A day in the life of an MMA matchmaker: ProMMAnow.com talks to Shine Fights’ Ron Foster

When Shine Fights matchmaker Ron Foster sat down and penciled in MMA veteran Din Thomas to face the former three-time world champion boxer Ricardo Mayorga as the main event for “Shine Fights 3: Worlds Collide,” he probably never expected the fireworks that would occur leading up to the fight.  First there was the press conference, which got extremely heated as verbal jabs between the two fighters turned physical.

Next was the cease and desist order sent by Don King Productions, claiming all promotional rights to Ricardo Mayorga.  Shine Fight Promotions immediately released a statement dismissing King’s threats, with Shine Fight Promotions CEO Devin Price adding, “Shine Fights has a valid and exclusive promotional contract with Ricardo Mayorga for mixed martial arts.”

The main event of Thomas vs. Mayorga is just one of many intriguing match-ups that will be featured at “Shine Fights 3: Worlds Collide” this Saturday, May 15, live from The Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville, NC.  The event will be broadcast live on PPV, beginning at 9:00 p.m. ET (6:00 p.m. PT).

Getting the fighters to sign bout agreements and step into the cage to face each other is just the beginning for the matchmaker.  He is often the one that takes unfair criticism if the fights fail to materialize and unfold the way fans expected.  At the same time, the matchmaker can look like a genius if the event lives up to, or exceeds expectations.

Foster, along with Devin and Dorian Price, have taken Shine Fights, a promotion barely a year old, to where it sits now, with a card stacked with international talent for their “Shine Fights 3: Worlds Collide” event.

ProMMAnow.com recently caught up with Ron Foster to see exactly what it’s like to mix and match his roster of international talent, to build the most intriguing match-ups to create a cohesive and exciting fight card.

ProMMAnow.com – How did this gig come up?  What makes Shine Fights different than other organizations?

Ron Foster – The things that we are doing are different.  Number one is, that Dorian, obviously he was on TUF, he is an MMA fighter.  Myself, I’ve had a couple of MMA fights, and have done jiu jitsu tournaments.  We just thought that it would be better, if the organization was ran by fighters.  We can understand a little bit more where these guys are coming from, some of their requests, and some of the things they say also.  We decided  if we wouldn’t like what an organization was doing to us, we would try not to do it to our fighters.  That’s one thing that’s going to separate us from some of the other organizations.

I’m in the Army as well… I’ve been in the Army for 14 years on active duty, so just watching the whole program start up with the Army combatives.  It just kind of gave me an insight into the aspects of the game.  They really went into a lot of detail about setting up stuff, running tournaments, so that was another thing that sparked my interest in it as well.

ProMMAnow.com – I can see that.  The military seems to be like a big farm system as well…

Ron Foster – Exactly, right now I’m also an Army recruiter, so I talk to all these kids, and they love the UFC, they love MMA.  So as a recruiter I can come and talk to all these guys and explain how the Army runs their combatives program, and how the Army got me involved in Mixed Martial Arts.  It’s a great recruiting tool to get people into the Army as well.

ProMMAnow.com – How do you find the time to serve your country full time, and still fulfill your duties with Shine Fights?

Ron Foster – It’s very difficult, but I look at the potential that Shine Fights has got, and I think it’s something that we have that is special and will be around for a long time.  I have six years to go before I retire from the Army, and I want to have something solid to fall back on, and I think Shine is going to be what that is for me.

ProMMAnow.com – That seems very difficult.  Many fans think that they can just throw some names around and  make fights, this striker against this wrestler, etc.  What is a day in the life of a matchmaker like in reality?

Ron Foster – The day in the life of an MMA matchmaker…. is really studying each individual fighter, and right now I’m getting emails from Russia, China, Japan, Brazil, from all of these countries from all over the world.  So it’s up to me to really sit down, sift through these names, see if they could potentially be that big draw, see if they could be that next big superstar.  Trying to make sure that the matches I put together are going to spark people’s interest, and try not to piss everybody off.  You know, you start finding fighters, and every fighter wants to be on the first card.  And as the matchmaker you have to tell somebody, “Yeah man we signed you but we can’t put you on this first card.”   You get bombarded with emails, phone calls, and nasty-grams.  Before I got into this man, I thought matchmaking was easy, you know, but, I really had to take a step back.  I really have a lot of respect for Joe Silva, I don’t know how he does it.  I’m doing it on a small scale, and he’s getting it 10 times worse then I’m getting it.  It’s not as easy as it what it seems like.

ProMMAnow.com – You mentioned how many phone calls and emails you get now, how has that changed since you guys first started promoting fights?

Ron Foster – In the beginning, I had very few people who would give me a shot.  I was training in Hawaii, and when I left Hawaii, I went to Virginia and trained with Mario Yamasaki, and Fernando Yamasaki.  I trained with those guys for a few years, and being around that, it gave me a little peak inside the door, but when it came to me calling and saying, “Hey we are putting on a fight, do you guys have anybody interested in fighting?”  It was kind of like, “What is this kid talking about?”  There were a lot of phones hanging up and doors slamming, but there was a couple of guys that gave us a shot.  Marc Fiore from The H.I.T. squad, Rick McCoy from the Fight Institute, and my family back at the 808 Fight Factory, Ron Jhun, Niko Vitale, Harris Sarmeinto, and Jason Nicholson.  Those guys opened up the door to me, and they really helped give us a shot, they helped us get to where we are today.  Alex Davis from ATT, they really helped us out by giving us an opportunity, and we took advantage of the opportunity, and turned it into gold.

ProMMAnow.com – You mentioned earlier about finding guys all over the world, is it one of your missions to get these international guys and make them stars in the U.S.?

Ron Foster – Yeah definitely, obviously in the U.S. we have great fighters, but if you look in the UFC, a majority of them are international fighters.  I feel like, that we are in the states, and we can get those guys in the states, but I think it’s also important to bring in those guys from other places, that people have never heard of, but when they see them fight, they are instantly going to become fans.  What that does is bring in the international markets into the MMA world here.  We are looking to gain fans not only in the U.S., but also all over the world.  If I can go to Poland and get one of the best Polish fighters, bring him into the U.S. and fight, building up his fan base here, and also as an organization we can be a household name in Poland, or in Japan, Brazil, all over the place.  That’ s really what our main goal is.  To be that international brand that people all over the world knows about.

ProMMAnow.com – That’s whats up!  Talk about “Cacareco” real quick.

Ron Foster – A lot of people may not be familiar with “Cacareco” or who he is.  This guy is a beast, he’s one of these guys that nobody wants to fight.  He might not have a big name in the U.S., but the people that know who he is, they are not going to fight him.  He’s that guy we are going to bring to the states and he’s going to do big things.

ProMMAnow.com – Yeah, he’s won 17 of 18 by sub right?

Ron Foster – Right, and his last seven fights have lasted a total of nine minutes.

ProMMAnow.com – That is super impressive.  You guys have Jamal Patterson slated to face him right?

Ron Foster – Yeah, Jamal stepped up.  We had a lot of people saying “no way” to facing “Cacareco”, but Jamal stepped up.  A lot of people don’t give Jamal the credit he deserves, this guy is a beast.  But man, you look at who he fought, I mean, his pro debut he fought Matt Horwich and submitted him, submitted him twice!!  Now days though, there are UFC fans, and there are MMA fans, they probably have 75% of the fans, and for most of them, if it’s not about the UFC, they don’t care.

ProMMAnow.com – So how do you see the Cacareco vs. Patterson fight going down?

Ron Foster – Man, I have no idea…. I know Patterson’s fights, all five of them have been wins by submission.  “Cacareco”, almost all of his wins are by submission, he hasn’t lost a fight in almost four years, he’s focused, training with Chute Boxe… I just can’t call it!!  That’s going to be a crazy fight.

ProMMAnow.com – Is that one of the coolest things about being a matchmaker?  Just sitting back and watching how the fights unfold?

Ron Foster – It’s almost like building a castle.  You sit back, and you put the frame together and it doesn’t look like nothing, you put the roof on, it still doesn’t look like nothing.  You don’t really see it until the finished product is totally complete.  As a matchmaker, I don’t feel like I get vindication until the fight is there, and it’s happening, and the fans are happy.  If the fans aren’t happy, then I’m not happy.

ProMMAnow.com – You made a great point earlier about MMA fans vs. UFC fans, like you said, some people only care what happens in the UFC.

Ron Foster – Yeah like I said, you look at guys outside of the UFC.  Anderson Silva, Machida, they were big names before the UFC, but nobody gave them respect until they signed with the UFC.  I remember when Anderson Silva came to the UFC and beat Chris Leben, everybody was bitching that he got a title shot after one fight, but now he’s regarded as the number one P4P fighter in the world because he’s in the UFC.  He was doing the same thing he is doing now, except it was outside of the UFC, and since it was, it didn’t matter.  Same thing with Machida, he knocked Rich Franklin out, he beat B.J. Penn, Stephen Bonnar,  he was beating people the same way but nobody was paying attention because he wasn’t in the UFC.

ProMMAnow.com – The promotion has grown very quickly so far, what is the response to what you guys are doing now?

Ron Foster – I get a lot of hate mail man.  A lot of people saying “You guys are going to fail, blah, blah blah.”  We’ve worked so hard.  There are three of us, me, Devin, and Dorian.  We’ve basically started from absolutely nothing, and in less then a year, got a TV deal.  Our first fight was May 9th of 2009, and we’ve came this far in one year.  We bust our butts and all of this hard work is going to pay off.  Devin is driven man, he’s the type of guy that refuses to fail, and when you have a guy like that as a leader, it makes you feel the same way.  We will not fail.  We are going to make it man, this is not a one fight deal, we are going to push this fight and we are going to be successful.

A lot of people are loyal to the brand.  They don’t even look at the fighters, they look at the brand.  I don’t want them to be loyal just to the brand, I want them to pay attention to the fighters.  I think that if you look at our fighters one by one, you take each fighter, look at his videos, what he’s done, the style, stuff like that, it’s going to make people really become fans of the fighters.  If you can look at the website, and you walk away saying “Man, they got 45 people on there, and I want to see all 45 of them fight,” then they are going to also follow Shine.  We want the fighters to be first, people will follow the fighters and that will bring them to us.  That’s something that is my main goal, to get the fighters the most attention.

ProMMAnow.com – That has to go a long way when you negotiate with fighters if they can buy into your “for the fighters’ philosophy.

Ron Foster – Definitely man.  It’s about the fighters.  They are the workhouse of the organization.  They are the one building the sport, they are the one putting their health on the line for the sport and for this company.  The least we can do is make the fighters happy, a happy worker will work a lot harder for you than somebody that hate being here, you know what I mean?

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