Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Bleachers' Brew #364 Joining the Fight Club

Loren Mack (far right) with UFC fighters in Afghanistan.
This appears in the Monday, March 18, 2013 edition of the Business Mirror.

Joining the Fight Club
by rick olivares

Loren Mack is six feet flat and weighs 185 pounds; good enough for a middleweight fighter.

However, Mack, a native New Yorker who went to the University of Las Vegas Nevada (UNLV) at the time when Jerry Tarkanian’s Runnin’ Rebels ruled US NCAA basketball, is one who instead of fighting in the cage, prowls the outside with inquisitive eyes as he helps set up one of the biggest mixed martial arts in the world.

“I took business courses and minored in political science at UNLV,” recounted Mack of his younger days. “I was hoping to manage one of Las Vegas' incredible hotels. I read in the news a year or two before I decided to go to UNLV that the General Manager of the Venetian Hotel & Casino received a $25 million dollar bonus for meeting the company’s targets. After reading that story I figured there would be no better place in the USA to go to college compared to Vegas.”

But life threw a curveball at Mack. While still in college, he was offered an internship at the fledging Ultimate Fighting Championship; more popularly known by its acronym, UFC. “I didn’t know much about MMA at the time,” recounted Mack. “I soon found out that it is the most dynamic combat sport in the world.”

He quickly learned the ropes and although based in Las Vegas, he did a lot of business in his hometown of New York City despite the sport being banned in the Empire State. Mixed Martial Arts is banned in New York because of the belief of local lawmakers that the sports is violent and can only breed more violence.

“The media in the city is very supportive as are the TV networks and sponsors,” recalled Mack of the efforts by not only the UFC but also other MMA organizations to repeal the ban on the sport in the media capital of the world. “There are millions of fans throughout the state of New York. Some of the best MMA writers in the sport work for New York-based publications. Not to mention NY has incredible MMA gyms and some of the world’s best fighters. I’m sure we will see MMA sanctioned in NY in my lifetime.”

While working in Indonesia, a colleague of Mack’s conducted an interview with Victor Cui, Chief Executive Officer of the fledging One Fighting Championship out of Singapore. His colleague introduced him to Cui who found out his history with Zuffa, Llc., the parent entity behind the UFC. “I was already in the MMA business and I wanted to see if One FC would be a good company to work with,” recalled Mack. “I heard a lot about the vision of One FC, the markets that they wanted to go into and how they were going to go into these markets. We discussed the top fighter prospects in Asia and how we where going to continue to make One FC the top promotion in Asia. After a few conversations with Victor, I realized that One FC is going to be the largest MMA promotion in Asia. And now look at where we are after just a year. We are without a doubt the largest in Asia and the sky is limit. 

One FC has helped unite the top MMA outfits in Asia from Dream to Glory to Road FC and to URCC to name a few. In its two years of existence, One FC has held sold out shows in Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, and Singapore.

Glowed Mack of One FC’s achievements: “We have 90% of the top fighters in Asia under exclusive contract. Plus, all of the best gyms are a part of the One FC network.”  

His baptism of fire in the One FC was the March 2012 event “War of the Lions” that was held in Singapore. It was there when Mack became fully aware of the power and potential for growth of MMA in Asia. Recalled Mack: “I was instantly blown away by how impressive the entire production felt. The atmosphere in the arena was electric. The quality of the fights were amazing. One FC is truly like a Las Vegas style fight in Asia.”

The One FC has watched with a keen eye the development of MMA in the Philippines. Mack himself, is a fan: “Filipino fighters are generally some of the toughest guys I've seen not just in Asia but in the whole world. They are scrappy and tenacious and never back down from a fight. Our Filipino fighters (in the One FC) continue to impress and are all at the top of their respective division. The guys from Team Lakay train at an altitude that might explain their impressive cardio. Honorio Banario is already featherweight champion and I would not be surprised if we see several Filipino champions in One FC soon. When you watch a Filipino fighter it’s watching someone fight not just for themselves but an entire nation.”

The response to Filipino fighters was terrific that when One FC came to Manila last year, One FC had to put out the biggest MMA event the country had seen to date. “There was a lot of pressure because Manila is the fight capital of Asia,” said Mack. “Filipinos are fight fans who know their tactics. So we knew everything that we had to do needed to be the best. Everything we did in Manila started to exceed expectations from the first press conference.

In the press conference held at the Discovery Suites in July of 2012, over 200 media types were in attendance ensuring maximum exposure. Noted Mack of the presscon, “The look and feel was identical to the days when Mike Tyson used to square off against his opponents with lots of cameras flashing, a lot of noise and the feeling of adrenaline pumping you can only get when it is fight night. I thought ‘Pride of a Nation’ (in September of 2012) had a great fight card with a lot of exciting fights. Over 15,000 people filled the famous Araneta coliseum to witness the largest MMA promotion in the Philippines.”

With another expected blockbuster in Singapore in April’s ‘Champion vs. Champion’ event at the Kallang Indoor Stadium and a May return to the Philippines, Mack, the kid from New York City, is having the time of his life in Asia. “I get to visit different countries, meet lots of people, be a part of the growth of a dynamic sport and get a front row seat to the best MMA fights in Asia. Not bad, right?”

With Eric Kelly and Peter Davis as guests in a radio show.

Supervising Honorio Banario's post-match interview with the media at Kuala Lumpur. I am to the left of Banario.

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