a nationally-televised event in San Antonio where USACA title holders went 3-0, I had an opportunity to speak to Mick regarding his beginnings in this sport, how he got started as a promoter & fan, and what the future holds for his promotions and MMA in Texas.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with me Mick. Let’s start at the very beginning for you. What got you into Mixed Martial Arts?
I boxed a little as a kid and got into kickboxing in my 20’s. I have been a fan of boxing and early K-1 for many years before I started following MMA, mainly because that is what I participated in. The UFC was hit and miss early on because it was banned from cable. I honestly thought the early UFC’s were boring compared to K-1. I used to have to buy bootleg copies of K-1 from Japan that had been recorded on TV. It still had all of the Japanese commercials and commentators but I would watch them over and over like my kids watch Dora. The more fighting in general evolved, so did my passion for MMA. I started training in all aspects which gave me a full appreciation of the sport. I still love k-1, rarely watch boxing, and I am basically obsessed with MMA! Ha. I think it is the greatest sport in the world and it has become a family affair. My ten-month-old has already been to three weigh-ins.
How did you decide to make the transition into promoting events? Was it the money or a passion you wanted to build on? What did you expect going into it (Lonestar Beatdown 1)?
I own a newspaper in College Station and I was just looking for a way to promote the paper. I was not interested whatsoever in making money. I initially contacted a local promoter about putting on an event out there. I emailed him and told him I didn’t want any money and I would provide free advertising, the venue, and pretty much everything he needed. I guess he thought I was full of it because I never heard back. It was then that I decided I might as well do it myself.
People often think promoting MMA and events is one big fight party with a “build it and they will come” mentality. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is actually very hard, stressful work and you can easily lose your ass in the process. When I initially met with Greg Alvarez at TDLR he told me a line Dickie Cole would tell all new promoters. “Do you want to make a small fortune promoting? Start off with a large fortune and soon enough it will be small,” or something to that effect. That stuck with me. The bottom line is this is definitely a passion for me first and foremost and if it wasn’t I wouldn’t do it.
What is your thought process when matchmaking for Legacy and Lonestar Beatdown? Are you finding that fans are starting to put in a lot more input nowadays and how does that affect your methodology?
I am a fan first and foremost so when I put together matchups I ask myself if it is a fight I would want to see. If I look up and down the card and see fights I would be ok not seeing, that would be a problem. I think about MMA pretty much around the clock and research, study, and constantly look at various fighters and potential matchups. I told you Mike, I am obsessed with this sport!
Now Mick, I remember trying to put together that first (tiny) square cage with the crew at Hurricane Harry’s in College Station for the first Lonestar Beatdown. In that virgin effort, it took us about four hours and, for me personally, about two boxes of pizza. What are the main differences in producing these events now versus how it was done at the start? Is it much easier? What has changed from a production standpoint?
The events are in nicer venues and the crowds are much bigger. Production is of a higher standard and the fights are better. So basically… everything is different. It is also much easier than it used to be just because I have done it so many times over. It is still very stressful because there are so many aspect out of your control at times and I want everything to be perfect.
You recently forayed into Muay Thai in additional to promoting MMA events. Tell us a little bit about why you decided to go this route as well.
It has been great doing Muay Thai events. Like I said earlier, Muay Thai is my first love so to speak so it has been awesome being able to help promote it as a sport here in Texas. I honestly believe it is essential to have local Muay Thai events if for no other other reason than for fighters to hone their skills in that aspect of MMA. I believe that is essential in order for Houston to reach its potential as a fight town. From a business standpoint it is not very lucrative yet, but I love it and it is awesome to see so many gyms participating in these events. The combination of great local gyms that can attract fighters from all over the country, in addition to consistent events to hone skills, and local fighters continuing to climb the national ladder can only be a good thing for Houston.
What do you see as the future for USACA and your fight promotions? Any goals out there that you want to accomplish?
The USACA will continue with its mission of promoting the sport and building awareness. We are very proud of the charitable work we have been a part of since the beginning and will continue to be active in the Houston community. I would love for it (USACA) to one day be the equivalent to USA boxing but that is definitely long-term. Another goal would be to eventually open a gym similar to the PABA in third ward. Reverend Martin has offered free or inexpensive lessons to at-risk youth in that area for years and I would love to do the same thing at some point. I really think it is something that could happen very soon but it all comes down to time and volunteers. As far as Legacy, my goal is to be the Strikeforce of the South in terms of national exposure with Houston as our home base.
Anything else you’d like to add or talk about regarding Houston MMA and our scene?
As a community we are just scratching the surface. Obviously Saul Soliz, Eric Williams, Tim Mousel and others have helped pave the way as the original pioneers. The growth of the sport locally has been incredible. As long as we all work towards a common goal I can see Houston being similar to San Jose in terms of fight culture. That is the goal overall.
Thanks for your time Mick and we’ll see you at the fights!
For more on Legacy Fighting Championships and Lonestar Beatdown, please visit their website at www.legacyfightingchampionship.com. The next event will be September 18th at Houston’s Arena Theatre so make sure to buy your tickets soon!
Author’s Note – Thank you for continuing to delve into Houston MMA by reading my column. I wanted to let you guys know of our next charity event open for participation.If you’d like to do your part in helping within your local community, Barry Laminack has entered Team Houston MMA in the 2010 Komen Houston Race for the Cure in order to raise money and awareness in the fight against breast cancer. As captain of the non-competitive walking team, I’d be honored if you joined us and contributed to our cause. Every dollar helps so thanks ahead of time for anyone with the heart to be a part of this.