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Interview: XFC President John Prisco on promotion’s plans for 2012

XFC President John Prisco orchestrating the XFC 16 set-up at Knoxville Civic Auditorium-Coliseum in Knoxville, Tenn. Photo by Josh Cross for ProMMAnow.com

The Xtreme Fighting Championships (XFC) and President John Prisco kicked off what is set to be a historic year for promotion last week when it held XFC 16: High Stakes in Knoxville, Tenn.

Not only was XFC 16 the first event of the promotion’s new eight fight deal with HDNet, but it also was the start of a 2012 road trip for the Tampa, Fla. based promotion.  

The XFC recently announced  it would return to Tennessee for two more consecutive shows with XFC 17 taking place in Jackson and XFC 18 being held in Nashville. Following those two events the XFC will be visiting a new state for XFC 19.

ProMMAnow.com (www.prommanow.com) spoke with Prisco hours before XFC 16 about the organization’s lofty goals for 2012, the possible new location for XFC 19, breakout fighters and why he disagrees with UFC President Dana White about women’s MMA.

PRO MMA NOW: Looking back to 2011, what do you think was the biggest event for the XFC?

JOHN PRISCO: Our biggest event was our last event, which was actually at the St. Pete Times Forum. That was in December and was XFC 15. That event just received a tremendous amount of feedback from our fans and from other people in the sport. I would have to say that XFC 15 was probably our biggest event to date. It seems like every event we do we raise the bar a little bit every time. Now 2011 only saw a couple of fights for the XFC because at the time we were actually restructuring our T.V. deal, and we were also bringing on a couple more partners so we can do a real aggressive schedule, which is what we’ve got in 2012.

PRO MMA NOW: After XFC 16 in Knoxville the XFC is returning to Tennessee for XFC 17 in April and XFC 18 in June. Can you talk about the decision run three consecutive shows in the state and what the Tennessee market means to the XFC?

JOHN PRISCO: Well you know that we were the first pro show ever in Tennessee, so right then there was kind of a special relationship between us and the people of Tennessee. We have good contacts in the state and there are great fighters in Tennessee. It’s one of those states that’s geographically almost like independent markets, so we didn’t think there would be an issue doing consecutive fights in different parts of the state. We wanted to send a message that we are here to support Tennessee and support their fighters, so we figured what better way than to just go and do a little mini tour of Tennessee.

PRO MMA NOW: Now the XFC’s Twitter account (@OfficialXFC) teased that XFC 19 will be in a state that the promotion hasn’t been to previously. Can you give us any more details on the potential location?

JOHN PRISCO: Well, I can tell you that XFC 19 is either going to probably be in Louisville or it’s going to be in Charlotte. Once we have everything under contract then of course we’ll announce the specific location, but it will be in one of those two cities.

PRO MMA NOW: We talked last year about the XFC doing international shows. Can you give us an update on the XFC and international expansion in 2012?

JOHN PRISCO: I don’t look to do international shows, but they just seem to come at us. People know that we’re an extremely organized group in MMA, and that we have the ability to travel to the other side of the world and do the same kind of quality show that we do right here in the United States. Are we going to go into the international markets again? Absolutely. Where? I’m not sure. Possibly Canada.

PRO MMA NOW: Now the XFC is known for having a good eye for talent and for recognizing those fighters early on in their careers. Is there any fighter that you expect will have a breakout year in 2012 that fans might not know about currently?

JOHN PRISCO: Well, we have a gentleman who is new to us and is a three-time All-Army Combatives Champion. We opened up a super heavyweight division just for this guy. We didn’t have that division until Brandon Sayles stepped into our cage. Brandon is 2-0 as a pro. He is 300 pounds, 6 foot 5 inches, and all muscle. It’s incredible. He’s in great shape and he’s a tremendous athlete. He serves our country as well. I found out about him from my buddy who was the first black belt ever given by Royce Gracie. He teaches Combatives at Fort Benning, and he kept telling me about Brandon. I took a look at him and decided that I had to get this guy in my cage. He fought on our last card and he pretty much destroyed Imani Lee in the first round. Now I have him fighting an ex UFC vet who has seven wins and four losses. It’s a big step up for Brandon, but I expect great things from him.

PRO MMA NOW: Do you think you’ll have any issues finding fights for Brandon at super heavyweight?

JOHN PRISCO: No. People kept saying, “You’re not going to find opponents for him.” Sure you can. You find a heavyweight that normally fights around 265 and you let him know two months out so he’s eating his pasta and stuff and not cutting to 265.

PRO MMA NOW: One fighter that had a really breakout year at the end of 2011 was Nick Newell. Can you talk about what he means to the XFC and what you think 2012 will have in store for him?

JOHN PRISCO: Well, we signed him long-term. He is with us for a couple of years. He’s an inspiration and a talented fighter. When Nick was at our open fighter tryouts in Connecticut he was one of the semi-finalists. We had over 100 guys tryout. Nick was in the top 10, so Nick is legit. Now the reason why I didn’t take Nick at that time was because he hadn’t made his pro debut and I didn’t want people to think that I was actually picking Nick because of his handicap. I don’t like calling it a handicap because I don’t think it is in Nick’s case, but for the sake of argument that’s why I stayed away. Nick won five fights in a row, and he won them all in the first round. I think most of them were in the first minute. He showed everyone what I already knew, so we signed him with the XFC.

PRO MMA NOW: What was some of the feedback you’ve gotten since Nick Newell’s XFC debut, and do you think that he has quashed any lingering questions about the safety of him competing in MMA?

JOHN PRISCO: You know one of the reasons why I waited was that I wanted to be able to push back a little bit on those types of questions. So I can say, “Hey look, the guy is 5-0 as a pro, and he finished professional fighters in the first round. If Nick is not legitimate now, when is he going to be legitimate? Does he have to win 20 in a row first? If he does, does everybody have to win 20 in a row first?” If that were the case then I wouldn’t have a fight card tonight. Nick is legitimate, and I’m glad that we’re promoting him. Nick deserves to be in the cage, and we’re proud of him.

PRO MMA NOW: Now the XFC is a big supporter of women’s MMA with female bouts being featured prominently on the cards. Can you talk about the state of women’s MMA in the XFC and maybe address some of the criticism that it has received throughout the industry?

JOHN PRISCO: Listen, the negative talk comes because Dana White is against females in MMA. Let’s be honest. A lot of people like to carry his water, and God bless him, because if it wasn’t for Dana White we wouldn’t be doing shows. But there are people out there that if Dana White says something it becomes gospel. Listen, I put girls in my cage for multiple fights. The people love it, they’re extremely talented, and they’re athletes. Why don’t they deserve to compete? They will continue to compete for the XFC, and they will be on every bout card. They’re going to get at least one fight on that card because they deserve to be there just like Nick Newell deserves to be there. I don’t buy into that belief that females don’t belong. They’re athletes. Would you want to mess with those girls? I’ve very excited about our female division. They have some of the best fights we have, and these girls throw down. They’re just tremendous athletes.

PRO MMA NOW: Looking ahead to the rest of 2012, what is the main goal that the XFC has that it wants to accomplish by the end of the year?

JOHN PRISCO: Well the XFC has signed to do eight fights with HDNet in 2012. We’re on our way to do that. We have four fights in the next five months. There is going to be a lot of news coming from the XFC. Our viewership is growing dramatically. Our website is completely blowing up. We’re getting picked up by cable networks almost weekly. We’re up to 70 million homes that see us one to two times a week. There are other networks that are interested in airing the XFC in addition to HDNet, so all kinds of great things are happening for us. By the end of 2012 we are going to be a household name.

PRO MMA NOW: Anything else you want to add?

JOHN PRISCO: Watch out world. We’re coming, and we’re not stopping until we get there.

For more news and information about the XFC visit their website at OfficialXFC.com, follow them on Twitter at @OficialXFC and follow John Prisco on Twitter at @JohnXFC.

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