New England Fighting Association:All the Low-Down From the Ground-Up
Friday, Week Four, June 1996
I hadn't thought about Randi Mitchell in ages and what with the way we had ended things, I had good reason not to. That's why when my secretary told me that she was there to see me I was left speechless.
"Mr. Avatar? Did you hear me? I said Ms. Randi Mitchell is here to see you. Shall I send her in?" My secretary made up for her mediocre administrative skills with her blunt but polite manner. I fingered the intercom button on my phone and told her to send her in, then stood up and mentally prepared myself.
In the five seconds or so before she came in, our whole history flashed before my eyes; meeting as Freshman business students at Harvard, sharing our first kiss over a study date, successfully launching our search engine website, Randi selling the rights to our engine and then blowing the money on a bad real estate investment, and then our messy break-up afterwords. Never go into business with family or lovers I thought to myself.
The door to my small but adequately furnished office opened up and in stepped Randi, looking just as lovely (or maybe slightly better) as I remembered her.
"Randi...it's been..." I started but then found the words caught in my throat.
"Too long. I agree." Randi said in her delightfully light voice. She extended her hand and without thinking I took it and there we stood shaking hands until the moment grew awkward.
Shaking my head and clearing my throat I took my hand away from hers and pointed to a chair in front of my desk. "Please sit down. Can I get you anything to drink?" I asked as she sat down and I made my way around the desk.
Randi shook her head and laughed. "Oh Scott, you're just the same as I remember you; courteous to a fault. I know what you really want to say..."
"Oh, and what's that?" I said with just a little more venom than I meant.
"Well, I guess there's no sense bringing up the past. It looks like you've done well for yourself here. Nice little furniture store...even have a secretary."
"Yeah, it's not Bernie and Phyls but we do O.K. I've managed to pay off all the debts in case you cared to know. This," I said gesturing around the office, "is only temporary. In fact later today I'm meeting with a group of people who want to buy my business. But I'm sure that you're not here to listen to me talk about my furniture business, so what can I do for you?"
Randi paused before she answered, then taking a deep breath she went into a speech that sounded a little rehearsed. "Look Scott, I know that I really screwed things up before, both professionally and personally between us. I was young then, I thought I knew everything there was to know about the business world and I got taken by someone who took advantage of my youthful spirit. Since then I've changed and you'll be glad to know that I'm prepared to give you back all of the money that you lost in our venture together."
She reached down into her courier bag and pulled out a small envelope, put it on the desk and then slid it over to me. When I realized she wasn't going to say anything more, I picked up the envelope and opened it to see that there was certified check in the sum of $100,000. I set the check down and looked up at Randi.
"Well, thank you, this will certainly help me out with my next business venture..."
"Actually, that's what I really wanted to talk to you about. You see, two-thirds of that money is from other investors. And the only reason that they agreed to give the money is when I told them what my idea was...and that you would be a part of it."
Now it was my turn to shake my head and laugh. "Randi if you think that I would want to go back into business with you..." But then I stopped myself mid-sentence. Maybe it was something in her face, but there was such an earnest yearning, a desire to make-up for past mistakes that I relented, and in that moment buried any old grudges I had for her.
"What's your idea?"
Randi beamed from ear to ear as she dug back into her bag and pulled out a poster. Unfolding it onto my desk she stood up. "Scott, welcome to the company that's going to change the way the world looks at Mixed Martial Arts. The New England Fighting Association.
"Mixed Martial what?" I stammered as she reached back down into her bag again.
"Arts. And this is the man who's going to take us to the promised land. I hope you don't mind but I've already been in contact with him and he's very anxious to begin serious negotiations on a contract." She placed a file on my desk and opened it. On one side was a biography of someone he'd never heard of and on the other side was a picture, presumably also of the man he'd never heard of.
"Shane Gilchrist." Randi said in her most business-like voice. "He's the untapped jewel of the MMA world, and he's going to take us to the top. Well, until he loses to whoever the next up-and-comer may be. But we'll deal with that later. What do you think so far Scott?"
I sat back down in my chair, not having realized I had stood up. Part of me knew that I should just take the money and run, but another part of me knew that I didn't want to be running furniture stores the rest of my life.
"O.K., one thing at a time. What is Mixed Martial....uhh....?"
"Arts, Scott. It's a business that's about to explode and we've got a chance to get in before it does."
I wanted to say that it sounded like her real estate deal, but I held my tongue and let her fill me in on all the sorted details of this exciting but, as yet, virtually unknown sport in the U.S. market, at least not as anything more than a side-show to boxing.
When she finished I stood up and extended my hand. "Randi, this sounds like a wonderful business opportunity and, seeing as how this is money I never expected to get back anyways, I can't see anything but upside to this. So...partners again."
She reached out her hand and shook mine. There was no awkward pause this time, instead she pulled me over the desk and embraced me in a deep kiss. "Partners," she said after our lips disengaged. "And maybe a bit of a bonus plan. But for now I've got to go. Call me when you've sold you're ready to get NEFA going."
"NEFA? Oh, yeah, umm, sure." Dammit she had me flustered and I realized that she had played me like a fiddle...just like always. I smirked in spite of myself as she left my office. The intercom buzzed again and my secretary told me that the potential buyers were here to see me.
Five minutes later Avatar Furnishings was sold.
MMA...here comes NEFA!
Laying the Foundation
Monday, Week 1, July 1996
After having completed selling off my furniture company, I spent the rest of Friday cleaning out my office and then stopped at the video store on my way home to rent every MMA tape I could find. I managed to find 3 GAMMA shows and after watching "Nilsson vs. Foster" and "Foster vs. Nilsson II " I had to admit that I was sold on how great James Foster was.
After taking a break to make some popcorn, I popped in the tape of "Foster vs. Hughes" and settled in to enjoy the fight. I barely had enough time to eat two handfuls when Hughes hit a stinging right cross on Foster that sent my new favorite fighter stumbling back into the cage. Hughes didn't hesitate in advancing in and quickly hitting a left-right combo that sent Foster...America's MMA poster boy...crashing to the mat. The ref quickly jumped between them before Hughes could do anymore damage.
I sat there stunned as the announcer's gushed over the replay of that initial right cross. My God, I thought to myself, if someone who is an icon in the industry can be taken down in two minutes, then anyone has a chance at anytime of winning a fight.
I brought these same feelings up to Randi on Monday morning when I called her. To my surprise, she had already taken the liberty of leasing a building for our main office, and better yet it was just a short walk from the downtown crossing train station, so I wouldn't have to drive there. I met her at 10:00 that morning and was impressed with what she had done in two days time.
"Scott, I'm glad that you're on board. Now, of course, seeing as you're president and all, you'll have final say on everything, but I've taken the liberty of hiring on some people for some of the...well, mundane tasks." She said after handing me a steaming cup of coffee.
"Mundane tasks?" I asked while sipping the surprisingly tasty cup o' joe.
"Well, things like our marketing, administration, production...you know, the small details."
"Randi, in a start-up company, there's no such thing as small details."
"Well, look here's the paperwork on what they've done so far, like I said you're the president so you can change their decisions if you want. But I'm sure you want to get to the good stuff...hiring our next superstar."
"Yeah, like I was saying to you on the phone..."
"Scott, everyone in the business knows that James Foster is a paper champion. As in, he looks good on paper, especially posters, but when it comes down to facing some real competition...well, you saw the results."
"So, if "everyone" knows this, then why does GAMMA keep him? Why would anyone want to build their company around him?"
"Scott," she sighed and then inspiration struck her. "Think of fighters as stocks. Some are great, some are bad...some are O.K. but have some name value behind them. So you pump up the value of the stock...which in the MMA world would mean feeding them fighters you know they can beat, and then you hold a big Pay-Per-View event and then...well, then it doesn't matter what happens. If he wins, great the people go home happy and can't wait to pay you to see him continue winning at the next event."
"And if he loses, then you've got yourself both a new champion for people to fall in love with and the fallen hero they can't wait to see make a comeback." I finished the thought for her.
"Hey, all those Harvard school loans are paying for themselves. You've got it exactly. That's why I'm so keen on getting fighters that are exciting to watch, nobody wants to see two submission fighters tangle on the mat for 15 minutes. Sure it might be the most technically sound match in the world, but it's a dud in the ratings. But you get someone who can end a fight with one swift hook or uppercut...ratings bonanza!"
I sipped my coffee as I thought about what she was saying. I smiled as I realized that even thought I knew very little about MMA, didn't mean I couldn't be a successful businessman in it.
"So, Mr. President allow me to show you to your office. I think you'll like the view." I followed her down a hallway and she opened a door that had a plaque with my name and title on it. I stepped inside and indeed I did like the view.
"Now I've loaded up a database of all the world's current fighters, as well their contact information. Of course the fighters in the big two, GAMMA and ALPHA-1, are on exclusive contracts, but it doesn't hurt to keep tabs on them. But before you start hiring people, we need to decide on classes?"
The blank look on my face caused Randi to smile. "Weight classes Scott. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a regulated state, so we need to have defined weight classes in order for our fights to be sanctioned. Sure we could try to have a 151 pound guy fight someone weighing 260, but the board would never allow it. So we divide our workers up into classes with a weight range of 20 or 30 pounds to keep things fair and competitive."
After a few minutes we had hammered out what we thought would be a good starting set of classes for our company.
Lightweight: 146 to 160
Middleweight: 161 to 185
Light Heavyweight: 186 to 209
Randi said she knew a guy in town who would make up our championship belts for each division, which just left us with our rules of our fights to deal with. After looking over the guidelines set forth by the Unified Rules of MMA, I decided that the only thing I would change from Randi's suggestions is to have our championship fights go for 5 rounds of 5 minutes each.
Randi set off to talk to the belt maker and I fired up my computer to start negotiating with some workers. I saw that Randi already had sent an email to Shane Gilchrist so I figured I would start with looking for some other competition in our heavyweight division.
I was surprised when 27 names came back to me because that meant I could be a little finicky about who I wanted to negotiate with. First I looked at fighters who had been labeled as "exciting" to see what would come up.
Well, looking at workers who were considered at least "decent" for excitement left with me 9 names (besides Gilchrist who was by far the best out of everyone). I was surprised to see that Gunnar Nillson was unemployed and currently living in Europe. I wasn't sure what the chances would be of him coming back to the states to work for a small company like ours but I figured it was worth an email.
All in all I contacted 19 fighters to possibly be in our Heavyweight Division figuring that at least a handful of them would pass on us. I then went through the same process with each of our other divisions, except for the womens which I wanted to hold out on hiring until we were a little more established.
I next turned my attention to the file Randi had giving me on the "administrative" side of things. Firstly, the finances looked pretty well set in Randi's hands, keeping our ticket prices at an average setting and the comp tickets at a medium would help draw in crowds to our first shows so I left that in her hands.
Next I turned to production. Randi had hired someone with experience of setting up arena's for boxing matches and he seemed to have a pretty good handle on things. While I was tempted to tell him to cut corners and save a few dollars, I didn't feel that the savings would be big enough for the hit we'd take on production value, so again I left things in his hands.
Marketing was a whole different story...their estimated budget for the month was $71,750! Which was 3/4 of our whole cash reserves. I called up the person Randi listed as the head of marketing and said that for now I was going to handle the marketing budget and wanted him to just focus on promoting our company to Massachusetts at a "medium" level. This cut the budget almost in half to $33,000 but I figured the sooner we could boost our popularity in our home state, the sooner that popularity would pour over into some other states.
Next up the sponsors...we didn't have any. So I contacted some small and regional companies in the USA that I thought might want to support our little organization and hoped I would hear from them soon.
Looking at our merchandising department, I realized that for just a little extra money we could drastically increase our chances of repeat buyers (which is important when you're only going to be running shows in one are for a while) so I told our department head to raise our stock quality to high so we could be a cut above our competition.
Lastly our media department was being handled by another Randi hire who was a former newspaper editor. He really seemed to know what he was talking about and his budget wasn't extravagant by any means so I left things under his control.
With all that taken care of, I looked up at the clock and realized it was almost 5:00pm. Man where does the day go! I packed up my briefcase and shut down my computer before taking one last look out the window and then walking out. Randi was at the front entrance talking with a familiar looking women...my old secretary!
"Scott...I'd like you to meet you new...and old assistant."
"Mrs. Whenche, what a...pleasent surprise."
"Mr. Avatar, I'm very pleased to be working with you again. Just so you know, you currently don't have a show scheduled or any events. Also you don't have sponsors in place."
"That will be all for today Mrs. Whenche, we'll see you tomorrow." Randi escorted her out of the office and then turned to smile at me. "I thought maybe you could use an assistant, and I was very surprised that she was a huge fan of MMA, she's going to work out well."
"I...ahh...yeah, that's great. Well, I'm tired and heading home for the night. I sent you an email of everyone I contacted today, things are shaping up, hopefully we'll hear from most of them soon so we can set-up our first show."
"Well, Mr. President, what a busy day you've had," Randi cooed as she looked at her blackberry. "You must be very tired..."
"Goodnight Randi." I said cutting her off before she could start up...well whatever it was she was about to do.
I went home and took a shower.
A long one.
I used mostly cold water.
Last edited by Trackersan : 12-19-2007 at 05:37 AM. Reason: Edited Women's Heavyweight maximum weight