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Old 09-06-2016, 06:10 PM   #1
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Houston-based fight promoters eye UFC sale with interest

Rumors that the Las Vegas-based Ultimate Fighting Championship was for sale was surprising enough for the world MMA community, but when the final sale price was revealed, many in the sports entertainment world were amazed.

A consortium of entities, including the parent company that owns the New England Patriots, a Hollywood talent agency and several Chinese investors, paid $4.2 billion for the 23-year-old league that has lately been minting mainstream celebrities like Ronda Rousey, Paige Van Zant and Connor McGregor.

Houston's large and highly developed fighting community also took note, including Houston's fight promoters. A $4.2 billion price for a league promoting a sport long considered too barbaric for a mainstream audience raises the question of the value of other fighting leagues and promotions.

The largest and most advanced Houston-based promotion is Legacy Fights, led by Mick Maynard, who operates the series with his wife, Andrea. They began promoting fights 20 years ago in College Station and now organize pro and amateur MMA and kickboxing contests in several cities.

Houston's UFC contender, Sage Northcutt, fought for Maynard as has former UFC bantamweight women's champion Holly Holm and current UFC height weight contender Derrick Lewis.

Bringing up promising fighters is part of Legacy's place in the fighting world, says Maynard. He describes Legacy Fights as a "developmental league" that gives fighters a chance to shine and climb higher.

"The UFC is like the NFL," Maynard said. "And Bellator (another fighting league) is like Canadian Football. Legacy is more like the NCAA."

Legacy has a deal with AXS-TV, a cable and satellite channel with carriage in several countries, to broadcast his fights, but according to Maynard, most of his revenue still comes from ticket sales, which Maynard contends are strong.

A Legacy event can sell out a venue holding between 1,500 and 3,000 seats, and as a result, venues outside of Texas are contacting Maynard about organizing fights in their cities.

Maynard is bullish about his ability to sell more tickets and expand.

"We can sell out a 5,000 seat arena," he said.

Another fighter who has been on a Legacy fight card is Eric Garcia. Garcia is now the sole proprietor of Garcia Promotions which organizes an amateur MMA division called Cage Combat and a professional division titled Fury Fighting Championships.

After several fights and victories, Garcia realized that the number of fighters who wanted in to the cage exceeded the number of fights available so he began to organize contests himself.

Garcia's fights are open to the public, but he relies on the fighters to market the fights and drive ticket sales. The fights are a showcase for the fighters who want cage time to build their skills, reputation and following.

"If I have a fighter who wins but he won't sell tickets, I have a hard time putting him on the next card," said Garcia. "They have to be marketers, and they have to market themselves."

Television presents a unique challenge to Garcia Promotions. Like Maynard's Legacy series, Garcia relies on ticket sales to drive revenue and if his fights are available on TV, he fears the audience will stay home to watch. But, if the fights are on TV, it's easier to make the matches that people will want to see.

"Everyone wants on TV," he said. "All the fighters want to be on television so if I have it, I can make better matches."

With or without TV, Garcia's fight cards are stacked heavy with talent and the contests are competitive. To make a comparison, the skills displayed at Garcia's promotions are what one might expect from a talented high school or college football player relative to the NFL. Fights can go the distance or end in any way, from TKO to submission.

Garcia's next fight event is the Fury Fighting Championship on Saturday, Sept. 10, at the Humble Civic Center.

Legacy 59, Legacy Fights' next series, comes to the Arena Theater on Sept. 16. will have coverage of both events.

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