Declan Kenna is a man in a hurry. When I rang him yesterday he was on the way to Dublin to meet a TV Producer and talk all things Cage Legacy.
Declan run’s Full Power Gym in Drogheda, Co. Louth, is still an active fighter and most importantly from my point of view is one of the men behind the MMA Promotion Cage Legacy.
Cage Legacy is an Irish MMA promotion that started life a little over two years ago.
“MMA is booming at the moment, there is a growing appetite for it for sure, I don’t know what’s going on with BAMMA but Cage Legacy 10 is going to be our biggest show to date” – Declan Kenna
Declan has been to all the MMA promotions in Ireland and many in the UK as both a fighter and a coach.
“Our idea originally was to give the fighters a platform, just before the bigger Levels, to sample what the step up would be like. The Lights…The Cameras….The action. Basically given them what they need. On the fight side and promotion side”
This simple idea translated into Cage Legacy 1 on October 28th 2016. In a little over two years Declan and Cage Legacy are about to host their 10th Event. Over the course of the two years they have added Cage Legacy Kickboxing and Cage Legacy Future Stars.
They keep them separate but obviously this helps them identify youth talent coming through and also Kickboxing talent to keep an eye on. Smart.
I should at this point mention that Declan constantly name checks his partner on this Darren Sonik. In advance of Cage Legacy 10 on December 1st they are putting in savage hours every day to ensure the event is a success. It’s the same work ethic they have used on all their event promotions to date.
“If you’re not on the promotion you are in the gym. It’s my life. Myself and Darren Sonik of SANDA MMA in Dundalk work on it probably 18 hours a day”
MMA promotions starting out are operating in a venue market of between 600 and 1,500 capacity. All venues have different rental pricing arrangements. This in turn affects the pricing of the Cage Legacy tickets.
In Ireland this is actually a big problem. There are not many indoor arenas that can cater for between 1,500 and 2,000 people outside Dublin.
Once a venue is decided and agreed an even more important problem has to be negotiated, The promotion need to ensure Health and Safety standards are maintained, Get safety statements in place from local authorities and of course Police need to be happy that Law and Order at the event will be maintained.
We didn’t get into the security aspects too much but undoubtedly there are security people and plans that have to be in place at a venue. Bottom line all of this costs money and if it isn’t properly planned for can send costs spiralling out of control.
For example a venue that can hold 1,000 people for a concert may only be cleared for 750 for an MMA event, purely on health and safety grounds.
“Our plans for the future are to go for The Helix, The basketball arena in Tallaght and the 3 Arena – bigger arenas means more people and obviously the more money we turnover means the more we can pump back into the fighters and the promotion to make it better”
Cage Legacy use SAFE MMA for the medical side of the promotion. In the UK and Ireland it is a prerequisite that fighters are medically cleared before they can step into the cage,
“Everyone needs to be medically cleared by SAFE MMA. They need to have their bloods done, Brain scans done and medicals done. From our point of view all our fighters would need to be registered with SAFE MMA before they can fight”
It is actually a relief to hear Declan talk so fluently and knowledgeably about this area. MMA in Ireland gets a lot of uninformed opinion about the safety of the sport, in and out, of the Cage. The fact every fighter is medically cleared in a thorough process prior to a fight is both responsible and necessary.
Once all of this is done Declan and Darren can sit down and concentrate on matching the fights. Most promotions at this level could have between 15 to 20 fights scheduled on an event card. Inevitably during the run up one or several of these match-ups will fall by the wayside. Injury being the most common issue. Late fighter withdrawals mean they need to have back up fighters on stand-by who can parachute in and are close to fighting weight.
Cage Legacy have big plans for 2019. They want to announce at least 8 to 10 Events for the calendar year. The hope would be to have 4 big arena style events and 4 regional events around the country, They also plan to announce at least one event in the mainland UK , Manchester or Liverpool being name checked.
To date Cage Legacy fighters have been contracted on a fight to fight basis. Their plans for 2019 will hopefully allow them to make a more prolonged commitment to fighters and double the number of professionals fighting at each event.
Declan is still fighting himself and indeed has a fight scheduled for this coming Saturday. So he is very well versed on fighter compensation from his own fight experience. Fighters generally get a percentage of the tickets they sell. He uses himself as an example.
“I have sold roughly 120 tickets for my own fight on Saturday. Generally speaking we get about 20% of what we sell. The more we bring in the more negotiating power we have in terms of the final cut or percentage”
It is a problematic scenario for a number reasons. Problematic for the fighters in the sense there is the temptation for promoters to focus on gyms and fighters that are able to generate ticket sales. Fighters that are not big tickets sellers are feeling pressure to generate interest in themselves when they should be focussed on fight preparation.
It is problematic for the Event Promoters in the sense that high ticket sellers will probably jump ship and be looking to move up a level after a successful fight or two.
Look at Aaron Chalmers of Geordie Shore fame. On the basis of fighting a few questionable opponents in BAMMA he has landed himself a 5 or 6 fight deal with Bellator. I am quite sure there are a number of more talented fighters in the UK and Ireland who deserve that shot more.
One of the areas that promotions can increase revenue is by getting a TV or an Internet streaming deal in place. In terms of growing an organisation Declan Power is already all over this idea.
In fact when i called him he was on his way into Dublin to meet with a TV producer that is interested in doing a deal on a Cage Legacy highlights package. He also has ideas about a fly on the wall Contender type series. Exciting Stuff.
Getting a TV or streaming deal in place is a key ingredient for Declan and Darren in making the jump up the MMA promotional ladder. In many ways 2019 will be a pivotal year.
Commiting to so many events for 2019 is a calculated risk for the organisation that they are hoping will pay big dividends, So between Cage Legacy 10 on December 1st in Good Counsel GAA club and plotting out the details for the 2019 calendar there are literally not enough hours in the day.
It’s exciting times though and we wish Declan, Darren and the Cage Legacy franchise safe passage in the uncharted waters ahead. Fortune usually favours the brave though.
Fighter Photo Courtesy of Nicky Johnston
For Details on Full Power Gym Click Here
Cage Legacy Promotion Details Click Here