HardRock MMA 7: Jealousy is Earned Post-Event Commentary (June 2, 2009)

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the HardRock MMA 7: Jealousy is Earned show in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. It was the first HardRock show I attended, but I’ll definitely be going back. In addition to the fact that the audience got to see a massive fight card – eighteen MMA fights and two grappling matches – I was pleased with how the promotion was run and also the audience reaction to everything. Sometimes today, MMA fans get caught up in the glam and glitz of the high level productions the UFC puts on and in doing that, forget about these regional promotions that are not only more affordable to go to but put on often equally exciting fights are in fact the breeding ground for fighters that end up in promotions like the UFC.

The show went pretty quickly despite the large number of fights. Including two intermissions, the show lasted 2 hours and 48 minutes. Out of the eighteen MMA fights, only three went past the first round, but those three were equally as exciting as the ones that ended quickly.

On the most recent episode of my new radio show, Cageside Seats , brought to you by the Fight Ticker Radio Network, co-host Mike Menninger and I discussed the quick endings of a number of these amateur fights that we’ve attended around the tri-state area and the possible explanations for that. There are a number of reasons that these fights could end so quickly, but the reason that Mike and I both think is most plausible is the “unknown” factor of amateur fighters. At a number of the regional shows I’ve attended, a lot of fighters made their amateur MMA debuts. Given that, it can be hard to matchmake for these fights because promoters and matchmakers just don’t know what a fighter is truly capable of until he steps in the cage. Blame shouldn’t be placed on a promoter or matchmaker – in fact, I think they should be applauded for their efforts because without them, who would give these fighters a chance? Fighters have to start somewhere, and regional promotions like HardRock are just the place because the fighters get a chance to get in front of a decent-sized crowd (there were somewhere between 400-500 people at the HardRock show), they can start developing a local fanbase and relationships with various people in the industry.

Additionally, fighters who fight for promotions like HardRock can get the chance at some opportunities that might not have had otherwise. Take, for example, Phil White and TJ Barber – my choice for the FightTicker.com Fight of the Night . Due to their impressive performance in the cage, both White and Barber were given the opportunity to attend, for free, a seminar that former UFC fighter Dan Christison put on the day after the show. As Mike and I discussed on our radio show, amateur fighters generally don’t get paid. Sometimes the promoters help cover their travel expenses, but the fighters don’t get paid to fight – however, when they put on an impressive performance, they can get other rewards, like the chance to attend the Christison seminar, and to talk to guys like Christison and pro fighter Chad Corvin, both of whom were there as referees. I spent some time talking with Christison before the show and I briefly caught up with Corvin afterwards and as always, both guys were fun to talk to. A number of other pros were there as well including Ron Sparx, Casey Oxendine, Donny Wallace, Scott Porter and Erick Jordan, to name a few. And in addition to getting to fight in front of guys like this, the fighters got the chance to fight in front of a truly appreciative crowd.

Not once during the eighteen MMA fights and two grappling matches did I hear a single “boo” from the audience, or a call to “stand them up”. Sure, sometimes there should be “boos” and sometimes the ref should stand the fighters up, but I think crowds today often want quick action and are willing to sacrifice the chance to see good fights for it, and that’s unfortunate. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of quick KOs and submissions, and the crowd at HardRock didn’t have to wait long for most of the finishes. However, during the fights that went the distance, nobody boo’d when it went past the first or second round – instead, I saw a crowd really get into the show, yelling for knees whenever the fighters would clinch up and screaming their approval when someone landed a big slam or landed a big leg kick that brought a loud “smack” and giving all the fighters a lot of applause after the fights were over.

Something else I saw a lot of at HardRock was a solid team dynamic and support. Take the ETown Beatdown and BG Beatdown fight teams (both run under the tutelage of Josh Johnson, one of Kentucky’s few BJJ blackbelts). By my count, the Beatdown teams went 9-1 on the night, and the lone loss by TJ Barber was, as I’ve said, an impressive performance that earned him my Fight of the Night honors. At each fight, other fighters from the team were there cheering their teammates on and quick to congratulate them after the wins. However, even the teams who didn’t fare so well still showed a lot of support with some fighters not even going back to the locker room after a loss because one of their teammates was fighting next and they wanted to stay to help corner.

Regional promotions like HardRock not only put on great shows but they do so at a cost to the fans that is much less than that of its larger counterparts like the UFC. For prices like $25, the fans can get a great seat to be close to the action. Additionally, at shows like this, the fans get a chance to see some strong up and coming fighters like White and Barber, and even Etown Beatdown’s Chad Deener, who will be challenging Team Animal’s Bobby Carter for the HardRock MMA 205 Championship this weekend at the HardRock show in King’s Mountain, Kentucky. If you happen to be in the area, I strongly recommend you check it out – there are another 18 MMA matches and 2 grappling matches scheduled for the event and there are bound to be some more great fights.

I also liked the fact that they allowed grappling matches. Although HardRock MMA is not the only promotion in Kentucky to do this, they are only one of two that I am aware of. I think this is great for the people under the age of 18 because it also gives them a chance to see what it is like to step into a cage and compete in front of a crowd.

While the HardRock show did not have the same production value as a UFC show (and their normal announcer was unavailable due to a previous commitment) don’t let the label of “regional promotion” fool you – there was some good media coverage at the event. Besides myself handling the live blog, purefight.org was there videotaping the fights as well as watchtammytv.com, another source for good MMA videos from this region. Besides, when you go to an MMA event, what are you really there to watch – some flashy videos or some exciting fights? While I do enjoy all the pre-fight videos and hype of the larger promotions, I go to shows for the fights – and HardRock delivered.

For more information on upcoming shows, including this weekend’s event in Kings Mountain, Kentucky, check out HardRock's website.


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