Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Pav Says... Memories Aplenty at UFC 82

Originally posted by Ken Pavia [ken-pavia] on on MMA Junkie on Mar 05, 2008 at 4:31 pm

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In one of the first MMA events I ever attended in person, a WEC show in Leemore, Calif. in 2005, I met a referee named Josh Rosenthal. At the expense of sounding like a kiss-ass, let me say that I have admired his work, his approach to the sport, and the pride he takes in his job. Well, I have seen Josh pretty much monthly for years as he works some event almost every weekend. In more than three years he has never recommended a fighter, so about three months ago when he told me about a prospect from his gym named Carl Saumauntafa, I started doing my homework.

Now, despite the fact that is approached by an average of 12 fighters per week, we are very selective about increasing the roster. Our services are best for fighters that have obtained a considerable amount of success on a local circuit or have been in a big show and need some help getting back. Carl deviates from this model as he is only 3-0, albeit with three finishes. What he has going for him is that he is 6-foot-2, 245 lbs. with abs, and is extremely athletic. Josh also told me he is a great kid, has a clean liver, attends church twice a week, and is really close to his family. So last Wednesday, with a contract in hand, I jumped on a plane to Oakland for the day to check him out.

After about 10 minutes of seeing him work out, I was completely sold. He is raw but works really hard and moves like a welterweight. During his workout, I called Skala and Fokai Rich from ProElite, Inc., the new home for CBS MMA, and negotiated a six-fight deal in which they committed to develop him. I inked Carl and gave him a bag of workout shorts and shirts from sponsors. The kid was so happy he teared up and gave me a hug.

I frequently say that “I make dreams come true,” and while taken out of context that may sound vain, it really is my pleasure. At this stage of the sport, a 20-percent cut of a fighter’s compensation is not always just reward for the time and effort spent, but moments like this make it all worthwhile.

“Samoan Carl” will be fighting in April on Showtime; look for big things from this kid in the near future.

Irish Jake

I met Jake O’Brien at a March 2006 WEC event, where he fought Jay White. He was late arriving from the airport and was rushing into the blue-screen video shoot for the production. Back in the day, the WEC didn’t use the mist special effects the UFC uses, so I grabbed him and told him to go in the bathroom and splash water all over himself before the shoot. (It's a little trick of the trade.)

Well, Jake’s opponent was Team Quest’s Jay White, whom everyone was talking about being a top prospect. White was sharing a locker room with my client “Razor” Rob McCullough. We were the last fight of the night, and Jake and Jay were the first. Well, the that fight lasted 14 seconds, and we didn’t have monitors in the locker room. When they came back to the room, I congratulated Jay only to find out he ended up on the short end of a left hook.

Fast forward five months, and I am in rockstar mode because my client Martin Kampmann and future clients Anthony Torres and Joe Riggs had all just finished their opponents in convincing fashion at UFC Fight Night 6 at the Red Rock Casino in Las Vegas. I am on the phone waiting for a cab, and my date strikes up a conversation with the couple behind us. They ask if they can share the ride, and I tell them it's OK so long as they are not offended by pure decadence. Once in the cab, I asked them if they had been at the fight -- only to find out they were Joe and Tamra O’Brien, Jake’s parents. Buzzkill; work mode. And so a great friendship was forged, and Jake inked.

It is funny how the relationships with all 50 of my clients are vastly different. While Jake and I hit it off right away with a deep understanding, gaining the trust of his inner circle was much more difficult. His trainer and mentor, Pat McPherson, seemed a little skeptical of this fasting-talking agent type, but it was apparent he was just protecting his guy. His buddies, fighters Chris Lytle and Johnny Rees, were guarded as well. I brought Jake out to California for some male bonding and got him a week’s worth of training with Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Tito Ortiz. Soon thereafter he was invited into Tito’s training camp in Big Bear, Calif., where his development continued.

Well, we were able to get a favorable match-up in Jake’s next UFC fight, killed it in sponsors, made the medicals and travel turn key, and the inner circle opened up. Lytle signed, undefeated Johnny signed and is coming back from a knee injury, and Pat, who is a cop and solid citizen, now calls me with input. So where am I going with this? Well, Jake fought Andrei Arlovski this past week. We were able to get a sponsor to buy 18 "Irish Jake O’Brien" warm-up jackets, and we surprised the team. The event was in Columbus, which was a short drive from Indianapolis, where Jakes lives (so he had a large contingency of fans). It was great to see the group donning the green retro Adidas-style jackets in support. This may seem trivial, but it really was a prideful thing that brought everyone together in support of Jake.

While watching a favorite fighter on TV can stir deep emotions, having a personal relationship really takes it to the next level. I live for the highs and the lows, and I often take losses harder then the fighters because I feel deeply for them. Even though the fight did not end as we had hoped, we must remind ourselves that Jake is 10-1 with eight finishes, his only loss is to the former UFC heavyweight champ, and he is only 23 years old. We all know he will learn from this experience and come back stronger.

On Sunday upon my return, I opened my email to find a note from Joe O’Brien that thanked me for the jackets and expressed gratitude for my efforts and for being a friend to Jake. While I would have traded it all for a win for him, it did go a long way in taking the sting out of the weekend. I just hope I can return the favor to his son.


So I spent Sunday with my good buddy Mark “The Hammer" Coleman and Wes Sims. I booked Mark for an appearance with a supplement company called Muscle at the Arnold Sports Festival, and he killed it as they were lined up around the block.

I met Hammer and Phil Baroni when I went to Amsterdam to corner Kevin Randleman in Bushido. It was a terrible week -- unless you like packed techno nightclubs with tons of beautiful women, historical buildings, great weather, lively pubs, friendly locals and an unparalleled red-light district. Otherwise, it was great.

Every time I see Mark now, I can’t help but think of the stories Phil shared with me about some of their PRIDE experiences. When Phil fought Kazuo Misaki in the PRIDE Grand Prix, he had just won three of his last four with epic knockouts. He was beaming with confidence and had Hammer in his corner. Things changed in a hurry when Kazuo landed three flying knees to his head and neck in the early portion of the opening stanza, which caused Baroni’s arm to go numb. He said that all he could think about while in the clinch on the ropes was “son of a bitch, my arm is probably going to be lame for life” and just trying to hold on until the end of the round to regroup. Well survive he did, and as he sat on the stool and looked for guidance, Mark got right in his face, and in his raspy deep voice, wailed, “You waaanted a waaaar, Baroni, you got a waaaar. You got the waaar you wanted, Baroni!” Phil said he immediately sobered up, got pissed, and yelled back, “Listen mother f***er! I don’t want a war. I never did. I wanted to knock this son of a bitch out fast and go home. Now get me some water.”

Well, four moths later, Phil found himself in Mark's corner for the Fedor Emelianenko fight at the PRIDE 32 show in Las Vegas. In the first round the fight went to the ground, and Hammer was in a vulnerable position. He turned to his corner for support. Phil made eye contact and yelled, “Hey, Coleman, you wanted a war. You got a war.”

Hammer is himself a great storyteller as well. At the Baroni vs. Frank Shamrock Strikeforce event in June 2007, we were having breakfast and I asked him about the worst pain he was in during a fight. He told me when he came out against Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, he took a nasty kick that dug deep into his thigh. All he could think was, “Oh God that hurt… that hurt really, really bad… circle, circle… do not let him kick you in the head with that… keep your hands up… that still hurts… circle away from that power… keep your hands up… God that still hurts…” Hammer is a true classic and well deserving of his recent UFC Hall of Fame induction.

This week will be hectic as Sean Salmon will be visiting, we have four fighters competing this weekend (including Diego “The Octupus” Saravia, who is fighting for the AFL lightweight title), my office will be attending a charity MMA event in Tustin, Calif. this weekend and a sales seminar mid week, we are in the final stages of booking about eight fighters for large events, and sponsor response and follow-up has been unbelievable. That is not a complaint but rather an expression of the rapid growth and success of our sport and my good fortune to be a part of it. I frequently get messages on MySpace ( from people saying how lucky I am to be doing what I am doing, and I wholeheartedly agree. In that regard, I guess I sometimes make my own dreams come true as well.

Ken Pavia runs, one of MMA’s biggest sports agencies and one that represents approximately 50 MMA fighters. “The Pav” is a former contributor who has returned to pen his weekly “The Pav Says…” column for the site. The column will give readers a behind-the-scenes look at an MMA agent’s career representing some of the sport’s biggest stars. His views do not necessarily reflect those of and its staff.

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