By: Matt Garretson
I have been fortunate enough to have fought on some of the biggest stages, and some of the biggest promotions in the world. Unfortunately, with everything that I have done, the worst place for me to get a fight is in my own state of West Virginia. Boxing has always been available, and MMA was legalized, just recently, so there was always a struggle for fighters and now that everything is legal it has actually gotten harder.
As a professional, I can understand that fighters need to be a draw to sell tickets, so that the promoter can make their money off of the card. What people don’t see is how much work the fighter has to put in, just to fight, and in the end at time fights for no purse at all. To get a fight, that is winnable, or even a fair match promoters ask that the fighters sell tickets themselves. The amount they want sold is to cover the purse of who you are fighter, as well as any other expenses they are promised, after that then you have to sell tickets to cover your own purse. Once both fighters are covered there are still those promoters that ask that you still sell so many dollars worth of tickets. They don’t look at the fact that you pushed sales of over a thousand dollars worth of tickets, just to have the fight, they then ask for more. If you don’t meet what quota they set for you they see you as a bad investment, regardless of your fighting ability and how entertaining you are to the crowd, and they won’t put you on another show unless it is to attempt to pad another fighter’s record. When you try to talk to promoters or people that have been fortunate enough to have competent management to watch over them they just tell you, “That’s the business.” There are those that do it for more than fame and glory. I, myself, always done it as a life’s dream and to help put me through college. So, if you are getting punched in the face on a regular basis so you can get an education you would like to have a more guaranteed income than just what you can sell. People in this area aren’t that reliable. They will ask you weekly if you are fighting soon and close, and just happen to have plans or be broke the weekend you are supposed to fight. Makes things a bit difficult.
Not all promoters work that way. I have been fortunate to have fought for a good number of promotions that have taken really good care of fighters. I have fought for some that give the fighters a guaranteed purse and a percentage of all ticket sales they make, so no matter what they aren’t wasting their time. These people are truly great. They understand that yes, it is a business, but the athletes are what make the show and put butts in the seats, so they should be taken care of first.
What really sickens me about the fight world in this state, and has given all fighters from here a bad reputation, is that there are certain promotions that I am not going to name that will let literally anyone step in a cage or ring and fight. Yes, you read right. Think of all of these goofballs you see at your local bars wearing the American Fighter shirts and yelling how they can do what they see in the UFC…….these people let them step in there. No training, no experience, and about ninety-eight percent of them aren’t even in shape. They let them go three rounds just so these people can say they are MMA fighters or boxers. They promote these shows by having the most uneducated, slack-jawed, and mentally challenged people make videos talking trash about someone trying to get them to fight. This is not what these sports are about. Professionals, as well as myself, have tried to get on these cards, but we are ignored. Fans that ask to see us are ignored as well because why would someone want to pay us when they can fill up seats with people from the back woods come to see their hunting buddy that the promoter got for free? It has built a terrible reputation for fighters, that do want to make a real go at it, from West Virginia because when you say you are from here promoters assume you are untrained, and in the case of one person, a fighter that is going to soil themselves in their cage. Nobody wants that. I know fighters in all states have their struggles, believe me, I have been managing some fighters as well. Just feel fortunate you aren’t seen as one of these failures of the athletic world. There are some great gyms and some amazing fighters from here if you just look for the hidden gems. So, if any promoters are reading this, don’t dismiss a fighter just because they are from West Virginia. It’s true not all that say they are fighters are telling the truth………but there are some that are.