UFC Founder Campbell McLaren On His New MMA Franchise, Combate Americas
Get ready to see some ass-whooping in “la jaula”!
Your new MMA franchise and reality show, Combate Americas, begins this Sunday on Mun2 – what can you tell us about it?
It’s an MMA sports franchise that’s built in Hispanic culture. It’s not just Hispanic fighters, although there are some. We’ve found some great guys. We built this to be very inviting while organically integrating a Hispanic cultural element into an MMA franchise. I love the current UFC, but I think it is a very ‘Merican – you know, without the “A” – product, like the NFL. I would say that the most passionate fight fans in the world, arguably, are the Latin fans, so what I’m trying to do is take this group that is super excited about fighting – whether it’s lucha libre, boxing, or whatever – and get them into MMA. Now, they’ve all heard about MMA, but I think for a lot of people, the UFC is $54.95, and that’s an expensive place to start. And if you look at the UFC, there are all these shaved head goatee guys yelling as loud as they can, and I’m not sure it’s very welcoming to a new fan. So what I’ve tried to do is build something that’s welcoming – it’s the UFC with training wheels.
So how did you go about getting that balance where the fights are professional, but it’s accessible to new fans?
One of the things we’re doing is, we asked Daddy Yankee – who’s off to a great year, he just got seven Latin Billboard nominations – to be a guest star on the show, because we’re putting celebrities on the show, dropping in to meet the fighters. He goes, “This really sounds great! I don’t want to be a guest star, I want to be involved!” He wanted to own a piece of it, so we made him the commissioner. His job is to learn about the sport as the audience learns, to bring the audience with him. He knows fighting – he was a boxer in his youth, so that’s a good start. We didn’t position him as an expert, what he’s going do is represent people who want to know more about it, to bring in a new audience.
For the fights, I think I’ve got very interesting new fighters. I didn’t go and try to find guys that had been released from UFC contracts, we got a bunch of new guys. There’s Rene “Level” Martinez – he’s being called the Hispanic Kimbo Slice. He’s a pretty interesting guy; four years in prison, found the straight and narrow – which for him meant beating guys up in back yards for money, you know, because they’re fighters. But we’re glad to have him on the show, he’s a great guy. His fighting style is intimidation. He looks at them, because he has that sort of prison stare, you know, like “I don’t give a fuck – I don’t give a fuck.”
Then there’s Danny “The Machine” Morales from Chicago, which is a huge Hispanic city. A lot of people are comparing him to Floyd Mayweather – his hands are very, very fast. He’s training in a boxing camp, his groundwork is very good, he’s a very powerful young guy. Standing up, it’s very hard to connect with him, he just moves very fast, he moves backwards very well. He has a work ethic like Floyd; Floyd is right in that he sometimes criticizes MMA fighters, saying they don’t work out as hard as he does – he’s right. But Danny is really doing it. He’s very serious and he’s very young. We have very high hopes for this guy.
And we’ve got Oscar Valdez – he’s 20 years old, he’s a baby, he comes from Arkansas. His father is Mexican and was raised in an orphanage there. He’s a very good wrestler and he’s a very good boxer – he has very long reach. He keeps people out as a strategy with these jabs – they think he doesn’t want them to come in on him, but he actually does. He keeps you back, keeps you back, keeps you back, and finally you get in and you realize you shouldn’t have gone in.
How different are these fights going to be from standard UFC fights?
They’re different the way that college basketball is different from the NBA. If you watch college basketball, the moment those guys’ feet touch the wood, they’re playing as hard as they can play. And if you watch the pros, that’s not usually until the third quarter, unless it’s a playoff game – they hold it, and then they score 29 points in the last quarter. The college guys go for it, go for it, go for it, go for it. I think that with the UFC, because so many of the fights are going to the judges, the guys are using a lot of tactics and a lot of strategy, and the pace is different. My guys come running out of their corner to fight. Some of them wouldn’t even touch gloves, they would just want to fight!
Will the fights take place in an octagon?
We’re fighting in a circle rather than an octagon. I helped develop the fucking octagon, but I can’t use it because it’s trademarked, because we trademarked it when I was working on it. The cage, in Spanish, is called “la jaula,” and that sounds so much cooler than “the cage”!
So you didn’t put razor wire on top this time?
No, sir! Been there, done that. Well, been there, threatened to do that, I guess is more accurate. But no, no, no. It’s different now, that wouldn’t even work today. With all the stuff that’s going on in the world and the stuff you can see on the Internet, I couldn’t come up with anything outrageous.
So what kind of TV viewing experience can we expect?
Sunday night, February 23, 10 o’clock, on Mun 2 – it’s really a bilingual network, so there will be Spanish subtitles when people are speaking English, and English subtitles for when people are speaking Spanish. I think everyone’s going to like it – honestly, I could have put it in Aramaic and you would still understand what’s going on, because a lot of the stuff is very primal.
What does the UFC think of your new venture?
I spoke to Joe Rogan a couple nights ago, and he said that the two things the UFC needs is to reach Hispanic fans and to bring in new talent, and he goes, “My God, it seems like you’ve got both!” Dana White told me it’ll probably be a hit when I spoke to him about it. I really wanted to let those guys know I was doing this, because I don’t see it as a competitive product – I see it as a parallel path. Ultimately, people will be interested in the UFC after watching my show.