Imagine being only 50 years old and a Corporate Executive in the Casino industry? Would you coast along the rest of your life and be perfectly happy knowing you hold a great position and the title of Vice President? Would you take the risk of leaving your job in order to start your own fight promotion in hopes that a sport you love, catches on in the US?
That’s exactly what Scott Kent did and so far he’s been successful. In just a short amount of time Lion Fight Promotions has made big strides in the Muay Thia business and was just recently named 2011 Muay Thai “Promoter of The Year” by the WBC. Recently they signed an agreement to hold multiple events at The Joint in Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
This Saturday they’re back with another card featuring the highly anticipated rematch between Joe Schilling and Simon Marcus and recently CEO Scott Kent took the time to speak with MMAValor.com about the event and his future for Lion Fight Promotions.
Gerry Rodriguez: You were a corporate executive in the casino and resort industry, how in the world did you make the transition as CEO for Lion Fight Promotions?
Scott Kent: That’s a good question. I had trained in Muay Thai for 18yrs, trained in Thailand and it’s always been a passion of mine. Having been a casino executive, being involved for the casino business for 20 some years and being a corporate vice president, it allowed me to have a lot of contacts. Obviously I’ve been around the fight game for many years. When an opportunity came for me to make that transition, I turned 50, and decided I rather work for myself and make this sport blow up. I believe in Muay Thai. I think it’s something we can introduce into the national narrative of combat sports. It’s something that’s never really been done effectively before. We just felt the time was right, so I walked away from a successful casino career.(laughs)
Gerry Rodriguez: How did Lion Fight come together and how long has it been up and running?
Scott Kent: I have a partner, Christine Toledo, who is a former WCK Muay Thai champion. I’ve trained with her for several years. I decided to put together a team starting with her as the matchmaker. She’s very well-respected in the Muay Thai community; good business sense. We sat down with a number of fighters and we said, “What’s missing with promotion of Muay Thai in the United States?” A lot of the feedback we got was that there weren’t fights on a regular basis, small purses, no promotion-just a lot of inconsistencies in trying to develop a fan base to promote a sport. We took that information from the fighters and we sat down with a game plan of trying to combine local and regional fighters with major international talent and try to develop fan bases for each of the fighters individually and create an environment, where we can come to a place like the Hard Rock, which has a similar demographic as we feel our fight fan does and make it an exciting night for everybody to come and see what we feel is the most exciting form of fighting. That was really the genesis of Christine and I sitting down with the fighters approximately a year and a half ago.
Gerry Rodriguez: When you look at your business model, what’s the time frame for Lion Fight to be as successful as you want it to be?
Scott Kent: Well I think the next step is television. We had discussion with a number of television outlets as far an even broader audience. We broadcast our last few shows at Gofightlive which is an on-line service and we’ve had very good response from that. We sold out The Joint at the last event on our February fight. Our May 12 rematch is way ahead of the ticket sales for that. We look at this and say we have to build a consist local fan base, Las Vegas, California, Arizona, and the surrounding States where we can consistently fill a venue. To reach even broader audience is to have a television deal. I got Mike Afromowitz my PR guy out of New York who’s done an exceptional job in the national media in trying to synthesize that with what we’re doing here locally and borrow as much attention and get as much information about the fighters and their story.
Gerry Rodriguez: Obviously MMA is seeing a huge surge on television right now with the UFC on Fox and Bellator moving over to Spike TV next year, do you think we’ll ever see Muay Thai on a cable channel or a reality show similar to TUF?
Scott Kent: When I say a television deal, it would be not only broadcasting the shows but there would be collateral exposure to our fighters. They have amazing stories. Where they come from, the jobs they’re doing to supplement their income, the tradition of the sport itself. We have a sport very popular in Asia, very popular in Europe and it has a proud tradition that we are trying to tap into. One of the bigger challenges we face is taking a very cultural event and national sport of Thailand and adjust and tweak it a bit so that it’s palatable to the wider American audience.
Gerry Rodriguez: Can you say who you’ve been talking to or is it still too early to say?
Scott Kent: It’s probably too early. It looks like our July show will be broadcast with a company that will have upwards of 40 million viewers. That is a huge step for us. It was definitely on our list of priorities when we drew this up to really make this sport blow up. We’ve said from the get go, it’s an amazing sport. I brought casino execs, doctors, lawyers, everyone you could imagine to these events and they all want to come to the next one.
Gerry Rodriguez: Speaking of people you’ve brought out to your events, there’s a picture of you and Dana White at one of your events. What were his thoughts on what you’re doing with Lion Fight?
Scott Kent: Dana is one of the most down to earth people I’ve ever met. He’s been around Vegas many many years. He started in the gyms around here. We know a lot of the same people and he came and he sat throughout an entire fight. His son is a big Muay Thai fan. He loved the event. I’ve invited him to our next event, as other Zuffa executive, as well other top UFC fighters. His point and I’ve talked to Scott Coker about this too, being where we’re at in the short amount of time; it took the UFC 30-some million dollars before they made a dollar. They started from scratch and it was a long haul for these guys. We did the first UFC show at Mandalay Bay and it really wasn’t that well received. They had to adjust their product and they did and have been hugely successful in a bad economy. Dana’s point was focusing on securing your fighters; the one’s you think can be successful. You obviously want to sign them to a multi-fight agreement and he agreed television was the next step for us. He’s been very supportive as the MMA community has, about what we’re doing.
Gerry Rodriguez: You mentioned Dana agreeing you have to secure fighters you think have upside to contracts that go beyond a 1 fight deal. Have you identified any fighters yet?
Scott Kent: Joe Schilling was the first fighter we signed to a multi-fight contract after his destruction of Kaoklai. Joe’s got a great story, he’s an extremely likable guy and yet he’s got a very edgy persona in the ring. I think that translate when you’re around Joe and see his tremendous fan base. He’s the kind of fighter that you want. We have other fighters right now that we’re in discussion with. We’re very careful on who we bring on.
Gerry Rodriguez: You’ve trained in Muay Thai…have you ever had to use your skills?
Scott Kent: Yeah, on a couple of situations. More for control than anything else. It’s a confidence in yourself and being able to handle yourself. In my last position as the corporate VP of Security in addition to the corporate VP of Risk Management, as you can imagine with night clubs, there are occasions where you can utilize those tools if you have to (laughs).
Gerry Rodriguez: Last question, was the Simon Marcus throw legal or not?
Scott Kent: I will defer to the Athletic Commission and the sanctioning body of the WBC, at the time. By the way the fight ended with the controversy it kind of lends itself for an immediate rematch.
You can visit Lionfightpromotions.com or follow them on twitter @LFPLasVegas for additional information regarding Lion Fight